ask the readers: what red flags while you were interviewing turned out to be signs of real problems?

We talk a lot here about “red flags” that warn you that a job may not be one you’ll be happy in. But red flags can be tough to spot when you really, really want (or need) a job; it’s often pretty easy to overlook danger signs. And sometimes you don’t realize something was a red flag until it’s too late and you’re already in the job.

I thought it would be helpful and interesting to pool our experience so other people can benefit from it. So: What red flags did you see — and perhaps ignore — that did indeed turn out to be signs of real problems once you were on the job? Or, even if you didn’t see red flags while you were interviewing, can you spot some in retrospect that you wish you had recognized? Share in the comments — and include what the red flag ended up being an indicator of.

{ 1,010 comments… read them below }

  1. Justme*

    High turnover. It was at a University job and I assumed it was school year related but it was really that the department was awful to work for.

    1. Crystal*

      Basically no turnover. I thought that meant it was a great place to work but it really meant the boss was incapable of firing anyone for any reason.

      1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        ACK – yes!!! I was SO excited to be promoted into a department with no turnover (they just so happened to be creating a new role for the dept). Turned out they were an insular and highly homogenous group that was weirdly co-dependent on each other. A colleague from a different department (who interacts with the group regularly) likened them to one of those strange families that HAS TO DO EVERYTHING TOGETHER.

        Different than not being able to fire anyone, but still. No turnover (and no growth – that’s really what should have caught my eye) is not always a good thing

        1. BF50*

          Yes! No turnover means no growth. Even a great department should have some turnover as good employees move up and on to bigger and better things.

          Not that I saw this flag at my last very stagnant job. I didn’t ask because I just needed a job, any job.

      2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        Yes – No one gets fired and when people leave they rarely replace them. I was really impressed that I was filling the first vacancy in years (especially coming from the super high turnover call center industry) but I can’t get over how no one will deal with issues and just work around things. It’s not “missing stair” so much as “missing stairCASE”. Plus the workload just keeps increasing since people leave and just aren’t replaced (hence the not hiring anyone for years).

        1. gracesface*

          I work in a call center environment and it’s the turnover is high for sure but also there really is no growth. there are people who have been in the same roles for fifteen and twenty plus years apiece (it’s a family business, the two sons have been running it for at least 15 years). I’ve reached supervisor level but there really isn’t anywhere else for me to go – we have shift leads but those roles haven’t changed in a long time that I can tell. I’ll probably work here another year or so (it’s within walking distance of my house) and then look for a different type of customer service role.

          Honestly, it’s not something I could REALLY tell from my interview. My boss made it clear that there were consistent raises (there are), what merited a raise or “good job” commendation (I’ve gotten them!) and what the training process would be like.

      3. Steph B*

        This!!! I experienced the same thing — I thought it meant a great workplace. In my OldJob’s case, it actually meant that the staff was mostly complacent with not much career development / progression.

      4. Nontechie*

        This is my situation. The group I work in has been together for over a decade, and the “founding” members have bullied out every “non-founding” team member within two years of hire. I’m about to hit the two year mark and I’m at the breaking point.

      5. LAI*

        I’ve worked in higher ed administration my whole career and I think turnover here is different than in the private sector. It’s very normal for people to have little career ambition and to want to stay in their role for decades. It’s also extremely rare for people to get fired, so I’d say that low turnover in this setting isn’t necessarily a red flag. High turnover usually is, unless there’s some unusual circumstance that would explain it.

      6. TrainerGirl*

        No/low turnover isn’t always a bad thing. I worked for a Fortune 500 company that had some really bad managers. They were horrible about documenting employee issues, so no one was ever fired. Instead of getting rid of bad employees, the people that were problematic were usually just pushed to another department. After a number of years without documenting their bad performance, some of them were even paid to leave quietly. So there were a lot of bad employees around, but it was also good when dumb managers wanted to fire someone without good reason or because they just didn’t like them.

        1. SanDiegoSmith82*

          My last job was one of those that no one ever leaves. It was a small team, and at first, I thought it was great. Then the honeymoon ended quickly. I realized the boss was afraid to fire anyone (despite the fact that a couple people should not be employed in my industry) and that the others simply stopped caring about themselves enough to settle. I made it a little over two years before I moved 9 hours away to make a break for it.

    2. Kj*

      Yep. I learned to always ask why the position was open and check glass door. The trend at my previous company was everyone was there for less than 2 years OR they’d been there for more than 20. There was almost no in-between. That was a warning for sure.

      1. JHunz*

        Agreed 100%. My last job was that way and it was a bunch of fairly new employees burning themselves out and everyone in the management structure was there purely by attrition.

      2. Jenny*

        Yes! I had a job where most everyone had been there either 1-2 years or like 8+, with no in-between. It was very odd.

    3. Yorick*

      Yep, high turnover was an issue in my last job. It’s because administration had changed and the whole university was just a nightmare.

    4. CatCat*

      I agree that high turnover is a big red flag, but one should seek more information about it.

      I am in a job now that I am very happy with that had some high turnover that was concerning to me when I was interviewing. But then found out much of that was attributable to an impending office closure at a different location and staff who did not want to relocate had been leaving for other opportunities within their geographic area.

      1. Tech Comm Geek*

        Additionally, learning more from those who actually work at the company can be helpful in evaluating. A large employer in Minneapolis/St. Paul is notorious for high turnover. A friend started working there and provided insight that there were a couple of divisions with better culture and that the quality of your manager was critical to happiness.

        I was looking for a new contract at a slow time of year, so I took the interview at this employer. I really connected with the manager and his manager. I asked some fairly pointed questions about the culture and got some frank answers.

        I took the contract and really enjoyed the team and the work. Then there was a sudden flip in corporate policy about working from home and a change in senior leadership. Our senior leader was brand new in the role and very rigid about enforcing no remote work. My manager was incredibly frustrated that he couldn’t do anything about the problem. I ended up leaving, but it was worthwhile to have the greater insight into how much a good manager can make a difference.

    5. AdAgencyChick*

      Yep. Now I know that when a hiring manager tells me, “You’d be able to build your own team!” and it’s not an account that they’ve *just* won, that means “we can’t retain any writers on this team because our expectations are insane.”

    6. Winger*

      Yeah I agree, this is a big one. I took an internal transfer recently to a department with extraordinarily high turnover, and it was not a great decision for me.

    7. B*

      Same for me. High turnover explained away. The reasons seemed to make sense and I liked the supervisor. However, it turned out the supervisor was just really good at first impressions.

    8. Bookworm*

      This was the same for me. College job that fell under the state. I assumed they were hiring so much due to a prior hiring freeze. Within a few days I learned people quitting was a regular occurence. I myself ended up quitting in less than 2 years due to bad politics and bullying. The only people who stayed long term were the bullies and/or the kiss ups.

  2. Ihmmy*

    “We’ll start you at [.50 above minimum wage] and do a good increase when we have a new budget” but refused to put it in writing or acknowledge it come review time.

    1. Margaret*

      I had this happen in college. There was a grid you were supposed to go off of (years in college vs. years worked) and the “freshman/0 years” was $8.50 and I think it capped at like $12.50 for “super duper senior/6 years”. I was never shown this grid and was told I’d get a $0.25 raise every semester. I worked at $8.50 for 2.5 years without a raise (but they ended up paying for grad school, so I never pushed the subject…)

      1. 2 Cents*

        ^That sucks, but as someone still paying off grad school, you may have ended up ahead in the bargain!

        1. Margaret*

          Yeah it was definitely being dangled in front of me, which is why I never pushed for a raise. They always joked that they paid their grad students “$75k* per year!” (*but the first $55k or so is taken out to pay tuition and fees)

    2. Purple Jello*

      Ha! Back in the day, I was started at minimum wage with crappy, practically non-existent benefits, and promised a “substantial” raise after 12 months. When I finally had my review and salary adjustment during the second year, my substantial raise was 10%!!!!!. Except, based on the minimum wage, 10% was $0.35/hour, bringing me to a total hourly wage of $3.85/hour. not what I considered substantial. I left to go work temp, and made more in 4 days then I was making working 5 days at the other place.

      1. Julia*

        Yes, I had several experiences like that when I was young. I learned never to believe the “we’ll pay you minimum wage now and give you a raise in a few months” line.
        I was also surprised when I broke into an industry that I thought paid well and heard a coworker say $2.00 higher than minimum wage was good money! To me it didn’t seem enough to live on. Apparently expectations vary.

      2. Andraste's Knicker Weasels (formerly ancolie)*

        At a retail job, we had something very similar, but it was a 25¢ raise from $7.50/hour, which is 3%, a fact our store manager apparently told everyone (individually is great raise when we looked less than overjoyed at a whole quarter.

        One of my co-workers just looked at her and said, “3% of nothing is still nothing.” BAM! I loved her. :D

  3. annamouse*

    The person I was to be working for was harried and bad at scheduling and communication during the interview process. turned out she was terrible at time management, constantly harried and terrible at communication. she also told me that her boss was very particular about things, which turned out to mean the boss was a micromanager with rage problems.

    1. k.k*

      I took myself out of the running for a job because setting up an interview was so difficult. A phone interview was scheduled and the person never called. About 4 hours later I got a little “whoops I forgot” email, we rescheduled, and then they did it again! I later found out that at the time they were in the midst of a bunch of internal drama and turnaround, which led to some questionable decisions, a PR disaster, and their reputation severely impacted. Dodged a bullet there!

      1. For real tho*

        ME TOO! Just last week. They never called me for our scheduled phone interview. So I emailed and said I had to run to a meeting but I’m still interested and am happy to reschedule. Nothing. So THEN I emailed a few days later and said I was withdrawing from consideration.

        The kicker? They emailed me today and said they enjoyed speaking with me but went in a different direction. BUT WE NEVER SPOKE! So I wrote a very fun email back to them.


    2. Rainy, or has been, or will be*

      I second that. I had worked as a consultant in teaware style. I was interviewed by the boss of a prospective client and hired for a mission to support the client in improving the teapot line. I was then told that the client was too busy to interview me. In hindsight the hugest of red flags!
      For months, the client was too busy to show me the job and meet the stakeholders (teapot manufacture, teaware design, porcelain R&D). He was also too busy or (maybe) simply bad at managing, communicating, delegating, and scheduling. The mission was not progressing. Escalating managing issues to the boss did not help, as he pushed back. I left as soon as I could. I transferred to one of the stakeholders (teaware design) and executed the very same mission to the satisfaction of all parties. As far as I now, the former client is still overwhelmed. His boss has left.

    3. Megan*

      I had a similar situation at a summer job for a large corporate employer in the service industry. At my first interview, the interviewer had forgotten about it and wasn’t there, so another guy just wrote down my answers on a sheet of paper he read off of. Then I got a second interview and was interviewed in the middle of the child center and interrupted by the interviewer having to change a diaper. Finally she cancelled it mid interview and told me she’d call me back later to finish it over the phone because they were short staffed and she had to stay in the child center. She never called to finish the interview, but then called me a week later and offered me the job. I accepted it because it was my best option for a summer job close to home in my field of study. She ended up being a terrible manger who was horrible at communicating and then our supervisor under her was also terrible and micromanaged us, but didn’t communicate well. The supervisor would not address minor issues with us and then reported them to the department head and got us all written up for minor things we could have corrected easily on the spot had we known about them. Seriously one of the worst summer jobs ever. I should have seen the red flags.

  4. 123456789101112 do do do*

    Not having an interview. I got a call after applying offering me the job. I needed the job so I took it, and the following year was a smörgåsbord of dysfunction and overwork until I could find my amazing current job. Nobody that I worked with that year is still there – everyone was looking for a way out. Definitely an illustration of the idea that an interview is a two-way conversation, and you’re trying to find out as much information about the employer as they are trying to find out about you.

  5. Meg*

    Saw and ignored: “We’re like a family here” “You’re not going to cry if we tease you, right? We like to have fun, Jane over here cries sometimes.”

    Saw and it was too late: Didn’t mention salary AT ALL during the interview, got zero negotiations.

    All three were at the same job.

      1. Liane*

        I am pretty sure this is one of those situations where the only wise response is to stand up while saying, “I don’t think this position will be a good fit, so I will withdraw from the process. Thank you for your time.” Then walk out.

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            This. Drag Jane screaming if you have to.

            There are unprecedented levels of Oh Honey No in this very short post.

            1. bryeny*

              The director of engineering actually said something similar once when showing a new hire around at the funnest (and funniest) place I ever worked. It was greeted with hoots of derision. “Jane” nailed dir of Eng in the back of the head with one of those rubber balls they give you to squeeze when you give blood, to loud cheers and a standing O. Dir of Eng grinned, rubbed his head, and said “it might be my turn to cry today.” It was the kind of place that sounded like a horrorshow if you cared to spin it that way, but the mockery and abuse was all good-natured. (Well, almost all. Less drama, over all, than most other places I’ve worked, so I’d call it a successful corporate culture.)

              I’m not trying to say Meg was reading the room wrong — just that context is all. And you do have to be there to get a good read.

    1. Master Bean Counter*

      I’m pretty sure I’ll just run from the building the next time I hear, “We are like family here.”

      1. A person*

        Omg yes. I heard “we’re a family here” right before they told me they would not budge on the starting salary, which they already knew was a pay cut for me!

        I did not accept that job offer.

        1. Peetaann*

          LOL. I was just thinking “On a scale of Brady Bunch to Manson, how much of a family are you?”

          1. Ego Chamber*

            An interviewer (retail, in a mall) told me their store was like a family and I said “Which family, Partridge or Manson?”

            They never called me after the interview for some reason.

      2. Anon Accountant*

        YES!! My feet won’t even hit the floor I’ll be running so fast.

        I don’t know why but everyone who has ever had that said to them during their interview process has experienced total dysfunction. And it’s been at several different companies too.

      3. paul*

        I always wonder if they’ve ever worked with dysfunctional families when they say that. Or been part of one.

        “We’re just like family; your line manager and the line manager for the department adjacent haven’t talking in 5 years over what happened at the company picnic. And the CFO hates HR and vice versa after the mishap back in 2011. “

      4. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        I just saw a job posting yesterday (in a local newspaper) that said – Job title then “Small Family Atmosphere” “Delicious Potlucks” “Amazing Culture” and that was it. I laughed and laughed at the hot mess that place is bound to be.

        1. Lizzy Lifting Drink*

          I just Googled that and found an old version of the job listing. Don’t forget about the “Fun Dress up days!”

    2. Rincat*

      I’ve heard lots of people use “we’re like a family here” and it turn out to be alright, but the addition of teasing and the employee crying would definitely make me run for the door!

      1. Ego Chamber*

        I think it might only be when it’s said during an interview that it’s a problem. I worked at a Borders (RIP) way back and we always said we were like a family, and we were all very aware of each others dysfunctions and preferences, and who didn’t like to work with who, etc—but no one ever told applicants any of that. It would be on the same level as referencing an in-joke they aren’t going to get, what’s the point?

    3. Can't Sit Still*

      Oh, you worked there, too, huh? Next time I hear “We’re all like family here,” I’m exiting the building as quickly as possible, probably like the Roadrunner and going straight through the wall.

    4. I'd rather be blue*

      Ugh… this one is the worst.

      “I have a family already, thanks. I’d much rather be part of a functional team with healthy boundaries.”

      1. Don't ask, don't tell*

        I did say this in real life. I work with an absolute horror of a human being who, besides blaming, truly tattling and stage whispering about coworkers to her cowhoret all day, announced, as she was lying to her husband about where she was living (not with her boyfriend, but instead with a cousin) announced that “work is my second home and you are like my second family.” So help me god, I blurted, “oh hell no.” I pointed out that I have a huge family already and said work is work.

        and to be clear this was ten years ago, she was 40, with a high school kidat home.

        1. I See Real People*

          Ha ha! This reminds me of the terrible boss I had some years ago who lived several miles away from the hospital where we worked. A group of us were talking about the inclement weather policy. My terrible boss indicated that she would need a coworker to provide her a place to stay in case of bad weather. I was never so thankful that I lived as far away as she did from work, because I that would have sucked to host her! Ugh!

          1. No Parking or Waiting*

            Oh wow. The irony. You’d be at home not sleeping while the nightmare was resting peacefully in your house.

          2. Daji*

            Oh, eek. I once worked for someone who used to STAY OVERNIGHT in the office – and not to catch up on work! (This person had a wide screen TV to watch favorite shows, comfy clothes in a drawer, etc.) Which, at the time, I thought was the weirdest thing I’d ever seen. But it’s SO much better than camping out with an employee!

            Eek! I say again. What a horror!

    5. Mona Lisa*

      Yeah, I heard the “we’re very close/like family” line at my awful job, too. People got close because they bonded over the terrible things that were happening in the office on a daily basis.

      1. The Strand*

        Absolutely. I appreciate the fantastic friendships, the bullying and bad management that led to us gripping each other like Mae West preservers in a Category 4… not so much.

    6. sharon g*

      I hate the “We’re like a family here” line. What they don’t realize is I don’t like half of my family, and I sure don’t want to work with them.

      1. overly produced bears*

        Ha. This happened to me once. I was talking about another coworker with someone and said “he’s actually a lot like my brother.” That person paused and then looked at me and said “wait, I thought you didn’t like your brother.” Well, yeah. It wasn’t a small-talk-thing, not a compliment ;)

      2. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        I have heard the “We’re a family here” line before. I made a face and said “Oooooh, that’s a problem for me. I don’t actually do the family thing with the people I’m related to. I don’t see that working for me.” Never got a call back from that job. LOL!

    7. Tiny Orchid*

      It was an ACTUAL family. The President and CEO were a husband-wife couple, and most of the folks working for them were childhood friends. They hired the wife’s sister a month after I started.

      I got in trouble for turning off my work cell phone on the weekend. Mind you, they didn’t pay for time spent answering emails and texts on the weekend.

      1. HigherEdPerson*

        For me, it might mean that WE EXPECT EVERYONE TO DO EVERYTHING TOGETHER AND BE ALL UP IN YOUR BUSINESS ALL THE TIME. And if you don’t like to socialize with us during lunch and/or outside of work, we’re going to think you’re weird and talk about you behind your back.

      2. Artemesia*

        Being like ‘family’ — a very dysfunctional one. Expecting you to work for less, work for free, work weekends. No boundaries and lots of abuse. People with really great family lives don’t need a second family at work.

        1. Anonymous and Loving It*

          Believe me, even those of us without “really great family lives” don’t need that kind of “family” at work.

      3. MommaTRex*

        I’m flashing back to some Thanksgiving dinners I do NOT wish to relive. (And I really like my family.)

      4. OG Anon*

        For me it meant, “We’re going to call to check on you more often than your mother when you are out sick and suggest it might be pregnancy”

      5. I'd rather be blue*

        – Terrible boundaries.
        – Attractive to basically all of the worst versions of your worst relatives.
        – Unwilling to get rid of problem employees because FAAAAAMILY.
        – Really long hours and/or working for low salary/free because you just LOVE this job and these people so much, RIGHT?
        – Feelings. All of the feelings. They’re out of control and coming for you. Followed by feelings policing if you express dislike of people vomiting their feelings on/at you.
        – Micromanaging and organizational chaos.

        1. GG Two shoes*

          My current place has a “family” vibe and I don’t hate it EXCEPT that it took seven years to and a demotion to get rid of a problem employee. The guilt tripping about events is probably a little true. As a “joiner” and natural event planner I try not to badger folks or take it personally. ;)

      6. Winston*

        I’ve found it means: “We expect more passion/dedication/loyalty/etc. than we give you any real reason for.”

        1. Indoor Cat*


          It’s a rationale for trampling over attempts to have a work-life balance. Managers at decent workplaces tend to assume that, for most people, family is a priority in their lives. People schedule their work-week around not only their personal preferences, but also around the needs and desires of their family. For me, I really do intentionally think about, “how can I maximize and enjoy the quality time I spend with the people I love most? How can I best meet my responsibilities to them?” When arranging my time, I think about this for about seven people in my life before a single work-related responsibility comes into play. If I had to list the people I’m dedicated to and loyal to, and the practices I’m passionate about, for me, my work would probably come in at about an #11.

          My workplace, that’s fairly par for the course. You’re expected to do your job well while at work, and then go home and live out the more important parts of your life. But at a “we’re family here!” workplace, the expectation is that your work should be your #1 priority, or at least top 5, because it should be equivalent to your real family.

          But that’s quite frankly, ridiculous for the vast majority of people. Even for people who literally save lives, and do so in a way that is rare and makes them hard to replace– like heart surgeons, or FBI Supervisory Agents, or human rights lawyers–even these people tend to make time with family and loved ones a priority. Which is great, because the FBI and ACLU don’t go around saying, “Join our agency; we’re like a family!”

      7. Lindsay J*

        Well, the “like a family” place I worked at:

        Required us to fill out a worksheet to be posted with business and *personal* goals that we wanted to work on each month, and we were supposed to ask other people what we could do to help them meet their goals. My personal goals tended to be things like, “Spend more time with my dog at the beach.”

        Had many, many after work “bonding” activities with crappy ice breakers.

        Wanted us to show up to work way early and hang around off the clock so we could be sure to make it to punch in and be ready to work on-time. It was a small island. I walked to work. I could leave 5 minutes before work and get there on-time. There was no way I was showing up 30 minutes early to hang around unpaid.

        Fired employee (who was otherwise high performing) based on one complaint by a customer. The employee was the only black male, and the only one with a more “alternative” style with piercings, tattoos, etc. I was a much worse performer than him, (but a white woman, like almost all the rest of the staff) and had customers complain about me without getting immediately fired.

        Everyone, including the owners of the company, were expected to be friends on Facebook.

        When I went in for a promotion (after essentially performing the role for 6 months and being promised the position by my then-manager) I was asked questions like, “How would you describe an orchid to a blind person”. They also dinged me for answering a question incorrectly that was something like, “What would you do if an employee committed gross misconduct?” but wouldn’t indicate what that misconduct would be. I went through all the steps I would do like talking to the employee, sending them home for the day, documenting the issue, calling the owners to inform them of the incident and discuss whether firing was an option. The only answer they wanted to hear was that I would tell my peer about it. They also brought up that they were concerned that it seemed like I was having a hard time based on my Facebook posts – and yes, I was having a hard time. I had just left an abusive relationship I had been in for 7 years, and my best friend in the world had just moved away to the other coast. But the only post I had made on Facebook about any of it was a picture of two puppies that said “I need a hug” or something like that and showed the puppies hugging each other.

        Lots of talk about how I needed to be “brought out of my shell”. I’m not even particularly quiet or shy, just not very emotionally demonstrative. Condescending praise when I did something they perceived as “hard” for me.

        Lots of interpersonal drama.

        Lots of talk about Jesus and God. Outright urging to go to church.

      8. Meg*

        In this particular case, that they expected the staff (mainly the support staff) to have breakfast and lunch together on a daily basis. And that we all be friends instead of coworkers, even when Sarah was a horrible bully, because Sarah and the two owners had worked together for 20 years.

    8. A person*

      Oh the ‘We’re like family’. I saw it coming but I needed a job with an out at the end of six months so I took it. I must have either lied about being busy or sick at least four times in the five months I worked there and that’s not counting the time I was out with the flu for a week and bronchitis the month after that. I ended up resigning on the spot five months in between the stress of dealing with the staff and being so sick twice in a month.

      From what I found out about them over the time I worked there, this was probably not the first time someone had resigned on the spot. Basically there was a cabal of senior staff that essentially dictated the work and cherry picked the best jobs whom were firmly entrenched with a serf class they put all the hard stuff on that turned over every two years or less.

    9. This Daydreamer*

      It reminds me of those two sentence horror stories.

      “You’ll love working here,” she said with a maternal smile. “We’re just like a family.”

    10. OG Anon*

      Ugh, the sad thing is I thought “we’re like a family” was a positive thing the first time I heard it but I was so, so SO wrong.

    11. Katie*

      I must be the only person who heard “We’re like a family” at my interview to work at a public library and it turned out to be fantastic. However, this is the RARE occasion where there really isn’t any boundary crossing or any of the super creepy things already mentioned – for the most part, we just all really like each other and look out for each other. Occasionally departments will organize outings outside of work, but it’s usually something like bowling or happy hour, there’s no obligation to go, and everyone just has a good time. Plus my manager is excellent at balancing compassion and interest in our lives with professional distance. She doesn’t overshare or cross any personal lines and she definitely doesn’t expect us to be on call at all hours. She’s wonderful.

      That being said, however, I’m glad to learn about all of these experiences so that when the time comes to look for another job, I’ll know to be cautious of a workplace that describes itself this way.

      1. mooocow*

        Ha, me too! When I read the ‘like a family’ statement on the company website, I briefly reconsidered my application, but I talked at length about the culture with my contact at the company, and got a very honest view that alleviated my fears. The company is special and slightly bizarre in many ways, but those are all idiosyncrasies that mesh well with my personal preferences.

        I think mostly the family-statement applies more to a different office than ours, and mostly means that the atmosphere is informal and many colleagues like spending all their free time together (in various sports clubs, a film club, and god knows what other clubs). Luckily, most people in my team have small kids and zero time to hang out with colleagues at weird hours.

    12. Rogue*

      “We’re like family here!” is a HUGE red flag for me. Every place I’ve ever worked that said that in the interview ended up being a dysfunctional nightmare….which is exactly like my family.

      1. SanDiegoSmith82*

        Same here!!! I’ve worked in an industry where you either get mostly small family run operations. I was very very lucky to find a role in a corporate, structured environment where I don’t have all the family dysfunction that I was starting to think I’d never escape. I can’t tell you how many “family on family” issues I’ve encountered in my 17 year long career. Everything from embezellment to late night drug money break-ins (that was just one of the offices) to screaming matches to fist fights and security being called. I now cringe when someone says “We’re like family” or worse, are an actual family. Nepotism is a bad thing for business more often than not.

    13. Nugget*

      Shortly after I accepted my last job I was asked to participate in a round of interviews for a new hire. I interviewed three people, and the one who was clearly the best candidate was a man. When I told my boss what I thought, she went on to explain to me that she’d like to avoid hiring a man because they would be more likely to rise the ranks. This felt really weird not only because it was blatantly discriminatory, but it also showed me that office politics were more important that productivity, which turned out to be a fundamental problem in our office. Nothing ever got done, and most of the managers spent more time pulling rank and pointing fingers than making progress.

      1. Nugget*

        Sorry, I don’t know why my above comment was posted to this thread rather than as a new comment. But I will add that I had an interview a few months ago where the guy started off telling me just how much of a family his office was, and then proceeded to explain to me that because of this, he would expect that I commit to this job for at least 10 years. I ran the other direction.

        1. FormerEmployee*

          Huh? Who commits to a job for 10 years? I’ve worked 10+ years in a couple of jobs, but that’s just because it worked out that way. No up front guarantees.

  6. The Bimmer Guy*

    The job wherein I applied at a car dealership and the guy interviewing me on the busy showroom floor whispered crude “what-I’d-do-to-her” comments every time an attractive female passed by. That someone this disrespectful and with this little discretion was allowed to rise the ranks to General Manager…signaled that the culture was all wrong, which indeed turned out to be the case, and I left after a year. This culture isn’t uncommon in the dealership industry, but as a web developer, I really didn’t have to put up with it.

    1. bunniferous*

      Car lots are some of the most sexist disgusting places to work that there are. My husband worked at several, as did one of our former pastors….both of them HATED the atmosphere. Both of them got out of the industry at least partially because of it. Oh, the stories….

      1. Anonymous and Loving It*

        And people pick up on that – at least a lot of people I know do. That attitude is one of the main reasons I hate shopping for cars. These days, I do my haggling via email and just come in to pick up the car, cut them a check, and leave. As a female car buyer, I’m tired of getting a double dose of the “we’re trying to screw you” attitude. It’s infuriating. I’ve walked out of more than one car dealership when the sales staff’s attitude was like this. Last car I bought was from a female salesperson. It was great.

        1. MagicMaker*

          I have had the same type of experiences as a man buying a car as well. I had a male salesperson once say to me, “Is this too much car for you?” Really? I also had a female salesperson bat her eyes at me and say, “You know, I have children to feed.” Lol, good reason for me to buy the car. I love how the internet has leveled the car buying process, the car buyer now stands a chance of not being completely screwed over.

  7. Mow*

    Manager hugged me after my interview (I didn’t know her before but we did graduate from the same college – 10 years apart). Turns out -unsurprisingly- she has major issues with boundaries, co-dependent personality, and is an over-sharer to the point of making me uncomfortable on a daily basis.

    1. GertietheDino*

      I work for this boss now (2nd to last day though!). She doesn’t hug, but overshares and one-ups. I know about her dysfunctional childhood, marriage and kids, etc. One of the reasons I am leaving – BOUNDARIES!

    2. BRR*

      My previous manager hugged me on my first day right as I walked in. Not a quick hello hug either. Shame when a warning sign is after you start.

    3. Amelia Bedelia*

      Oh man. My current supervisor has told me NUMEROUS stories on a weekly basis about how her 5-year-old still regularly has accidents. The conversation starts with “she leaks about 4 times a week. She doesn’t WET herself, just some drippage in her panties” and ends with”I’m wondering if the stream of her v****a isn’t quite right.” (not where pee comes from, btw). No, I’m not kidding. She also told me last week how her daughter was “pooping her brains out last night”, then CORRECTED herself to “no, she was actually diarrhea-ing her brains out!”


      1. Ego Chamber*

        Ugh, my sympathies. I hate discussing kid shit (both literal and figurative). It’s just not a subject I’m interested in, or have any experience with, so I’d prefer to not hear about it. I’ll give a high-five for fist words or first steps, but I absolutely do not want to hear about anything coming out of a child, under any circumstances.

        My retaliation is usually to tell the story of when my dog got into a whole bag of Fall-themed marshmallows and then she had pumpkin spice poops all day. Never really gets the point across, but most people are suitably horrified, and I’ll take what I can get.

      2. Mow*

        Yes…for whatever reason it is announced to me whenever her middle-school-aged daughter has her period. I’m all for de-stigmatizing periods, but it’s really not need-to-know information for anyone.

    4. Earl Gray*

      AHHH someone did this to me at the end of an interview! Not going to lie, was NOT sad to not get that one. Clearly had no sense of appropriate boundaries.

  8. k.*

    I arrived 10 minutes early for my interview, and of course figured I’d have to wait patiently for a while.

    “A while” turned out to be 3 1/2 hours, because the person who was to be interviewing me *wasn’t even physically in the office* when I got there and nobody had the decency to tell me that. I was waiting in the lobby when she came in, saw me, and completely disregarded me — it was a half-hour after she came back that I finally got interviewed.

    It was the first of many signs that this would be a terrible workplace, but I took the job anyway because I was young, unemployed, and desperate. It turned out to be a toxic workplace that didn’t listen to anything even halfway approaching reality, and they day they fired me 5 months later I was the happiest I’d been in a year.

    (I also went on to find a MUCH better job two weeks after we parted ways.)

    1. Justme*

      I went to a job interview, scheduled the previous day over the phone, only to find out that the person interviewing me wasn’t even in that day. We rescheduled for the next day, and it was awful. He was a complete jerk. It was a red flag I paid attention to, because I turned down that job. He was no longer employed there the next month.

      1. Mike B.*

        My would-be interviewer for one job was in London when I arrived at the office in New York; they found a couple of other senior execs to take her place. A few days later I got a call telling me that she had returned the next day and offered the job to someone she already knew, but would I like to apply to be that person’s second in command?

    2. Capital K. for this*

      Wow. I honestly don’t think I’d have waited three and a half hours. Was there a receptionist?

      1. LtBroccoli*

        I suppose how long you’d wait depends on how desperate you are for a job though… I can see waiting that long.

    3. Rich*

      I went for an interview, waited 44 minutes for the first interview, and 3 1/2 hours for the next manager due to “short staff,” who then proceeded to walk in the room, look at me, and sigh in disgust.

    4. Miss Mia*

      I went to an interview for a Direct Support Professional position at this place that was VERY highly spoken of. They span a few states and benefits start at 30 hrs a week with decent pay for the position. You don’t find that in a lot in this field for my experience level. The person who was supposed to do my interview had NO IDEA she was interviewing me. I waited for her to come in for over an hour, then they finally tracked her down to find that she was out with a client. Finally had a rushed interview with her. Never got a call back. Kind of relieved with that.

    5. cncx*

      yes. i do not play with bad interviews/bad interview organization any more after having a similar experience.

  9. eUGH*

    They were REALLY impressed with one of qualifications- an entry level qualification in administration. Now I’m here it is obvious they don’t known how to screen for qualified candidates.

  10. Anon Good Nurse*

    I asked in a peer interview what they liked about working for the company. They all exchanged a look and were silent. Finally, someone said, “Cake day…?” Three of the four of them were gone by the end of my third month there.

    They brought me back for a second interview and couldn’t find someone to interview me. I took two hours off work to drive there, sit in a room for 30 minutes and then be told I could leave. They offered me the job the next morning.

    I still took it. It was better than the job I was looking to leave, but not by much. By the end of my second year, I was the second most tenured person in the department and six months later, I was the most senior person there. (In a department that typically has longevity in any other company.) I left just shy of my three year mark and more than half the department has left since then.

    1. kittymommy*

      Okay, what was cake day?? This sounds pretty good, not enough to make up for a crappy job though.
      Well…. how good was this cake???

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        One of the things I’ve learned on AAM is the incredibly powerful correlation of simple carbohydrates to employee satisfaction.

        Don’t introduce Cake Day if you aren’t willing to keep it up. Be wary of employees introducing Cake Day at their own expense, who will one day retire…

      2. Anon Good Nurse*

        It was ok cake — once a month for birthday celebrations. They got it from a local grocery store and it wasn’t bad (wasn’t awesome either.) But yes, the highlight of any given month was usually cake day! :)

        1. Anon Good Nurse*

          I should add that the one who responded with “Cake Day” was the only one of the four who was still there after three months. I guess the cake wasn’t even enough for the other three!

    2. Christine*

      Oooh, I had a similar red flag at my current job. One of my fave questions to ask when I’m being interviewed is “what’s your favorite thing about working here, and what’s your least favorite thing?” If people are quick to answer the latter but seem to stumble over the former (or give answers like “cake day” or “flexible working hours”), that’s a concern.

      I asked that when I was being interviewed for my current position and got red-flag answers, but I still took the job. It was *brutally* dysfunctional for the first year and a half, but after a huge amount of turnover and struggle, we’re actually doing pretty well now! That’s an unusual situation, though; most places that are that dysfunctional don’t get better, or at least not quickly enough for most people.

      1. anon-today*

        Yep, me too. I always ask “what do you like most about working here” and in my interview for my current job, most of the answers focused on what a great city it is.

    3. Argh!*

      “I asked in a peer interview what they liked about working for the company.”

      Great question! It’s just so basic I wouldn’t think it. I overthink what to ask in an interview.

      1. KRM*

        I once asked some peer interviewers what a typical day is like at work. We are all bench scientists, so I was expecting a “people are in by X time usually, not too many meetings scheduled, maybe a quick one-on-one with the boss, it’s really easy to connect if you have questions”. I got a “Well, there ARE no typical days because we work in the LAB, so one day we might do a PCR, one day could be a Western blot” etc. Umm, I know THAT. I am also a bench scientist. Every other place I asked that question to gave me an answer like I expected.
        I did reach out to them just to see what they might offer me when I had another offer on the table, and got a one sentence brush off from the HR dude who addressed me (no joke) as ‘k’. Lower case and everything. Ugh. Lot of other interview issues looking back, so I’m glad I didn’t even get an offer.

      2. Anon Good Nurse*

        I usually ask what a typical cycle looks like for them. My business tends to run quarterly (easy up front, crunched in the middle and busy at the end), so I’ll ask them to take me through a typical quarter and then ask how certain annual matters are handled. If I don’t know what the business cycle looks like, I’ll ask what does a typical week, month and year look like?

        I like this question because it gives me a good perspective on what they do and when their busy times are, but also demonstrates that I know the industry.

  11. Bri*

    People used to love overtime and now they are like ok that’s enough. Expected me to work 60 hours per week.

    1. Delta Delta*

      This just sparked something in my memory! I interviewed with an internship once where the interviewer saw I worked at a landscape supply warehouse and asked why that was relevant to the office job I was interviewing for. I mentioned that I regularly worked 55-60 hours per week there, including a lot of very early shifts because of the nature of the business. He responded with, “you’re willing to work 60 hours per week – you really ought to lead with that.”

      Totally forgot that minor spark of dysfunction buried deep in my memory.

  12. Tim C.*

    “This is a newly created position and role for someone who can work without a whole lot of direction and management.” Coupled with a vague job description translates to: “We do not know what this person is supposed to accomplish yet you would be the first person we crucify if the results are not to everyone’s liking.”

    1. Kiki*

      My last job was exactly like this. Brand-new role so everything was made up, but every person higher up the chain than me had a different idea of what I should be doing and what ‘success’ was, and none of them communicated their desires to me clearly.

      1. Tim C.*

        My post-traumatic job disorder (PTJD – its a real thing :-)) just flipped out with that description.

        1. SignalLost*

          Yeah, mine just said “THAT’S what was up with that job!” They had never had a web developer before, and frankly they didn’t need one. Obviously, the thing to do in that case is have every department gave their own expectations and needs. And give the developer no power to tell anyone to go screw.

      2. Cherith Ponsonby*

        You’ve just described my Worst Job Ever, except my superiors all communicated their desires very clearly. Unfortunately everyone’s desires conflicted, and not one of them was realistic.

    2. Samiratou*

      This particular thing could be really good or really bad, depending on the person and the company. If the company/team knows they need something done but aren’t really sure how (or have the skills) to get there and someone comes in and takes over and gets it done, it can be great. But that relies on the company acknowledging the situation and trusting the person to do what needs to be done. I’ve seen this happen once or twice in my company over the years. If the company needs something done but is otherwise toxic, indecisive, obstructionist and firmly opposed to change, the new person is thoroughly doomed. I’ve also seen this at my company.

      My team is actually going to be hiring a newly created role supporting some brand new tools & functionality and, while we know for sure what some of the duties are, the tools are pretty new to all of us so it will be a “we’ll figure this all out together” situation. This will not come as a surprise to candidates, though, and the role will be collaborative enough that there’s no risk of us just dropping them in the deep end.

      1. I See Real People*

        “If the company needs something done but is otherwise toxic, indecisive, obstructionist and firmly opposed to change, the new person is thoroughly doomed.”
        My current position.

    3. Collarbone High*

      And its cousin: “This is a newly created position and everyone here is excited to have a dedicated Teapot Design Manager.”

      Translation: “I’ve spent the past year telling everyone that all their problems will be solved by hiring a Teapot Design Manager, so now every department is expecting you to immediately fix every issue they have, most of which have nothing to do with teapot design.”

      1. MrsFillmore*

        Oh dear, I have a (new) colleague who is in that position currently! I want to sent this to her but obviously not appropriate…

    4. Melly*

      Both of my jobs in my career to date have been this job. There are plusses and minuses but I do wonder what it would be like to be one of a few people with the same role, instead of an independent contributor all the time.

    5. rosiebyanyothername*

      Dealing with those positions are the worst! I work closely with someone who was hired for a brand-new role, and it’s been clear in the six months since he was hired that no one has yet figured out what exactly he’s supposed to be doing and accomplishing. Lose-lose.

      1. I See Real People*

        So they wind up resenting you for not having enough work to do, yet they can’t come up with enough work for you to do, and they certainly do not like it when you come up with ideas yourself.

        1. K.*

          Ditto. This is my job now. New role with zero understanding of how it should function, and zero support. When I take initiative, I’m told no. I’m looking.

        2. Hey Nonnie*

          I had that job. I came up with an idea for a major, months-long project I could handle (and they desperately needed, as their legal compliance was grey area, to say the least) and was told that they’d consider it. I then brought it up again, every month, for six months, and their response never changed, so I finally figured out what they really meant and gave up. In the meantime, my primary job duties were being re-delegated to co-workers without my knowledge, I had almost nothing to do, and they kept insisting I take on IT duties which I had zero experience or training in. When I tried to explain my complete lack of competency in IT, boss-lady just said “figure it out!” (Boy, I bet our IT Director sure felt foolish for spending all that time and money on a degree when you could just figure out complex processes by googling, huh?)

          1. Hey Nonnie*

            I also had a job which was advertised as “I need a marketing assistant,” then when hired became “I need a personal assistant,” then “I need two marketing assistants” and some time later we were assigned to “work with” specific VPs (doing what? never determined), and then finally, “actually, I need a Marketing Director.”

            It took all of three months to go through that entire journey and leave me without a job. My health benefits kicked in the week before I left.

    6. Turquoisecow*

      Sigh. I know a company who keeps thinking they’d like to hire someone, but they’re not sure what that person would do.

    7. overly produced bears*

      I see you took my hell job after I left it after 5 months. I’m so sorry.

      It also translated to “we don’t know what we want, but we will change our minds every week and then blame you.”

      1. I See Real People*

        Or they give you patchy, menial tasks that are 99 leagues under your real potential and experience and then ask why they are paying so much for you.

    8. Fenchurch*

      Does not bode well for my current position…. Just started a month ago and it’s very loosey goosey about what the actual expectations are. Also I’ve come to loathe “agile” as it pertains to work. Don’t have enough time to actually work because you’re bogged down with pointless meetings? Um, can you be agile for us?

      Needless to say I’m keeping a weather eye out for an exit if need be.

      1. Cherith Ponsonby*

        I’ve seen a lot of places that say they do Agile but not one that actually does it well. Usually it just means “any excuse not to document”.

        Special mentions to:
        * we’re so far behind schedule! We must meet every morning and go through every outstanding Jira task. Oh, and the project manager isn’t at all technical so please explain each task in detail for two hours.
        * Everything must be 100% transparent at all times. Want to write up a list of questions for Toxic SME so you can print it off and take it with you to her desk? It can’t go in a Word document, it must go into our client-facing wiki which is open to the entire world. What do you mean you put a view restriction on this draft page? No view restrictions! It doesn’t matter if the page is factually wrong, I want transparency.
        * System testing is done by the clients.
        * We do standups every morning. There is no design documentation for 90% of the system, and requirements are tracked by raising bugs. Our current sprint began in December last year and phase 9 is due to be rolled out in February.

        1. Susan Calvin*

          Point #1 in particular… *shudder* (although in all fairness,for me that’s a failing of this particular PM, not indicative of the whole org)

          1. Julia*

            Point #2, system testing done by clients.
            That attitude makes me crazy! It’s corporate greed – they’re too cheap to hire people to test the system (or to get it right in the first place). I absolutely refuse to do business with anyone who treats their clients like that!

          1. SFscientist*

            A friend of mine described it last week as: you want a cake, you have 17 teams make a cupcake, at the end you smush 17 cupcakes together and call it a cake.

        2. Hey Nonnie*

          I once had to work a temp job in an agile workplace that had nothing to do with software development. I still have no idea WTF.

    9. poptart*

      hey I had that job too! I ended up making coffee at exactly 10:30am every day, and playing candy crush the rest of it.

    10. Caboodle*

      Hey, that’s basically the job I just took! In addition to “someone who can work without a whole lot of direction and management” my other red flag was, “This is a role you can really make your own!” And to my question about how they train and onboard new employees, “Well, we’re a bit disorganized so nothing’s in writing, but everyone is really knowledgeable and will help if you have questions.” All of which added up to 1) we don’t know what you do; 2) you won’t know what we need you to do; 3) we basically BS’ed the job posting; 4) why haven’t you figured out your job yet?!?; 5) well why didn’t you just ask if you’re struggling?

      Yeah, working on getting out.

      1. Caboodle*

        PS-They advertised and interviewed this position as a business operations manager, but it’s a secretarial role.

    11. Likeraccoons*

      I had that job, a promotion within my company, and thankfully when it ended I stayed on in a lateral move, but oh boy that was a bad year!

    12. Artemesia*

      I had a job in grad school for someone like this. I used to joke he had the American Airlines Chair as he jetted around the globe continuously having meetings and I could absolutely not discern what he did if anything. A senior professor ‘Bob’ told me that my boss arranged a meeting one time of very important people and then at the start of the meeting turned to ‘Bob’ and said ‘I think this is your meeting’ leaving him to conduct a meeting the topic of which he was only vaguely apprised. It was one of the better paid grad student gigs but never once was I given any direction; I did a few things on my own but lived constantly with a sense of somehow failing to intuit what the goals were. He lived long and prospered and to this day neither I nor any of the people I know who worked with him had any clue at all what he actually accomplished — or even did. Nice man. Slow talker. A total mystery.

    13. Alienor*

      Ha, I had one of those positions. It ended up being a patchwork of random duties that did need to be done, but not necessarily by the same person as part of the same role. Every time I got a new manager and they found out all the different things I was doing, they scolded me for not focusing on my “core job,” until they figured out that I didn’t really have a “core job.” I actually didn’t mind because at least there was some variety, but it did make it hard to set goals/show success.

    14. Maggie Z.*

      Or, “our department has expanded and we’re adding a new position that focuses on chocolate teapot lids! (Oh, there’ll be just a few responsibilities leftover on the vanilla teapot spouts side, but we’ll train you; don’t even worry about it.)” Having no experience whatsoever in vanilla teapot spouts, imagine discovering the extensive scope of those “few responsibilites.” I think the manager had such a poor grasp on what employees did every day that he recruited for and pitched a fantastical role. I never did glance at a chocolate teapot lid before I jumped ship.

    15. LAI*

      Haha this is basically my job now! I was very worried about exactly the same thing you were so I asked a lot of questions before accepting, including how they were planning to measure the success of the person in this role. I was satisfied by the answer and so far, it’s been great!

    16. Abbey Harlow*

      Yesssssss. As someone who works at (mostly smaller) non-profits, I’ve heard this a lot in job interviews. Now the ability to articulate a position is a major “must” for me. Confusion about that can lead to widely varied expectations from the staff about what your role is, or a lack of ownership over anything because you don’t have fixed responsibility for any aspect. Obviously there’s always a bit of wiggle room in job duties, but to me it’s a BIG signal that a company doesn’t have their act together when they can’t even sum up the purpose of the job.

    17. Tara*

      Oh yes! I took a job just like this right out of college. My job was just to do whatever everyone else didn’t want to do with no training or the ability to regulate my own workload. I was essentially a dumping ground for anything and everything, no matter how long that “everything” took or if I had been trained on how to do it. My only feedback was co-workers that dumped something on me yelling or being passive-aggressive if they didn’t like the result. My performance review was basically grading me on how subservient I was and whether or not my coworkers were getting what they wanted out of me, so they didn’t have to talk to the boss about me. I was supposed to be a peer. In the interview, they said the position was “dynamic, self-directed, and for someone who was flexible and a self-starter.”

  13. AMT*

    Offering the job right in the interview, or stating that an offer is forthcoming pending the usual formalities. It sometimes speaks to a culture governed by the manager’s whims. I can’t say I’ve hated every workplace where this has occurred, but that specific thing—the boss being a people-pleaser and relying heavily on whether s/he likes someone in the spur of the moment—has been a problem.

    1. Winger*

      This happened to me once, and it was essentially because they had already had a failed search and they wanted someone to start immediately, and I was highly qualified, so they just pulled the trigger right away. I think the people on the hiring committee were literally looking at each other across the table and nodding at the manager like “offer him the job! quick!” There were a few other practical things, too, that made it kind of make sense to just offer me the job right away. It turned out to not be a red flag in the way you describe, although I totally understand where you’re coming from.

  14. selina kyle*

    Mine’s not so much a red flag but more an entire color guard team performance of red flags. I was about to graduate college and started applying to jobs. I went to an interview with a housing rental company. It sounded legitimate on the website and since it’s a college town there are a lot of places renting out apartments. However, when I got there, I found that it was based out of a man’s home – in his upstairs living room. I had to walk through the rest of the house to get to the living room and all along the way he talked about how the IRS messed things up for him and now he owed 70k in backtaxes(?). I went ahead with the interview because I really wanted to have something lined up when I graduated. He ended up offering me the job after the interview, but mentioned in the phone call that he would hire me as a contractor so whether or not I took money out for taxes was “between [me] and god”.
    I didn’t take the job and when I turned him down he replied by saying “well good, I wasn’t sure I wanted to hire you”.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Oh my goodness, this is the shadiest thing ever. SO glad college-you was smart enough to say no to that job!!!

    2. selina kyle*

      Oop – realize this was more story than actual answer but basically –
      Blaming issues within the business on outside sources, playing games with the IRS, and having a strange location.

      1. MommaTRex*

        If anyone couldn’t pick out those red flags from your story, they are going to have a tough time picking up on the more typical, nuanced ones in their own life.

        1. selina kyle*

          From the sound of things, I think I dodged a little better than he did in the end :)
          I should really google to see if the company is still around (it’s only been about a year).

          1. Say what, now?*

            Please do and then please update. I’m curious to see if he’s recovered from his persecution.

    3. Catalin*

      I’d call that a work-related cat-call. I can almost see him as a scuzo on the street yelling as you walk by…

    4. Emi.*

      Whether you pay taxes is between you and God? I thought it was between you and the IRS. In fact, I distinctly remember God telling us it wasn’t His problem.

    5. Delta Delta*

      I’m picturing a marching band playing “Louie, Louie” going by with that color guard team of flags while you’re in this interview.

    6. Eva*

      I would not be surprised in the slightest if this was what my old boss ended up doing after the shady real estate company I worked for split up because the partners got in some kind of fight after I left. To this day I wish I had photocopied some of the things I saw that might help prove he was cheating on his taxes, I would have loved to get the bounty for turning him in to the IRS.

    7. Former Hoosier*

      I once turned down a job because of red flags and when I called and did so, was told that they hadn’t really been sure I could do the job anyway. Thank goodness I followed my instincts.

    8. Med Student*

      I was considering renting a particular property, arranged to meet at the property for a viewing, the estate agent changed the time last minute, then never actually turned up to the viewing, I tried ringing a few times, and eventually got told the landlord would show me around instead. The landlord himself seemed great, very down to earth and helpful. However when I got there I essentially got told off for not coming to the office for the viewing (despite confirming several times I would meet them at the property), they then hadn’t actually got a rent price agreed, so told me to wait a while. Whilst doing so, a lady turned up angry at the company basically saying they’d lied to her about a load of parking permits giving her fines, also complaining that they’d been in her property whilst she was out without reason or telling her about it (she had pretty concrete proof). What was particularly alarming was that they seemed to have no idea that I might be put off with this and argued with her, refused to give her answers, and evaded her questions right in front of me. I walked out and never contacted them again! (I felt sorry for the landlord though, he was decent and had a good property but chose his estate agent poorly!!

  15. Anononon*

    Where do I begin? A written test that was given to all applicants, from receptionists to attorneys. Having to role play different incoming phone call scenarios to see if you could tell when to screen calls and when to actually pass along to the owner. Being verbally promised that I would be considered for a raise in six months when being offered an embarrassingly low salary.

    I knew all of these were red flags and the job wouldn’t be good, but I planned on just using it as starting experienced, and I got lucky that this plan actually worked.

        1. Anononon*

          Because I was applying for an attorney position. And one of the answers was basically that calls from current clients don’t get through.

            1. Anononon*

              Potential clients (gotta get them signed up asap), judges, family emergencies.

              Usually I or the staff were stuck with trying to pacify current clients. If they were very upset, we would try to get the okay from the boss to schedule a phone call with him at a later time. (I was an associate but I had very little independence/authority.)

    1. Former Borders Refugee*

      I had a job where the owner had this written random test that had nothing to do with ANYTHING that all new hires had to take. No one knew what the point was, even the office manager who enabled the owner in all of his… quirks… knew what to do with these things, so new hires would take this test, she would look at it for a half second, nod, and put it in a file, and it was never mentioned again.

      Occasionally the owner (who was about a million years old) would say “What did you think about that test!” and we were required to nod and make some sort of “yeah, that’s a great idea you have” noises. It was a weird place to work and by all accounts still is.

      And not the worst job I’ve had by FAR.

      1. Anononon*

        My boss would use it to try to prevent prior issues, but they were so specific it was ridiculous. Like knowing the difference between UPS and USPS.

        1. MommaTRex*

          Please share if you know of any tests that screen for whether a person knows that “one point five million dollars” equals $1,500,000.00 and not $1,000,000.50.

          1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            It sounds like there’s an interesting story to go along with the need for that test.

  16. NoMoreMrFixit*

    There were no internal applicants for the position despite it paying better than comparable jobs in other departments. I didn’t find this out until a year later. By that point I had already figured out taking that job was a bad idea.

  17. Alice*

    Totally normal interview for first half and then CEO came in and cross questioned me on the results of the personality test they made all candidates take. It felt super odd at the time, but I needed the job, so took it. Very dysfunctional place, decisions made on what looked like whims, impossible expectations were set based on guesswork, and little personality silos all over the place.

    1. Snark*

      Maybe I’ve been working with military people too much, but I’m imagining silo not in the “cylindrical building used to store grain” sense, but more in the “place where nuclear missiles are launched from, devastating their targets 17 minutes later” sense.

  18. Lana*

    I went to a job fair in Chicago, and had a positive response from one employer, who offered me an interview. Upon accepting, I realized that they were located in Northwest Indiana, not Chicago, about an hour from Chicago, which was not something they had really reference before. They had also had a lot of staff turnover during the previous year. How they represented themselves wasn’t egregious, but they definitely weren’t leading with the location/turnover.

    I lasted 1 year in that job, barely. At the time I was desperate for a new job, and overlooked all of those things. But it was one of the roughest years of my life, and has made me wary of job switching, and also employers who mislead/misrepresent themselves.

    1. Reinhardt*

      As someone who lives around Chicago, northwest Indiana is still considered part of the Chicago area, so it’s not unreasonable for them to be at a Chicago job fair.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Very true. However, being clear about their location – as “Chicagoland” covers a wide area of land – would have been wise.

        1. Chi anon*

          Yes… I can travel 3 hours one-way and still be technically within the Chicagoland area. It’s really unhelpful to state you are “in the Chicagoland area,” or worse, “in Chicago” (which I’ve seen in job postings), when you are in fact in a completely different city. It makes no sense to obfuscate your location, because you do not want to spend time screening and communicating with candidates who are going to bail as soon as you tell them their in-person interview will take place at your office 3 hours away. Just clearly state your actual city of location, and your candidates will self-select for those who CAN get to your office. What reason is there to do otherwise? And yet I see it all the time.

      2. Molly*

        +1. I grew up in the “Chicagoland Area” in NWI and there is a lovely commuter train that goes between NWI and DT Chicago

        1. Molly*

          Also, isn’t the onus on the applicant to research the company?
          Also, since when is one hour a crazy commute? I’m not sure I know anyone who has a commute less than 30 min to 45 min.

            1. Lucky*

              Oh. I was thinking it must be a US/UK difference with longer commutes in the US…. I’m a lucky person who’s managed to live within 15 minutes of every job though…

            2. Bartlet for President*

              Without specifying within a major city metro vs non-major city metro, that figure really isn’t that useful.

              1. Natalie*

                Sure, but even in a major metro it’s fine to consider an hour “crazy”. The fact that a higher percentage of people also have to do the crazy thing doesn’t make it fine or not a dealbreaker to the OP.

                1. Bartlet for President*

                  Sure, but by the same logic it doesn’t mean it has to be crazy to Molly. This is totally OT, so I’m going to just leave it there.

            3. Soon to be former fed*

              Not to me. Metro area commutes are easily much longer than twenty five minutes. Over an hour, ninety minutes, starting to get crazy.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*


                My sense is that, in the DC metro, anything an hour or under each way is considered normal. 90 minutes is not ideal but not insane. Living in West Virginia, Richmond, VA, or Pennsylvania and commuting to DC is insane.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            I think people are allowed to decide for themselves what’s an acceptable commute time.

            Signed, someone who is refusing a temp job that could easily have become permanent because she doesn’t want an hour plus commute, and is annoyed when people tell her it’s not that big a deal.

            I’m exhausted when I get home and get almost nothing else done. An hour is too long for me and I’m sure it’s too much for others.

            1. Kateshellybo19*

              Yep I refuse to take a job that has more than a 30 minute commute. (though I might be spoiled considering my first real job had me walking about 20 yards)

            2. Alienor*

              Yeah, there’s no way. I work with some people who commute up to two hours each way every day, and I’m just not willing to give up that much of my time (maybe for a short-term gig with a fixed end date, but not indefinitely). I was mad a couple of years ago when I changed locations and my commute went from 10-15 minutes to 25-30 minutes.

            3. Cristina in England*

              Yep. Also, an hour by train is very different from an hour by car, which is very different than an hour by one or more buses.

            4. Lindsay J*

              Yeah, if it’s not for you it’s not for you.

              And I think that there have been studies that have shown that generally a short commute is tied to higher levels of personal happiness.

              When I’m hiring people, if the commute looks long – 45 minutes or more, generally – it’s something I ask about because I’ve seen a lot of people burn out on long commutes and leave jobs that they otherwise liked much sooner than they would because of it. I don’t necessarily count it as a red flag for their candidacy, but I much prefer to hear, “Oh I’ve had similar commutes in previous jobs and I don’t mind it. I’ve done it for years,” or “I like being in the car by myself. I put on a podcast to listen to and it gives me time to mentally transition from work to home or from home to work.” Just anything to show that they’ve put some thought into the situation, really.

              I don’t want to see a shrug or a “it’s no big deal” because for a lot of people it does become a big deal when they have to live the reality for more than a couple months.

              My commute right now is 15 minutes and it’s such a huge difference even from being 30-45 minutes. It’s nice leaving work at 5 and getting home before 5:30, vs it being almost 6PM.

          2. Jeje*

            I used to have an 1 hr+ commute. The type of Engineering work I do is most often done in outer suburban areas. Those of us who prefer it, typically live in cities and deal with the commute.

            Also, calling NW Indiana the “Chicagoland” area is pretty typical. This company might well have had a lot of Chicago residents commuting out to their office.

          3. Farrah Sahara*

            I’m jealous of those shorter commute times. I currently spend 3 hours a day commuting: 90 mins each way, which involves bus and commuter train.

            15 to 30 mins would be awesome!

            1. JeanB in NC*

              That kind of commute would kill me very quickly. Especially on public transportation – all those people! I currently drive 5 minutes and I love it.

          4. mrs__peel*

            An hour each way is crazy to me, but I live in the Rust Belt and it only takes 15 minutes to get literally anywhere in town.

          5. all aboard the anon train*

            Commute times are subjective. I live in a city and have a 20 minute walk to work or 5-10 minute subway trip.

            I would never take a job where I had to drive an hour outside of the city. That’s a long commute for me. Maybe I’m spoiled by public transportation and working/living in a city, but an hour commute one way would need to come with a very high salary for me to even consider it.

          6. Kate 2*

            I mean, if the company tells you they are in “Chicago” why would you assume they are lying and really in “Chicagoland”?

            1. Miss Betty*

              That’s not considered a lie if you live in the area though. Like it’s not considered a lie if a company says they’re in Dallas but but actually in Euless or Plano or if they say they’re in Detroit but are actually in Royal Oak or Pontiac. Like the Detrot Zoo! (Or the Detroit Lions when they were at the Silverdome.)

            2. RabbitRabbit*

              It was a job fair held in Chicago; the poster didn’t say whether the recruiter mentioned the company’s location.

              1. Soon to be former fed*

                Metro Chicagoan here! A job fair in Chicago would not just be limited to employers in the city limits. And NWI is definitely a source of workers for Chicago, I worked with quite a few Hoosiers downtown. Sorry, no red flag here, the candidate was just a tad naive.

                I have had ten minute commutes to jobs I hated. The best commute is the one I have now, across the hall into my home office.

            3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

              I imagine it’s a bit like London. Aside from the fact that the City of London itself is in fact quite a small area, greater London is vast and it can take forever to get from one bit to another. I’ve seen interesting jobs that I didn’t even apply for because although they are technically in the same city it would take longer to get there than I am willing to spend on the train.

          7. A person*

            In a regular application sure, but if you’re at a job fair its probably better to be honest about where you are.

            That said I wouldn’t call one hour crazy.

          8. Jeje*

            I’m guessing that all the people who are talking about what length commute they’re willing to tolerate are all in some line of work that is needed at most companies. Must be nice! When you do something more specialized, you find you have to make some work/life trade-offs.

            1. Natalie*

              Sure, maybe if you’re an astronaut.

              You don’t need to be super high in demand to have commute related dealbreakers – plenty of regular people in average demand jobs have them.

              1. Jeje*

                Nice and snarky of you. I know more than a few non-astronauts, that have to apply from a smallish set of companies/organizations where they can actually use their skills. Many are Scientists and Engineers, but also Social Service and some types of Creative Professionals.

                1. Natalie*

                  Oh, for goodness sake. It was a joke. But if you’re going to sniff “must be nice!” about a bunch of people that have different standards than you do like they are some kind of rarified breed, you can’t really complain about anyone else’s tone.

                  If you’re commute bothers you that much, either change it or accept it. Other people’s standards shouldn’t bother you that much.

            2. AcademiaNut*

              I think the gaping divide in attitude tends to come from location more than job. I grew up in a town where you could drive anywhere in the city limits, at any time of day, in 20 minutes or less. And the only people who took public transit were 1) unable to drive or 2) too poor to own a car. A 40 minute commute one way would have been considered bizarre and a huge burden.

              I now live in a large city with good transit and horrible traffic/parking. I have a 40 minute one way commute, which I consider quite reasonable – 15 minutes of walking to and from bus stops, a single bus ride (no transfer), no more than 5 minute wait for a bus, and I can pick up milk and stop by the drugstore easily on the way home. Someone who was determined to have a 10 minute commute here would have to pick both their job and home based on location only.

  19. Definitely NOT a T-Rex*

    I asked about the workplace culture for a university job, and my interviewer started describing the demographic characteristics of the international students.


    Spoiler alert: The workplace culture is horrid.

    1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      Well, depending upon the department, that may have been a legitimate response. I could see a Social Work department answering the question like that. That is because diversity would be important to them.

      1. Monsters of Men*

        I mean… I can see that as in “we have students from a lot of places, we appreciate the input their varying experiences bring to the table!” vs being “this person is from here, this one is from here, oh we have *this nationality* and *this ethnicity* too!”

    2. Radiant Peach*

      I once asked about the workplace culture when interviewing for a job with a nonprofit that worked with international students, and my three senior-level(!) interviewers seemed to have no clue what I was asking. They started talking about how “many cultures were represented there”. To this day I don’t know if they’ve genuinely never heard that question (doubtful) or if they were just playing dumb. Wasn’t offered the position so I guess I’ll never know.

  20. A person*

    At my interview, the hiring manager sent someone to get me at the security desk who was on her first day at the job.

    Now I know he didn’t want anyone warning me off.

    1. A person*

      The brand new person (who was a peer, not the secretary) that walked me up was the only person I met in the office other than the manager. I didn’t know the extent of the high staff turnover until after I started.

      Also in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have tuned out the shouting that was going on in the office next door during my interview.

        1. A person*


          Actually, the office I was trying to get out of when I accepted red flag job had a couple of hot tempered people who openly advertised they had concealed carry permits.

          So the shouting just didn’t have the impact it should have.

  21. Ms. Mad Scientist*

    For an admin/clerical role in a hospital: the hiring manager was filling several positions, and mentioned specifically she would like to hire a man as well (?!?) Whaa?! What does a man bring to this role that a woman wouldn’t?

    That boss ended up being an abusive liar who shirked responsibilities, played favorites and made up ridiculous policies. I stayed in that role two years, probably 18 months longer than I should have. She got fired shortly after I made a lateral transfer.

    Incidentally, she did hire some men but they didn’t work out. Some of the women didn’t work out either, but the long term people in the role were all women.

    1. Gadfly*

      Now, if it had been a matter of a commitment to diversity that also included getting women into traditionally male roles and men into traditionally female ones, the hiring a man thing could have been great. It would be good to see more male admins (as long as there isn’t a glass escalator also) so it isn’t seen as being just women’s work.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      My terrible summer job had the opposite agenda – they refused to hire any men.

      Red flag #1 – position advertised as receptionist. Showed up, had the interview, got the offer, and started only to realize that I was one of 6 “receptionists” which really meant office flunkies/envelope stuffers. As one of only two people with any computer skills, I at least got to do data entry and word processing stuff.

      Red flag #2 – Office manager was the wife of business owner (trophy wife with a trophy job, she only came in to help with interviews), and his son ran the phone bank department. The only non-family member was our supervisor and she was SO paranoid about getting replaced by one of us. She had nothing to worry about – those of us with options weren’t going to stick around, and those with fewer options weren’t qualified to be promoted.

      Red flag #3 – qualifications for getting hired appeared to be “female with HS diploma.” I saw several young men come in for interviews and they either never got offers or turned them down, but in no way could they not have been at least as qualified as my coworkers.

      Red flag #4 – shortly before I left to go back to college, two FBI agents came in to chat with the owner, who was (as usual) not present. The business was shut down within a year or two.

      1. Brendioux*

        This honestly almost made me cry, I hate that they called men into interview and wouldn’t even consider them. That’s disgusting. I see so much gender discrimination (both ways) at different organizations and it’s gross to see that alive and well still in 2017.

  22. PB*

    Snarky comments and eye-rolling when talking about organizational change. In retrospect, that was a really obvious red flag that I should never have overlooked. I was inexperienced at the time (1.5 years out of grad school), and in desperate need of a job due to the recession.

    That job was a nightmare, especially when I was moved into a “change agent”-type position. Now, when interviewing, I always ask about change management, recent changes, staff response, and so forth.

    1. PB*

      Other red flags with that job: HR was very inflexible with the interview. I had to bend over backwards to make it there. When the offer was extended, they promised to send a contract “by the end of the week.” Two weeks later, I hadn’t received it. I was in that town looking for a place to live (I had to relocate), and was contacting HR following up and offered to come in to sign it. I was treated like I was being impatient.

    2. Mimmy*

      What exactly would you be asking? Do you mean how the organization handles changes, e.g. staffing, policies, etc.?

      1. PB*

        My whole industry is in a transitional period, so everywhere I’ve interviewed since has had some sort of change. I ask questions about process (does staff have a chance to submit comments, or is it fait accomplis? How is staff feedback integrated? What training resources are made available?) and outcomes (How has staff responded to ____? What have you learned from this process? Are you considering similar projects in the future?). In cases where an institution hasn’t had recent changes, I ask how they’re preparing for upcoming changes that will affect our industry, such as preparing for training and implementation.

  23. Entry Level Anon*

    I met with an HR person I adored, a department supervisor with whom I clicked with immediately, a head honcho who was tough but fair, another department’s supervisor with whom I would be occasionally working who was SO warm and welcoming, and then…my actual supervisor.
    She’d been working there longer than I’ve been alive but had a grim windowless office that literally gave me a headache (everyone else had had a normal office, and even the cubicles had warmer lighting from above). She couldn’t give me any idea of what a normal daily or weekly schedule would look like in my position and waved me off by saying that it would be like other positions in the industry (…it’s already a position that varies a lot within our industry, and this one was specifically described differently by HR). When I asked her brightly what she liked most about the job, she looked at me blankly and said “what?” and then stayed silent for an awkwardly long time and said “the people.” She also misspelled my name when she responded to my thank you email.
    I took the job because I figured she was a fluke within the company. She was, in some ways, but she was also my direct supervisor, and also her terrible office was a sign about how much respect upper management had for long-term employees but also the fact that they would keep non-performers around for years instead of showing them the door. It was my first full-time salaried job so I don’t regret taking it, but I remember that brief interaction so well because everything was a portent of things to come.

      1. Entry Level Anon*

        Kind of, but the reason I mentioned those other people at the beginning (and the lesson I learned from the time I spent there) was that it turned out to be cold comfort to like the majority of people in a company and the idea of what your role would’ve been when your direct supervisor is a bad manager in multiple ways.

        1. overly produced bears*

          Yeah. One of the hardest things I’ve learned (as in, it took multiple times for it to happen for me to learn) is that no matter how well I get on with various people, if I don’t get on with the person in charge, it’s not going to end well.

    1. Serin*

      The only two jobs I’ve ever turned down were ones where the hiring manager couldn’t/wouldn’t describe a typical day or offer a job description. I’ve never regretted it. If you can’t tell me what my priorities are now, when you’re on your best behavior trying to win me, what’s it going to be like when we’re working together??

    2. Controller for Non Profit*

      I took my dream job with these exact issues… job was perfect, organization wonderful, people (except for my direct supervisor) all lovely. It took 2 years but I outlasted her and it was soooo worth it. But it was a ROUGH 2 years… lots of drama, tears, silent treatment, etc, etc, etc. But I was able to rebuild my department and our relationship with other departments when she was asked to leave and it is the accomplishment I am most proud of in my entire career.

  24. Shadow*

    I consider the following red flags
    -inconsistent employment dates on resumes and applications
    -reasons for leaving that are vague or don’t match up (i.e. Left for better opportunities/higher pay then no job afterwards)
    -accomplishments or duties that seem inconsistent with the job title
    -no career or job responsibility progression
    – a pattern of short term jobs over a long period of time
    -listing “see resume” on a job application
    -someone who doesn’t ask questions about the job
    -someone with a degree that can’t seem to get out of an entry level job

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I think they’re listing red flags they look for when they interview candidates (versus candidates’ red flags for companies).

    1. MHR*

      I am in HR and I tell people to write see resume on their applications if they are turning in a resume to me! A red flag for me is a company that wants the information twice for no discernible reason.

    2. Anion*

      In fairness to “see resume,” when my husband was applying for jobs recently some of them had those online systems, and some of those systems had a character limit for the “Accomplishments and Duties” section(s).How is someone supposed to describe all of the accomplishments and duties during ten years in an upper-management position in less than 250 characters?

      Shouldn’t you *want* to hire people who accomplishments can’t fit in that tiny space?

      And yeah, it’s super irritating to have to copy-paste all that stuff in when the position also asks for a resume. He did it (unless there wasn’t room) but especially when employment forms seem to be pretty generic–as in, everyone from entry-level to CEO applicants are filling out the same stupid form–and you’re asked to submit a resume as well, it seems like a major waste of time and effort to fill it all out. I understand that you may be working with a system where you don’t want to look at the resume unless you have to or it wouldn’t ordinarily come to you first or whatever, but it can be really frustrating when looking for work to be asked to fill in the same information over and over again for one job; it feels like the employer isn’t sure what they want or doesn’t care about respecting their applicants.

      And by “Accomplishments or duties that seem inconsistent with the job title,” I assume you mean someone whose job title was, say, Teapot Designer, applying for a Teapot Design position, but their duties were all administrative and not design-based at all? As in, they’re applying for inappropriate jobs for their experience and skills? Because people don’t make up their own job titles, so an applicant can’t help it if their title is Teapot Designer but their duties were more like Teapot Shipping Analyst. They can’t exactly lie about their titles on resumes and applications.

      Again, I’m sure you don’t mean these as harsh as they sound, and I actually appreciate seeing your answer, anyway, because it’s interesting. But I am curious about your thinking.

    3. Argh!*

      Not everyone wants to advance beyond entry level (especially if it’s a professional role). Managing is a royal pain and some people just don’t want to be bothered.

      1. lookyloo*

        THANK YOU. I despise managing people. I’ve done it, hate it, won’t do it again.

        These days my degree-having butt is happy with my low level job that I like, perform well, has set hours and that I can mentally ”leave it at the office”. Trading a cut in pay for no stress has been so worth it.

      2. K.*

        I had a colleague who was the best in his department at his job and turned down management positions as a rule because he liked doing the work itself and didn’t want to shift to managing people. He went as high as he could go as a contributor and made it respectfully clear that that was as far as he cared to go. The company found other ways to reward him for being great at his job.

      3. writelhd*

        Also that last one is just a little painful for those who graduated around 2007, because the market was so bad then it was hard for a fresh grad to get anything. And the hard to get anything started to make you have a long gap, and then the gap made it harder to get hired, or else maybe you did random things or things with no promotion potential cause you gotta do something by but those things make you look unfocused or unambitious and that appearance makes it even harder to be seen as interested and capable of moving into a role that is back on track…it compounds.

      4. My AAM is true*

        My grandfather had an engineering degree and spent his career in management.
        My father had an engineering degree and spent his career in management.
        I have an engineering degree, and have remained an individual contributor.

      5. JulieBulie*

        I’ve advanced quite a bit beyond entry level, but I’m not a manager.
        Maybe there are industries where it’s either entry level or management, but in industries where experience is important, there are usually career paths (advancement, promotions) that do not involve managing.

    4. This Daydreamer*

      – you try to contact references and get a stoner roommate, some guy who was obviously hired as a reference on fiverr, and a sudden interest from some federal agents
      – candidate asks if you need to see a driver’s license before they get a company car
      – candidate is very interested in how private his office will be, with questions about ventilation and soundproofing
      – ankle monitor that the candidate insists is a medical device and the same candidate is very clear that they work best when not micromanaged

      1. Former Hoosier*

        And those of us who work in HR know that these things are not made up but have actually happened to us when interviewing.

      2. winter*

        What is the soundproofing thing indicative of? I absolutely get why it’s a red flag, but I’m coming up empty on what that candidate wanted to do in there (except for keep hostages??)

  25. Granny K*

    Nobody can agree on the job description of the position you are interviewing for or tell you what the main priority of that job. I interviewed with 4-5 people for a position and everyone had something different to say about the job–sure there was some overlap, but some really wide discrepancies too. One guy was so off on his expectations, I thought at least one of us was in the wrong interview.

    1. Manders*

      Ooh, yes, I’ve had interviews like that. I was in a good position to be choosy and didn’t have to take those jobs, fortunately.

      1. Yvonne craig*

        I had an interview where they could not answer what my day to day would be like. One of my interviewers talked about her own day but her position was vey different then what I was hiring for.

        At my current job I was asked (seemingly appropo of nothing) how I respond to criticism. This is not normally a red flag although I found my interviewer (owner of the company) to be a bit rude during the interview (should have been a red flag). I have since learned (I took the job) that that question was code for, “how will you deal with a boss who will yell at you in front of co-workers?”

  26. anonimouse*

    I interviewed for a low level U admin job and after the first interview I realized I made an omission in the spreadsheet test thingie so I called back to let the admin working with the hiring committee know the omission and the correction. I got a call back and heard for AN HOUR about how they wouldn’t realize it and s/he wasn’t going to tell them about it because they wouldn’t realize it and on and on and on….for AN HOUR. Overstepping? check. Loquacious to the point of insanity causing? Check.
    I took the job. It was a good job! That coworker did not stop talking the entire 3 years I was there. With the blessing of providence they’re still talking it up.

  27. MI Dawn*

    Interviewed with a doctor who was over an hour late. She waved it off as “stuck at the hospital”, promised health insurance but never delivered, promised a 401K and never delivered. I learned she was ALWAYS late. Not because she was in the hospital. She was at home listening to sermons and religious music. We commonly lied to the patients that she was “running late”. The ones who loved her, stayed. New patients either saw me and stayed, or never returned to the practice after 1 visit. The day I quit that job was a very happy day. (She tried to get me with a “no compete” clause in the contract, but since she’d never bothered to sign it, though I had, my attorney said it wasn’t a legal contract and she didn’t have a case).

    1. Manders*

      Whoa, a non-compete in the medical field is pretty weird and red-flaggy all on its own. I’ve signed a non-compete in a field where that makes sense (marketing, in a field where you really don’t want your employees leaving for a direct competitor) but it’s not like you can poach the secrets of medicine by hiring another doctor’s employees.

      1. Collarbone High*

        Ha! “Using a stethoscope to listen to a patient’s heart and lungs was MY idea, I don’t want you taking that to some other medical practice.”

      2. Lucky*

        They are very common in medical and dental practices, where you build long-term patient relationships, especially when a retiring practitioner is selling his/her practice.

      3. B*

        I would guess it is about taking patients to the new practice. I once followed a dental hygienist when she changed jobs. The old dentist was okay but she was awesome.

        1. Emma*

          This conversation has led to a serious “US healthcare is WEIRD!” moment for me. I mean, I know this isn’t news to anyone, but some things just ping that feeling in particular.

  28. Sevenrider*

    Company 1 – My first red flag was the receptionist was rude and dismissive when I arrived. I thought, if this is how the front desk person is, how bad must the rest of them? Was not impressed with the job and declined a second interview.

    Company 2 (and current job) – Completely missed the big red flag during my interview. They were not at all interested in my background. All they wanted to know is how fast could I process their expense reports and thus began my career of doing lowly admin tasks for what is otherwise a great company to work for. I would have left before now but the pay is good and above average benefits.

  29. Anon librarian*

    I interviewed for a public library job and they asked me what my favorite book is. Coincidentally, there happened to be a copy of it sitting in the office where the interview happened to be held. I said, “__________ by __________, which I notice is right there!”

    The Director and the Assistant Directors (the two interviewers) looked at me and one of them said, “Oh yes. Someone donated it and it doesn’t meet our standards to be added to the collection.”

    I won’t see what book it was, but it was a highly reviewed, frequently recommended graphic novel (for adult audiences) written by a resident of the state, that happened to feature some nudity on 2 pages. So it was pretty clear I wouldn’t fit in too well there.

    1. Amezilla*

      Maybe they meant the condition of the book? Hopefully? Because otherwise what a huge bummer from a public library.

    2. Anna*

      …Well, now I want to know what book it was. One of my all-time faves is a graphic novel with a somewhat uncomfortable subject matter.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yeah. I interviewed at a public library and took the job (which was a mistake), but in hindsight I should have been concerned when the closest thing to a “serious” interview question they asked me was, “What is your favorite book?”

    4. AnaEatsEverything*

      In my head, I’m imagining it was The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, because I love it so dearly. But I also hope it’s NOT that, because more people deserve to read it.

    5. all aboard the anon train*

      Honestly, this is why I hate the “what’s your favorite book?” question. I know some people think it’s a softball question to set interviewers at ease, but people are so prone to judging responses and favorite books are subjective.

      I have a coworker who likes to ask this question and then judges people based on their answers, which I think is horrible. We work in publishing and of all places, people should know that reading tastes are very, very personal. Just because someone loves romance novels doesn’t mean they’re shallow just as someone who loves non-fiction isn’t boring and someone who loves classic lit isn’t always pretentious or lying about enjoying those books.

      I consider too many of those softball/tell me about your interest questions red flags.

      1. This Daydreamer*

        I used to work at a bookstore and one of the managers told me that he *always* asked what the interviewee’s favorite book was. It was simply an easy way to weed out the candidates who said that they just loved books with a passion because they thought it was an easy way to get a job there. He didn’t really care what book they said, just so long as they could give a coherent response to the question.

        Apparently my response of “It depends on when you ask me. Right now I’m reading XYZ for the third time, but I also love work by ABC….”

        1. Queen of the File*

          I can definitely kind of get behind this question for a bookstore (not the judging though!). Customers will ask for recommendations and it’s useful to see if your candidate can talk with some enthusiasm/knowledge about a book.

          1. This Daydreamer*

            Oh yeah. But mostly he was amazed at how many people could not come up with an answer. Or said “Um, uh, Book Everyone Has to Read in High School?” And, yes, they asked it as a question, and watched him carefully to see if they passed the test. He wasn’t looking for high literature, just that you could back up “OMG I <3 BOOKS SO YOU HHHHHAAAAAVVVEEE TO HIRE ME".

        2. all aboard the anon train*

          See, we actively avoid asking about it, but I think that’s more because we get a lot of people who assume publishing means they’ll get to sit around reading or talking about their favorite books all day. Or because they want to work with one of our famous authors or on one of our famous titles. Or because they want to get published. They don’t tend to view it as a business, but more of getting paid to do their hobby.

          But we also avoid the question because it is the type of industry that, in my experience, attracts people who’ll judge a candidate’s answers. One coworker thinks anyone who enjoys classic lit is a snob and another coworker thinks any adult who enjoys YA is immature. Which is ridiculous is our line of work, but I suspect you encounter those mindsets everywhere.

    6. Jeje*

      This is disappointing. I always thought Librarians were largely against censorship and book banning.

  30. J.*

    I walked into the office at five minutes t0 9:00am on my very first day of my first professional job out of college, and the entire team was waiting in the front lobby for me. “Great, you’re here!” they said. “We’re on our way to a press conference to announce [name of thing they were announcing]. The phones are there. I’m sure you can figure them out. Take messages, we’ll be back in an hour.” Then they went and made a huge announcement, and I had to handle press calls with literally only that information to go on until they got back.

    It should have been a sign of the chaos and 70 hour weeks to come.

    1. MilkMoon (UK)*

      Gah! What is it with foisting the crap onto the new hire? Last November I started at a firm and got told by the office manager that the office was still closed on 27th December for Christmas, then it got to the week before that before I discovered that it was only going to be closed that day because everyone else hadn’t wanted to work it, but when I started they’d assumed they could now open and have me, a few weeks into a new job in a new (and complex) industry for me, sat there alone all day dealing with the clients. The manager had the audacity to treat me like I’d done something wrong when I pointed out that I’d been told (on more than one occasion by this point) that the business was closed that day, and had therefore made plans.

      That was just one incident among many. Fortunately I’d decided by the second day (yes, that bad) that I’d just take the good wage until the end of probation while looking for something else, and promptly told them where to stick-it at five months.

  31. M*

    A week before I was supposed to start they sent me an NDA to sign, saying I wouldn’t talk to the press about the boss… no explanation, no mention of this before. It was my first job out of college so I didn’t think too much about it. Ended up being an extraordinarily dysfunctional and volatile workplace. I’d say more, but… NDA :)

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      I worked at a place that made everyone, including low-level temps like me, sign an NDA saying we’d never say anything bad about the company. (I know from AAM this is likely a violation of DOL rules about workers being able to discuss their working conditions. So I’ve cheerfully violated it a few times.)

      Oh, and they pressured us to give them glowing Glassdoor reviews and promote them on social media. (Of course, a non-positive Glassdoor review would violate that NDA…)

  32. EddieSherbert*

    The first interview was with was my manager, and then the second was a ‘panel’ interview that included my great-grandboss (my manager’s manager’s manager)… who was my manager’s wife.

    Needless to say, my manager ran wild and his manager couldn’t do anything about it – crazy micromanagement, regularly telling staff they were “useless” and our jobs “aren’t as hard we claim they are” because “anyone can write”, making us redo formulas and SEO research when he didn’t like our results the first time around (we got the same results the second and third times?)…. I could go on… ha.

  33. Brooke H*

    One person was late for one of the interviews because she was eating a salad in her office, and another didn’t bring prepared questions to the interview as they were supposed to. I really liked the position and the person I would be reporting to and the other people I interviewed with, but the two people above have been a nightmare to work with, one because of complete disorganization, dishonesty, and inability to communicate with other humans, and the other very toxic for a variety of reasons. I thought they were simply quirky during the interview.

  34. Belle*

    After having a successful interview, the would-be boss told me his wife was into graphology. He handed me a sheet of blank paper and told me to go into a private room and write a paragraph. His wife would analyze it and the hiring decision would be based on that. I thanked him for the interview, told him my lousy handwriting had nothing to do with my technical competency, and walked out.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Only improved by “and then I drove out to a country road and set the paperwork on fire.”

    1. Emily S.*

      The weirdness I hear about on this site doesn’t cease to amaze me. This one is particularly strange!

      You definitely dodged a bullet there.

    2. AMPG*

      A former co-worker once tried to analyze my handwriting. She said that because I dotted my I’s with a “tick,” (a tiny line instead of a dot) it meant that there were things in my life that tick me off. I replied, “Isn’t that true for literally everyone in the world? I don’t see how that’s a handwriting-based insight.” She didn’t appreciate that.

      1. Artemesia*

        There are a handful of questions that almost 99% of people answer the same way which are used by charlatans to seem insightful. That would be one. Another is something like ‘People thing you are cold or reserved, but underneath you are a warm and caring person.’ And everyone thinks that they have a great sense of humor.

    3. JeanB in NC*

      I had an employer do graphology one time – I was in my early 20s so I was just, okay, no problem. I have very well-balanced handwriting though – I got the job.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think this is actually an overt thing in hiring in some European companies. There are lots of applications that have to be done in personal hand.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          I have seen job adverts for French companies which will ask for a handwritten letter (in French), although I think it is less common now.

  35. lbiz*

    I didn’t quite know this when I applied, and it didn’t occur to me to ask further details, but what SHOULD have been a red flag was that the rest of the people in the company were:
    – My boss
    – My boss’s wife
    – My boss’s son
    – My boss’s best friend of 40 years
    – My boss’s ex girlfriend
    Then, after he divorced the wife, he hired a new person and shortly began dating her too.

    Stay away from weird family companies, the dynamics were horrible and unprofessional.

    1. EddieSherbert*


      My red flag story was a job where my great-grandboss (manager’s manager’s manager) was my manager’s wife! By far the most dysfunctional place I’ve worked.

    2. Lance*

      He actually… had his ex-girlfriend and his wife working for him? That alone sounds like a recipe for disaster.

      1. Gadfly*

        And was the wife still there after the divorce? Was it ex-wife girlfriend, ex-wife and new girlfriend?

        1. mrs__peel*

          I guess *maybe* there’s a certain chivalry in employing every woman you’ve ever broken up with? :)

          But, man…. I cannot even imagine working someplace like that!

      1. Regina Phalange*

        +1,000,000 here. I have worked for two small businesses for 5 years each that had the most ridiculous dysfunction ever. It was incredible. I’m withholding the stories until we get the thread. ;)

      2. As Close As Breakfast*

        Oh yes!!! I’m sure some of us could fill the entire thread. And it’s definitely a unique working environment deserving of it’s own thread, right!?!?! I say this as a person working at a company that is currently 47% family (not mine.)

    3. Cactus*

      So I guess in addition to the red flag above of “we’re like [a dysfunctional] family” we can go a head and lump in, “we ACTUALLY ARE a dysfunctional family.”

  36. Serin*

    I don’t know what to learn from this, but it’s happened to me more than once that the hiring manager volunteered, out of nowhere, information about the culture that turned out to be the absolute opposite of the truth!

    The one I remember most clearly was interviewing for a job at a newspaper and having the managing editor tell me, “We like to cultivate a culture of intelligent risk-taking.”

    Yeah. The paper turned out to be a place where the publisher would wander through the layout room and say, “Take that story off the page; our advertisers won’t like it.” We weren’t allowed to use any purple on any page because the publisher’s wife hated the color.

    1. Snark*

      “We like to cultivate a culture of intelligent risk-taking.”


      “I read Forbes a lot.”

      1. Winston*

        I read “intelligent risk-taking” as “I want the success that comes from risk-taking without the actual risk.”

        1. Serin*

          Looking back, I think the nearest translation is “When I say this, it makes people look at me as if I were an admirable boss. I like the way that feels.”

  37. Machiamellie*

    I noticed in my tour that almost everyone was an older white man. There were a few younger white men (30’s-40’s) and one white lady (30’s) working there. Everyone else was 50+.

    As it turned out, it was not the right environment for me (autistic/disabled, liberal). We had one gay man in his 20’s who didn’t last a full month due to the culture, and disabled and non-white job candidates were turned down even though they were qualified. Politics were frequently discussed and it was obvious that almost everyone was extremely conservative.

    1. rubyrose*

      Another story of cultural difference.
      Me: white, female, Midwestern, no military experience, coming into a management position. I also thought I had proven myself by being assigned to them by their parent company for nine months to help them avert a Y2K crisis they caused.
      Them: deep south, maybe 85% male, two-thirds of the workforce former military.

      It did not work out.

    2. all aboard the anon train*

      I’ve definitely turned down interview opportunities from recruiters when I look at the website and the executive board or company photos are all white men and maybe one or two women or minorities. The idealist in me would like to believe that they’re looking for more diversity, but the realist in me knows it’d most likely be an uphill battle and I don’t want to be anyone’s token female (or queer) hire.

      1. Monsters of Men*

        There’s just so much emotional labour required when you become the token hire. You either have to internalize your feelings about their opinions which often undermine your very existence, or you have to explain to them exactly why you do not appreciate certain microaggressions or otherwise. It’s just too hard.

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          Yeah. I’ve been the token queer hire and it’s pretty exhausting to have to deal with supposed allies who commit micoraggressions and then get offended when you call them out for unconscious biases/internalized homophobia/perpetuating negative stereotypes. Because I’ve found it always comes along with “but I can’t be bigoted because I support LGBT people!”

          Also being that token representation means everyone thinks you’re the authority on all things related to that group or that you’re there to teach people who to interact with marginalized groups.

          Diversity is great, but not when you’re the only indicator of diversity.

  38. Anon for This*

    The worst job that I had there was a couple of major red flags during the interview, which wasn’t obvious until I started work. The first was that this was a new position, but it wasn’t very well defined and the responsibilities outlined were very broad. It became clear after I started that the hiring managers were not sure about what they needed, and it resulted in my responsibilities changing almost constantly (which then resulted in being criticized that I wasn’t mastering a responsibility I’d had for all of about 10 minutes quickly enough). The second red flag was being offered the job on the spot. Well, not exactly on the spot, but the hiring manager chased after me as I was walking to my car to offer me the job. I’m not sure if this was necessarily as much of a red flag about the organization, but I was so flattered and overwhelmed that I didn’t take as much time as I should have to really ask good questions about the job.

    I ended up lasting less than a year in that job. It wasn’t a good fit for either me or for the organization, and my former boss in that job was fired six months after I left.

  39. CatCat*

    My number 1 red flag is high turnover with no reasonable explanation for it. I certainly wished I had screened for it two jobs ago, but I definitely screen for it now.

  40. Amy H*

    I was desperate to leave a toxic work situation and hastily accepted a position that wasn’t very clear on the actual job duties. I had a marketing title, but I ended up doing office management work, answering phones, training, and even IT, once they found out I had a modicum of understanding of computers. I hardly had any time for the “marketing” work I was supposedly hired for. I only ended up working there for a year.

    Other red flags I’ve seen in interviews:

    *Employees that appear to be stressed and unprepared.
    *Interviewing with multiple ppl that have very different ideas on what the job is.
    *Questions that are wildly different from the job description. I was once asked about graphic design skills (which I don’t have), which wasn’t mentioned at all in the job description. I was then told it was a “very important” part of the job. They seemed surprised when I alerted them that graphic design wasn’t mentioned in the ad or the job description.

  41. JokeyJules*

    I could go on and on…
    One of the first coworkers I met during my interview laughed and said “oh, you’re just going to hate me once you’ve been here a month!” I thought she was joking but that was actually the kindest thing she has ever done in my life. She was manipulative, passive aggressive, nosy, gossipy, and ready to throw anyone under the bus for anything if it made her look better.
    My manager told me “you look so sweet, but are you able to handle working with people who aren’t sweet like you?”
    This was his way of seeing if I was going to be able to handle HIS constant berating, passive aggression, explosive outbursts towards me, constant gossip from others, telling me he didn’t know if he might have to cut my hours in half at any given moment, phone calls when I was sick, on vacation, 6am, 9pm, the list goes on….

    Best job I ever had simply because it was the worst job I’ve ever had and I learned so much about the workplace.

    1. I'd rather be blue*

      Ooh, I had something similar happen with a potential director for a full-time performance opportunity. He was really nice in the first audition/interview, but he was really rude and tough on me in the callback. He told me afterwards that he did that on purpose because I seemed like a sweet girl who would be quick to tears. Complete with the line “Well, I was just doing you a favour, sweetheart.” Yeah…I noped out of there so fast! I heard horror stories afterwards, so I consider that a bullet dodged.

  42. ayh*

    terrible reviews on glassdoor that i didn’t see in time.

    high turnover in the role (they have high standards and zero coaching for their idiosyncrasies) – they fire or people escape within a year.

  43. Snark*

    “This is a term position, but don’t worry, [government agency] doesn’t waste talented young people, we’ll find a place for you when your term is up.”

    Two months before term is up:

    “Sorry, I can’t really meet with you, I’m really stacked up all day.” “The budget isn’t looking good these days.” “I have no idea what disability hiring is all about.” “We’d really be looking for someone with more of a biology background.” (I’m a biologist.)

  44. Marian the Librarian*

    The hiring supervisor had a manic glint in her eye and gritted her teeth at me instead of smiling.

    I thought something was off, but took the job as it was a nice pay increase and had duties I liked. Plus, seriously? A glint in an eye? How judgey WAS I??

    I regretted taking the job less than a week into it when she screamed — literally screamed — at me for not knowing something. My FIRST WEEK at the job.

    She retired and — again, no exaggeration — my blood pressure dropped 20 points.

    If nothing else good came of it, I learned to trust my gut on those glinty eyes.

  45. Foreign Octopus*

    “Really successful recruiters come in an hour early and leave an hour later.”

    At the time I was so desperate for a job to pay the bills that it didn’t register with me. It was only after I started that I realised what I had done. This was in a job where I was salaried but the boss openly admitted that he liked to keep the salary low (£16,000) as an incentive for the recruiters to work harder to get their bonuses, which were only ever £200 a time, no matter how much work you put in or what value the job was. You got £200 for a £18,000 placement and £200 for a £100,000 placement.

    I wish I had paid more attention but, honestly, I would still have accepted the job considering my situation at the time.

  46. Ida*

    The interviewer was vague, harried, couldnt remember my name and didnt mention salary at all. Instead of interviewing me she had me working around the shop (bespoke designer), but i really needed a job so went along with it. I turned up the next day to ‘meet my co-worker’ only to discover it was more of the same, me working for free only this time she called it ‘training’. Part of my job was supposed to be social media, but my co-worker warned me that she closely guarded all their passwords, so I dont know how that was going to work. After 3 days I finally put my foot down and insisted on payment and a contract. Of course then I was no longer suitable for the job.

  47. Master Bean Counter*

    The red flag I regret ignoring is when I sat through an hour interview where my future boss talked almost exclusively about himself. I took the job anyway and worked for 2.5 years under a narcissistic control freak that never really let me do the job for which I was hired. Every time I found a problem that he caused my duties were changed or limited so that I could do anything in that area in the future.

    1. Amadeo*

      My job-before-last boss kind of did that in my interview. Talked about the company mostly instead of asking me too many questions. On the other side of that job I know now most of what he said were half-truths and some straight-up lies. It was a small, locally owned business run by husband and wife. There were a few weird things about it, but when the husband was gone (and I’d say he was out of the office about 80% of the time), the place ran smoothly. He was a micromanager and an impediment to himself and the shop succeeded in spite of him almost.

      Frankly I’ve worked much worse places, but he did teach me to detect ‘blowhard’ in interviews.

    1. This Daydreamer*

      Well, at least they made it nice and obvious. I think I would have “accidentally” spilled a couple of tampons out my purse on the way out and some flippant comment about heavy days just to see their expression of horror as I cheerfully walked out the door for the first and last time.

  48. BetsyTacy*

    Every other department had hours that were flexible, meaning you could work 8-4 or 9-5 or anywhere within a pretty wide range of normal. They didn’t mention to me that their hours were 9-5:30 and that I would have to wait to get ‘released’ at the end of the day. This means that I generally work a minimum of 8:45-6 with no lunch break, plus tons of remote work, late nights, weekends, etc.

    I found out that I would be working until 5:30 when I called the day before I started to confirm where I was supposed to report to.

    1. Anion*

      OT: I looooved the Betsy-Tacy books as a kid. I even had an antique hardcover copy of Betsy-Tacy that was signed by Maude Hart Lovelace. (Unfortunately, I was eight and did not realize what a big deal this was; I colored in all the pictures [with markers!] and eventually dropped the book in the tub. Ugh!)

      MHL had a very pretty signature, btw. Tiny letters, very neat and tidy.

  49. Rookie Manager*

    At my second interview the Team Leader from the other team in our department was part of the panel. She hated me. When I came out of the interview I *knew* I hadn’t gotten it because she gave me all the non-verbal no signals possible.

    I was offered the job. In week 3 of training I said to my manager that I felt the TL didn’t like me. 3 years later she got promoted (in a shock move) to my manager, my manager became assistant director. A year after that I was suspended because my now manger said I was bullying her (I was cleared). A year after that I quit after she announced to my whole team in a meeting that I was still bullying her. I had a new job 2 weeks later.

  50. SallyF*

    I was interviewing for a copywriter position for a local promotion/fulfillment company (a place that handles rebate programs, coupon redemption, contests, free samples, etc.) The owner and the marketing manager gave me a tour of the facility and the huge warehouse area had only 4 employees working. I’d done my research and the company was listed on LinkedIn as having a staff of over 100. The warehouse storage area was fairly empty of product. I found it odd that a facility whose primary output was fulfillment services had very little product or staff.

    I wanted to break into marketing and use my writing skills, so when they offered me the job on the spot, I accepted, despite my gut feeling that something was amiss.

    Within a month I sat at my desk with no copy to write, bored out of my mind. The manager/owner gave me added responsibilities, having me acquire bids for services we outsourced. Eventually they changed my role to account manager where I handled some existing accounts. But very little new business was coming in and after a while I learned that the company had previously thrived with 20 million a year and in recent years business was down to about 1 million a year.

    It was a family owned business and the current manager was running it into the ground. It was a very toxic environment, with very high turnover (I calculated the turnover rate at 65% during the two years I worked there.)

    I wanted out so badly, I accepted a job that paid 4K less just to escape the sinking ship. SO worth it!

  51. Ama*

    The job I was interviewing for as an internal transfer was classified a grade higher than my current position and described as a true administrator position with “15% reception duties” — but when I was shown where the role was going to sit it was literally the reception desk.

    What I discovered in the three years I worked for was that the big bosses refused to believe that reception duties ever rose above 15% , even as the number of people in the building increased to three times what it had been when I started and a year-round schedule of public events increased the number of external calls and visitors we received. They were still fighting this when I left, even while my boss and I both pointed out that reception had long since grown to at least 50% of my time. They ended up hiring 2.5 people (including a PT receptionist) to replace me.

  52. SM*

    I interviewed for my last job with the owner of the company, which made sense in a way since the company was only 12 people. During the interview it became clear that me and him had a hard time communicating. I had to ask him to repeat questions several times because the wording confused me, and he seemed to be misinterpreting my answers so I’d have to explain it again in a different way. At the time I was desperate, so I overlooked the red flag and chalked it up to my nerves. Once I started working there the problem continued. For some reason I could never understand what he wanted from me. And he could never understand my reasoning or suggestions. His terminology for things seemed to be made up and not industry standard. I was a project manager so things started spiraling out of control with my projects and clients because of it. I asked coworkers for advice and they all said that’s just the way he is, you’ll get used to his communication style eventually. I never did. He pulled me aside a few times to tell me I needed to listen better and make confusing baseball metaphors. I left after only 9 months. I’ve never had that issue before or since. So moral of the story – if you’re interviewing with your direct supervisor and clearly not getting along, be catious.

    1. Frinkfrink*

      I have a coworker like that. They have this ability to take a simple, clear concept and turn it into gibberish, complete with their very own vocabulary, and then they’re surprised when nobody knows what they’re talking about.

  53. thunderbird*

    Started with a phone screen, Manager called over an hour late for the agreed call time and didn’t acknowledge she was late. During the interview Manager said new hire would be expected to travel to staff retreat on X dates and to keep schedule open, did not hear back about the job until after the staff retreat dates. Was offered the job, but Manager was not able to provide the salary!!! Was waiting to hear from CEO exactly what that would be, but wanted to offer the job in the meantime without that critical piece of information.

    Manager turned out to be highly unreliable, always late for meetings, generally was checked out. The whole organization was a mess.

  54. LNZ*

    When i was in film school i interviewed for an internship at the Dick Clark Company and was positive i wouldn’t get it since i got lost on my way there and was almost half an hour late.
    At the end of the first interview they offered me a position, which i thought was odd.
    I was right, they literally hire every intern that applies. They had no actual position for me and shuffled me through 2 different departments until i got handed off to metadata. There was maybe 5 actual full time employees and over a hundred interns, that company is run off interns. They also hired some super incompetent folks that i was told by a manager were only hired because they have the hire everyone who applies policy.

  55. NaoNao*

    Hoo boy. I answered an ad for “researcher” and it turned out to be for a skip tracer (which I was excellent at, by the way, but it was the single most emotionally difficult job I have ever worked at in my life). I opened the door and stepped into the open plan call center/office and my heart sank and I felt tears come to my eyes. I shook off the feeling and told myself I was being silly. I knew it was call center work, everyone seemed friendly and there were TVs, music, snacks, etc. But I couldn’t shake the feeling of dread that came over me. I should have listened to that feeling.

      1. NaoNao*

        It’s a collections background activity to locate debtors.
        The details:
        You’re given a group of files (on the computer) of people who owe money to an original creditor and who have placed their files (their “paper”) with us, the collection agency, and a tool called “Accurint” (which the moody boss would threaten to rescind your access to if you didn’t make your goals, another story entirely).

        Accurint is like a super powered phone book with not only one phone number for a person but any *associated* phone numbers. So someone’s relatives, or anyone who may have lived at the same address.
        Using this and some other basic tools and social engineering skills, you cold call someone and try to locate the “debtor” (meaning the person who’s name is on the file).

        So let’s say I’m looking for Janus Zeppo. I look her up and see she has someone with same last name listed in Accurint as of this year. Good lead. I call Leah Zeppo, who I found in Accurint, and innocently ask if I can have a “current phone number” for Janus as I seem to have lost it. Leah gives it to me. Bingo, gotcha Janus.

        We would call every number on the file and in Accurint and notate the account to assist the collectors in calling the right debtor and eventually getting paid. After a few months, my initials on an account meant it had been “skipped” so thoroughly that all there was to do was either just call the debtor over and over OR just move on to the next one—all possible tracing had been done. I was a *master* skip tracer and when I left my boss offered to let me work part time from home because he didn’t want me to leave. I would still do it today if it paid well—it’s a huge rush when you find your debtor and a lot of fun for a certain type of mind.

        Side note: “Dog the Bounty Hunter” likely has a staff of minimum wage commissions based skip tracers working for him. Bail bondsman, collections, and legal or private investigators all use skip tracers.

        1. NaoNao*

          Also I have the opposite of phone fear from making hundreds of cold calls a day. My most memorable call:

          Me: “Hi, I’m hoping you can help. I’m trying to get ahold of a Nanette {last name}”
          Her: “Oh, no Nanette here. No, no Nanette! (starts humming, hangs up).

    1. Stop That Goat*

      I had no idea this was a thing (although it makes perfect sense). I know it’s off topic but that sounds really interesting!

      1. Artemesia*

        My husband has a very common name. There are hundreds of them in the country and so we got calls for years for every dang one of them that every owed a bill and then they would be abusive when told we had never done business with X hospital or whatever. And then a couple of years later it would start in again as the file would be sold to some new collection agency. WE finally just got an answering machine and never answered the phone unless it was someone we wanted to talk to. I got some pleasure about not letting the people trying to find ‘Juana X’ know they were calling an entirely wrong number.

        1. NaoNao*

          Ooh, those collection agencies are breaking the law! If someone says “that’s not me” you’re supposed to take them at their word (also, a good skip tracer would be looking at things like address, relatives, and confirming addresses, phone, or last four of social before getting into it) and remove their number and not call again! And you’re certainly not supposed to be abusive!

          One thing you (all of AMM commentors) can do that can help with this issue is when someone calls you, request a written letter stating the original creditor and amount. It’s called a “demand letter”. You can then call the hospital or whomever and let them know this is not you and to please update their records. Also many collections agencies will not actually send a demand letter but if you ask for one, it sort of pauses the process.

          If so and so collections is calling you and asking for “Same Name” you can say “May I ask for an address or can we confirm last four of social?” Then if they say “0009” you can say “Well, I’m Same Name at Different Address and my last four are 0007. So please do not call this number again. I have a common name and you are calling the wrong number.”

          Debt collectors want money. Period. If you make it clear that they aren’t going to get any from you personally (and in language they can understand, not just “wrong number”–click, more like “I actually get calls for someone with my same name. That’s not me. I can’t help you with this and you’re wasting your time calling me.”) they’ll move on.

          But just like you get some pleasure from letting people call the wrong number, certain unscrupulous debt collectors take a weird pleasure in calling that wrong number over and over, because so and so was a jerk on the phone to them (not you, per se, just in general). :)

    2. hannah*

      The podcast Reply All is talking about skip tracers in their two most recent episodes, if you want to know more.

  56. Blue Anne*

    I got emails at 2 AM and on Sunday during the interview process. The interviewer got my name wrong in an email. When I went to their office (an hour drive) to interview in person, it turned out they were in Florida and a staff member of theirs set me up with a laptop on skype.

    I took the job anyway. Worst job I’ve ever had.

  57. CatCat*

    Not allowing telework or alternative workweek schedules without a concrete business reason for why that is. I had already worked somewhere that didn’t allow telework “because of the nature of what we do,” not that the management could explain concretely why that was, especially in light of the fact that other teams with similar work did have telework. just this nebulous “nature of the work” statement. It was really a micromanaging power play and lack of trust in staff at the end.

    I went to an interview for pretty much the same type of work at a different agency and the hiring manager said that they don’t allow telework or alternative workweeks because of the nature of the work and couldn’t explain that more than that was what the executive office wanted. So I noped out of a second interview.

    1. A person*

      I work at one of those places now at will definitely screen out for it in the future! It was a signal for micromanagement and complete chaos/ constant crisis mode due to poor planning by management that I totally missed.

    2. Turquoisecow*

      My current job doesn’t allow remote work either. It literally says that in the handbook. I have no idea why. My last job was like that.

      It seems like this is a thing that will hurt companies in the future.

    3. Linda Evangelista*

      Yep, this is my current job, which can honestly be done completely remotely, but the big boss is a micromanager and doesn’t trust his staff. He also is *very* set in his ways (a nice way of saying he doesn’t understand technology and never will), so its not like telework would be possible anyway.

  58. House of Cats*

    The head of school told me a story, first time I met him and interviewed with him, to illustrate the school’s approach to conceptual thinking: his middle school daughter found a Trojan condom wrapper in the car their teenage son had recently used, which led to a conversation with her about why those condoms are called Trojans and the Trojan war. It was awkward, but I didn’t think too much of it at the time except that it was odd. Turned out he was pretty obsessed with sex and had multiple affairs with parents and faculty members, frequently had liaisons with prostitutes, and talked to us about his sex life and things students’ fathers said to him about the female teachers way too often. That all ended up being his downfall, coupled with a crystal meth addiction.

    1. Emi.*

      Why are they called that, though? To me, “Trojan” evokes things you *think* are okay to allow inside, but then they open up and disaster strikes.

      1. Gadfly*

        I would guess that they are marketing to men (who want to to get through the gates) and not to women….

      2. Anon attorney*

        I thought I was the only person who wondered about this.

        (Not US-based, but had a fling with a guy from Rhode Island years ago who favoured the brand!)

    2. Artemesia*

      Someone who works sex into an interview for a job with a stranger is the kind of person who will work sex into every conversation.

    3. Umbrella*

      car their teenage son had recently used, which led to a conversation with her about ……..

      About why his story wasn’t about talking with the son who had done the thing in the first place. Ew.

  59. Sara*

    This wasn’t me, but a good friend of mine went to an interview and waited for a half hour before they told her that the interviewer forgot. They asked her to come back the next day. I told her that was a huge red flag. She went though, and she ended up getting the job, but the guy has a serious problem with time management. He never shows up to the office on time and always asks her to stay late to help finish work. He always has urgent work at 5pm.

  60. Amadeo*

    Most of the red flags recently I’ve picked up on and have managed to avoid. There was the graphic designer position for a dog magazine where the magazine owner had gone to trial for rape (don’t think he was convicted, but just finding out about the trial was enough). I was about to accept the job when the dog community I’m also part of went “Wait? Is that $Name? Read this article” and following up with a detective cousin my mother’s age who told me had he a daughter he would not allow her to work there. I’ll be honest, I bawled my eyes out after turning it down because it was the best of both worlds for me (dogs AND design!).

    The next was a second interview with a sign place where the actual dude I’d have been working for was present. I had to apply vinyl to a piece of scrap plastic that was some bizarre shape. I didn’t even think of measuring it since the shape was so weird, I just eyeballed it. And without a word would-be-bossman whipped out his tape measure while looking me in the eye and measured to see if I’d got it centered (I was close), then later proceeded to tell me that ‘no’ was the wrong answer to whether or not I’d be willing to work a night shift, like 3-11 I think. They couldn’t meet my pay requirements and I wouldn’t have taken the job after that even if they did.

    A while back, while I was still a tech (and I would have taken this job if it had been offered, I was desperate, but fortunately it wasn’t) there was the vet/clinic owner who asked me what I would do if I was alone in the clinic and had to medicate a really fractious cat. I went down the list of restraint techniques, with each one being met with “And if that doesn’t work?” I finally told the guy that I wasn’t going to get hurt or hurt the cat trying to give it a pill if it was so far into chainsaw mode that no method of restraint was going to work.

    I’ve been fortunate that most of the places I’ve worked haven’t been truly super toxic. My very last CVT job had a little pennant red flag when the owner wanted me to work for a month or so before he committed to hiring me, but sighed and just hired me when I told him I didn’t have that kind of time to fiddle around. I needed to move or not. That place wasn’t as bad as some of the stories I read here, but the man was rather difficult to work for and a bit of a bully.

    1. Not a Morning Person*

      “No” might have been the wrong answer for the dude who asked you about the night shift, but “No” was definitely the right answer for you!

    2. SusanIvanova*

      Oh, the never-ending “And then what?” Once or twice is fine to draw out more info, but taking it to ridiculous extremes is a bad sign.

      First time I got that was for doing sales at a store in a mall. What would I do if someone tried to rob the place? Call security. And if they had a knife? Security. Gun? _Security_. It’s their job. Just because my other job was karate instructor, didn’t change the fact I was a 120lb college girl – it made me even more aware that dealing with robbers in a mall is _not my job_.

      Second time was software debugging, which is a very open-ended question. Went through the easy steps, then the hard steps, and finally “and sometimes the bug is in the OS”. Oh no, they answered, that’s very robust. Yes it is. But it’s not perfect, and any job where they don’t understand that is either too simple or too clueless to be interesting.

      Didn’t get either job. Don’t regret the latter (actually, today I got a job working in the area that they thought was so robust it never had bugs!), but I really would’ve liked that computer discount when I was in college :)

      1. Lindsay J*


        I had the “And then what?” conversation in an internal interview and it got supremely frustrating to me. I was no less frustrated when I got told the “right” answer at the end.

        “What would you do if an employee did something really bad while you were the only manager on duty?”

        “Well, like what kind of really bad?”

        “Doesn’t matter, really. Something against the rules.”

        “Okay, first I would talk to the employee and find out exactly what happened. If there were other employees that witnessed it I would also talk to them separately. Then I would talk to them employee about why what they did was inappropriate and give them a verbal or written warning, and then send them home for the day if it were something egregious that I thought we might fire them over.”

        “What if they yelled at you?”

        “I would wait for them to calm down and then explain that yelling at me was not going to change what happened or the consequences, and they were only making things worse for themselves. And then I’d send them home for sure so they could calm down.”

        “What if they refused to leave?”

        “I would ask them again to leave.”

        “And if they still didn’t?”

        “I would tell them they needed to leave or that I was going to call the cops to have them removed.”

        “And if they still didn’t?”

        “I would call the cops.”

        “And then what?”

        “I would call y’all to let you know about what just happened, and find out how you wanted me to proceed from there.”

        “And if we didn’t answer the phone?”

        “I would write down a statement as to what exactly had happened while it was fresh in my mind. And work on making sure any other documentation was completely filled out and signed, etc. And then I would keep on trying to call all of you until someone picked up the phone.”

        “What else would you do?”

        “If there had been a big confrontation that resulted in the cops being called or something like that, I would ensure the other employees were okay.”

        “I would look at the schedule for the next several days and make sure that I had enough coverage if we were to suspend or fire that employee,”

        “What else would you do?”

        “Keep on calling you guys until someone picked up, and otherwise try to carry on as normal.”

        “What we wanted to hear is that you would call [my would-be peer in that position]”

        1. SusanIvanova*

          That… doesn’t even make sense. Even if their policy is “call another manager” (at the same level? Who is trying to enjoy their day off?), part of their scenario is that they aren’t picking up the phone!

  61. Anonymous Educator*

    “We’re like a family here.”
    “Most employees have been here for over 10 years.” (Meant to indicate high retention but it just meant a few veterans dominate the place, and there’s a much higher turnover for newcomers.)

    1. Iris Eyes*

      There can be a huge difference between “most employees have been here for 10+ years” and “most employees stay here for 10+ years”

  62. Green Buttons*

    On a more normal scale, I asked my interviewer what his favourite thing about the job was. He said the people. Translation: The job and organization are terrible, but coworkers are keeping me sane.

    On the more extreme side, one of my interviewers asked me how I felt about X-rated content. I ended up taking the job because I was desperate, but yeah…it’s as bad as it sounds.

    1. Green Buttons*

      Realizing now how that may sound…

      To clarify, it was an IT firm that ran servers for adult sites, so everyone had to check into the front end of the sites every now and then.

    2. nonegiven*

      I ran into someone who captioned phone calls for the hearing impaired that had to caption phone sex calls from prison.

  63. Antilles*

    Ignoring ‘jokes’ that people make.
    At my long interview for OldJob, several of the various people I met made obviously exaggerated jokes about how many hours they worked (sample: “part of the reason we have big offices is because we need space for the beds! haha!”). The jokes were clearly exaggerated to absurdity and said in a casual tone. And otherwise, people seemed to love their work. Once I joined, well, it’s absolutely true that the work was challenging and fun just like everybody said…but I also realized that those jokes really did reveal a wildly out of balance culture. Not to the level of the jokes themselves (AFAIK, nobody actually slept at the office), but certainly not a healthy balanced life either.
    I eventually concluded that the mere ‘existence’ of the jokes indicates some serious issues. After all, if they worked the customary 40.00 hours per week, making a joke about sleeping in the office would be so absurd that such a joke would literally never even cross their mind as a potential source of humor.

  64. NoThankYou*

    Two immediately come to mind:

    1.My interviewer (the person currently in the job and who would still be there in another role) told me she was having an emotional affair with the creative leadership of the organization.

    2. Same industry, different org: My prospective boss said she had a fridge in her office bc she spent all of her time at work (a place with many ongoing public activities 7 days a week, only some of which were mandatory-attendence) and expected the same level of commitment from me.

  65. Kat*

    My husband’s former employer insisted during interviews that the work was primarily M-F, 9-5 except on rare occasions but we noticed that he got calls and emails from the hiring manger late at night and on weekends. That should have been a clue to the culture of the place.

  66. Cath*

    Interviewers were the person I’d be reporting to, plus her boss. The grandboss did all the talking. When offered a chance at the end to ask questions or make comments, she just said “nope, I think you covered everything.” Turned out the grandboss was super controlling and my boss was completely incapable of making the smallest decision by herself. Like, composing emails was a three person job, and we were a writing department! I transferred to another department after some shenanigans over promotions and am much happier, even if it’s not a very exciting role.

  67. RA*

    My first job out of college. When I accepted their offer, the manager stated that one of the reasons why he hired me was because a reference criticized my lack of initiative (I later deduced that this was from a 2-month internship where my main task was to digitize files, which wasn’t an area where I felt initiative was needed) and he saw this as a strength because he wanted someone who would “do things his way”. There were two red flags here that my young, naiive, fresh-out-of-college self didn’t see at the time.
    1) He gave away enough information about this reference that I was able to identify who it was, which blatantly indicated the lack of professionalism in that office.
    2) I didn’t know what the term “micromanager” meant at that time. I sure do now.

  68. L*

    One that should have been a red flag, in hindsight: I was interviewed by a non-profit. During the interview, it became clear that the other staff had been there no more than six months, and I was able to piece together that there had been one or two complete restructurings as of late. Once I was hired, I was able to piece together that this was at least the fifth completely different org chart in the ten year tenure of the current director. Sure enough, barely a year after I was hired, I and most of the rest of the staff were reorged out of existence.

    1. Artemesia*

      LOL I used to have a DIlbert cartoon that was something like ‘we have no idea what we are doing, time to reorganize’. I worked at a place that re-organized dramatically every year. The last 3 — went from a departmental structure, to a matrix structure and then suddenly back to a departmental structure. The last move was because they were going to do a merger and wanted to cut by department to avoid lawsuits. The top management assigned themselves to the departments they knew were going to be retained and put some of the most productive long term employees in the departments that were going to be cut.

  69. Billionaire Werebear*

    I would have seen more red flags if I had paid better attention. When I was moving to New York City, I applied for one job and got it. The job sounded great, so I thought it was Destiny. I should have paid more attention to the HR manager who didn’t show up for two phone interviews in a row, pressured me to give the job I was leaving minimal notice (I was in a senior position and had been there for five years), and tried to shame me for negotiating salary with a nonprofit. I did pay attention to the woman who would be my direct manager, as she seemed volatile and demanding even in the interview. I figured I could handle her–wrong! And I should have asked about turnover–it turned out there had been five people in my position in the last four years. It wasn’t Destiny–they were just desperate! I should have given myself more options and ended up job hunting after only a few months. And the next time I disliked a manager DURING THE INTERVIEW, I said “no thank you” when he called me for a second interview. I made it about 16 months before I found something else (a job I actually love!).

  70. Hiring Mgr*

    I was on my third and final interview and the HR director was giving me a tour of the office. When we got to the kitchen area she mentioned in a seemingly offhand way how people often bring their own lunch to work, but of course no one brings baked potatoes, and then she gave a haughty, condescending little laugh. This struck me as odd and unwelcome, because personally I happen to really enjoy baked potatoes and it seemed like the type of thing I could imagine bringing into the office to perhaps heat up in the microwave.

    Well, i foolishly brushed off this red flag and took the job. Three weeks later I brought my lunch to work in a brown bag–and one of the items was a baked potato (with nothing on it other than a little butter). While nobody said anything to me that day, I could see there were very subtle yet clear changes in my coworkers’ attitude towards me from that day forward. The spirit of camaraderie and good fellowship evaporated and suddenly I was persona non grata….I turned in my resignation letter shortly thereafter. A sad lesson yes, but one that I needed to learn–don’t ignore those red flags.

      1. Mephyle*

        No, it does seem to be Poe’s. Looking up Pow’s Law will get you lots of info about prisoner of war law, which could seem apt for some workplaces.

      2. Artemesia*

        This couldn’t be a better Poe’s law example. But I am stunned that something as innocuous as a baked potato could matter to anyone. (fish in the microwave, burnt popcorn even KFC — but a baked potato? WOW.)

      1. leukothea*

        Maybe it’s a class thing? Like, potatoes are so inexpensive that if you eat them you must be too poor to work here?

        1. Amanda2*

          Thank you so much for this comment. I’ve thought about it and laughed multiple times his morning and a good laugh is just what I needed before heading in to work in tense silence alongside the co-worker who hates me!

    1. nep*

      (Funny timing — in the past week or so I’ve ‘rediscovered’ roasted potatoes and how much I like them. Brought some to work the other morning — first time I’ve ever brought potatoes to work.)

    2. Janice*

      Argh, I always have to scroll up and check the name on these comments… and then I remember you! LOL

  71. NGL*

    Hiring manager: “I can’t describe an average day because every one is so different!”
    Real meaning: I have no idea what this position actually does.

    Position was to be a digital marketing manager, and I was paired with a marketing manager. I wasn’t an *assistant* in any way…but there really wasn’t a clear delineation between what I should do versus what she should do. Add in the blurry line between marketing and publicity in the industry (and an incompetent publicity department) and the whole job was a mess. We had a huge turnover rate, and when I left after 18 months I was the most senior person in the department save for one person who had been around since the dinosaurs.

  72. AoifeL*

    I’m an engineer and early in my career I was asked to bring some drawings of stuff I had worked on to an interview. engineering drawings are the property of the office and subject to copyright so I didn’t bring any and mentioned why at the start of the interview. I probably should have said something beforehand but didn’t. the response was ‘that’s what they all say’ in a negative tone which I ignored at the time. it was pretty much an indicator of him being a general asshole. I only lasted in the job 3 months and he accused me of lying about my job experience in the interview and of badmouthing him in the office reception. both were totally wrong but I didn’t argue with him. I have continued to be successful in the field and meet him on the street a few years ago and he was still snipy and belittleling. it was a warning to pay attention and my first lesson that an interview works both ways

  73. Bridget*

    “I’m not a micromanager” usually means “I am definitely a micromanager.”

    When they more or less begged me to take the job and then weren’t willing to compromise on anything I asked for. (Left that job in 7 weeks.)

    1. Effie*

      I wish I’d known this while interviewing at ToxicStartup and my manager-to-be said this. In addition to being an extreme micromanager she was the worst boss I’ve ever had.

      Other red flag: they made an offer including insurance, which I accepted. In fact, insurance was the reason I accepted since the pay wasn’t great. They pulled the original offer a week later, and in lieu of insurance they offered a $500 bonus at signing and then another $500 bonus in six months. I didn’t think I’d be there that long and was desperate for a job and took it anyway. Sadly, it took me over a year to get another job.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      Kinda like when a potential significant other claims to be super faithful, not a cheater, etc. (spoiler: they are always cheaters) People who genuinely aren’t these things don’t bring it up spontaneously!

    3. TCO*

      To be fair, I’ve had bosses describe their management style as “not a micromanager” in interviews and really mean that. They were great people to work for. I think there’s just a real lack of awareness/denial among many micromanagers that they are actually micromanagers.

      1. Artemesia*

        In my experience it goes two ways: 1. definitely a micromanager 2. no leadership or feedback at all. It isn’t something I have seen an appropriately authoritative boss say.

        1. Librarygeek*

          #2 #2 #2! Boss doesn’t really know what to do with kids, so I basically do my own thing in the youth section of the library, then have to justify it a month later…

          1. Librarygeek*

            e.g. First newsletter I created had orange accents because it was for fall! After printing, “Uhhh, these are our branding colors, please use them.” Well, I would have if you told me they existed!

  74. Karen*

    Being completely outside the norm of the usual hiring practices for the role.

    I interviewed for an academic position at a new, for-profit, school. Unlike all of the other similar positions I interviewed for, I was offered a job right after a brief interview. There was no visit to the campus where I was required to make a presentation and be interviewed by the hiring committee and prospective colleagues.

    The school ended up closing about three years later.

  75. Snark*

    One from a friend I just texted to get the full deets: he walked into the interview, and everything was extremely professional and typical, except for the fact that the interviewer’s phone wallpaper was a scantily (but apparently fully, thankfully) clad girl obviously a few years shy of being able to buy cigarettes. Interviewer kept checking time and then putting the phone down. It was apparently excruciatingly awkward and gross.

  76. DCGirl*

    At the interview for my second fund raising job (so, I was 18 months out of college), at another college in New York, every single person I interviewed with remarked on how pretty the cherry blossoms through the campus were when they bloomed in the spring. Every single one of them. It was an all-day interview with multiple people.

    Q. What do you like best about working at the college?
    A. The cherry blossoms are really lovely in the spring.

    Q. What is the career path for this position?
    A. Mumble, mumble, mumble, and the cherry blossoms are really beautiful when they bloom.

    Apparently, the fact that it was a traditional college campus with grass and, yes, cherry blossom trees, in New York City was the only good thing about it. I lasted three years, and it was tough.

    1. leukothea*

      Have you seen “Brain Dead”? Cherry blossoms are a front for evil brain-eating space bugs in DC!

  77. Mongoose*

    This was for a fundraising job at a planetarium. The entire department staff was included in my first interview (11 people–most who I would never work with directly), but the director (my boss) was absent. The interview was at 7:30am the morning before a major national holiday. They took turns reading one question each off a single sheet of paper, which they passed around. When I tried to ask questions about the job or the team, no one was willing to answer them.
    I stupidly took the job and surprise, surprise, you were expected to be there at 7am and leave after 6pm (job description listed hours as 9-5) because the director “wanted dedicated professionals” and it was an “honor to work” at this “glorious institution of science”. Despite being assured that the trip I had already planned for a few months after I started work was not going to be an issue, the director declined my leave and I had to cancel my trip. This came up in my review as an example of how I was not “dedicated” to my job. My direct report had to call in “sick” when her grandmother died because despite being her direct manager, I wasn’t allowed to approve her time off and the director declined her request for leave to attend the out-of-state funeral. She was later docked a day of pay.
    The list when on and on–I lasted 11 months. In my time there, 9 people left the 11 person department. I was the 10th to go.

    1. Chameleon*

      Oh, god. The “glory of science” types.
      As a research scientist, I saw “we all really love science” a lot. Translation: “the PI comes in at 8pm and on weekends and God help you if you aren’t at the bench.”
      I like science as a friend.

  78. Harbinger*

    Executive director of a small nonprofit asked me this interview question: “We are a hierarchy. There are times when your boss may make decisions you don’t like but have to follow. How do you feel about working in a hierarchy? What do you do when faced with a decision you don’t agree with?”

    It was code for the executive director makes any and all decisions, and that staff have no autonomy and are not allowed to challenge the status quo.

  79. Bekx*

    – The owner’s wife (VP/Sales/Marketing/Anything she felt like doing) scared the hell out of me. It was my first interview out of college and she just scared me. I was told that I wouldn’t be working with her much, boy was I wrong.
    – Was asked if I have a thick skin (translation: we will yell and berate you and tell you you are worthless)
    – They were very upset when I asked for a few days to think the offer over
    – They insulted the previous person in my position, said that he said “that’s not my job” too much and wouldn’t help with simple office work (translation: even though you’re a web/graphic designer we are expecting you to book flights, answer phones, cold call people, collate THOUSANDS of folders with flyers in them and other duties as assigned)
    – They asked me to mock up a redesign of their website and then questioned me on every single change I made.
    – They showed me a flyer and told me to tell them everything that was wrong design-wise with it. When I asked if this was their previous designers work, they said no…their current.

    In retrospect I should have ran screaming…but this was my first job out of college and it was in my field and offering me $14/hr where BestBuy was offering me $11. I lasted the longest of any of their web designers, 1.5 years.

  80. Lilac*

    I strongly did not like one of the people I was interviewing with, but didn’t heed my gut feeling. She turned out to be the worst manager I’d ever had – witch-hunting instead of problem-solving, incapable of teaching, and invested in blame.

    It taught me to trust my instincts during interviews, and I won’t fail to do it again.

  81. EvilEyes*

    It was a legit business but the woman worked from her house. Red flag number one. When I went for the interview, she said I was rude for showing up early, despite the fact that I arrived exactly on the agreed upon time (I even waited in my car until two minutes beforehand considering it was her house). Red flag two. I got it, but it didn’t last long because despite her saying there were strict hours (this was an internship) she decided she wanted to change them whenever suited her and I told her I couldn’t do that. She also told me she didn’t like my eyes and thought they were evil or something. She still gets written about favorable in major publications for the industry which blows my mind.

    1. mrs__peel*

      “She also told me she didn’t like my eyes and thought they were evil or something”


  82. sally*

    Interviewed at a startup that basically offered nothing in the way of benefits. During the phone call offering me the job, I asked about the potential of health insurance down the line, and they said they were “looking into it.”

    *Ron Howard narrator voice*: They weren’t.

    1. sally*

      Oh, and I ALWAYS ask to see the employee handbook when I get a job offer. If they refuse or, worse, don’t have one, it’s a no-go. Learned from that place and their total lack of any consistent policies.

      1. Irene Adler*

        Yes that’s a deal-breaker for me too.

        One time when I was offered the job mid-interview, I seeing asked about the employee handbook before giving them any response. They immediately said that they might need to consult their attorney first.
        A short time later they agreed to give me a copy. By then I’d made up my mind.


        1. sally*

          I’m actually surprised that I’ve never gotten this response from an employer – if it were me being asked, that might be my initial reaction too – but the fact that I haven’t shows that companies ought to be used to handing it over when asked. It’s policies that employees are agreeing to, so of course you’d want to see them before accepting an offer.

        2. overly produced bears*

          “They immediately said that they might need to consult their attorney first.”

          that’s not a red flag, that a red flag factory manufacturing nothing but red flags.

      2. I See Real People*

        Even a very general, broadly written employee handbook is a red flag. Unfortunately, you have to wait until you get into the office to find out they really have no policies, that they just manage from the hip.

  83. Green Goose*

    I had to go through a misleadingly rigorous hiring process for a position (what I was initially told was that I had to go through two stages but it ended up being four) and then after the emotional rollercoaster of “you did great BUT there is just one more thing…”, I finally got my job offer from my soon-to-be boss. The boss offered me the job and as I was jumping for joy he said I would need to do a final interview with the CEO… I didn’t know what to think because he had just said the job was mine, but then said I actually had another interview. I asked him to clarify (because I was genuinely confused at that point) and he gave me a very patronizing answer about how in life nothing is final until you sign a contract and I should keep that in mind. But his tone was really condescending, he was talking to me like a child he was teaching life skills to even though we were the same age. I ended up getting the job and I never had to speak with the CEO.

    I felt like the entire time I worked with that boss he was constantly playing mind games, and would jump at the opportunity to scold or chastise me. And many times I felt in a position of him speaking to me like I was a child instead of an adult. We’re not working together anymore, but I’ve sometimes wondered if I even ever needed to speak with the CEO after the job offer or if he just did that as a “test” to see how I’d react after being offered the job and then him taking it back…

  84. HR Lady*

    “Sorry we’re late, today was the weekly sales stand up and we had to really shout!”

    It was for a HR Manager role in a small IT software sales company, interview was with the two directors/owners. Rest of the interview was all about how much they were growing, how much I could do, etc, etc. I got the job. I did, frankly, a kickass job and did get to bring in a lot of changes I wanted to try; it was a great job from that perspective. I managed a small team, hit all my targets, managed some really interesting HR cases…

    However, I left due to the brutal culture that had even me periodically in tears over my lunchbreak, despite the fact I obviously wasn’t in sales and therefore not in the weekly firing lines when the directors turned up.

    Two of the sales managers begged me to say something to the directors before I left because ‘they trust you, and you’d really started to bring it up in the monthly management meetings, they’re listening to you! Help us!’. To my shame, I didn’t, because I needed the reference. I still advise the management team there, for free, on how to manage staff in a kinder way and on attempts to manage ‘up’ to the directors. I am now working in a really hard and occasionally extremely difficult corporate environment but no one is screaming and shouting every Thursday and I’m so much happier.

    Anyway, when I did my interviews that led to my current job I knew exactly what I was walking in to and even turned down a couple of follow-up interviews at other companies as I was so concerned about repeating my mistake.

  85. Luna*

    Seemed small at the time- after the second interview the two managers made it sound like they were going to start checking my references as the next step. A few weeks later, I got an email from them asking me to come in for a third interview, which I was not expecting at all.

    Obviously I went, and it quickly became clear there was no real purpose to this extra interview. I met all together with the same two managers as well as two other staff at my same level, and the managers hadn’t prepared the staff at all on how to interview someone. We had a little laugh about it, interview went on, got the offer.

    After I started one of the other staff members who had been in the interview told me the managers had asked them to join at the last minute. It was an indication of how disorganized the managers all, no thought put into anything and decisions made at the last minute, and they are terrible communicators.

  86. Tom*

    My current job had some red flags that I noticed, and I decided to take the job anyway:

    My interview included running a 30-minute session with a group of regular volunteers. One of them in particular seemed to have a chip on his shoulder, even though the session was going well and I connected well with a lot of the volunteers. Turns out that particular volunteer is a huge PITA for everybody he works with, but nobody confronts him when he makes life difficult. Eventually he verbally abused one of my other volunteers, and I addressed it with him. He now refuses to speak to me, but he’s still very active in other programs at my job, so I deal with his “silent treatment” weekly.

    Also had a very weird connection with the person who would be my immediate supervisor. He kept forgetting things I’d say in conversation; he asked me three times in a lunch interview about my wife, and I wasn’t married at the time. We had a very brief end-of-the-day interview that went fine… we basically talked a little more about the job, and exchanged some pleasantries about how the day had gone. Later that week, he called me and said, “In our end-of-day interview I kept getting the impression you were bothered by something… what was up with that?” and I had no idea what he was talking about. Felt like I had to apologize for body language.

    Probably would not have taken that job if I’d known the supervisor was around for a while, but I was actually assured by several board members that the supervisor was on his way out because there had been a ton of difficulties with him. That turned out to be the big red flag that I didn’t notice. He was out less than 6 months after I took the job, but his difficulties were indicative of a board that refused to get involved with staff matters and did a poor job of hiring senior leadership.

  87. I'd rather be blue*

    Last big job: In the second interview, the Big Boss did all the talking, but didn’t ask me any questions. Instead, he talked about himself, made some odd political remarks, and tried to sell me on the company. The first interviewer was great and I was in desperate need of a job, so I ignored this. Initial interviewer left after 3 months and I ended up working directly under the Big Boss. Turns out he was scattered, inappropriate at times, and a bit of a bully. Lesson learned there.

    Current job: My current job is considered an absolute “dream job” in my industry plus it’s directly related to my super niche degree. The company prides itself on its “cool” progressive image. In my initial interview, the office was a disgusting mess and everyone in the company was in on the initial interview, which definitely turned out to be symptomatic of the chaos here. Also, I saw in my interview that everything in this office seemed to be done by consensus, even when the other people in the office have no expertise or skills relating to the task at hand, but I ignored it because I really thought it was my dream job. I figured it couldn’t be as bad as it seemed in the interview. It is. Recently this played out with me having to do over 60 drafts of one pamphlet because they couldn’t decide what looked the “coolest.” So, I’m currently in the process of learning the “dream job is not actually a dream job” lesson.

  88. Lisa*

    I would love to see the reverse of this as well, moments when you were sure you were seeing a red flag, took the job anyway and it turned out to be the best decision you ever made,I have a great story for that

    1. Former Usher*

      I’ll give you one: when I interviewed for my current job, I was unimpressed with the physical facilities. The conference rooms where I had my interviews were a bit beat up. None of the chairs matched. Also, one of my interviewers seemed a bit gruff.

      In many ways it’s turned out to be one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. They’ve even remodeled some of the conference rooms since I started, and that one interviewer has nominated me for several awards.

    2. mrs__peel*

      I applied for a job once that I was 70-80% sure was a Craigslist scam, but I thought “What the hell”. It turned out to be great, and I worked there for several years.

    3. Statler von Waldorf*

      I don’t have any good stories about spotting red flags, because even after 20 years I still kinda suck at spotting them in advance. I do have a story with lots of red flags that worked out well though, so I’m glad you asked!

      I’m currently working for a family owned business. (#1) I was hired to replace the old office manager, who was going to retire any day now. (#2) He barely interviewed me (#3) because he was buddies with an old boss and this is a small town. The last and biggest was when he asked if I minded my co-workers thinking I was a glassbowl (not the word he used) because the owner really wanted a good cop/bad cop power structure, and I was going to be the bad cop. (#4)

      I’m coming up on three years now, and I’m still enjoying it more than any job I’ve had before. The old office manager did retire, and I’m surprisingly good at being the jerk whose job is to actually hold everyone, especially the family members, to actually doing their job. After managing out the worst two in my first year, it’s been mostly smooth sailing ever since. This is only possible because my boss rocks very, very hard, and I’m not just saying that because he’s currently reading me type this over my shoulder.

    4. NOT Missy*

      It was a job in construction supply and the hiring manager warned me the language can get off and I needed to be able to handle it. The last woman quit because she couldn’t.

      That should be a red flag but I took the job and loved it. Those guys were sweeties to me.

  89. Mona Lisa*

    Red Flag 1: All of the interviews ran longer than expected–typically by 20-30 minutes. My references all also said that the HR rep tried to keep them on the phone longer than the promised 30 minute reference check.
    Realization 1: This disregard for other people’s schedules showed up as an issue when I ended up working there. They expected their employees to work at least 50-60 hours/week with often last minute overtime and meetings, and meetings frequently went way over the scheduled time to the point where they would cancel subsequent appointments after they had already started because something else was running so far behind. (Like that one time I drove in on a work-from-home day to wait outside the room for 30 minutes and eventually be told that we actually weren’t going to have the meeting because there wasn’t enough time. There went 2 hours of my day!)

    Red Flag 2: They had a very rigid hiring process from which they wouldn’t deviate no matter how applicable it was or not. They asked all of my references the same list of questions, many of which didn’t apply to my experience or to the job I was applying for. (My manager at the time talked to me after her reference check to ask whether they’d ever looked at my resume or the advertised job description.)
    Realization 2: There was a culture of “this is the way things are done,” which made it very difficult to implement any new processes AKA the thing I’d been hired to do. It didn’t matter if the process wasn’t working or if it didn’t particularly fit a given situation well; they stuck to it like their lives depended on it.

    Red Flag 3: When I asked for a salary more commensurate with my experience level and salary history, I was told that I shouldn’t expect “big city salaries” in such a LCOL area. The compensation they originally offered was at the bottom of the range for the area from what I could find on places like Glassdoor (and a 26% pay cut for me), and I managed to talk them up to slightly above the bottom range to a 20% pay cut.
    Realization 3: The organization preys on young women with limited work experience by offering them extremely low salaries. Those who are desperate enough (hi) take them until they can find a better paying job elsewhere. HR was surprised by how high the turnover was (33% in the 13 months I was there), but she still expected that people would work 50+ hours/week for $23-26k/year.

    Red Flag 4: “We’ve structured our organization so that all of our employees are exempt and don’t have to worry about tracking their hours!”
    Realization 4: What they’d really done was misclassified a bunch of positions so they could take advantage of people and make them work overtime without ever paying for it.

    I learned a lot from that job… particularly what to look out for when applying for other positions. Unsurprisingly (to everyone but the higher ups at the organization) I was gone within a year for a position paying 27% more than what I made there and that had the expectation that I would only work 40 hours/week.

      1. Mona Lisa*

        AND she called ALL FIVE references. She did this for every single candidate that was hired. Frequently she would reach out to a temp agency to fill vacancies instead because the hiring process was so arduous. (Three interviews, a personality test, and five reference checks spread out over 2+ months.)

        Clearly the HR lady was not…efficient or effectual to say the least.

  90. Writer*

    After I was fired I was obviously very very eager to get a new job. I interviewed at a small startup. The team seemed really nice, but I found it really weird that four of the five people I talked to seemed really concerned that I would feel weird being the only woman in the office. (I answered that I would not because I don’t tolerate nonsense in my direction even in the name of a joke. That seemed to appease them.) Got the job. Sure enough, the bro culture is extreme: it ranges from talking about bodily functions (ew) to discussing Tinder dates in demeaning ways. Not to mention I have a very old-fashioned boss who doesn’t think men and women can be alone together. Ever. Cool. Luckily no one is asking me to do admin work or cleaning or other “women’s work” (ugh) but I’m always on the lookout for nonsense.

    I’m still at the job, so it’s not unbearable, but whenever I come home with a particularly frustrating story of sexism my partner reminds me that they /did/ warn me.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Heh – I just applied for a job where an ex-colleague works. When he saw my application, he called me immediately to give me some off-the-record insights. Among other things, he mentioned that while the manager is great and he really likes this manager, the guy is … a bit rough around the edges, let’s say, and apparently prone to saying inappropriate things, but he assured me that the manager usually reins it in around the women. My ex-colleague was kind of vague so I really don’t know if he means the kind of sexist grossness Writer deals with or just swearing and such.

      That’s not the only red flag, the others would be the Glassdoor reviews, the recent restructuring, the driving out of several people from this position prior to the restructuring, and the content of the work itself. Oh, and working with ex-colleague… Nice person but not someone I’d seek out to work with again.

      1. Writer*

        For the record: My manager — while a walking HR violation waiting to happen — is actually a good manager and fine person. I just have to tune out some garbage, so if you have a personality that can handle it, don’t let “rough around the edges” necessarily turn you off. The other stuff though, no comment there :)

  91. The Data Diva*

    I was interviewing for an assistant professor position at a state university. During the first interview, the search chair told me that they were looking for someone who could lead program development for the major that 2/3 of their students were in (this would be a very unusually high level of responsibility for a new assistant prof, for those not familiar with academia). He then followed that up by telling me that they “didn’t have many (i.e. one) women on faculty so were looking for a diversity hire.” Yeah- I turned down the campus visit when it was offered.

    1. The Data Diva*

      I guess this didn’t actually turn out to be a real problem, since I turned down the job. Luckily, I had some great female mentors who told me to run when I told them about the interview.

  92. GeneralKnowledge*

    I had to travel to a different state to interview with both vice presidents, the hiring manager, and a staff member I’d be working closely with for an entry-level role. The organization consisted of just 25 people, and I really needed a job, so I brushed it off as a small-org quirk. What it actually meant, however, was that every single decision had to be approved by the two vice presidents and that this job was where creativity and innovation went to die. My previous experiences had been with managers who were very laissez faire so it seemed attractive at the time to work with a close-knit team. Now I know there is a middle ground in there somewhere and that good managers are clear about what responsibilities you have and about seeking opportunities for you to grow.

  93. Capt. Dunkirk*

    After an unexpected $6,000 house repair, I started looking for a 2nd job to work part-time to help pay it off.
    My main job is in printing, so I figured I’d try for a job at one of the office supply store chain’s printing department.
    One position I found said it paid $12/hr – better-than-decent pay for part-time work, so I applied. Got a call from the store manager the next day and the first thing she said was, “The job listing is wrong, the job actually only pays $9.50/hr. Is that okay?”
    I was annoyed for sure, but that’s still okay pay for part-time work in my area, and I thought the job would be a breeze given my experience.
    The interview was short and she offered me the position. She walked me over to the printing department to introduce me to some people, and on the way she casually mentioned, “We’ve had a hard time keeping people in our printing department.”
    Instead of showing as a red flag I took it as an opportunity to prove to them how great I am at this printing stuff.
    Well, unsurprisingly, it turns out it was a terrible job. While I was completely comfortable with running the printers, every other part of the job (processing orders, running the registers, processing membership cards, etc…) was shown to me once by employees who were visibly annoyed that I wasn’t familiar with it already. The management was sloppy and little to no support was given when I ran into problems.
    I gave it the old college try for about 6 weeks but finally quit. I was starting to take stress home from that job, on top of the stress from my main job!

  94. RabbitRabbit*

    Showed up and the two people in the little office (a sub-part of a larger department within a large institution) seemed surprised that there was an interview. Was asked to sit in a waiting room nearby to wait. Waited an hour, asked the people there (same department, different division) about where the interviewer might be. They tracked him down. Had the interview; this was a Thursday or Friday. Got the job offer Monday. Started two weeks later.

    One of the two who were there initially, was now no longer there. As far as I can tell, I was her replacement, and looking through her work, I think she was let go for very poor work habits and absenteeism.

    I think what happened is that she was not aware that interviewing was going on, figured out what was up when I showed up, and stuck me in another room. Meanwhile I don’t know if my now-ex-boss just was late or if they didn’t tell him the interview candidate was there. (Either is plausible.) Plus, he didn’t bother to have the interview set up for another office – they did have the room – to avoid alerting the bad employee of issues prior to letting her go. He hired me fast to get a replacement in because they were firing someone.

    He wasn’t good at training, was hands-off to a very bad extent, and really only cared about his own pet projects until someone above him made noise, and then would come down on you. He gave me a very unwarranted poor performance review one year. However, he was let go the following year, which was one of the few good things in a string of bad decisions/priorities in that department.

  95. Anonalicious*

    This was back in ’09 when I guess we were supposed to be thrilled if we got a job despite the level of crazy involved. The interviewee was late for about 30 minutes, just because. So, I sit with a direct report for a bit and she tells me “I hope you like orange.”

    “What?” I say.

    “You’ll see.”

    Eventually I meet the director who’ll interview me, who is decked out in safety orange-colored outfit. It looked like the Land’s End Outlet had their last-and-final-clearance (before they burn them). Then we go to her office which is also has all safety orange office supplies. It looked like she did not get enough attention as a child, or it was a desperate cry for help.

    I had to bring examples of my work on CD because the work was web-based–and you should never give work to interviewers, but the company I had worked for had shut its doors. (Ironically, the CD cover was also safety orange and I commented that “it looks like I picked the right color.” She says, “what do you mean?”)

    She goes on about how much work there is and there’s no control over the amount of work (because, I figured, it was her job to keep the crazy going and then go on and on about how crazy it is, and her direct reports were hapless victims she could commiserate with.) At least her reports got a break from her, since she lived out of state and telecommuted, but, of course, telecommuting wasn’t an option for them.

    The kicker was when I said my work only works on IE. (Yeah, not my choice.)

    “You and your techie talk.”

    “Internet Explorer?” I say.

    She looks at her screen puzzled.

    “What web browser do you use?” I ask.

    Still, she looks at her screen, puzzled.

    “What do you use to surf the internet?”

    She opens IE.

    “Oh, great!” I say. “These will work.”

    Then, I say, something to the affect of how great my side business is going and how I excited I am about it. (I did have a side business I was working on, but needed a ‘real’ job.) I didn’t want a remote chance of being offered a job from this place. Consequently, I wasn’t offered the job.

  96. Mel*

    When I first applied for a job, the VP called me to talk about the position at 8:00 PM on a Sunday evening. My young and naive self thought it was weird but maybe he just kept putting it off or forgetting and didn’t want to miss the opportunity when he did remember. I was too excited to get out of a toxic environment that I (stupidly) thought nothing could ever reach. Even when he called after the interview to offer me the job he called around 7:00 PM on a Saturday.

  97. RMF*

    Being told after an in-person interview by the hiring manager that I would receive the job, but then it went to someone else.
    (Two weeks later, I was offered the job because First Choice turned it down.)
    Turns out my new manager thought he ran the place, and couldn’t accept that people–including his boss–didn’t agree with his decisions.

  98. Edgar Allan Bro*

    I knew before I got this job that this was going to be an issue, and it has been. But out of the six people I work with, four of them are married couples, and the person in charge of the department is married to the second lowest person in the department, which means nobody supervises her or lets her know she’s doing a terrible job because no one wants to get on the boss’s bad side. And the other two who are married to each other don’t seem terribly happy and just snip and snipe at each other all day. Its also accounting, so I can’t imagine the optics for collusion look terribly good of something goes wrong.

  99. Bookworm*

    Constantly interrupting the other interviewer. I don’t think she did it intentionally but it was very uncomfortable to watch. He seemed to be used to it and I couldn’t get a sense if it bothered him (he’d just stop and listen). I didn’t get the job, which was a huge relief.

    They told me at the beginning of the interview that they gave the job I had applied for (and had used a networking connection to give myself extra leverage) to an internal candidate. I would have been fine if they had told me BEFORE the interview and gave me the choice to re-apply or ask if I was interested in this related position but that I didn’t know after I got there bothered me. They offered the job and I turned it down (since I didn’t apply for that job!).

    Interviewer kept asking me the same question in content over and over again. It was about a specific place I had worked at (which admittedly was most relevant but it was also 5+ years before) and why I had left. I wasn’t happy there and tried to be diplomatic, it wasn’t a good fit, etc. but he wouldn’t let it go. The experience was really annoying and in retrospect I wish I had walked out because I wasn’t going to get the job anyway (looking back even if I had gotten it I don’t think I would have felt comfortable working with someone who hounded me so during the interview).

  100. Remote People Ops*

    For an HR role, reporting to the “HR lead” who interviewed me:
    -asked two questions…one about strengths and one about weaknesses.
    -we mostly discussed the topic of his university studies which had nothing to do with HR or the industry at all. I was askedno questions relevant to human resources.
    – asked me for a second interview before the first was finished
    -put a lot of emphasis on “gut feeling” during the hiring process
    – Biggest red flag: the speed at which they wanted to move and the pressure put on me to start ASAP

    But I took the job because it was in my field and I was working a retail job until I found something in my new city. It turned out as awful as you would expect. The HR lead had no relevant prior experience at all but was in an executive role…being the child of the CEO has advantages. I tried to put widely accepted best practice policies and procedures in place like job descriptions and having internal subject matter experts involved in the interview process which
    he appreciated but didn’t understand. I ended up quitting after 7 months of ongoing battles about implementing industry wide standards like paid sick days. In an industry renowned for competitive salaries, unlimited vacation time, paid sick and personal days, flexible work from home policies etc. not having any of those options made recruiting and retaining experienced employees nearly impossible. The terrible employee relations policies were really only half of the problem and they have since lost over half of the management team and two senior developers, laid off over half of their team, and haven’t met sales targets…ever.

  101. MarketingGirl*

    They only gave me one interview time slot, which conflicted with my part-time job at the time. I tried to reschedule for any other day that week (seriously), and they seemed open to it, but ultimately just kept on saying, “We’ll see you Wednesday at 10!” Red flag 1. Had to pick up extra shifts in order to get rid of my shift that day to go to interview. Got into a minor accident with a truck on the way to the office but still managed to arrive 15 minutes early. Walked into a completely dark office where ALL the desks were unoccupied except for 4 in the corner with a single light on. Red flag 2. Met with multiple people who challenged my intelligence in marketing… and then was told it was a sales job. Current 4 employees were all young and my age and tried to tell me how “fun” it was to sell people’s personal information. Turns out it was an Education Connection type company, where their biggest client was University of Phoenix. Red flag 3. Repeated multiple times they were looking for a time commitment from me, saying that the turnover was high. Red flag 4.

    I was desperate for a job at the time and they ended up offering me the marketing-but-actually-sales position, and I ultimately said no. The whole experience was negative start from finish. I don’t think I would have lasted a year.

  102. rosiebyanyothername*

    When I interviewed for an internship in high school (I was 17 and didn’t know any better), I was kept waiting for over an hour in the office and then my interviewer took me to the pizza place next door to conduct my interview, rather than in his office or a conference room. Interview took maybe 5 minutes and I was offered the position on the spot. Predictably, the internship was a mess, and looking back on the interview, like… of course it was. This is a pretty extreme example, but if the company won’t let you see the actual office at all during the interview, that can be a red flag.

  103. Opalescent Tree Shark*

    Oh boy. I interviewed at a place that billed itself, let’s say, as a teapot painting company for a teapot painting position. Person that owned the company was a famous…tea maker, even had his own tv show about brewing tea. First red flag: they said that I was the only person they interviewed with any teapot painting experience, everyone else was tea maker. Well, just because you know how to brew tea doesn’t mean you know anything about painting, but I was young and was just excited that I was a shoe-in for the job. They also said that they wanted to move into tea travel and would love for the person in this position to lead teapot paint tours internationally. That sounded amazing! I love travel. They never actually asked me if I had any experience with leading tours or international travel, but I didn’t think about that. They also pulled the classic “here’s a ridiculously low salary but we promise to give you a raise in 6 months.” Sure you will. (Although I didn’t make it to 6 months so I’ll never know). I had never been in a position where I could turn down a job before, so I don’t think it really occurred to me that I could. Also I was desperate to get away from the boss I had at the time.

    The place was absolutely awful. They really wanted to be a teapot painting company who did cool travel tours, but they had no idea how to do any of that. Everyone loved drinking tea, but no one had any idea how to paint. And because no one knew how to paint (or run a business), there were all sorts of horribly unsafe practices. I was fired after about a month and a half (partially because I wasn’t down with the unsafe practices).

    1. Opalescent Tree Shark*

      Ok, this might risk outting myself and the place, but I need to share this one detail. The unsafe practice that I absolutely wouldn’t budge on that directly led to my firing was that I would not let a child (A CHILD) feed an alligator (YES AN ACTUAL ALLIGATOR) completely unsupervised out of my line of sight when I was the only adult on premises

    2. DCBA*

      I was spinning my brain trying to imagine fields that would fit your painter/maker analogy, and wasn’t coming up with anything. Then you threw in an alligator, and all bets were off. So, props to you for making the teapot analogy fit your very weird, specialized field.

  104. Laura*

    In the interview I asked how he foresaw someone being successful in the position in two year’s time. I was told “great question!” but he didn’t really answer it. In two years time the position was eliminated. So I guess I did get the correct answer after all!

    1. Snark*

      Don’t take this the wrong way, but I just cracked up when I realized that he had, in fact, honestly and completely answered the question.

  105. Anon16*

    This is a great question! I actually have some questions about whether a position I’m interviewing for is a red flag. If this isn’t the place to ask this, let me know and I’ll wait until tomorrow. I’ll try to explain it as detailed as possible.

    My former manager referred me for a position at her current organization. I applied for the position and was contacted by the hiring manager for an interview. At some point before the interview, it became clear there were two openings, one of which I was more interested in, and I made that clear during the interview. I decided to pursue that role. The interview went well and she gave me a writing proposal to do and then scheduled a second interview. At the end of the first interview, she mentioned there were only about 10 minutes for questions and I asked a pretty general question about the organization. That was all there was time for.

    The second interview was scheduled with the hiring manager, a potential coworker, and someone who worked at the organization, but in a seemingly unrelated role. It was not someone I would report to and it was unclear whether I would have any contact with this person/how much contact. They didn’t explain why he was there. I was a little confused and mentioned it to my former manager, who was also a little confused and said she was confused about the role itself, which seemed like it wasn’t entirely figured out yet.

    When I arrived at the second interview, the hiring manager mentioned she loved the writing proposal I submitted, thought I would be a great addition to the team, and wanted to give me and the two other people some time to get to know each other. And then she left. This was a pretty basic interview, but at the end of the interview they asked if I had any questions for them and I confessed they were mostly about the position. They both basically mentioned they didn’t know much about the position I had applied for, so I asked some pretty general questions about the organization and some other things, but none of my questions about the position itself were answered. I thought that was kind of odd, but figured if I received an offer, I might be able to ask more questions about the role itself.

    A week and a half later, I received an email from the hiring manager about a third role that opened up. She said they had really liked me and thought this role would be a good fit. This role was a combination of two positions – the one I had originally applied for and another position that was unrelated to the original position (different department) and one I had very little interest in. I should mention that in the e-mail, she listed a start date for this position that was very soon and would not give me two weeks notice, despite the fact I’d told her that I needed two weeks notice in the first interview. She asked if I could come in for a third interview either tomorrow or the following day with herself and the person I would be reporting to. I normally probably wouldn’t schedule an interview for the very next day, but I said I would be able to make it work.

    I responded as early in the morning as I could (I received the initial email very early in the morning) and didn’t receive a response until around 3:30 that day saying that their schedule had suddenly filled up and they would be in touch in the coming days when things settle down. I emailed back saying that was okay and asking whether I was still in consideration for the original position, (which I was far more interested in). That was Tuesday and I haven’t received a response. Is this weird? Can anyone give me some insight about what might be going on from their perspective?

    1. Undine*

      Disorganized. Not really clear on what they want, so combining the two positions and if the position you don’t want is more urgent or operational, it’s what you will end up doing. May have decided not to hire anybody. Could also be that the actual person you’d be working with really wants someone for position-you-don’t-fit, and doesn’t want you. Or it could be that yes, they are busy and they will get back to you.

        1. Irene Adler*

          They are most likely not going to get back to you -about anything.

          Clearly they aren’t able to decide what the position is about.

          Might give them one more try -esp. about the original position that you interviewed for. But if they aren’t going to respect your giving your current position a 2 weeks notice, then I’d be very wary of them.

          1. Anon16*

            I understand, and I feel similarly to you. I’ll give them a more charitable explanation than I did in my original post, though. The original position I applied for is not one I have experience in, though I do have the related skills. I think it’s possible they really did like me and they wanted to put me in the second role to give me a chance to grow into the first position, (or they wanted to find a way to hire me anyway, though they didn’t think I was ready for the original role).

            My main concern is that the overall role will end up primarily focusing on the position I’m less interested in, the responsibilities won’t be clearly defined and the day-to-day will be disorganized and chaotic. The roles have really nothing to do with one another and use very different skills, so managing both jobs is a concern as well. I also worked in a similar type of job where two unrelated positions were combined and I found the actual work had little to do with the original job description, so I’m a little wary at this point.

            The frenetic nature of the hiring process and the lack of transparency is a little concerning as well. I’d really like to discuss the position more and find out more about the role, but I also think it’s possible they might flake out at this point and that’s frustrating. C’est la vie, though.

        2. Former Hoosier*

          Yes, these are red flags. At best they are very disorganized. At worst, they are trying to hire one person to do multiple jobs.

  106. J*

    In retrospect, I will never again work for a nonprofit that is still run by the founders. That alone is a huge flag that it will be a difficult place to work. I should have asked a lot more questions about that in the interview. The other red flag that I shouldn’t have ignored was when they asked me if I had a copy of the job description, and I said no, and they said “that’s OK, we’re not really firm on that anyway.” Also using the phrase “you are coming at a time of transition.” They told me a legitimate story about the previous person retiring after over a decade in the position. The real story was that they’d had an almost impressive series of employees who had lasted 1-2 years (or less, in some cases). I was shocked after I started when I looked through the files and saw the sheer number of former employee folders, and they didn’t have a single good thing to say about any of them.

  107. Dreda*

    I interviewed with a rural nonprofit for a youth director job. After my interview (round table with at least 8 church members), I was asked to fill in as a small group leader for an evening class of middle schoolers. This was not part of the interview process. The scheduled leader just wasn’t there.

    (“Good luck,” one of the church folks sardonically muttered.)

    The kids were rowdy and the adults were frazzled. The lack of leadership and discipline in the youth programs were rampantly clear – well, they’re rampantly clear now. At the time, I felt heady with a sense of purpose. I could be the change. Right? (Wrong.)

    There was never an official offer. No one said the words, “We’d like to offer you the job.” It was simply assumed that, since I interviewed (and I was the ONLY qualified candidate with whatsoever immediate availability), I was interested in accepting the job – even though, after my experiences, I was hesitant. Even after I met with the organization’s business manager to talk about salary and benefits and a background check, I was confused if they actually were hiring me.

    Turns out they did hire me. I left not even a year later due to general organizational disorganization, communication issues, and a lack of leadership for the role. Looking back, I wish I would have cut them less slack in the interviewing and hiring process. My positive feelings for the overall organization outweighed my hesitation. That’s not okay. No matter how good your experiences as an outsider, be critical when considering employment. Advocate for yourself. And trust your gut. I romanticized so much of the job going in and that absolutely bit me in the ass. Warm and fuzzy feelings don’t trump a messy organization with little to no administrative stability.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      I think when you want a job or are excited about the job, than it is really easy to ignore red flags. I’ve certainly ignored some and when I didn’t get the job, I looked back and thought, “Wow, I might have dodged a bullet.”

    2. Artemesia*

      I wouldn’t hire a youth leader without having them run a group like you did. I am amazed they didn’t present it that way in which case it wouldn’t have been a red flag.

  108. Rincat*

    Many years ago, I applied for a web content writer job at a big manufacturing company. They called me in pretty quickly and I did a good HR interview. Then my next interview was with the hiring manager, and he told me they had already offered the job to another guy and he tentatively accepted, but they were just so impressed with my resume and HR interview they wanted to talk with me. I thought it was a bit odd that they’d tell me about the other guy – I mean I get sometimes you need to keep interviewing candidates even if you’ve extended an offer, for various reason – but to tell a candidate that? It just felt weird. The interview was spent with me not doing any talking, but just listening to the manager talk about how great it was to work there, how he loved the company SO MUCH, funny stories about him and his manager buddies, etc etc. I got called a few days later, and they said the other guy had accepted but they really wanted me on board (why? I barely talked) so they were going to create a new position for me, and I could start within a couple of months. I thanked them and said that would be great, but I did not tell my current boss at all or put in a notice. And yep, never got that actual job offer. I contacted them a few times to follow up and their communications grew less and less enthusiastic, until they finally owned up to the fact that they couldn’t get a position created.

    I later found out from a friend who worked there a few months and then quit that it had a horrible environment. The higher ups joked around all day, went golfing and long lunches, and got bonuses, but everyone below them were expected to work 50-60 hours a week, and when they approached their managers about raises or professional development, they’d always get shot down. It was a very “old guard” type of place where the managers would be there until they died, but tons of turnover in the lower ranks.

  109. Cruciatus*

    “I was hoping for $10 an hour.” President: “You have your insurance paid for so it’s like you’re getting $10 an hour.” (Note: NO! IT IS NOT LIKE THAT AT ALL! Landlords or grocers do not accept insurance as payment!) I was taking this job no matter what because it had been years (and years!) since graduation and I hadn’t been hired anywhere so at least I knew what I was getting into, but the red flags were there to read. This place was so dysfunctional and just weird and whenever I see someone from that “non profit” working at my current employer we just reminisce about the crazy. There were some other things like that showed their paranoia–like heavy security presence (this is a medical school). There was only one entrance/exit point for the school (barring a fire or something).

    Oh, and as I was being escorted out of the building after my interview with the president (my 2nd interview for that job) they told me I had the job right at the door. We walked about 5 minutes to get to the door and they only told me there. And they did not offer to let me think about it. It was “hey, you have the job. Here’s a stack of forms to fill out and send back to us.”

    These are just small things that happened. There were more that happened after I started worked there, but this happened in the interview cycle. If people try to tell you why you should be happy to take less money–get out of there if you can! (I needed that job and fortunately the PEOPLE there were great, but the school heads were/are cray cray).

  110. Rachel B*

    I interviewed with 6 different managers because I was told that there were several openings on different teams and they were looking for ‘best fits.’ It had been a long day so I asked one manager: “What’s your typical day look like and how do you see us working together?” I was trying to understand her day-to-day management/communication style because I had been told by different managers everything from ‘the job is strictly 9 to 5’ to ‘you’ll live in the office if you’re on my team.’ The manager said: “How I spend my workday is no concern of yours.”

    I tried to write her abruptness off because I thought the company was so cool and the other managers I interviewed praised the ‘fun’ culture of working at a growing agency. In reality, I was cycled through 5 managers in the year that I was there as they switched and reworked teams due to high turnover and unhappy clients. The attitude of ‘managers are separate from non-managers’ was definitely evident and toxic during my tenure.

    1. Artemesia*

      I would love in such a circumstance to stand up and say ‘Oh I couldn’t possibly work for someone who would say that to someone they are interviewing or plan to work with. Have a nice day. Drop mic.’

    2. Anion*

      I’m sorry, but I just giggled for several minutes at this. “How I spend my workday is no concern of yours?” OMG. I probably would have started laughing as soon as she said it (especially since a similar statement was a constant joke between an ex and myself–we once joked about saying, “I don’t have to divulge that information to you,” as a response to innocuous questions like “How was your day?”) So I would have lost it, and been torn between annoyance and admiration. I am a sometimes-annoyingly-excessively-to-my-loved-ones private person, and even I wouldn’t dare give that response to an interviewee.

  111. redhead_783*

    Interview red flags: High turnover in my role; peers bashing my predecessor; hearing that the manager’s style is “my way or the highway.” But I was losing my job and had no other offers on the table so I took it. What followed was the worst year and half of pettiness, back stabbing, lies, lack of care and attention towards students/constituents; constant tension and fear I was going to lose my job. I tried to get out after 6 months, but couldn’t find the right fit (plus I have really good benefits and didn’t really want to leave the university atmosphere, so I stuck it out). Once the toxic people got (forced) out though, things got a better. They still have a hard time hanging on to quality people, but that’s probably because the rest of the team isn’t allowed input on new hires . . .

  112. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

    I thought it was a joke but come to find to out, it wasn’t. As I was unemployed at the time, I probably would have still taken the job even if I realized it wasn’t a joke.

    One of the people interviewing me said to my future boss: “I think you’re John McEnroe. You think you’re God.”
    Both statements were accurate.

  113. Kalamet*

    No technical questions in a software development interview combined with zero turnover. It was great for me as an unproven college grad, but after being here for a few years it’s turned into a nightmare. Technical ability for new hires is basically random, since they don’t screen for anything, and responsibility is granted by years in the industry rather than performance.

  114. Software Consultant*

    Nothing nearly as bad as some of the other stories here! This was a consultancy position; it was a small overseas office of a mid-sized firm (12 people in the local office; 500 people in the home country). I was told at interview “We’re hiring actively because there’s a big deal we’re about to sign and we will need people to work on it”. Three months later, when I actually joined, this “big deal” was not yet signed; about a month after that, I was assigned to a project in another country, Monday-Friday every week, compared to the described “10-25% travel”, and the “big deal” went to a competitor.

    Instead of doing reasonably senior specialist consulting, I ended up providing IT support to a dysfunctional client in an overseas location, working for a manager who valued process over everything (“I don’t care that the process will take 3 times as long, and prevent us delivering something that actually works; the client is paying by the day”). I left after my probationary period.

    1. all aboard the anon train*

      I’ve learned for consultancy jobs to ask about the ratio of actual project based consulting to staff augmentation because nothing annoys me more than when they talk about consulting and the job you end up doing is providing admin support to a client.

  115. Someone Else Needs The Wood*

    I interviewed with a smaller company that had just been swallowed up by a larger national company. The transition had not yet begun but the hostility was rampant in the interview.

    The interviewers were my direct manager and the Vice President. Neither one had anything good to say about the larger company and were very bitter about being bought. The expression “we will do what we want regardless of larger company culture and policy” came up multiple times and “we dont see the value in updated technology” also came up. They both reiterated that there was no training so you had to deal with what came at you.

    All of this led me to declining the offer with the Vice President calling me an ungrateful b…. because I didnt want to work in such a dysfunctional environment.

  116. Mazzy*

    It started with noticing too many baby faces, then perusing through LinkedIn profiles. Too many people were in stretch roles. It was hell to work for and I left after a few months and leave it off my resume. Someone in a stretch role here and there is ok, but if the Director of Accounts and Director of Technology and Finance Director are all in roles they aren’t read for (they were coordinator or analyst level at their last jobs and only had five years experience) and a serious issue happens and no one has real expertise to fix it… sucks. Or if a customer has a higher level issue that someone with many years of experience usually happens and you know that the know-how just doesn’t exist in house…things get awkward with customers.

    It turned out that this was a sign of a micromanager of the worst kind and a culture where every little thing got approved. It was hell. It also led to me getting in trouble for doing things for a VP that he didn’t know how to do even though he was supposed to, because a huge well known customer had me under he gun. I quit shortly after that, I don’t need to get in trouble for helping. I’m pretty sure the GM wanted as young and inexperienced as possible so he could control them. I was hired because I bought customer relationships.

  117. Big Food*

    The hiring process for a position with a major CPG company took from my first interview in February to my offer in June, with many, many torturous steps in between. Plus their recruiter was so offended that I asked for more information about their high deductible health-care plan while I was considering their offer. She seemed to imply that I was crazy for not just accepting the offer immediately, after all they were one of the biggest and most-recognizable companies in their market! Once I started I found a company drowning in bureaucracy (even for a big company) while simultaneously 100% sure that the way they were doing things was the best way – just like they acted during hiring!

  118. Jess*

    I had several red flags for the first real job offer I got after grad school, and luckily was desperate for a job but not so desperate that I couldn’t listen to my gut. The job was for an administrative assistant/receptionist for a very small (19 staff total) college:

    -President described the culture as “nobody’s too good to roll up their sleeves and do the dirty work”; everyone else described it as “things get so hectic we don’t ever really know who is doing what duties, so just do them”
    -I asked what professional development opportunities there were, and the answer was “well…you’ll learn what it’s like to work at a college!”
    -I applied for the job because I wanted to move up the ladder in higher ed; the reason why the role was open was because the person who’d been in the role for 17 years had died

    I ended up turning down their offer and never heard back from them. Other people in the area who are familiar with the school said I dodged a major bullet and that the college is constantly on the edge of financial collapse from how badly they’re mismanaged.

  119. Christine*

    Supervisor could not make eye contact or didn’t say “hello” or similar greeting upon first meeting during interview (e.g., awkward): three years into job, she still does not make eye contact and has never said “hello” or a similar greeting when we see each other for a 1:1 meeting or elsewhere.

    Also, during the interview, she asked if I wanted her job. Translation three years later = she is territorial, insecure, and is fearful of her employees doing work really well and getting credit for it, in particular female subordinates.

  120. a_born_tryer*

    During the interview for what turned out to be my first job after college at a mid-size, family owned engineering firm, I was being interviewed by the Quality Manager, HR did not exist there, so no HR was present at the interview (Red Flag #1). He was professional, polite, to the point, but at the end of what was a pretty good interview, he asked me in a resigned, tired voice: “What are you doing here?” which surprised me because, obviously, I was looking for a job. Well, his question was foreshadowing, he was trying to do me a favor (Red Flag #2). The meeting with the “vice president” (owner’s son) once I got the job was another oddball. I was filling out my employment contract and some admin forms, had another sign – the “vp” being genuinely surprised in an entitled tone that I didn’t just come look for him once I filled out my paperwork, even though I didn’t know the building layout at all, which he knew (Red Flag #3). The place ended up being a very toxic environment with a multitude of issues and though I obtained some good engineering experience there, it took some time to recover from it once I finally left. A lot of other lessons learned there how things should NEVER occur in the workplace. The Quality Manager remained an ally as did a couple other truly decent people, who were not part of the toxicity and horrendous politics. They hired a very experienced engineer some time after I joined and this guy must have recognized the the red flags straightaway, because he quit after a couple of days – and good on him.

  121. Kj*

    My favorite red-flag interview had the following warning signs:

    1. As I walked up the facility (health care), the people smoking outside started to speculate loudly if I was the new girl.
    Clearly, they had turn-over.

    2. My interviewer was 30 minutes late. But he had a broken leg, so I excused it.

    3. As I followed the interviewer to his office, someone was going up the elevator in a haz-mat suit. No joke.

    4. As soon as we got in his office, the interviewer picked up the phone and told the person on the other end that “The bed-bug problem is not my fault.” A long discussion took place. I sat there and tried not to look uncomfortable.

    5. He hung up and told me the job was mine. No questions asked. Just a look at my resume for 20 seconds and told me I could work there.

    6. He gave me a job application and told me I could drop it off day or night, since someone was always there.

    7. He told me to pick the shift I wanted. I think I had said about 3 sentences since the start of the interview.

    Needless to say, the red flags were the size of a house. I took the application and fled and never turned it in.

    1. Snark*

      Wow, that’s like, May Day parade in Red Square, marching soldiers and tanks, all with red flags on them.

      1. Kj*

        Yep. The job I ended up taking was rough, but at least I never had to deal with bed-bugs or haz-mat suits. And, BTW, this was for a job that required a Master’s degree and state license.

          1. Ange*

            I walked into theatres one day and the surgeons I was supporting were in hazmat suits because the patient had a prion disease. The rest of us just had the normal paper face masks – and we didn’t get told why they were in hazmat until after.

            1. Anonicat*

              Jeeeeeeeeepers. For the uninitiated, there are two kinds of people: those who are terrified of prions, and those who don’t know what prions are.

  122. Lurker*

    Upon discovering I formerly worked with a man that one of the interviewers went to graduate school with, she remarked, “Doesn’t he have the most beautiful skin?!” I thought, “Hmm, that’s weird.” I didn’t work closely with him but found him to be annoying during my limited interactions with him — and I didn’t think his skin was beautiful — so I ignored it. (And I had just finished graduate school so needed a job.)

    The woman who made the comment turned out to be someone who frequently made inappropriate comments. One time, when angry, she told our entire department to “F*ck off.” When I started she was a co-worker, but through a power play, she became deputy director of the department and my direct supervisor. She was a mean, conniving, horrible person.

  123. PNW Jenn*

    I applied for a job as an event manager for a community college with 2 campuses. It was a new job with responsibility across both, requiring the person to establish, communicate, and enforce cohesive policies. When the hiring manager referred to me as “young lady” during the interview, I knew that there was no way she’d support my decisions. I was about 40 at the time.

  124. Turquoisecow*

    Really quick interview with no really difficult questions, followed by almost immediate hiring.

    The first job, the interview was more of a casual conversation. The HR recruiter called me like a few hours later to offer me the job. I shortly thereafter realized that the interviewer was actually my boss’s boss, and had not even told my boss he was hiring me. He literally mentioned it on a Friday evening, “oh, by the way, your new person starts Monday.” (Boss had been whining about a report but had no idea any interviewing was going on or that they’d decided he could have one.)

    This was more a warning of the interviewer’s disfunction – the boss himself was pretty cool, although he admitted he wouldn’t have hired me.

    The second time this happened, the boss quit about a week or two after I started. My predecessor gave me about a half-day’s training. No one else seemed to know how she did what she did. Several people promised to help me figure things out only to flake because they had other jobs. After about three months, I decided the stress of doing a job I didn’t know how to do wasn’t worth the paycheck, and I was in a place where I could quit, so I did. They hired a temp (I found out the day before my last day), and I trained him for half a day before getting out. Clearly the boss just wanted someone in the role before she left.

    In neither case did there seem to be any doubt on the part of the hiring manager that I was the best person for the job, and they probably decided they’d hire me before they talked to me. I was skeptical, but accepted because I wanted a job.

  125. Valegro*

    I interviewed for my current job on a Friday and was in town until Saturday morning. The owner asked me to come in to meet another staff member Saturday (not uncommon in this field). I was there for a couple hours then he took me for lunch before going back to the office. I should have realized he was a complete workaholic and you were expected to stay late in the evening until he got around to talking about whatever needs to be reviewed. Sometimes that isn’t until 7 pm, resulting in 11 hour days. I should have realized he thought that was normal when he kept me for 10.5 hours on the first interview day. You’re also never allowed to tell a client no because that makes him look bad.
    I have no life.

  126. Dr. Doll*

    Great personality, lack of technical competency. The other candidate seemed resentful and difficult, but could have done the job much better. It was for a temporary position too, so the personality should have definitely taken a back seat.

    1. Dr. Doll*

      Oh, oops, I may have misinterpreted Alison’s question. From my side as an interviewee, I’ve not had red flags.

  127. Admin Amber*

    “We do a lot for employee recognition” sounds good right? It really means we monopolize your work day, lunch and sometimes after work with forced socializing and food of our choosing. It was an alcoholic’s dream to work there. For me it was awful. I really disliked spending my free time forced to socialize and decline drinks and rich foods that make me ill.

  128. JokeyJules*

    five minutes into the interview…
    “you ever been punched in the face before?
    “100% of our staff have been assaulted by the kids you’ll be working with. Also we will have you work exactly 29 hours per week and do not offer benefits.”
    “the people who work here do it because they just love the kids and have passion to help people.”
    The pay was minimum wage to work with adolescent boys with severe mental and behavioral problems.
    I needed a job, I was fresh out of college and was babysitting to be barely able to pay my phone and car bills, but I had to draw the line.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      At least they were honest with the type of problems you might face, but… yeah, that sounds like a job I wouldn’t want.

      1. JokeyJules*

        They offered me the position before I had even gotten all the way home from the interview and I turned it down just as quickly.

    2. Kj*

      Totally normal in my field. I worked in one of those jobs in grad school. It was terrible, but the experience was priceless, since no child behavior scares me now. That is great professionally, but that is not a good thing at times in every-day life. My husband comments on the fact that people can be fighting physically right next to me and I’m casually talking and looking at ease. It freaks him out to no end, as I happily walk down dark alleys and by sketchy people without thinking about it. And I’m a tiny woman.

  129. Kristen*

    When not one but two people interviewing you separately warn you that the boss is “challenging” for the love of god RUN.

    1. Snark*

      Yep. That’s underling-speak for “bossman has the management approach of Pol Pot, but is less considerate.”

  130. Bittersuess*

    Wouldn’t make future coworkers available for interviews. Because they all did not like her. Complete department turnover within 9 months.

  131. AnotherLibrarian*

    Right out of college, I interviewed with a local bookstore. I was only interviewed by the owners, not by the general manager who would be supervising me. Unbeknownst to me, this was a huge red flag, because the owners were never there. The general manager was a very nice, but she could not manager her way out of a paper bag. One of the most dysfunctional places I have ever worked.

  132. Nita*

    Not quite a red flag, but when I interviewed for my first job out of college, my boss warned me I might hate the town I’d be working in because it’s such a backwater. I hate big cities with a fiery passion and went to a small town college, so I figured it can’t be as bad as he says. OK, should have believed him, the place was a little too small for me… it literally consisted of one main street with all but one shop boarded up, a decaying former rail station, ten houses, my company’s office, a gas station, and an Italian diner (for people who stopped to get gas and wanted something to eat). Somehow I’d never needed to learn to drive before, so I was stuck. The thing that got to me the most was the lack of fresh groceries – I ate a lot of canned food and giant Italian subs.

    That said, now I’ve learned to drive and I wish I was living up there again…

  133. Jukeboxx32*

    My boss describing her management style, “You may not see me for weeks! I’m very hands off.” She really meant it! Even though she walked past my cube multiple times a day we probably had three conversations in the year that I worked there.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      My current manager is like this, and I can’t decide if I like it or not. She has said that she appreciates that I don’t need to be hand held through every little step of a task, but I kind of would appreciate a little direction sometimes?

      If I can catch her in her office for a conversation she’s fine answering questions, but I’ll literally go weeks without saying more than “good morning!”

  134. Ann O. Nymous*

    This red flag was actually one that I sent to Allison and that she answered on the site, almost 2 years ago — an executive director of small nonprofit interviewed me for a job and asked me what my salary expectations were, so I told her that around $X was my ballpark (but not the min or max I was looking for). She offered me the job at exactly $X, and I asked her if that was flexible at all and countered with $Y — about $2-3k more. She told me, in the tone of giving me advice as a new grad to the working world, that it was “unprofessional” to counter a job offer and that I was “moving the goalposts” on her. I found her tone really condescending and I thought her assertion that it was unprofessional to be WAY off from everything I know from this site, the working world, and experienced professionals I knew. However, she came back and raised my offer anyway, even after chastising me. I took it because I was desperate for a full-time, salaried job.

    Folks, I quit that place after two days. The exec director turned out to be a raging asshole, narcissist, and horrible manager, verbally abusing other coworkers, snapping at me for trying to ask her a question because I “didn’t read her body language right,” and getting annoyed with me for asking to leave the office at 6:30 pm on my first day, despite me having nothing to do when she told me the job was 9-5 pm. I also learned on the first day that I was the 4th person in that job in less than a year. I told her on day 2 that I was quitting because it wasn’t the right fit, when she pressed as to why I (professionally) explained my concerns, and she blew up at me.

    Thankfully I got a new job a month later that I’m still at and very happy in :)

  135. Anon for now*

    I only asked one person how often they used the free dinner if you work late benefit, and explained his use of it away as being away from his family temporarily. No, they use it a lot here because no one is organized enough to get things completed remotely on time, and are in a perpetual state of scrambling to get everything done.

    I forgot to ask about communication styles, as well, and the only honest answer they could have given me is that they literally have to badger half the bosses here into doing their work, because they flat out forget everything you tell them, and will disavow receiving emails.

    Needless to say, I’m close to getting my old job back, and have told them that I can deal with their incredibly minor issue of some people forgetting the occasional email.

  136. nnn*

    They present legal requirements as though they’re amazing perks and benefits. Example: you get a half-hour unpaid break for every 5 hours worked.

    1. AVP*

      In my city it’s, “you get four days of paid sick time!” Yes thank you that is a city requirement and we all know that!

  137. Sarah M*

    Being hired/offered the job on the spot.

    It *seems* flattering, and if you’re even the tiniest bit desperate to find work, it’s really tempting to say “yes”, but I can say from experience that it’s a huge red flag: it means they make big decisions on the fly (as in, the decision to fire you can/will be made with the same amount of consideration), are generally disorganized, lack any kind of HR or oversight, and overall will be difficult to work for – if not an outright disaster. This happened to me three times, all with small companies/solo practitioners. I said “yes” to two. Figured the first experience was a one-off and the problems were due primarily to a major shift in the business. For the second, I really, really needed a summer clerkship on my resume and said “yes” more out of desperation than anything else. That job was literally The Nightmare From Hell, and so was the person I worked for: Totally disorganized, mood swings galore, extremely critical and demanding (but never taking time to explain what was needed), etc etc. Never again.

    1. Sarah M*

      *figured at the time that the problems were due to a shift in the business. Many jobs later, I now think it was also due to the owners’ general lack of focus, and propensity for making important decisions on the fly.

  138. Lora*

    Chronologically, from most recent to when dinosaurs roamed the earth:
    “I know this position is way too junior, but we don’t actually know what we want to hire, we’re exploring. I wouldn’t be your boss. I don’t know who would be your boss really, you’re way too senior for me to manage.” In a full year, I didn’t have a real manager, a job description or goals.

    I asked what was the reason for a very specific year when they went from pretty high turnover to everyone but two guys in the department were fired. “Uhhh…you want to know what was the reason?” Yes, it’s pretty unusual and I was wondering the history there. “So you are asking…uhhh…what is the reason.” Yes, what happened? “I…hmmm well…” *at that point I thought it was a language problem as English was the guy’s third language, so I repeated the question in his first and second languages. “Well, there were some regulatory problems.” The actual reason (which I already knew but wanted to hear his version) was they got sued by a client for failure to conform to the US regulations – they were in compliance with the EMA but but FDA and lied about it.

    “We need you to do business development.” This was for a consulting firm. In other words, we don’t have enough actual clients to justify hiring you or anyone else. From the same interviewer, “You speak a lot of languages, how fast can you learn Hindi?” I’ll learn it by the 12th, buddy…the 12th of Never. For a job based in New England with minimal travel.

    “Hiring Manager is an up and coming star, and it’s an opportunity to grow with him.” = Manager is still very wet behind the ears and will make a lot of rookie mistakes that trash his career AND his boss’ career.

    “All startups are risks.” Yes but most of them don’t involve actual money laundering for Russian mafia, I’m just saying.

    “We just had a mass exodus where 1/3 of the staff left for (competitor)” in response to my question, why is this position open? Yeah, cause they paid 25% below industry standard. Otherwise it was a good job though, one of my favorites to date.

    “Normally this would be a full time employee but you’re going to go to grad school so you’ll be a contractor.” They converted me to full time after another employee sued for misclassification and one of my managers pointed out to his boss that folks in his department could easily do the same.

    “Dave is really dedicated to this business, it’s his baby. Once he even cashed out his retirement account and sold his Corvette to pay us when we had a slow month.” The business only lasted two years after that…

    1. Girasol*

      The last time I took a job with such a vague job description like you describe in your first note, and highly placed with ambiguous leadership, the rumor went around that I was hired for affirmative action, “not to do real work.” The few opportunities I found to do real work were yanked away for one reason or another before I could get traction, leading me to suspect the rumor might have been true. I’m curious: did you share that experience?

      1. Lora*

        Holy crap, you worked there too? The department recently fired a group of several women over 40 in middle manager positions (including me), retaining only the women who were at non-manager levels. The HR lady actually started crying in the exit interview when I pointed this out and said, she knew how bad it was and felt horrible but they needed the executive committee to take action and there was nothing else she could do, she’d already told them about compliance, here is who I should have my lawyer contact.

        During my orientation week, people at the Welcome New Employees dinner actually exclaimed, loudly, “PD hired a WOMAN? really? For which job? WHAT? I need to meet her!!” and then rushed over to introduce themselves to me. I knew then it was going to be a tough row to hoe…

        1. Girasol*

          Thanks for the reply! One always wonders, is it me? Am I failing to grasp the culture here? But I ran the stats that HR should have been running and saw that people like me were exiting at a lopsidedly high rate compared to others, just as you say.

  139. Thespian Blogger*

    I was interviewing for a survival job at my local mall a couple of years ago. I first met with the district manager who was a little rude and kept asking probing questions about the position I was previously laid off from (they dissolved my entire department.) My prior experience was in retail and I figured it would be something I could pay the bills with until I did some soul searching on my next career venture. She was happy with my answers and then her store manager arrived to interview me. She was horrendous. She asked me to “sell” one of her scarves, which I did, but kept saying I was doing it wrong and admonished me. She also insulted my previous work in corporate and said that selling is nothing like corporate. May I add that my corporate experience was much shorter than my retail experience. The retail company I worked for prior, I won awards for my sales numbers. After taking her abuse, I stood up and said we’re done here. About a month later while I was still searching for a job, both the district manager and store manager’s positions were up for grabs. I guess I wasn’t the only one that had a problem with them.

    1. Lindsay J*

      Was this at a Radio Shack by any chance?

      It sounds very similar to my interview there, but I had to sell a pen instead of a scarf.

  140. AVP*

    Was asked the following question in an interview when I was just out of college. First off this was in a series of rapid-fire questions that was meant to elicit “just say the first thing that comes into your head without thinking” responses, so, not very thoughtful. The question was “name something you’re good at that you wouldn’t want your parents to know about.”

    Obviously I said something very inappropriate but was still offered the job….which really set the tone for the level of critical thinking and effective management in the organization.

  141. Crystal*

    I have an advanced degree, professional certification, and years of experience. Interviewer asked for my SAT score. When I questioned him, he said he thought his own was high and used it to gauge intelligence so he wouldn’t end up hiring someone stupid. I left the interview, and I give myself points for not saying it was so I wouldn’t end up working with someone stupid.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Well, someone who wants to compare scores just to feel superior isn’t going to be swayed by this, but depending on when you took the SATs, if taken after 1994 the scores aren’t used by Mensa as qualifying test scores, I think because the format and scoring have changed several times and haven’t been validated against standard IQ metrics. GREs after 2001 aren’t accepted either.
      That kind of question, framed that way, is just ridiculous. Leaving is the best call.

  142. Cyberspace Dreamer*

    I working with current-employer through an employment agency and my contract was that was due to end in a few months. I did eventually got hired permanently but there was still uncertainty at the time. So I started planning for the next step. A recruiter contacted me about a potential job and although the interactions between the recruiter were very amiable, I was advised to be untruthful about my current salary to make negotiations easier I guess. (over 30K more than I was currently making). I respectfully told this person that I could not do that. The recruiter understood and decided to allow the process to continue.

    After a phone interview with the company’s HR person, I made contact with the manager, again decent conversation, really down to earth person. However, during the conversation he started talking in disparaging terms about the person currently occupying this position, and it was very clear that they could not wait to get rid of him.

    The trauma and wounds of how I left my previous job were still fresh and while I admired the candor, it was enough of a red flag for me to decide not to continue that process even though I believe they were very interested in hiring me. Doing well at current job and have more than surpass that pay gap without the dishonesty.

  143. Amber Rose*

    Red flag 1: I was the first one there. And I don’t mean like, I was early. I was there five minutes before the interview time and there wasn’t a single person in the office for another 15 minutes. They clearly scheduled my interview for before opening hours, for some reason. *cough*disorganized*cough*

    Red flag 2: Snide remarks about my weight during the interview. The owner kept asking me questions like, was I sure I could lift boxes or climb the stairs. I ignored this one because I wasn’t going to be working with him and the other person was kind of gently calling him on it. I liked her, she was one of the few tolerable parts of that job.

    Red flag 3: Actually, the location. Try to imagine, in the middle of the city there once was a farmer’s market. It died, leaving behind what looks like a tiny ghost town. Lots of old, sagging wooden structures and abandoned mechanical bits with nothing else around but fields with overgrown weeds. It feels like being in the middle of nowhere even though it’s fairly close to city center. Tumbleweed rolls sadly down the street. In the middle of this place is a small bank of condo townhouses. The garage doors are rusted and sagging, there’s no parking to speak of, and when you walk through the creaky door, you see what used to be a living space converted into the world’s most cramped office space. A set of stairs in front of the door leads upstairs, where four desks are crammed in beside a bank of filing cabinets.

    This company had been in operation for 20 years and looked like it was a broke start up. Was really an indication of how cheap they were. I had to buy my own office supplies. When I mentioned I could use some sort of cabinet or file organizer (I was a file manager after all), I was treated like a greedy jerk and given some rusty bins they found in the garage. :/

    1. Amber Rose*

      Oh, I forgot to mention: Red flag 2? Was a pretty good indicator of how much respect and importance I was treated with. Although I ended up in a position where I need to coordinate with the owner to get stuff done, he mostly blew me off or went off on tangents. He was bad for shooting the messenger, so to speak. If I brought him bad news, I got an earful.

      I don’t like to talk bad about him because he’s so famous around here, and recently more so given the unusual circumstances around his death, but man, he was not an easy person to work with.

    2. crookedfinger*

      Ugh. I had an interviewer glance repeatedly at my stomach during an interview once while asking me if I thought I was fast enough to keep up with the workload. She asked me this at least 4 times during the interview. Yeah, I get it, I’m fat…and it doesn’t affect my ability to work in any way.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I’m agile and strong and have decent stamina. I’m just big. /shrug
        Well, my arm strength isn’t so good these days, but when I had physical jobs it was.

        1. crookedfinger*


          (Also, that position with the rude interviewer? Wasn’t even for a physical job, she just was assuming I’d be slow.)

  144. Llama Wrangler*

    I often wonder if there were red flags I missed in the hiring process of my previous, toxic position. The biggest thing I can point to was a strange group interview (candidates were asked to complete a task together in front of the entire staff of the organization), and the fact that the staff wasn’t comfortable even moving tables to set up without the ED there. The table thing turned out to be a sign of the fact that the management micromanaged and didn’t trust the staff to make independent decisions. But I wish there had been something bigger that tipped me off!

  145. Higher Ed Database Dork*

    The university I worked at before my current one was very micromanaged by the president. It was a small private school, and he had tight reins. The interview was actually a full day of interviews, which consisted of me first meeting with the president, then he brought in various managers from different departments. So I had about 6-7 interviews total. All of this was to determine “fit.” The president always hand-selected your job for you…you didn’t apply to specific roles, you just submitted your resume and he put you where he thought you’d go best, based on your skills and experience.

    So a full day of interviews is pretty normal for faculty or higher level administrators, but I was 22 and all I wanted was entry level, like a support tech or receptionist. His controlling ways were further revealed by the fact that he barely listened to me – he did most of the talking, and it was mostly about his vision and awesome leadership, and how everyone just LOVED working there and supporting his vision. He also kept trying to get me to teach education classes – I repeatedly told him I was in no way qualified (I was working on a master’s in a totally different subject and had like 9 hours total), but he kept insisting they would get me teaching asap (and this was after I said I didn’t want to be a teacher). I then found out part of this “fit” strategy is having me take a personality test and he groups people according to their typologies.

    I ended up taking the job because I needed health insurance and full time pay, but it was awful. Micromanagement was everywhere. People worked in fear of being suddenly fired if you weren’t sufficiently passionate about the school. Women were routinely paid less than men and had zero career growth opportunities, and I actually had people tell me I was expected to quit when I had kids, and the school would be happy to take me back when they got to college age so I could get the tuition benefits for them (cuz they’d definitely go to college there, because we all loooved it). My director once said, “We don’t do performance reviews because we don’t want anyone thinking they can ask for a raise.” After 2 years I was out, and now I am much happier in my thriving career at a large public school that pays me more than my director ever made. Take that, Stupid Private School!

  146. Mimmy*

    In two separate instances years ago, I was hired on the spot, which I now think is a sign of desperation when they know they don’t attract good employees.

    I can’t really put my finger on why I was so miserable at the first employer, especially during the first year. I was initially hired full-time but because was immediately switched to part-time on my first day (long story). For a long time, my immediately supervisor acted almost as if he didn’t really need me – at the end of each Monday, I would ask when I should come back that week–he’d often say “Eh, come in Friday”. There were lot of other issues, including the married owners who were rather moody and who I thought were a little fishy with personnel matters. When my immediate supervisor was let go, things improved though I was still happy to be done when I left after two years of employment (I’d moved to a different part of the state after I was married). Oh, I did end up regaining almost full-time hours.

    The second employer was extremely toxic: The director and the woman who supervised me were both very moody, the job was misrepresented to me, and I had zero interest in the product the employer manufactured. The employer was a wholesaler, so the people who called, both internal (delivery drivers) and external (store owners) ran the gamut of personalities; one store owner was downright evil. After 2.5 weeks, I stopped going and they mercifully let me go.

  147. Gen*

    Arrived for interview, everyone else went in and I was left waiting. I asked the receptionist after half an hour and was told to sit down & wait. Five hours later the office closed and the interviewer realised I was still there as they were leaving. Was told to come back the next day, no apology.

    Next day I had a coaching session with the company HR to tell me what the client I’d be working for (it was an outsourcing call centre) would ask and the ‘correct’ answers. Such as “they’ll ask you about controversial topic A you must say you oppose it” and “if you don’t have an X invent one and talk about it like it’s real”. Then I was shown some maps and had places pointed out which seemed strange. Turned out part of the interview was a map test and they’d just shown me the answers. Then there was a typing for audio test, I got the highest score ever by finishing the list, most people got 30%.

    I chose to answer honestly, and got the job, I thought that was a good thing til I got there for the first day and EVERYONE who interviewed had gotten the job. It was awful, I’d expected upsetting phone calls but the trainers were incredibly ableist and racist, no one had any boundaries and the office was a free for all fight every day for equipment. I quit due to ill health after 18 months and I was in the very last 10% of the people who started with me

    1. Spills*

      You waited for 5 hours??? You should have left after an hour, MAX! How rude and inconsiderate of them.

  148. Software Dev Manager*

    I once interviewed at a place where they told me they are “loyal, dedicated and passionate about their work. More so than any other place.” Color me confused.

    During the course of the next hour it came out what they meant. Cue 60 hour work weeks classified as “normal”. One of the Project Manager on the interview panel went on and on about how flexible they are, how anyone can work from home whenever, how they prioritize everything. She said all this to cover up her final statement – Meetings can be held anywhere between 6am – 7pm. Weekends are often work days, because they allow you to work from home, ya know.

    They offered me the job the next day. I declined. And then they acted all huffy-puffy because how could anyone refuse this God send job? **Craziness!!!**

  149. MHR*

    I showed up to an interview just as a fire alarm went off. I asked the employees where to go and they all kind of shrugged. Then we were told it was safe to return inside. Another alarm went off and in my interview they told me to just ignore it as they were sure the fire had already been put out.

  150. worriedtoday*

    Oh noooo… This is very hard to read today. I just accepted a job despite misgivings yesterday, and some of my concerns have already shown up in other comments. At least I know I’m going to be able to pay rent next month, and I’m in a field where it’ll be fine if I don’t stay at this job for very long. But why couldn’t today’s topic have been, “When did you ignore your better judgment but everything turned out great?”

  151. Steve*

    I ignored the fact that half the office was empty. Turned out it was because they had regular cycles of debt-fueled hiring followed by failure-to-get-debt fueled layoffs.

  152. Baby Drama*

    My biggest red flag was one of my first jobs. The interviewer spent the entire interview talking about himself. He did not ask me one single question. He spent the entire interview talking about how his girlfriend was pregnant.
    A couple of weeks past and I didn’t hear anything. I was at the mall one day and he ran out of the store he managed and said, “hey didn’t I interview you? I was busy with the baby. Can you start tomorrow?” I was young and needed a job and wanted the shoe discount so I accepted!
    I worked there my entire senior year and every day was about him, the girlfriend (er ex gf), and the baby. He would go into the back room and have screaming matches with her over custody. I soon learned the now ex gf was 17. About the same height and weight as me, same eye and hair color and similar build. As was every other female that worked there. He did not hire men or anyone that was not 17 and matching our description. He then asked us to testify in court on his behalf so he could get custody of the baby. I just laughed and walked away.

    1. Emi.*

      Imagine if you’d all agreed to go to court, looking alike. Even better, if you all showed in the exact same outfit. And all demanded custody.

  153. atgo*

    Not exactly my story, this was a old housemate. Rushing through interview process to an offer the same day, and a push to start working that afternoon (seriously!). He started the next day. Within 6 months he was the most senior person in the office – they just tore through and destroyed people with 80+ hour work weeks, low pay, and strict policies about meals and cab fare.

  154. Apocalypse How*

    I got an offer for a position at a theatre that, on paper, was my dream job. The director sent me the contract for the job, and it included a non-compete clause that would have prevented me from working at any school, university, or non-profit organization in a 13-county area for 2 years following my departure from the theatre. This was in the contract for a job that had a salary of 30K a year and no benefits except for 2 weeks of vacation days (which he later tried to force me to use only for Christmas and New Years). I told the boss that I had talked to other professional theatre directors, and none of them had ever heard of a theatre having a non-compete clause in their contracts. He responded that other theatres weren’t familiar with the conditions in this area. I said that this clause was far too broad. I could understand not working at another theatre in the area, but there was no reason that I couldn’t go on to work at, say, a Jewish Community Center. He responded, “Well, what if the JCC wants to start a theatre program?” I didn’t even know how to respond to that kind of warped logic. I really should have walked away, but at that point I had been underemployed for 5 years and I was desperate for a job in my field. I worked with a lawyer to change the non-compete clause down to something reasonable (that I couldn’t contact current or previous clients of the theatre to offer the same services for 2 years.) It was really a sign that this was a terrible place to work and I left after a year of emotional abuse. I later found out that he tried to pull the same non-compete crap with every person in that revolving-door position. He kept trying to exploit people in the same way.

    1. Louise*

      Oh good lord I’m ASSUMING this was a non-eq theater because there is no way that would fly anywhere with a union contract. Non compete clauses are dumb, and they’re even more dumb in the arts.

  155. Fabulous*

    I applied for a “Junior Project Manager” for an organization that helped with job placement, which (according to the posted job description) was an to be an assistant to a guy who helps businesses implement recruitment programs. The phone interview went well, but I had a few red flags because the guy I would be working for sounded very scattered, not to mention our personalities seemed like they might not mesh well. When I was called back for an in-person interview, I asked some more probing questions about the business and it sounded more and more like they wanted this position to call and sell this guy’s services. While I’ve worked for sales organizations in the past, I don’t do sales. I straight up asked how much of the position was sales focused, and they backpedaled saying it wasn’t. I can’t even remember if I sent a Thank You email after the interview, but I remember ending the meeting shortly after the sales question. So glad I didn’t pursue that one further…

  156. Elizabeth West*

    I applied and interviewed for a job at a company that sold and installed flooring, a family-run business (yep, I know). The hiring manager complained about the person who had the job prior to me. That put me off, but I needed a job, so I accepted the offer. Also, she lied to me about the amount of sales involved–I said randomly in the interview I wasn’t really interested in a sales-related position, and she assured me that no selling was involved.

    After working there for a couple of months, I quit. The job I’d been hired for included booking appointments for the carpet cleaning service and I was supposed to sub one day a week for the receptionist in the retail store. Instead, it went like this:

    –My boss constantly complained about everything and used my computer to rip rented DVDs for her own personal collection.
    –They played a soft-rock station all day, even in the office, and it played the same ten songs all day. I don’t care to ever hear “Maggie May” again for the rest of my life.
    –One of the guys in the warehouse was a registered sex offender (statutory rape; he’d had an underaged gf) and told people about it any chance he got.
    –One of the salespeople was blindingly awful to her coworkers. She was the first coworker I’ve ever had whom I actually hated. Someone told me she had harassed a new sales rep so badly he quit after three days. Another new guy left after a week while I was working there.
    –I suspect it was because of said coworker, but the receptionist called in sick so often that I ended up doing her job more than I was doing mine.
    –I did have to upsell people on services. When I quit, the sales manager told me that my boss said she knew I didn’t want to do sales but that she thought I could learn it and would eventually like it. Even though I said I did not want that.

    Super dysfunctional workplace. I was stressed and uncomfortable the entire time I worked there and it was such a relief to leave. A few months later, I found a better job where I stayed for six years. It had its own crap, but it was miles better than this place.

  157. Paloma Pigeon*

    Just a little thing but it can be a big thing depending on your circumstances. Having come from a culture where everyone took a hard break at lunch (it was an early in start so people needed a break by 12), I remember thinking it was odd when my interviews were always scheduled at lunchtime. Once I got the job, I realized it was because they never left their desks, not even to grab food to bring back. Eyebrows were raised when I would leave to get a soda or coffee from stores that were just downstairs. It definitely took some getting used to – and was indicative of a lot more in hindsight.

  158. Decimus*

    Getting the offer six months later after missing steps.

    I had a first interview, it went well, they told me they’d be in touch and there would be a second round with the hiring manager’s boss before they made a decision. I didn’t hear anything. After three weeks I figured I didn’t get the job, but just sent a short note asking if they’d made a decision, and was sent a lengthy assurance that they just got really busy and I was still in consideration.

    After three months they relisted the position and I just sent a short email essentially stating I was still interested.

    After SIX MONTHS they called me up out of the blue and offered me the job, no second interview, nothing. I needed a job, so I accepted (there weren’t many in my field in that geographical region).

    I left after three months because of how disfunctional that place was. For every position below manager they’ had at least 100% turnover in two years. They’d also lied about the reason for the opening. They told me it was a new position from expansion. The truth was they probably wanted to expand but they kept losing people almost faster than they could hire new. The office was immensely disfunctional and I could write pages on how.

    1. KK*

      SIX MONTHS later? With no additional interview? How bizarre! How would they even be able to recall important details from your interview by that point?

  159. poptart*

    In the interview, they asked me to keep quiet about what I was interviewing for, because they were planning on letting that person go in a couple days but hadn’t told them yet. In the worlds biggest non-shocker, the company turned out to be extremely secretive, and fired people like this ALL THE TIME without any kind of notice. If you did your job well you got to keep it, if you did it poorly, they’d just fire you without trying to help you do it better. It was wild.

      1. poptart*

        FIVE YEARS. I was young and it paid well so I just kept my head down until they let me go, ha. It was embarrassingly too long.

  160. Penfold*

    Interviewed for a newly created position in a tiny department within a giant company. The initial primarily job responsibility being to get that department’s program a big (and expensive) industry accreditation. That task alone would take about three years to accomplish, and was actually a very exciting prospect for me. The hiring manager mentioned several times there was push back within the company in regard to the accreditation, it seemed to be her personal crusade. Two of the five people I interviewed with didn’t really know what that accreditation was or how it would benefit the company, but cooperation and information from their departments would be crucial. Those were all giant red flags. I don’t believe the position ever really came to be and it doesn’t look like anyone was hired, all postings for the job disappeared. They pretty much ghosted after the interview, and I thankfully have ended up with a great job (that had a very thorough, professional, and communicative hiring process).

  161. Carol*

    The interviewer asked me to meet her at a restaurant at noon. I assumed she was going to interview me over lunch. She was waiting for me outside in an outdoor seated waiting area- and proceeded to interview me right there- no meal, or beverage, or table seating offered. I drove 45 minutes for this. I was flustered, then angry, once it occurred to me she was just borrowing chairs. I wouldn’t even consider a job offer after that.

  162. Crylo Ren*

    Inflexibility around scheduling my first day. They ended up expecting 12-hour days most of the time and if a software deployment was scheduled I was expected to work 8:00 AM-12:00 AM.
    My first month I was told off for daring to go “off-campus” for 30 minutes because I wanted some air and to get lunch somewhere other than from our cafeteria. According to them, because lunch was provided onsite, there was absolutely no reason to leave.

    Multiple comments about how people on the team were “protective” of the culture. Meant that the culture was really oppressive and not diverse. I never felt like I fit in.

    3 out of the 5 people I interviewed with seemed disinterested in engaging with me and simply went down a rote list of questions. One interviewer very obviously rolled her eyes with every response. She ended up being incredibly difficult to work with.

  163. Louise*

    I had the CEO invite me over to his apartment for an office manager interview—the day of mind you. He didn’t feel like going into the office that day. They also offered me lower than I asked but said they’d raise it after three months and I was too inexperienced to know to ask for it in writing.

    Let’s just say that way the beginning of some horrific boundary crossing (including tying the CEO’s shoes one night when I was alone in the office with him, as he was too large to comfortably bend over and tie them himself apparently). Also, when three months came around they actually asked me to take a pay cut. In fact, they asked me to take a pay cut the day after I got back from an overseas trip to go to my grandma’s funeral (which they had tried to convince me not to go on). I left pretty shortly after that.

  164. Kathenus*

    Director at potential new job, who would be my grandboss, contacting my current grandboss to ask about me without my permission. Luckily my current grandboss and I were friendly, and my boss was able to give me a heads up this occurred so I wasn’t blindsided. Ended up taking new job, you know – a ‘dream job’. Year one was pretty good, year two was utterly horrible. Micromanaging, tyrannical outbursts, some specific philosophic differences with me that I couldn’t work with. I left after the second year. This is when I really learned to ignore that ‘dream job’ fantasy.

  165. But you don't have an accent*

    When I was young (still in college) interviewing for my first real job I should have run for the hills:

    -Would not give me a firm answer as to how long the interview would last. They told me to be there at 8 and told me I would leave “sometime around noon”. I was there until 5:30…And had to drive back to my university 4 hours away after to make it back to class. Turns out, they kept people there longer the more they liked them.

    -They did not compensate me for mileage driving 200+ miles to the interview, or a hotel room for the night before (since it started at 8:00 AM).

    -When they took me out to lunch during my interview, the girl mentioned the company would not cover a tip of more than 10%, which seemed unreasonably low to me.

    -The compensation was laughably low for the area was in; several interviewers mentioned how so many of their colleagues were roommates.

    -All of the candidates were in college. There was not a single non-college aged person at the interview (for multiple positions I should add).

    -The CEO was involved into day-to-day, minuscule decisions, and you could tell by the way everyone acted around him he was a micro-manager.

    -When they offered me the job, they mentioned a “training loan” which I would be on the hook for if I quit before two years and said “that we’ve mentioned [it] several times.” They had literally never brought it up prior to that.

    -Asked for my HIGH SCHOOL class rank and HIGH SCHOOL GPA. They also asked for my SAT/ACT scores. They got my resume off of my university’s site for, you know, current students and graduates.

  166. Interested Bystander*

    I applied for a finance role at a school because a board member told me that I was exactly what they were looking for. I get to the interview, and 3 things I look back and see as crimson flags: interview committee is 5 of 7 board members, two of whom started less than 2 months earlier (micro-managerial board members); I was straightforward about only having 1 year of experience when they were asking for 5, and they told me that they had “faith” in me (they can’t see the important details); they also asked me detailed questions about their beloved educational philosophy, even though my job was to write and follow the yearly budget as well as handle bookkeeping. When they offered me the job, they referenced that I wasn’t their first choice and dropped the offered salary. Come to find out two months later that I was the only candidate. Just holding out until I can find another decent job.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Ah, my mom once had an evil boss who was the only qualified candidate who applied for her position. The reason? It was a full-time position, but they’d classified it as part-time and were only paying a part-time salary.

  167. KK*

    The interviewer for my previous job said the managers were “very hands off.” I interpreted this as meaning that I would be trusted by the managers to do a good job, and have the freedom to work independently and prioritize things the way I see best fit. What I didn’t realize is that this meant the managers provided NO training whatsoever to new employees. There was absolutely no training process for new employees, and I was told to read (super vague) PowerPoint docs that would tell me everything I needed to know. My coworkers and I were all running around like chickens with our heads cut off, never knowing what (or how) to do our work. That team (not surprisingly) has completely disbanded since then.

  168. Friday Jr.*

    When I asked them to describe to me what growth in this role is like, they weren’t able to give details but just vaguely said “there’s tons of opportunity to grow.” Overall, I got the impression that they didn’t really know what they wanted. Still took it anyway. Fast forward seven months and I’m bored 80% of the time. Silver lining is that I read the news a lot more now, so I am well-versed in global events. Did you know a robot threw shade at Elon Musk so the billionaire hit back?

  169. LouG*

    I was offered the job on the spot at the end of the interview. Turns out, the job I was told would become permanent stayed temporary and eventually ended after less than a year.

  170. Longtime Lurker*

    If anyone who interviews you or who works for the company makes a joke that’s negative about the company, it’s not a joke – it’s the truth.

    I interviewed at a company to do a professional version of something that had been a hobby. A friend worked at this company. The people interviewing me were excited about me working there, and the interview felt more like an orientation than an interview. The lead interviewer walked me out to my car afterward and said with a laugh “So if you like long hours, low pay and no respect this is the job for you!” Haha. Oh wait…

    Reader, I did not take that job. For the next three years the only thing my friend who worked there could talk about was the low pay, long hours and lack of respect.

    Years later I got a freelance gig at a different company in a different industry. They were using freelancers to do the necessary work, but also to audition people for a new full-time role they were creating. Again, I had been brought in on the recommendation of a friend who worked there. After my first meeting with the VP running the process my friend was following up with me and said in a joking manner “So yeah, welcome. I hope you enjoy working for bitter old [sexist term]s who have no idea what they want!”

    I did take the gig (it’s no problem to cut a freelance client loose) and guess what? He wasn’t joking. His sexist/ageist terms were unwelcome and unnecessary, but the underlying assessment was accurate. I fired them after they lied to me too many times about the status of my invoices which always went way past due.

    That place was filled with weird things I could have Asked A Manager about if I had known about this site back then.

    But yeah, someone in the interview process or who works there making a “joke” about the dysfunction/toxicity/whatever is really telling you the truth, and it’s worth believing what they say.

    1. NaoNao*

      I had a phone interview with a manager (that turned out to be good but very difficult and demanding) and I asked her what the training process was like for the role, and she said “Oh, we just throw you in the deep end and hope you know how to swim, ha ha!”

      She was not wrong. Day 1 (it was a post in an Asian country not my own, I had relocated from the US and didn’t know anyone there) I was shown my desk and told to “listen to calls”. No primer on any job duties, colleagues, expectations, tools, etc. To say that life there was disorganized would be an understatement. I taught classes in thatched roof huts at times. Some people thrive on this (I was one at the time) but I would never do that now. A lot of time during the day was having coffee (actually instant coffee/cocoa like concoction) and smoking and complaining about how run down, low rent, and unprofessional everything in the entire (global, billion dollar!) company was.

      Many a truth is told in jest.

  171. Jeff*

    Right after I had graduated with my masters, I was approached about a director level position at a church for a youth program. The senior pastor actually reached out to me before a job posting was even available. He said the position wasn’t available yet but he assumed it would be and wanted to talk about my interest. This was 2010, so I was desperate for a job and hadn’t gotten any hits, so I was excited. In our first conversation, he described the position but said that they hadn’t posted it yet because they needed to put out some fires first. That should have been a warning sign, but I needed a job, so I kept going. Any time I asked for updates, he kept referring to the fires that needed to be put out. Soon though, I was invited for an in-peron interview with the senior pastor and my eventual supervisor (an associate pastor). I asked about what the fires looked like, and the answer was that the parents of the kids were unhappy with the previous director, and as a result, she had resigned. It sounded messy even from their brief description. They also mentioned that I would be the third person to have this job in a span of two years. Again, red flag but I ignored it. I also had a group interview with parents and kids from the program, and while I don’t remember exactly what was asked, I remembered getting the vibe that they were all really burned out by whatever had happened and it was definitely shading their views of the position. But I desperately needed a job and when they offered me the position, I accepted it. I also thought I could be a hero and somehow make everything better. So naive.

    Turns out the “fire” was a small group of parents literally calling a mutiny and ousting the previous director. The senior pastor and associate pastor basically left the director out to dry, and she resigned because the parents basically made her life a living hell. Also, the director before her had been fired because one of the youth assistants was very likely having inappropriate relationships with the kids bordering on sexual assault. The senior pastor literally did nothing when it came up, the associate pastor at the time (who was the director of the program) was fired along with the youth assistant, but they never told the parents what actually happened. As a result the previous director and the assistant were telling parents that they had been unfairly removed, thus causing the mutiny against the woman who preceded me. My first job as the new director of this program was basically to make the lives of these mutinous parents so awful that they’d want to leave, along with trying to quintuple the size of the program within a few months. I wish I was joking. When one of the parents left the church about a month in, my associate pastor high-fived me, even though I wasn’t trying to get them to leave.

    Needless to say, I didn’t last long. Everything was crazy dysfunctional, the senior pastor was an absentee manager and the associate was an overbearing micromanager. They also wanted me to be a “yes man”, not a director of the program. I was meant to function more like an assistant than an actual director. So I was fired after four months. The silver lining is that I take those red flags seriously now. I’m in a much better position now in a different field and actually got an email today about getting an award for 5 years of service at my current organization. So I’m in a much better place now.

  172. MuseumMusings*

    For my admin assistant position, they said they wanted someone to smile at people and greet them when they came through the doors and emphasized that several times through the interview. I also didn’t ask how many admin assistants there were before me or how long they had lasted. Apparently the last admin didn’t smile or greet people at all – 10 months in and I’m still getting clients and coworkers exclaiming how much nicer I am. The longest admin assistant before me was 6 months and before that they just had an office manager/hr person who yelled at people (thankfully this person is now gone, but as I’m taking on their duties at 10 months, I’m beginning to understand why they yelled at staff).

    Another red flag was that they wanted a gregarious, people person, but also wanted the admin to sit at an isolated desk.

    They also called me on Friday and wanted me to start on Monday. I took the offer.

  173. Jules the First*

    1. No written job description and no one seems to have a clue what you’re supposed to be doing, apart from “fixing” the massive problem you were hired (but not empowered) to solve.

    2. A hiring manager who does nothing but complain about how overworked he/she is.

    3. Flexible working is “totally possible” in the interview, but no one wants to put it in writing at contract stage.

  174. Kiki*

    Couldn’t find a job description for the position before my interview. When I asked during the interview what the description for the position was, interviewer told me “I don’t know, probably just a little bit of everything!” I learned after I took the job that this meant my role would change about every two weeks and I would never actually know what was happening.

    I am somewhere else now!

  175. OldJules*

    I had a hiring manager that cold called me and literally said, “How much would it take to get you to work for me.” There was a reason they were willing to shower me with $$$. I knew her through a network group and thought she was a little on the abrasive side. I was wrong. It was a million time worse when you are on her team.

  176. ArtK*

    Software development position:
    They: “We’re pushing to get this product out so everyone is on 18 hour days 60-70 hour weeks.”
    Me: “I get crunch time. How long do you think this will continue?”
    They: “At least two more years.”
    Me: “?????”

    Interviewed with that company 3 times and walked away each time wondering why I bothered.

      1. ArtK*

        Got bought by IBM in 2004. There’s another company operating under the same name now, but it’s not clear if there’s any real connection.

        Apparently, the CEO had a habit of coming up with a new product/feature and then deciding how long it would take them to make it. Without asking anyone who actually had to do the work. For some reason, nobody had the guts to push back so the working hours were actually typical for the company and not just on that one project.

  177. Funbud*

    This is a great question! I have two instances that I can think of:
    1) Interviewed with a pharmaceutical company, mid-sized. Although they had a beautiful building in an upscale area, my first red flag was the unfriendly, unhappy receptionist. I was interviewing for an admin job in the small legal dept (3 lawyers, one part-time, and a couple of paralegals). All but the head lawyer were women (not that it matters); I am male. I met the head lawyer and he was okay. I’ve never worked in any legal capacity but they waved that off (red flag # 2). I then met three of the four women in a group. Fun, laughter, very friendly. They did mention that the 4th woman declined to participate, which I thought was odd (red flag # 3) but that I “would love her”. I took the job because I was desperate and needed benefits. Big mistake. The 4th woman HATED me from day one. I mean to the point of ignoring me pointedly at a group lunch (remember this was a group of six people), giving me wrong instructions on processing paperwork, etc. The head lawyer was spineless and offered me next to zero guidance. And they tried to turn me into a paralegal which a) I am not and b) have no interest in being and c) clearly told me I would not have any such responsibilities during the interviews. I lasted just over a year. The 4th woman finally accused me of stealing items off her desk (say what?) and I went to HR. I was then called into a meeting to discuss how my “skill set” was not a match. I offered to quit and they gave me a good reference in exchange. A recruiter I talked to years afterward said they were probably looking for a third paralegal but couldn’t find one or wouldn’t pay for one. The company was eventually bought out by another firm and then dissolved.

    2) Took a temp-to-perm admin job with a small company that sold veterinary supplies and also had contracts with the government to train and care for guard dogs and drug sniffing dogs. The owner was a veterinarian who had served in the first Gulf War. For a temp job, there was a complicated interviewing process (I think 3 interviews – for a temp job? Red flag!). I was desperate (red flag again!) and it was close to home. But I got it and they promised me a 90- day employment period and then I would become permanent. I interviewed and started work with the vet’s wife (the VP of the company) and the other on-site full time employee who did accounting, scheduling, etc. There were a couple part-time employees and eventually a second temp to do bookkeeping. The veterinarian himself was away for 2 weeks on business when I started. Those first two weeks were fine, then he came back. Difficult (had me searching for non-existent files that turned up in his garage at home, incomplete), cheap, asked me to do the impossible for next to nothing, asked me to move furniture up two stories with no help, come in on a Saturday (unpaid) to clean out the basement, etc. It was awful. All the time, he and his wife kept saying I would be permanent soon, but as my 90 day point approached, they hemmed and hawed about any commitment. I started interviewing immediately and left with no notice, the only time I’ve ever done that. Some time after, I mentioned my time there to another temp agency and they were very familiar with him. Apparently that was their M.O.: promise people permanent employment and then work them to death until they quit which still a temp. Rinse, repeat.

  178. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

    While I was interviewing for a supervisor position, I worked a few days with a team that had been without a direct supervisor for quite a while. One of them told me, “We don’t need a supervisor. We’ve been doing just fine this whole time without one.” …Nope, later taters! I appreciate her signaling to me that none of them would have listened to a word I said. I should also note that at this organization, supervisors didn’t have the power to discipline or fire people. I went to the manager and withdrew my candidacy that day.

  179. LeisureSuitLarry*

    I had two “interviews.” One was with the manager of what would become my team and the other with him and the director above him. Neither of them ever asked me any questions other than “does that sound like something you would like to do?” It did, sort of. All either of them did was sell me on the high growth of the job, the opportunity for advancement, and (govt job) how I would be serving my country. I should have known better. On the first day I knew I’d made a mistake, but I’d already left my old job and I needed some money to live. I spent a year there, always unhappy, always bored, and generally wondering what the hell I was supposed to do. They didn’t tell me that while they were gearing up for the future they didn’t have enough work to keep employees busy in the present. They didn’t tell me that I would have nothing to do but would get in trouble if I, in fact, did nothing. And when I did try to do work related things, they didn’t tell me I’d get in trouble for doing the wrong kinds of things. Completely useless job.

  180. HigherEdPerson*

    The DAY I accepted my position, and said “I’m excited to work with you!” the woman who hired me (who was going to be my supervisor) told me that she was leaving for a new job. I responded something like “Oh, well, then I look forward to working with Head Guy (her supervisor)”. There was a long pause on her end of the call, and she said something like “Yeah….you’ll be…fine. You’ll be fine.”

    It was HORRIBLE. I wasted almost a year there, never fit into the structure/culture, never had proper guidance and training, and it was just awful.

  181. mrs__peel*

    I had an interview once where my interviewer asked me almost no questions about my resume or experience, but expressed concerns that I would “get bored” on the job. (I was admittedly a bit over-educated for the position, but still thought that was very odd).

    Turns out she was right on the money about the boredom! However, I did get some very valuable experience and a leg-up into my current career, so I don’t regret taking the job.

  182. Nurse Ratched*

    Not me per se, but a few years ago I left a pretty bad job. Dangerous understaffing, unsafe practices, total lack of respect from administration, and a toxic environment from most coworkers. As soon as I fulfilled my obligation to the hospital for giving me ICU training I left for another hospital. When I was in general nursing orientation, I was chatting with another new nurse, having the usual discussion about what areas we were in, where were before and so on. I mentioned that I was in the ICU at [hosptal]. The other nurse laughed, said he interviewed there with my former nurse manager. He said she asked him two questions about his experience and asked if he could start immediately. He said “nope!” and ended the interview. He definitely spotted the red flag there!

  183. Fumika*

    I interviewed at a company a few years ago when I was in college, there were a ton of red flags but it wasn’t until the end of the interview I realized it wasn’t worth it.
    It was a somewhat notorious sales company that hired college students at wages well above minimum for no experience. This company may sound familiar to several people.

    They would post ads all over campus advertising flexible schedule, high pay, and business experience. I didn’t know the name of the company until I showed up for an interview (first red flag). It turned out to be a group interview in an old building, the office space itself was odd- it was small, and relatively empty except for a table full of trophies, also strange. The interview lasted 3 hours while they tried to sell us on the company. They never explained what the trophies were for either.

    The position turned out to be door to door sales and wasn’t paid hourly, you had to schedule appointments with people you knew or people who were recommended by others you met with. I didn’t take the job when they told me I had to have 3 days of training unpaid. Even after turning down the job, they still emailed me occasionally to schedule another interview too.

  184. AFPM*

    I really needed my current job, so I ignored this red flag. When my now co-workers (whom I adore) said “Boss likes his staff to be solution-focused,” they really meant:
    – Boss does makes bad decisions, and wants you to clean up the mess, or…
    – Boss wants you to think through the solution to a problem that he should really be thinking about, because he doesn’t want to deal with it, or…
    – Boss wants to be able to blame you when the solution you thought of doesn’t work, or…
    – Boss thinks he’s training you to think creatively, but it ends up making you feel stupid because you have no idea what the solution should be, because it’s really his job to deal with it, because he’s the subject-matter expert, or by virtue of being the person in charge.

    My coworkers later joked that I should have seen the red flag during one of our vent sessions about said boss. At least we can commiserate together!

  185. mf*

    Had a single interview with the hiring manager that lasted TWO HOURS. With ONE PERSON who wouldn’t stop talking. Turned out the hiring manager was (a) an incompetent interviewer, (b) was an emotional vampire who used her employees to fulfill her emotional needs, and (c) had no respect for anyone’s time (other than her own).

    1. The New Wanderer*

      I was transferring departments and my first meeting with my soon to be manager was exactly this – two hours of him monologuing at me, and maybe 5 minutes of me talking. Every performance review until he retired a few years later went exactly like that, except marginally shorter.

      I was glad when he was no longer managing my career, except that is when the massive first level manager turnover began (changes in personnel and team reassignments) and I had a new manager roughly every six months for the next three years.

  186. Brett*

    From the other side of the table, when I used to do interviews for the government agency I worked for, the coordinator (2 steps below the chief elected official) and I used to try to purposely throw out redflags for what we knew were the key problems with the job. We could make the decision on whether or no to make an offer, but someone else did the actual offer negotiations.

    The two key problems were:
    We never received raises, ever. Like most types of raises had been frozen since the mid-80s and all types of raises had been frozen indefinitely since 2007.
    We couldn’t fire anyone (partly because it was so hard to retain people without raises) so we had a lot of low performers who became very difficult to work with if you pushed them.

    For issue two, we always asked behavioral questions about times the candidate worked with low performers, difficult personalities, or people who were not holding up their share of the workload.

    For issue one, we would basically flat out tell strong candidates that they needed to get their best offer up front. If they asked, we would tell them that there had been no raises since 2007 and no COLAs since 1986 (it was public record anyway). I think we were pretty good at leading to the question, since most late stage candidates would ask.

    Despite this, some people missed the red flags and either bombed out fast with the difficult coworkers or left after a year when they released they had great performance reviews but no raise.

  187. Irene Adler*

    I interviewed with the boss first. He was great!

    Then I interviewed with the CEO. She asked me how soon I would be able to assume the boss’ job. That threw me. She went on to explain that he was 60 years old. He’d be retiring soon. I replied, “He never mentioned anything about retiring when I interviewed with him.”

    CEO responded, “He doesn’t know it yet.”

    She continued. “I’ll be asking him about his retirement plans right after we finish our interview.”

    No, I did not take the job. And I sure hope the boss knows the CEO is gunning for him.

  188. Not Australian*

    I’m being interviewed by the manager of a children’s home for an admin job when a member of staff opens the door and walks in unannounced, starts rummaging in the desk drawer and demanding “Where’s the [f***ing] Sellotape?” Manager takes no notice, so I try to ignore him and concentrate on answering the question I was asked – thinking that maybe not being put off is a useful quality to have in what appears to be a volatile environment.

    A week later, when I start work, the member of staff apologises to me for the interruption. “I’m sorry, I thought you were a parent.” (If I *had* been a parent it would have been even more appropriate, I think but don’t say.)

    A couple of weeks after *that*, I’m locked in the office working while one of our valued junior clients kicks the outside of the door and demands to have it f***ing opened. (I’m not to open it as I’m admin rather than care staff and not in a position to deal with whatever it is she needs.) Members of staff who are supposed to be controlling her are ‘having a meeting’ in another part of the building.

    ‘Dysfunctional’ just doesn’t begin to cover it. I lasted a year, and then left to look after my mother; I would rather count every penny for the rest of my life than try to function in such an environment any longer.

  189. Callalily*

    Ths boss (of a 2 person company) was 30 minutes late for my lunch hour interview, his assistant had to get started without him because they knew it was during my lunch hour. Then when he did show up he smelled like shit and kept staring at my covered chest…

    I thought it was a one-off and took the job – only to be tortured for 2 years of unreliability, severe Crohn’s flare ups where he KEPT THE SINGLE TOILET BATHROOM DOOR OPEN NEAR MY DESK and constant harrassment with no protection due to the small size of the company.

    Now I know that I’m worth more than taking any job I can get and that the interview is supposed to be their beat behaviour…

  190. Nathaniel*

    Here are two:

    “What is your wife like? We like to meet the wives as a measure of the man.”

    “Here is a question I don’t think is fair but it is real… What would your approach to the work look like if we stopped communicating and gave you no support whatsoever.”

    1. Amber Rose*

      Well I didn’t think you could top the first one, and then you did immediately. Wow. Just… wow. WTF.

  191. AKchic*

    In Alaska, we have an overabundance of mom and pop shops. This can be good. Or, this can be the worst thing in the world because many of the mom and pop shops are not only family owned, but family operated and the family dynamics (and family drama) spills out into the business.

    When I was young (read: 21-23), I hit a run of mom and pop entities. I was desperate with three kids and not wanting to be on welfare.

    First Job: Antique Shop with HolyRollers: Interview done by the wife. The questions were ridiculous. I was being interviewed for an administrative position. I was actually asked my church affiliation to “ascertain your moral and ethical values”. I’m pagan. I flat out said that asking me any religiously-based question was actually illegal. She looked startled, as if I shouldn’t know that (I had an issue at a hospital regarding my religious views and had union intervention, so I know my religious rights), then gave a saccharine smile and said I passed that test. Yeah. Whatever.
    I was offered the job. I took it only because I was desperate and didn’t want to borrow money from my grandpa to pay rent. The family was a mess. They lived above the antique shop. I was never allowed to touch the computer I was supposed to work on. Instead some 17 year old guy from their church on summer break did the office work instead while I dusted furniture. Why? They found out I was divorced. The church they go to is notorious for it’s “conservative” views (read: borderline hate group and dodgy tax-evasion schemes). The stories I could tell about what they did to their own son…
    I was “let go” 6 weeks in for “Moral indecency” (they told the unemployment office that I was repeatedly late).

    Second Job: A construction company where two best friends and their families co-owned the place. Staunch conservative republicans (normally, not a big deal, except they constantly preached at work). It was an election year. All staff was told that if they didn’t vote for W, we were not to come back to work. No arguments. If we were even thinking of bringing up “you can’t tell us how to vote”, there was no room for us at that company. Family drama abounded. I lasted 6 months.

    Those are the stand-outs right now. I could talk about the hospital job, but the job itself wasn’t bad, it was more religious intolerance than actual “bad job”.

  192. LibrarianJ*

    POSITION #1: Red flags which I ignored because I was young, fresh out of college and desperate:
    (1) Manager called from the office to offer me the position at 8pm on a Friday night and joked about how sometimes we’re really busy. Translation: Deadlines sometimes requiring work until 7 or 8pm with no advance notice and no OT pay (even though my eventual position was non-exempt). I was made to fudge my timesheets instead.
    (2) Said he couldn’t offer me the full-time position I had applied for (Teapot Consultant) because I wasn’t qualified enough; however, he was willing to “take a chance” on me and hire me as a PT “Assistant Teapot Consultant,” with the possibility of a promotion later. Translation: Promotion never materialized and within 2 months the job was PT on paper but not in practice, with identical responsibilities to a full Teapot Consultant.
    (3) Person I replaced (a full-time Teapot Consultant) was “on sabbatical” even as far as clients were concerned, with lots of talk about her wanting to spend more time with family and/or taking the job really personally. Translation: The work was so toxic that she had basically chosen to edge her way out without explicitly saying she wasn’t returning.
    (4) Lots of talk a lot about how we “all pitch in” and were a “team.” Translation: unpaid lunches where turning off the phones or leaving the office even to pick up food were highly discouraged, with the excuse that “we all take breaks throughout the day.”
    The manager and coworkers seemed nice, but the work-life balance was non-existent, the workplace situation illegal in 10 different ways for my non-exempt position, the work itself soul sucking. I lasted 4 months before I had to quit to protect my mental health, at which point it became apparent that the manager was in fact not so nice when he ranted about me to my coworkers, bullied me throughout my 2-week notice, made me come back to the office to pick up my unemployment paperwork (that I wasn’t eligible for) so he could berate me about my poor decisions, tried to withold my W2, sent numerous inappropriate e-mails, stalked me on LinkedIn for years….

    POSITION #2: Red flags which I, thankfully, did not ignore.
    (1) This is a teaching job. They were still trying to fill the position in November, meaning students had had substitutes for 2+ months. The situation in the classroom was chaos and there were 4 additional staff members trying to keep the room under control so that the sub could teach.
    (2) Substitute was not told that I was interviewing to replace them and I was expected to lie about my visit.
    (3) 7th grade student: “Are you going to be our new teacher?” Me: “Well, I hope so.” Student: “Run while you still can.”
    (3) I was (begrudgingly) granted 24 hours to consider the position (this after my initial interview was extended to 2x the intended length, without warning). I called the next day, within 24h of the interview end but not the start (it had been a 4hour+ interview, and I had trouble getting away to call from my then-job). I was scolded for not following up quickly enough.
    (4) I would not be told salary or benefits until after I accepted the position; however, since I wasn’t certified, I would have to commit to completing a $2,000, all weekend-every-weekend certification course over the next 6 months at my own expense.
    (5) Hiring manager would not say what his decision was until I had given him my opinion, that it was a poor fit (after which he said that I was clearly not experienced enough for this position).

  193. Winifred*

    I interviewed extensively for store trainer position at an upscale grocery chain that was “committed to training” staff. They kept asking me how I would train people when their manager did not schedule them to be off the floor for training. Uh???? Didn’t accept this job.

    I interviewed at a major Greater Boston university in the PR office … the Senior VP rambled on and on and on about how fantastic all things were at the university … I had a smile plastered on my face for an hour. Once in the job I quickly realized that “doing nothing to upset the apple cart” was all that was expected. I think I started job hunting immediately.

  194. As*

    My predecessor left the role after like 7 months. I asked about it in the interview and was told she’d gotten an offer she couldn’t turn down. Turns out the boss was an awful micromanager and also very unavailable (not a great combination). I lasted 6 months before the boss decided she didn’t want a junior staffer after all and laid me off.

    1. As*

      Oh and this was the same job where in my final interviewed I was asked, no joke, “do aliens exist?” In role that in no way related to aliens/space etc.

  195. Database Geek*

    I had an interview earlier this year that had a few red flags:

    1) 1st interviewer was 30 minutes late / 2nd interviewer needed to leave part way through the interview to pick up her kids….

    2) the interviewer that stayed spent most of the interview holding pages of my resume up to his nose so he could read it while asking questions about every little detail on my resume. I’m not sure if the questions were actually a red flag themselves – he just seemed to really need more details about each job/the timing of them and everything. It’s the way he held the papers up to read the resume without bothering to look at me at all.

    3) he answered his phone in the middle of the interview and proceeded to have a long conversation with someone over policies or something they were working on…

    4) and finally at one point started tapping his feet really loudly on the floor ….

    I didn’t walk out even though I wanted to but I did go home and wrote an email requesting to be removed from consideration….

  196. Ginger*

    During the interview process for my last job, there weren’t any specific red flags, but my gut kept telling me not to take the job. There were some things that just felt…off, but I really needed a job and the position on paper seemed like a good fit, so I was able to justify away my concerns. The interviewers felt a little awkward (but all interviews are kind of awkward, right?), the CEO grilled me to the point of almost being hostile in the final interview (but maybe he was just passionate about the cause?), and almost the entire team was new within the last year (but the org had grown substantially in the last two years, so that’s okay, right?).
    I should have trusted my gut, even with needing a job so badly. It turned out to be highly dysfunctional, and I left after 9 months, despite my personal commitment to stay at any job for at least a year. (I ended up putting in my notice on the same day as two other colleagues, and we hadn’t coordinated some sort of mass exit. Not a good sign.)

  197. Beatrice3*

    During my year abroad in college, I interviewed for a part time job at a cafe/bakery type place. The owner told me she a) required all employees to put down the equivalent of a $50 security deposit which would be refunded after three months, b) required her employees to supply a doctor’s note when they were sick c) required employees to work two trial shifts. The security deposit was the thing that really weirded me out…the other two seemed obnoxious but not necessarily dealbreakers for a part time position. I luckily was able to find another job, but I had a friend who worked at that place a little later and really hated it.

    1. Beatrice3*

      According to my friend, the red flags ended up signaling a culture of rigidity, lack of trust, and making employees jump through weird hoops that didn’t necessarily add anything to the business.

  198. Anon!*

    My direct supervisor asked me about how I organized projects in my interview and seemed WAY too excited about what I thought was a pretty basic digital system using both calendar and project management software.

    Turned out she isn’t tech savvy so my digital system was apparently a novelty. Initially, she was excited about going digital but pretty quickly regressed back to her paper planner. Which I really wouldn’t mind, except she NEVER refers back to it. That planner is a black hole! She recently praised me for “physically writing down notes” in our meetings– the only reason I do it is that I’m noting what’s going in her planner so that I can input it in the digital system later so it doesn’t get forgotten!

  199. MilkMoon (UK)*

    Same job:

    When the M.D. asked me if I was okay dealing with difficult people, I didn’t realise he meant HIMSELF.

    I was told it was a new position, but I soon learned after starting (and NOT from management) that there was another young woman in the position earlier in the year who left before the end of probation – I too walked after five months (I knew I had to get out of there by the second day…).

  200. MicroManagered*

    I had an employer that, during the interview, told me they like to “do fun things” at Year-End like bring in lunch or bring around a snack-cart to each cubicle, give away prizes, etc. to keep morale up. It sounded fun! A party at work!

    What they actually meant was: We bring in lunch so that you can work unpaid overtime, which you won’t mind doing because your workload is so unreasonably high that you’ll be debating whether you have time in the day to use the restroom. We bring around a cart with decadent treats like Snickers pie or the extra large Reese’s cups, because most of our employees have stress-eaten their way into unwanted weight gain and you probably will too. We give away prizes because our employees are way underpaid.

  201. Former librarian*

    Initial red flag: Being super cagey about whether I was going to be salaried or hourly.

    Turns out they wanted me to be whatever was more convenient for them. I was “salaried” when I put in 40+ hour weeks, because they didn’t want to pay me overtime. But I was “hourly” when it was a federal holiday (July 4) and the office was closed, because they didn’t want to pay me for hours I hadn’t actually worked.

    Final red flag: When a signed and submitted timesheet was altered after I had turned it in without my knowledge. I had marked July 4 as a paid holiday (federal holiday + the office was closed and the building locked). They decided to “helpfully” change that to show that I took 8 vacation/personal hours that day. (I was saving my vacation for a trip that I had booked before I took the job, which they knew about because I was upfront about it during the interview.)

    I started job hunting the day I saw my altered timesheet, and was out of there in less than 6 months.

  202. Comms Girl*

    I’ve been a lurker for a few months (yeah, the ghosting ex brought me here but I’ve fell in love with the blog and have read all the archives by now), but I’m a first-time poster :)

    Anyway, I didn’t get this particular job, but given the reasons below I’d say I dodged a gigantic bullet. I was always on 6-month contracts on my previous job so, naturally, I was applying for permanent positions. This organisation called me for an interview in early January that year, I went there and things went considerably well. They told me that was only the first round and they would notify candidates on whether they had made it or not to the second round in late January.

    I waited and waited and waited. By the 5th of February I sent a polite email asking whether they had any news regarding the second round. The office manager replied to me with profuse apologies stating they had a lot of last-minute business travels (interviews were conducted by the CEO and the Comms Manager) and that they didn’t had time to process interview results/inform the candidates yet, and that by mid-February they’d let us know. 28th of February went by and no answer. I decided not to write another email or hope to hear anything back from that organisation. I found out that the position had been filled 5 months after the first round – and only because they’ve put the new member of staff’s picture on the website (I’m European and companies have a “meet the team” page more often than not over here). No email to rejected first round candidates, nothing whatsoever. Lesson learned: if they can’t even bother to inform candidates they’ve invited for an interview, who took the time to get there and talk to them and all that jazz, then they’re probably someone for whom I won’t want to work.

    And I did end up with a much better job that I absolutely love :)

  203. Angelinha*

    One of my interviewers fell asleep! Then he woke up and asked me the same exact question the other interviewer had asked, immediately after her.

    He wasn’t going to be my direct boss and he worked at another site so I figured, well, at least I won’t have to work very much with that guy. Joke was on me a year in when my boss left and he was promoted into her role. I left a year later, mostly because of him.

    BUT, it was one of my first jobs after college after moving to a new city. It was in many ways awful, but years later, I’m in the same field and owe much of what I know to that first role.

  204. It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's ... Billable Hour Man!*

    I once had an interviewer for a newspaper gig answer a question about what kind of employee attributes he’d seen lead to struggle vs. success in the role he was hiring for with a tangent about how he wanted the kind of person who would contest a bill at a restaurant if it was off. I didn’t read too much into it; figured it was a reporter job and accuracy matters.

    But long after that job failed to work out I’ve still pondered the underlying value proposition behind the story. I think there’s something to the idea that normal, decent people to work for aren’t going to blow up over $0.50, and there’s a point where fastidiousness is just miserly and oppressive because someone doesn’t have the flexibility to pick their battles.

    1. Amy*

      Yeah, I get questioning for tenacity, but that’s a bad analogy. Agreed, there are very few people that would argue over $.50 or even a $1. Doesn’t mean I’m not tenacious.

  205. Valkyrie*

    I interviewed with a company whose founder wrote a book often referenced here (and at captain awkward)–they drug AND nicotine tested, they couldn’t tell me what the job actually was other than it was in HR and they liked my “soft skills”, they interviewed me in a polygraph room (not hooked up) with a chair that didn’t move. They offered me the position but before I came in to do the final stuff they asked me to fill out some more items. They asked about the worst boss I ever had, like name and contact info, then they scheduled me to come in for that polygraph. When I asked about anything I wasn’t reassured AT ALL.

    At the time I was really unhappy in my current job (which has since turned around and I love it here) but even then all of my alarm bells were going off and so I declined the offer.

  206. Pennalynn Lott*

    Red flag: When the temp agency recruiter (who was filling a permanent position) said to me, “You seem like an assertive woman who will stand up for herself; I think you’ll be a good fit for this role.”

    The job was the executive assistant to a sexist, cocaine-snorting, philandering, paranoid, drunken, hide-strip-club-visits-and-“personal-services”-in-his-expense-report, sexually harassing, president of a software company.

    I lasted six whole months before walking out.

  207. Anonforthis*

    For my current job, I was given plenty of fair warning that key coworker was “brilliant but difficult”. What I failed to realize at the time was that dysfunctional behavior rarely exists in a vacuum and the rest of the office is a hot mess too. The difficult coworker is gone, but her job remains unfilled, a lot of the support staff views everyone else as the problem and doesn’t take responsibility for their own mistakes, and the office manager cares more about being seen as the good guy than about actually managing. No wonder she was difficult!

  208. I'll say it*

    I doubt anyone’s going to read this far down, but I was in an interview where the person who was interviewing me – who would be my direct manager – wrote down everything I said. Like, in full sentences. She filled up pages of a legal pad. I had to wait after every answer I gave for her to finish writing. She turned out to be a nice lady, but had no idea about the role I had and how to manage it.

    There are other, worse red flags, for sure…but this one was just so odd.

    1. SarahKay*

      Nope, still reading, albeit with ever-increasing fascination, horror, and a healthy dose of Wow, I have been seriously lucky so far!

    2. Kristie*

      Yes, I had a boss who wrote down everything I said, for every conversation we ever had. She would then throw it back in my face. Even informal conversations we had, with me asking questions so I could improve/grow,
      Would come up in my end of the year evaluation. She was a terrible boss for other reasons, too.

  209. SirenSong*

    I came in for an interview for a position that turned out to not be a good fit, and I declined the original offer because of it. However, the manager had fallen in love with me and wanted me to work there, so she offered me a newly created position that was more in line with what I wanted to do. However, instead of bringing me in for another interview so that we could discuss the details of this new position, she just offered it to me over the phone giving me the title and about a 3 sentence description of what my job would be, as well as significantly increased benefits. She said that she was skipping the interview because she wanted to hire me before the next annual event at the end of the week so that I could work it. However, I found out later that the event is normally staffed by volunteers, and certainly could have been that year, meaning there was really no reason to not have an interview. Additionally, she didn’t bother to get a formal letter of hire over to me until I’d been working there for a couple of weeks. It was just before it became clear to me that she had a very different idea of what my job should be than I had been given on the phone, and knew that it wasn’t a good fit.

    1. Just Jess*

      Something similar happened to me. I’d like to hear about people who managed to have positive experiences when hired into random positions with no ability to see or affect their job descriptions.

  210. mrs__peel*

    My best friend applied for a job once as an assistant to a local artist. At the interview, the artist lady told my friend to close her eyes and “make a wish” and then SPRINKLED GLITTER ALL OVER HER. (Which never came out of her favorite sweater). I haven’t heard anything to quite top that yet…

    (The sad part was, my friend was so desperate for money that she actually *did* work for her for a while. She sold terrible paintings of unicorns and things at psychic fairs, and paid my friend cash illegally under the table).

  211. Geillis D*

    1) Accounting firm that looked like it could be be the set of Mad Men – Bean-Counter Edition. Paper files only. No internet access to CRA (that’s IRS in Canadian). No personal e-mail accounts. A bizarre, complex process of client communication that included the admin typing out the message and a partner signing off on it (no kidding). A very definite “NO!!” in reply to my tentative “would you consider going paperless in the future?”, which is the equivalent of asking a dentist “would you consider using anesthesia?”. Surprisingly, I received an offer, which I politely declined.

    2) Another accounting firm, the boss showed me a picture of his wife’s ultrasound picture. I did end up taking that job (long story), boss turned out to be not the easiest to work with, prone to emotional ups and downs, and to telling the staff way more drunken debauchery stories than we cared to hear. I no longer work there.

    1. Viva*

      Whoa…I’m curious how long ago #1 was? I was under the impression from my accountant that certain things can now ONLY be done online with CRA.

  212. C.*

    When I had an on-campus interview for a summer law clerk job, all of the interviewees were 1st year associates. Every other firm I had interviewed with had either sent a partner or a senior associate, but at the time I didn’t think it was weird (a full day of 15-minute interviews with thirsty law students is not a preferable way to spend your day). But when I got there to work the next summer, I realized that 1) the older partners were very old-boys-club, sexist, and racist and 2) the associates had little guidance from the partners and sometimes seemed like they were flying blind. This is one of those red flags you can’t really realize until you’ve lived it, but how they interviewed and who they sent to interview definitely matched how the work environment was.

  213. Kelly*

    I had just gotten my BS and was finally eligible to get a slight promotion into a new, exciting department. A close friend had worked in the dept and left, because the people were backstabbers, the VP was a loon, and she couldn’t take any more.

    I have been here 2 years now, and every behavior she complained about has happened to me. More than once. SIGH.

  214. LiterallyPapyrus*

    After my initial interview with HR (which went wonderfully!) I was called back in for a 2nd interview with the person who would be my manager. That “interview” lasted nearly 4 hours, and in that time I was able to get out about 4 sentences. The rest of the time was a crazy, swirling mass of non sequiturs and ramblings of his ideas for the entire company.

    I still work here. These types of interviews still happen regularly.

  215. Keli*

    The building was in one of the worst parts of town, surrounded by a 10-ft fence that only enclosed the building, not the employee parking lot. Inside the building there were leak-stained walls, bare-bulb fluorescent lights, a wavy floor, and the reek of mildew.

    In the interview, it was clear they weren’t willing to invest in even the basics of human decency for their employees. The owner of business was also the owner of the building (surprise!). Of course he didn’t work on site,they said he just popped in once a week, presumably to make sure the roof hadn’t caved in yet.

    Still, I was desperate for a job. They asked me to take an hour-long typing test (even though it wasn’t a typing job), and I told them I would need to arrange child care, and I could come back in the afternoon. So I went home made the arrangements and then called to find out what a good time to come back would be. The interviewer I spoke with confided to me, “We don’t actually need a typing test, it’s just something we do here to see if people are willing to go the extra mile.” But he still wanted me to come in…do they not realize we pay for child care?

    I set an appointment for the test, but never showed up for it.

    1. Just Jess*

      Oh, they were actively screening for desperate people with their fake typing test. It seems like that happens subconsciously with organization policies and practices, but this org. knew exactly what they were doing.

      They must have had too many employees complain about the work facilities/unwilling to take on facilities duties in order to keep the building functioning.

  216. Edina Monsoon*

    I went for an interview for a sales position, at the interview I was told that they had one full time opening and one employee on long term sick so they were going to hire two people and whoever they liked best (note: not who performed best!) would get the permenant role and the other would be let go when the sick employee returned. I said ‘you can’t expect me to leave my permanent job to complete with someone, who I know nothing about, for a job and possibly end up jobless in a few weeks’ the hiring manager looked at me with her head cocked to one side and said ‘I suppose not, well thanks for coming’

    I think that should have been clearer before I took a day off work to interview!!

    Another one I had was an interview in the office I’d be working at, about 15 minutes from my house. They liked me and asked me to go to their head office in London to interview there and IF they offered me the job they’d pay my travel expenses (so at least 1 day off work, a 6 hour round trip drive to London, plus getting to their office in London – midweek so I’d be really tired the next day) and they would only give me one date, I told them I had a very important client meeting that day and my boss would never let me take that day off and they said tough, that’s the only day we can do so I politely declined!!

  217. Seal*

    When I was an undergraduate, the small academic branch library I was working in was slated to be merged with several other branches to create a larger library. At the time I was too inexperienced to realize how politically fraught the entire situation was. Years later I found out that very little planning went into the actual merger and that several FT staff members who were considered to be problem employees were transferred to other libraries in the system. Needless to say, all of the FT staff was very tense and there were a lot of rumors flying.

    It was determined that all student employees would be tra