No matter how much you research an employer there is always a risk of jumping into a bad situation. Most of us perform basic due diligence before accepting any new position. You research the financial stability of the company and inquire about any merger possibilities. You ask around about overtime and whether there are any difficult personalities working there. Sadly sometimes this is not enough to prevent a big mistake.
The one thing most people neglect to do while interviewing is actually listen to what is being said. We are so focused on selling ourselves and trying to impress the interviewer we forget to listen. The interview is not just for making a good impression on the employer it is your one opportunity to get an idea of what it will be like working there.
If you listen to what is really said you can get a fairly good idea of the environment. Remember trouble does not usually come out of nowhere and blind side you. There are normally warning signs before any type of terrible situation occurs. The key is to be aware of the signals and disseminate them correctly.
- How does your prospective boss refer to individuals who have left the company? Some refer fondly to former employees or coworkers. We sure miss Bob since he has been gone. Others have less than cordial things to say. Bob will not be missed. My favorite response is Bob is one of those instances of addition by subtraction. These may be justified comments but you need to decide for yourself if this is a sign of a larger issue. Certain individuals cannot be pleased no matter how hard you work and they take it personally when you move on to something better.
- How does your prospective boss describe their management style? This may come as a complete shock but not everyone is going to tell you the truth in an interview. Even if they were completely honest with you they will not admit they are a micromanager. People with problems are always the last people to see that they have a problem. You need to pay close attention to how they describe the interaction they have with their direct reports. This will give you an indication of whether they are a micromanager or a control freak.
- How considerate is your prospective boss during the interview process? Everyone is usually very busy and doe not have much time to allow for interviews. Normally you should be given at least two days notice before an interview. Did your interview last past 5:00? Did they apologize for keeping you late?
You must watch out for people who are inconsiderate with your time during the interview process. Remember this is their best behavior. If they only care about themselves now just imagine how inconsiderate they will act once you have worked there for a while.
- How do the people you are interviewing with describe the person you will be working for? When people describe someone as intense or a little high strung you better watch out. Comments such as some people are intimidated by him/her are a sign of danger. What they really mean is that your boss is combative and will routinely make you feel like an idiot if you make a mistake regardless of how many people are around.
- What time does your prospective boss respond to emails or leave you voice mails? Keep a sharp eye for emails or voice mails that are sent late in the evening. This could signal a workaholic. The bad thing about people with no life is they expect everyone else to be like them.
Being aware of the danger signs saved me from making a terrible mistake. A few years ago I interviewed with a company that looked great financially and did not appear to be a merger risk. I was scheduled to meet with the head of the department from 3:00 to 4:00. At around 5:15 he decided I should talk to some of the other team members. He started rushing around searching for anyone he could find. By this time everyone had left for the day. He neglected to thank me for taking time to meet with him did not apologize for keeping me late. His behavior was an indication that he did not care about my time or anyone else’s for that matter.
Two days later I received a call requesting to meet him for lunch with 1 ½ hours notice. I politely declined the invitation because I ride the bus each day so it is impossible for me to meet someone without at least a days notice. Even if I had not rode the bus it was extremely short notice because it took about 30 minutes to get from downtown to the restaurant he wanted to meet at. This further reinforced my suspicion that he was a very self centered individual.
There was another troubling development that arose out of the interview process. He told me in a very dismissive manner that the person who held the position previously worked only two months had a break down and quit. This comment in conjunction with the other troubling signals was a definite sign of danger.
Sometime after I turned down the position I found out that at least two people required therapy after working for this guy. After all if you returned from lunch ten minutes late to find your boss sitting in your chair with the employee handbook you would have some issues too. Or better yet you arrive to work at 6:30 am only to find your boss asleep in his car waiting to see if you actually come into work this early.