how to recognize a bad workplace … before you take the job

If you’ve ever worked for a bad manager or in a company that made you miserable, you’ve probably wondered how to ensure you avoid that in your next job. It can feel impossible to tell from the outside whether a job will become a nightmare once you’re in it, but if you pay attention, there are red flags during the interview process that can warn you about danger.

Here are some signs that can indicate you’re about to walk into a dysfunctional job or onto a team led by a bad boss.

The hiring process is chaotic. If interviews are rescheduled multiple times, no one knows who you’re supposed to meet with, everyone you talk to has a different description of what the job entails and you’re generally subjected to disorganization and chaos, assume that you’re learning something valuable about what it might be like to work there. This isn’t always the case – certainly everyone has bad days, and the team you’d be working with might not be the same people coordinating the hiring process – but it’s certainly a flag to take a closer look.

The interview is really short. Hiring is serious work, and good companies invest real time in ensuring they’re hiring the right person. If you get a job offer after a single short interview – for example, 30 minutes of conversation – that’s a real danger sign that the company doesn’t know how to build a strong staff. That means you might end up in a role you’re not well matched for, and you’re likely to be working with other people who aren’t great at their jobs.

The manager tells you “we’re like a family here.” While this might sound nice on the surface, it’s often a flag for a dysfunctional work environment. Workplaces can certainly be places where people have warm, supportive relationships and genuinely care about each other, but they’re not families. Employers who frame themselves as “families” often (not always, but often) violate boundaries and expect inappropriate amounts of commitment from employees, even when it’s not in an employee’s self-interest.

The hiring manager seems very impressed with herself. Every interviewer I’ve ever seen brag about being a good manager has in fact not been a good manager. Good managers tend to be hyper-aware of their weaknesses and can tell you a dozen ways they’d like to do better. Beware of managers who speak glowingly about their own management skills without acknowledging any ways they could improve.

No one seems to stay there very long. Sometimes an organization might have a run of bad luck, with several people in a position not working out in quick succession or multiple people on a team leaving around the same time. But if you look around and see that few people have been on staff for longer than a year or two (and the organization is more than a few years old), there’s a reason people are fleeing.

People look miserable or sound cynical when you talk to them. If everyone you pass on your way to your interviewer’s office is silent and miserable-looking, don’t write that off. And if the people you speak with seem cynical about the company or their work, take that as a big red flag. A bit of cynicism isn’t itself a terrible thing, but if people are showing it to job candidates, you’re probably only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

The hiring manager can’t tell you how the success of the person in the job will be measured. Before you accept a job, you need to know what doing it successfully will look like, so that you can decide if you’re willing and able to meet those expectations. You also need to be aware of how you and your manager will each know whether you are or aren’t succeeding in the role. A manager who can’t articulate what good performance in the role looks like is one whose expectations of you may be all over the map and ultimately may be impossible to meet.

The hiring manager isn’t interested in having a real dialogue with you or answering your questions so that you can figure out if the job is right for you. Bad hiring managers tend to assume all candidates should want the job, and don’t recognize that good hiring is a two-way street and that they need to try to win over good candidates.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 244 comments… read them below }

  1. BRR*

    “The manager tells you ‘we’re like a family here.'” The HR person who interviewed me said this about my current awful workplace. She even said “we’re like a family, a big dysfunctional family.” I laughed at the time because I thought it was a joke but turns out she was serious (she probably doesn’t realize how serious she was being). Of course she wields a disproportionally high amount of influence and feeds into the toxic atmosphere.

    1. K.*

      I actually opted out of a hiring process when the hiring manager said this. She also made reference to a staffer who was “like the office mom that gets in all your business.” When HR asked me why I was opting out, I mentioned those two references specifically. I said I preferred to keep personal and professional separate, and that it sounded like the culture there wasn’t conducive to that.

    2. run awayyyy*

      My manager (at the end of the 2 part 4 hour interview that they make every single candidate endure) always makes a point of loudly talking at length about how “we’re a big family, we might yell and scream at each other but at the end of the day we love each other”.

      In shocking related news, she has no sense of boundaries and regularly complains about how awful it is that people “just want to work their 40 hours and go home” while she *sacrifices* by working 60-80 hours a week, every week, year round.

    3. Xarcady*

      This. The one place I have worked where the owner described the company as a big family–that was the most toxic place I have ever been employed.

      It was fine the first few years, because I was a lower level employee and only so much was expected of me. But as I moved up, the demands became, in hindsight, unreasonable. But the buildup was gradual, so it was hard to spot.

      It took me at least three years to detox from that place. Since leaving there, I have read about small businesses where the owner, who is very, very invested in the business, can’t seem to realize that for most of the employees, it is just a job. The drive to work until 1 am every night just isn’t there for most of the employees. They are perfectly willing to do a good, even a great, job, but not to give up their entire lives for the company. The company was about 25 people when I started and about 60 when I left. All the good people leave after about 5 years, because they can’t take it anymore.

    4. Another person*

      I heard “we’re like a family” in one interview and it made me a little reluctant to continue but I did. The next day they offered me the job with a non-negotiable salary of about 70% of the average starting salary for that position in my local market. I guess “family” was supposed to make up for the low pay?

    5. NW Mossy*

      It also tends to crop up more often in organizations that are small, which can leave you with little to no place to turn if boundaries are crossed. I’d be especially wary if it’s an owner of the business (either as a solo or in partnership with others) saying it, because if you don’t want to be family with that person, you’re kind of up a creek without a paddle.

      1. Wintermute*

        I think you really hit on something when you said a small business lacks checks and balances. There is no HR department, or legal department, or other managers that can enforce healthy boundaries.

        A compounding issue is that lacking HR or a legal department many owners go based on their own know-best conceptions of what policies should be and often have a crippling lack of empathy when it comes to understanding things like how a policy will impact their employees, they think of the BUSINESS impact because they ARE the business. This collides in a particularly unfortunate way with a lack of a legal department to say “uh, no, payroll law says you can’t do that” or an HR department to go “not only is that shockingly insensitive but it’s probably also illegal”

    6. Spreadsheets and Books*

      Yes. This.

      Worked for a boutique RIA/tax accounting firm in grad school that thought very highly of itself. Instead of consolidating in one location, the owner kept opening new satellite offices to avoid federal policies on employees in one location, like FMLA. I thought the “family-like” atmosphere and the extremely low turnover described to me was a positive.

      Nope. Not positive. The culture was so toxic. It was like a cult: people never left because they were so sucked in. Despite being a complete unknown in the industry, they had a superiority complex like you wouldn’t believe and employees were expected to basically live and die by the company. Despite pretending to be accommodating about my education, they were completely intolerant and would scream at me for leaving before 6 to go to class (even though I’d come in 2 hours early to try to make up for it). Yep, one big, wonderful, loyal and extremely abusive family.

      I will never work in a small company again. Completely learned my lesson.

    7. Jesmlet*

      The place I’m at right now is always described like it’s a family… If my boss is one of 4 siblings, he’s the only normal one, and the other 3 offices are some level of insane. I can barely deal with a couple minutes of the dysfunctional family energy so if I didn’t work for the sane sibling, I would not still be here. Never, ever view this as a good thing, there’s just too much of a chance that you’ll end up somewhere awful.

    8. Tk*

      My last job used to say “we’re like a big dysfunctional family here” and it was true to the bone. Case in point: the owner would get into yelling matches with an employee that including some cursing (about once a week) and one time you could hear them at the front of the shop where I was with a customer. It was a little too familiar, as someone who grew up around a lot of yelling. That’s not what I want in a job.

  2. Beancounter in Texas*

    I pay attention to job ad language. If the ad has an authoritarian, demanding feel to the ad, I don’t bother.

    1. AnonAndOn*

      I do too. In my case when the job sounds like they’re trying too hard to sound funny, hip, and cool is when I’ll pass on that job.

      1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

        I took a hard pass on applying with a company whose posting mentioned nerf gun wars, chair massages and something called “Mocha Mondays.”

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I LOVE massages, but I feel slightly weird getting a chair massage in plain sight of passersby at the airport. (I have muscular problems that make the steep price worthwhile.) It would be that much weirder in the office, where I’m supposed to look like I’m thinking hard about the best way to illustrate the new llama spout attachment rather than melting into a puddle.

        2. Say what, now?*

          So. Much. NO. Nerf wars while I’m trying to calculate my labor costs? Not on your life. Even nerf wars over lunch aren’t so much appealing. Sounds like a great excuse to passive-aggressively get back at someone who didn’t respond to your email within a 15 minute window by “mistakenly” hitting them in the face. At least that’s how I see it going anyway.

        3. Rebecca*

          They’d have me at nerf gun wars. There’s all kinds of green flags here. What type of job/company was it? My gut is saying IT.

      2. Tau*

        I’m in tech, so I’ve definitely finetuned my Nerf Gun Sensor, shall we say. It’s helpful that a lot of companies view this stuff as positive so make a big deal out of it.

        1. Snark*

          It might be positive, in isolation. But I find that it usually carries the subtext of “….and you’ll be working 70 hour weeks with the socially maladroit, so capping your boss in the face with a Nerf dart will hopefully keep the tension at a manageable level!”

          1. Tau*

            Exactly. I don’t mind a more informal culture, nor some level of social awkwardness, but my free time is very important to me and I am not willing to pull the “spend all your life at the office” nonsense that these places often expect. Also, it makes me worry about lack of diversity in their workforce – these places also often ends up pushing a very particular image of what a programmer should be like and what they should be interested in which I don’t fit in several ways, and I’d rather not deal with that particular headache any more than I have to.

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              I saw a place that had So. Much. Food available (free! A kitchen full of goodies, plus frequently stacks of pizzas provided at lunch!), plus video game machines, free yoga classes, etc., that I was lamenting why the hell I work for a not-for-profit. Then I realized, of course, that when they limit the reasons why you might need to leave… that means they expect you to not leave. Frequently.

              1. Say what, now?*

                Or there’s a trade-off mentality. You’ll get 0.5% raises each year but look what we give you! These pizzas sitting here all day are more than enough to cover that gap, right?

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Oh, I always take it to mean “We have a super bro-y culture, and you need to learn to blend in.”

    2. WellRed*

      Yes, I recently saw a posting for a place that listed yoga and snacks as benefits (no mention of vaca, etc), but also that it’s a “must be in the office 8 to 5:30”

    3. k.k*

      I always keep an eye out for this. Especially for lower level job, if there is a huge list of job duties and lots of phrases like “willing to go above and beyond”, it’s a big signal to me that they’re wanting someone to do a ton of work for not a lot of pay.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          Ugh, I hate the word “rockstar” in a job description.

          I am not Sammy Haggar. I will never be able to replace your departing David Lee Roth. And I really, really don’t want to work with Eddie Van Halen. (And if you put the word “rockstar” in your job description, then you are Eddie in this scenario.)

        2. SDSmith82*

          I hate “rockstar” when it comes to applications. In my industry, hiring managers at those small (aka family run hell holes) use it all the time. The worst I saw from a certain re-offender was along the lines of “Looking for a new Rockstar for Teapot Insurance Sales: You make what you want, up to $200,000/year!”

          What they really meant: Come bust your butt for us working 12 hours a day and every Saturday, and we will pay you minimum wage and 20% of the house commission. The owners/hiring managers weren’t even making $200K a year themselves and that kind of salary just sets everyone up for failure in the small market they were in. Not to mention it was sort of an unwritten rule everyone had to go to the same cultish church the owners went to… That place has potential hiring practices lawsuit written all over it…
          And that’s why I never took them up on the offers to apply…

        3. Anon anon anon*

          Me too. I’m really put off by meaningless buzzwords. Rock star, dynamic personality, go getter (ok, that kind of means something, but it’s annoying), ninja (ugh), etc.

          On the flip side, there are really dry job ads that seem to under-value the position. The ones that list too many things for one person to be responsible for and the qualifications don’t really match the description and neither does the pay. I see a lot of ads like this from larger companies. I don’t bother applying.

          1. Julia the Survivor*

            I once saw an ad for an admin that was for a customer of my former employer, they were opening their first area office. I could have mentioned my former employer and probably gotten an interview. Maybe even the job.
            But the ad was so unrealistic in it’s expectations, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It basically said “need an admin who is always perfect in appearance and behavior and has all the skills in the world so she can do anything we require at any time.” Those kinds of ads aren’t unusual…
            Shortly after that I realized I should look for a job that plays to my strengths instead of trying to be everything, and I got a good job. :)

    4. Mimmy*

      Ad language is important to me too. All I need is a clear and concise description of the employer and the job. Plain language helps too. Any ad that has a long, detailed rundown of the position in over-the-top language, e.g. including phrases like “human capital” or “deliverables” gets a big NOPE.

      1. Specialk9*

        Huh, “deliverables” is a very matter-of-fact term in my industry. It covers all things one delivers to the client, whether plans, PowerPoint, online training, blueprints, etc. Not sure why that gets your hackles up.

        1. Archaeologist*

          In the world of contracting, mentioning deliverables in a job ad is code for “we took on way too many projects and you’re going to get overworked”.

        2. Mimmy*

          It’s just one of those overly-fancy words to me. But if it’s normal in a particular industry, I get that.

    5. Librarygeek*

      “Pizazz” multiple times in the job posting. I interviewed for it anyway (and tried to nail down what they meant by it, but I don’t think the interviewers had written the ad), but didn’t apparently demonstrate enough pizazz to get a call-back.

  3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Re: not being able to tell you what good performance looks like — I had this problem with a previous manager. In my performance review, he’d marked me as a 2 out of 5 on one of our company-wide corporate-blather goals, and when I asked him how I could improve in that area, he cheerfully and apparently without a hint of irony told me that he didn’t know because no one really understood how that goal applied to what our team did. However, he felt in good conscience he couldn’t mark me as meeting a goal he didn’t understand, so instead my whole review got dragged down.

    I was not sorry to see the back of him.

    1. CatCat*

      Ohhhhh, raaage!

      I had a performance review where one of the metrics was incredibly basic administrative stuff (like submit time sheet on time, which I always did). I got rated the average on that. I asked what, specifically, I could do to improve in that area and what an “exceeds expectations” or “above average” would look like. I was told there was nothing that could be done to improve in that area. I asked why I am not getting a higher rating in that area then and was told that no one gets a top rating in that. Mind, the number of “above averages” you got was tied to your raise. Then they had the gall to insist that ratings were not being deliberately depressed (this was during the recession).

      1. paul*

        that happened one year here when they were redoing how they handled WPR’s a couple of years ago (which was needed). There was a near revolt and they’ve been re-evaluating and tweaking stuff since. IT’s far from perfect but they haven’t just dug their heels in on something like that. YIkes.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        UGH this how I feel about some of the metrics on our current performance reviews. We have one that addresses integrity: you either have it or you don’t. How would you exceed expectations on that? Luckily we have a new HR system this year. I’m getting ready to start entering goals and hope to take a peek at the new evaluations. I really hope many of the metrics have disappeared and been replaced with something more meaningful.

        1. Wintermute*

          I’ve gotten an exceeds expectations on integrity-type items before– it was because I proactively brought some things to my boss that weren’t problematic per se but could become so easily (a process for administratively disabling power to equipment wasn’t lockout/tagout compliant). So to me “meeting expectations” is “you don’t do anything blatantly unethical or illegal. Exceeding is avoiding anything that falls within the policy but looks shady and actively working to make processes or products more ethical, fair and socially responsible.

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        I’ve mentioned this before, but for my entire first year at one job, I never missed a day of work. And I came in on weekends or stayed late to run time cards, which wasn’t required but made my supervisor’s job easier. So I rated myself a 10/10 on attendance. My grandboss slapped that down and said no one gets a 10/10 on *anything.* So where was I supposed to improve? Anyway, that was the last time I ever made any extraordinary effort at that job.

        1. SignalLost*

          Yeah. It was an open secret at one company I worked at that a specific team was holding the top ratings hostage – for everyone on Playable Teapots, there was, let’s say, five “needs improvements” that needed to be given out. Playable Teapots had three subteams – all different flavours of R&D – and my team, by far the smallest, with only 8 people (compared to the other two teams’ 20+) had to assign two of those NIs because R&D team A would not accept anyone there getting that rating; if someone had, the team threatened to walk out. If I hadn’t lost my job because of that (they used the NIs to lay a lot of people off a few weeks later), I would have said that there was no point in me doing a damn thing more than my job, because I scored an NI for not sending an email to my boss, solely because he had to assign two and it came down to that ridiculous a set of criteria. I mean … y0u can’t improve on that, even if you still have a job. Misunderstandings happen.

          1. Talia*

            I would think that kind of grading on a curve is itself a sign of a toxic workplace. If you’ve got a whole bunch of truly excellent performers, you have to hand out “needs improvements” because of what, someone thinks it looks better?

            1. SignalLost*

              They were not excellent performers. They were, as a group, arrogant, insufferable, well aware that they made the company’s growth product, and made demands accordingly. A person in my department had to work with them on a tie-in project and finally lost it and demanded to be let off the project – except she’d made it eighteen months with this team and average tenure for that project from my team was three months. (My boss did let her off the project.)

              But yeah, I agree. That’s just looking for a bottom 10% or whatever, regardless of whether you HAVE a bottom 10% performing genuinely poorly.

  4. Snark*

    “The hiring manager isn’t interested in having a real dialogue with you or answering your questions so that you can figure out if the job is right for you.”

    This is an important but subtle one. I had an interview that went this way, with the interviewer taking a borderline-smug attitude that of course I was desperate for the job and would take it if offered*, and that was a nice preview of their attitude towards the whole employment relationship, which was transactional, dismissive, and characterized by constant references to the ephemeral nature of employment.

    *And the suck of it was, I was unemployed at the time, and they had me dead to rights.

    1. Jesca*

      Oh that sucks. I had a successful dialogue during the interview with my current boss. She really broke down what she needed and I really broke down what I was capable of. It was a conversation.

      At my last job, they hired the worst people! And one of the reasons was because they handed you a booklet of interview questions and told you what sections you needed to ask! Not any one section that was even pertinent to your own experience so you could, ya know, assess the candidate on those skills. Just a booklet with basic interview questions like “tell us a story of when you worked on a team” whereas it would be more appropriate for me to ask “give me an example where you worked with a team to solve a complex issue” Nope. Couldn’t ask that. Had to stick to the generic questions. It was insanity and it showed!

      1. Snark*

        Yeah, my interview for my current position – 5 years ago already! – was such a dialogue that I barely realized it was an interview before it ended.

  5. AnonAndOn*

    The place I left over a year ago had bad turnover. Many full-time staff left for better opportunities or some left without nothing planned. I cannot count the number of times I’ve had to train new people or double up on work during the many vacancies. The receptionist clowning around and being silly when I went to interview there was another sign I should’ve considered. We ended up not getting along for a while when I worked there but we were eventually able to settle our differences. The new exec hired about 3/4 of the way through my tenure there liked to refer to the place as “a family,” another one of the red flags.

    The short interview I had for the job I left it for was another bad sign, but I was too won over by how impressed they were with my resume and desperate to get out of the previous job. Barely lasted at new job a week. Lesson learned, lesson strongly learned.

    1. AnonAndOn*

      “…some left without nothing planned…”

      I meant “some left without anything planned” or “some left with nothing planned” … take your pick!

  6. Jimbo*

    I use a combination of Glassdoor reviews, reading over the ad, and my gut feeling after talking/meeting with them to determine if the org or boss has red flags. Rude or condescending interviewers who don’t seem to treat you or your time and questions you ask respectfully are definite red flags. Consistent patterns of negative reviews in Glassdoor from multiple reviewers, over a period of time, and which mention the same things again and again definitely gets my attention. Finally, if the ad, itself, mentions phrases like: “must work well under high pressure,” “work on weekends and evenings,” travel 20 percent or more,” I believe it.

    1. Antilles*

      The thing with Glassdoor is that like all online review places, it skews negative because people with an average-but-acceptable experience “it was fine, pay was fair, duties what you’d expect, learned some nice stuff, left on decent terms” are much less likely to bother than someone who hated it with a blazing fury.
      So while it’s valuable information, it’s also worth taking with a grain of salt and comparing with everything else you see to see if it fits in. Personally, I’d pay more attention to the actual text of the reviews than the score – having checked a few of my past employers (good and bad), one thing I’ve noticed is that if almost everybody lists the same issues/negatives, then it’s probably a fair perception.

      1. Tau*

        I definitely use Glassdoor and similar sites to check for patterns. The actual rating tends to be pretty meaningless, and individual reviews are very hit and miss (there’s always one person who loved everything and one person who hates everything.) But if a common strand through the negative reviews is dysfunctional management, or lack of work/life balance, or the like? That’s telling.

        …even more telling is if it’s a strand through the *positive* reviews as well. One place, I checked Glassdoor and alongside complaints were glowing reviews with statements like “you have to be willing to work hard, this isn’t a place for people who want to walk out the door at five on the dot.” I decided the job was not for me.

        1. CoveredInBees*

          Yes! The content of the reviews is far more important than the ratings. You don’t like that colleagues aren’t social? Sign me up! Likewise, the positives can be questionable. Either it is a question of different preferences or positives that are not so positive, like Tau describes.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          We had one coworker, at a previous job, who blasted the company after he left and claimed we had loads of nepotism in promoting.

          Long story short? He, as an employee of 1 year and with a significant track record of errors, applied for and did not get a team lead position, which went to someone who was already a senior associate, took things in hand while we were without a team lead, and who knew her business front and back.

          We had a lot of laughs over his review.

        3. SignalLost*

          Yeah. I was considering networking myself back into a company I worked for ten years ago, but the Glassdoor reviews of the latest CEO make me realize that this company is not for me, with a capital not and what did you have to go introduce sexism for? I mean, that’s a latent thread of the industry, and I had a lot of issues with it when I worked there, but when the positive and negative postings emphasize that women should not expect the same opportunities as men, being taken as seriously as men, or several other specific call-outs, I’m willing to take that as said because it’s meant.

        4. Anon anon anon*

          I think the biggest red flag is Glass Door reviews that appear to be fake. Like they were written by the company’s HR or PR department. It sends the message, “We have something to hide and we try to influence what employees say about us.” Because if it was a decent place to work, they wouldn’t need to do that. And if they were honest, they’d address the negative reviews by either changing or responding in a transparent way.

          1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

            My old company posted a fake pre-emptive review a day before they did a round of layoffs. It was blatantly fake, too — the language included some of the marketing guy’s pet phrases.

      2. Magenta Sky*

        The devil is always in the details. Ten people saying “I didn’t get the raise I deserved” is not really worth worrying much about. Ten people saying “HR lit my cat on fire” is.

  7. Kristen*

    I once interviewed for a job where the receptionist whispered to me upon checking in, “You do NOT want to work here”, which I laughed off in a oh-aren’t-you-funny? kind of way and then regretted every day until I quit 6 months later.

    If you get intel like that on walking in the door, take it and walk right back out.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This is why I stopped whispering to people. I’d see a nice person apply and some how get a chance to whisper to them to RUN and the applicant would laugh. Cohorts had the same experience.

      Folks, when an employee tells you to RUN, please let that weigh heavy in your decision making process. They are doing it because you seem like a nice person who could do more with their lives. That is why they are taking a chance — and it’s a huge chance– to whisper to you to get away.

    2. Another person*

      I’ve had jobs where I wish someone would’ve warned me! I didn’t think people actually did this, but now that I know they do I’ll be on the lookout.

    3. nonegiven*

      My mom took a job where an employee had warned her that it was really stressful. She laughed and said, “compared to where I came from this is nothing.” She worked there until retirement. Before I was born and when I was little she had been career civil service. When we moved here, there were few civil service jobs to be had. When one that was up her alley finally opened up, she grabbed it.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I flat out asked the receptionist at my last interview how long she’d worked there. She said a year, and I asked if she liked it. She said she loved it. Also, neither she nor the hiring manager used the word “family.” Fingers crossed that if I get the job, this wasn’t just a glamour and it won’t suddenly morph into Pennywise the Dancing Clown.

    5. Specialk9*

      Ok folks, quick life lesson.

      If anyone whispers for you to leave, in pretty much any situation, leave!

      If someone you’re dating tells you something improbably bad about themselves, even jokingly, believe them. It’s not a parable or test, it’s the truth.

      If creepy messages get written in your mirror in blood, also run.

      See, useful life lessons.

  8. Augusta Sugarbean*

    Thanks for this. I’m not in danger of getting hired anytime soon unfortunately but as bad as my current job is, it’s at least a known quantity of bad. Reading AAM on a daily basis, it’s easy to start to think everywhere is awful and I worry about going somewhere as bad or worse.

    1. CaliCali*

      It’s a skewed sample, though! People don’t write in about their stable, sane workplaces. It’s like reading relationship columns and determining all relationships are dysfunctional, but people in functional relationships aren’t reaching out to advice columnists.

      1. JulieBulie*

        “Dear AAM,

        “I’ve been working at this company for five years. Everyone has been warm, professional, and courteous. My hours are flexible, I can work from home whenever I need to, the dress code is very forgiving, my hard work is appreciated, and I’m paid fairly.

        “They must have something up their sleeves. What do you suppose they could be up to?”

        1. Jeff*

          What Julie said.

          I work for a great company. When I first saw the job posting, I went to their internet site. What I discovered there was that the company seemed very people-centric. Indeed – I have worked here nearly 6 years and they certainly are. Whenever I describe my job to someone, I always include the phrase, “They are a great company to work for.”

          There are truly great places to work out there. Never give up hope.

      2. Say what, now?*

        Yes, listen to this and don’t lose hope. This is an area where people come to salvage their bad working lives if they can. It’s not the full gamut of the workforce, thankfully! You can even use the advice here to cheat the system a little and recognize a torture cell for what it is before you sign onto it.

  9. hadeyesp*

    Also, if different people have different ideas about the job. At one interview, the hiring manager went on and on about all the cool and interesting responsibilities that went with the job. The team member I interviewed with was confused when I mentioned it & basically said “The team out of the headquarters office will dictate all of that, you won’t have any autonomy in those areas.”. Big red flag right there.

    Also yes, I’ve definitely picked up on the “everyone here seems really unhappy/on edge/stressed out” and passed on jobs. I’ve had way too many jobs where I got a sick feeling on Sunday evening or when just driving past the office.

  10. Koko*

    In the nonprofit world, I always ask about funding. In particular, what percentage of the annual budget does the largest source of funding (major donor or grant) provide? What percentage do the top 3 sources provide all together?

    I have learned to steer clear of organizations who are too beholden to one or a few sources of funding. I’m sure plenty of times it goes just fine, but in my experience it can lead to mission creep when the Donor Who Keeps Our Lights On really wants the org to do something outside the usual scope and the org desperately needs to keep that donor happy, and it can mean sudden layoffs if the big donor stops giving or the grant is lost.

    1. Koko*

      Oh, and sort of relatedly – how involved is the board? I have worked at both an org with a negligent/hands-off board and an org where the board was far too involved in day-to-day operations. Both were bad in their own way.

      1. Marina*

        The worst nonprofit I ever worked at was the one where every single board member was at the second interview. And then they started bickering about which programs were sustainable. In the interview.

        That was a very accurate depiction of what my year in that job ended up being like. At least I knew what I was getting into?

    2. Amber Rose*

      This can be true in the for-profit world. A painfully huge amount of my company’s funds come from an agreement we have with a single company. If we lost that agreement, which we almost did when they were bought out, it would be a huge problem.

      1. JulieBulie*

        Thank you for pointing this out. Any for-profit company can depend too much on a particular partner, vendor, or client. Sometimes this creates a serious power imbalance.

      2. Nanani*

        This is what happened to my last office job before I went freelance. Biggest client did major downsizing, suddenly the firm I was at couldn’t afford to pay people. I think they don’t even do work in my field anymore.

    3. Anon for This*

      I always check a non-profit’s 990. If are in the red year-after-year then they aren’t for me. I have zero interest in working for a company that can’t manage it’s money, and will ask staff to take paycuts or reduce or eliminate benefits (I’ve seen both happen far too regularly).

    4. Erin*

      That is such a brilliant question – one I will definitely put in my little book of interview questions. I work in program evaluation (on the side, as I’m currently in graduate school), and it’s amazing how much higher-ups will ask you to tweak when it’s their big grant that you’re working on.

    5. De Minimis*

      I’m living this cautionary tale right now…we didn’t get a key federal grant renewal and now we’re faced with a doomsday scenario where the organization may not even survive after our last active grant ends in a few years [and we’ve been around for over four decades.]

      Our leadership is really working to treat people right, but there are a few recent hires who are being let go, and that really bothers me.

      The thing is, though, I don’t think I would have been given a totally honest answer if I’d asked about funding sources when I interviewed a couple of years ago, so at least with smaller organizations it might be harder to get that type of information.

    6. Wonderful women*

      THIS^ always ask this with a not for profit. I was made redundant this time last year from a not for profit because the only revenue source was failing. 70% of my team was let go just before Christmas and while most of us found jobs quickly in the new year we later found out that the sole revenue source had been decreasing each year. So many of us asked why no attempt was made to find alternative sources (the not for profit is in a growth area so how they’re failing when others are thriving is a mystery). At the staff Christmas part that year, the ceo announced his retirement. After a new ceo was hired all the staff made redundant got a lovely email from him saying he could see the great work we had done and he was proactively working to secure multiple alternative revenue and funding sources and one day hoped to welcome a few of us back. While I don’t regret my time there and would love to go back one day, with any not for profit I consider working for in the future I will be asking about how the lights are kept on and staff payed.

    7. Scubacat*

      Yup. Looking at the funding source is a good idea. Sometimes, a single source funder isn’t a bad sign. We only have a single source funder for our clients. But the funder is rock solid, and our clients have conditions that Will. Always. Need. Support. However, watch out if the funder could move the money to The Most Popular Topic of the Day. When I was interviewing, I asked 1) How long the program was active. 2) How long was the funding cycle. 3) who was providing the funding.

    8. Dolorous Bread*

      I dodged a nonprofit bullet like that a few months ago. over 50% of their funding was from one place, and on the heels of my second layoff in 2 years, I kept having nightmare visions of the funding, and therefore my job, disappearing. Besides the low pay and scattered office environment, the risk of another layoff in my life weighed way too heavily and I turned the offer down.

      I went to the evil corporate world of marketing instead and couldn’t be happier.

  11. Another thing*

    Another red flag was that the hiring manager wanted to tell me all the bad things about everyone working there. Such as, “so and so is very smart but scattered,” “so and so calls in sick a lot”, etc. It wasn’t a red flag in that those were actual problems that impacted my ability to work with those people – it was a red flag that the manager liked to pigeon hole everyone on her team and could never, ever move on once she had placed people in their slots.

    1. Cyberspace Dreamer*

      THIS!!!! I may have posted it elsewhere, but during an interview would-be-manager made it a point to mention how he and the person I would have replaced did not get along. He was very specific on what they disagreed about and at no time was job performance mentioned. There were other reasons I did not proceed, but that was indeed an eyebrow raiser, especially since I had recently left a toxic environment.

    2. AnonAndOn*

      It’s also an issue of gossiping – if this person was willing to talk about other employees to you who’s to say she wouldn’t talk about you to them?

      1. Umvue*

        I turned down one postdoc position entirely because my would-be mentor made a few snide remarks to me about the person I’d be replacing. (The departing researcher’s crime? Having had a severely preterm baby.)

    3. Anon!*

      This reminds me of a friend of mine that has done this with all of her friends (including me, I’m sure)– she’s set in stone every hope and dream people had coming out of college. She’s pretty much in a constant state of shock these days, several years later, as people are getting married and having kids (“Fergus said he NEVER wanted children though!”).

      That kind of thing would drive me batty in a coworker!

      1. Say what, now?*

        Yes, people so rarely grow or change! So shocking that your friends would have to adapt to changes in their job field or new relationships… That’s annoying, sorry you have to deal.

  12. Hmmmmm*

    If a hiring manager or an “above the line” employee at a smaller company or regional office tells you that it is “the best job they’ve ever had,” it tells you nothing about the quality of the workplace and everything about the person who says that. It usually either means “I have only worked in very dysfunctional workplaces and don’t even know how many bad habits I have” or “I can do whatever I want without consequence, isn’t that awesome?”

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      Interesting, I’m not sure I agree with this. I’ve definitely described an ex-boss as the “best boss I’ve ever had”, even while he was my current boss. I think sometimes you can recognize that you’re in an exceptionally good spot and be grateful for that.

      I generally agree that the grass is a little brown everywhere, but if you find the right shade of brown for you, then you can be in “the best job [you’ve] ever had”

      1. Hmmmmm*

        I don’t think my qualifiers qualified right. I guess I meant if your boss had told you “This is the best place I ever worked.” When I say “above the line” I mean roles where someone in a larger org or located at HQ would have bosses who actually manage them, but in smaller or regional offices are virtually unaccountable assuming they attend certain meetings.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      Well, it was a small department in a big company, but I had worked in a variety of places and it was the very best job ever (until my boss retired). I was NOT able to do whatever I wanted but still…so great. I miss those days.

    3. Specialk9*

      “I almost poop on co-workers from scaffolding and wire bombs into company trucks’ ignition but my bosses defend me in court, this job is the best!”

  13. Lurker*

    If they make you wait longer than 5-10 minutes past your interview time. And if they do, they don’t apologize profusely for it. I worked for a brief period for a woman who would routinely keep candidates waiting for HOURS. (I worked there as a temp so I was placed by an agency and never had to interview but saw it happen repeatedly.) That place was all sorts of dysfunctional.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Yep. Kept waiting 20 min, then my interview was 2 hours of training from the person leaving the job immediately after speaking with me. It’s not that I didn’t see the red flag, it’s just that I needed the job. This place sucks out loud and I started looking for a new job after only a few months. Bleh.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Wow. That’s either way too flaky or way too disrespectful and it doesn’t really matter which.

    2. C.*

      The last place I interviewed with gave me really bad vibes along these lines. They were about 15 minutes late for the interview, when someone finally realized that I was standing there for a long time (I was 10 minutes early, too), asked who I was supposed to see, and they had to actually pull them out of a meeting for me. Because she “forgot.”

      On top of that, while the people I met with were fine, I was never told that it was going to be a 90 minute interview that would result in a test that I wasn’t prepared for at all. The reason why I wasn’t prepared for it? Because they completely misrepresented the job in the listing and weren’t upfront that Skill A was paramount to the success of the job; something that I have very limited experience in at best.

    3. Close Bracket*

      My interviewer missed a phone interview. I gave him 30 min and asked if he needed to reschedule. He never once apologized. I judged him hard for that.

  14. Not So NewReader*

    Great article, Alison. I am sure many, many people will be reading it and reviewing it for their own settings. Thank you for pulling this one together in one place.

  15. Anon Accountant*

    “We put the fun in dysfunction”. They laughed and I thought it was an icebreaker or a “start off with humor so you’ll feel more relaxed during the interview”.

    Oh there was dysfunction and no, it wasn’t fun. But they warned you in a way.

    1. Specialk9*

      Hard won lesson in life: always believe people when they joke about how awful they are. They are never joking.

  16. annuity*

    I don’t fully agree with the “family” comment. I would say that about our workplace, as we all get along pretty well. I don’t think there are unreasonable expectations – in fact, the managers here are pretty concerned about your work-life balance. We do have ups and down and people are expected to be committed, certainly, but it’s no different from any other consulting firm I’ve worked in / heard about.

    1. taco_emoji*

      Just “getting along pretty well” doesn’t really seem particularly family-like to me, that’s just a basically harmonious workplace. “Family” means different things to different people, but to me at the very least it implies some sort of involvement in each other’s personal lives, and *that’s* the sort of thing that causes dysfunction in the workplace.

      1. Say what, now?*

        This is a good distinction: friendly with vs. family. If you would say that you’re friendly with your coworkers that’s a good sign for a potential job seeker. If you would say that you’re invested in each other like a family would be… that’s a little much.

        I would run like the wind if I heard it because to me that’s an energy drain. Even if it was good expectations but over the line boundary-crossing it would be too much for an introvert like me.

    2. SignalLost*

      And the flip side is that I would argue my family does not act like “a family” because my siblings and I are five different people with five VERY different personalities. We get on like a house on fire, and if you’ve ever seen a burning building, you know what I mean. I think the “like a family” comment is always code for “we don’t know what boundaries are,” because it always seems to mean more than just “we get along well,” when I’ve seen it used. I mean, I had a job where I did consider a couple of my coworkers honorary family, but that was also a job where no one at all ever, ever said “we’re like a big ol happy family!” We worked and socialized together, but we still had appropriate boundaries. Whereas the place I worked that was “like a family” was so dysfunctional it was, in fact, like my family.

      1. Lalaroo*

        Terry Pratchett wrote a line once that went something like “You’ll get on exactly like a house on fire. There may be no survivors.”

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Yeah, I think that Alison (and the commentariat here) take too strong of a position on this one. It feels like one of those things that so many places say that it can’t be disqualifying. (Like how lots of places never send rejection emails to applicants; it’s crappy but it’s frankly standard practice.)

      I suspect some of the (less experienced) hiring managers at my organization would use that line, with an intention of communicating something like “We are friendly” or “Our staff gets along well,” or maybe “We’re more comfortable with humanity/emotion/vulnerability than some other workplaces.”

      1. Specialk9*

        Red flags are by definition not definite-always kinds of things. Red flags are things that make you stop and reconsider the whole situation and evaluate your gut on the sum of interactions on whether it’s a small sign of a big problem… or just someone’s red underwear that blew into a bush.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Yes, I agree — but what I’m getting at is that people here don’t treat this (or other things they describe as “red flags”) in the way you’re describing. A “red flag” is something that should cause you to pause, dig deeper, investigate further — not run screaming for the hills, which is how folks seem to feel about the “we’re like a family” comments.

          1. Julia the Survivor*

            I worked for a very horrible woman who owns a small business. I don’t remember her actually saying “we’re like family” but that’s what she tried to do. She didn’t have a single boundary. She expected her employees to be her friends, since she didn’t have any. She didn’t have any friends because she enjoyed fighting and making people uncomfortable.
            My predecessor had quit on the spot during a fight with her, after she had tried to get involved in the girl’s life by taking her to opera and trying to have a personal relationship with her.
            I set firm boundaries and she resented me for it, but at least didn’t fire me – then. She tried to start fights with me and tried to make me date her nephew’s colleague, a big angry man who was the last thing I needed.
            This is just the sort of thing that happens when a workplace is “like family”. :p

      2. Kate 2*

        I have never ever seen or even, on the comments here, heard of a boss, manager, or interviewer saying “We’re like a family” and not having it turn out badly. Comparing your office to a family, when even the happiest families are sometimes dysfunctional, and always an inappropriately intimate for work, well, it’s a sign of bad judgement.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          I disagree. I think it can be indicative of a dysfunctional work culture… or of an inexperienced interviewer who doesn’t articulate the organizational culture well.

    4. Magenta Sky*

      There’s a difference between “We treat our employees like family – we beat them just like we do my stepchildren” and “we treat our employees like family, but we understand that a work family isn’t a family-family, and we all need to understand the limits of what a business *can* do to take care of their employees.” It’s not always easy to see that difference, but it’s well worth trying.

  17. YuliaC*

    I completely agree with most of these, but I am surprised to see the one about the interview being short. I have never even had an interview longer than 30 minutes in my entire life, neither at bad jobs nor at good ones. At my current amazing job I only had a 10 minutes phone screen and two brief 10-15 minutes interviews with bosses. It has been 3 years now in the job and I couldn’t be happier. I wonder what others think of this typically being a red flag.

    1. K.*

      What kind of work do you do? An hour is standard for interviews for me – maybe an initial phone screen takes half an hour, but I would find it odd to only meet with a hiring manager for half an hour.

      1. YuliaC*

        I am a medical technologist, currently working in a research environment. Used to have clinical lab jobs before that. I tend to be laconic, and the places I apply tend to be a bit desperate to hire, perhaps these two factors led to shorter interviews.

    2. L Dub*

      As a hiring manager, I always need more than 10-15 minutes to really determine if a candidate is going to be the right fit for the job, the team and for me. Yes, I can determine what my first impressions are of a candidate in 10 minutes, and generally whether I like that person or not, but whether I like them or not doesn’t really factor into my hiring decisions. 10-15 minutes is insufficient to make hiring decisions based off of.

      1. YuliaC*

        That makes sense. I suppose my bosses must have relied more on the references and the trial period than on conversation for deciding whether I was suitable.

        1. Say what, now?*

          If it’s about aptitude with a very specific skill set I could see the trial period being the only real way to discover whether or not the candidate did possess those skills. When it comes to operating medical equipment I could see that being the case.

    3. Magenta Sky*

      Varies wildly by type of job. In an industry where there will *always* be a lot of turnover, jobs don’t pay very well, and selling yourself in the interview demonstrates the actual skills used in the job – like retail – short interviews are pretty normal. If you need four hours to sell yourself in the interview, you sure aren’t going to be able to sell toilet parts to John Q. Public in 30 seconds.

      I think a general rule of thumb would be that the more complicated and varied the job, the more complicated and varied the interview needs to be.

  18. upinalather*

    “This isn’t a ‘9-to-5’ job.” I should’ve picked up on that from the interviewing supervisor who insisted me to be on call over Thanksgiving. I was a commercial real estate marketing assistant, not a heart surgeon. I understand having occasional overtime (it was constant), but telling me from the get-go was a warning that there should’ve been more staff.

  19. Goya*

    I can be so hard to force yourself to see the obvious red flags when you’ve been unemployed for so long or when the job is what you were REALLY looking for.

  20. StarshipMederprise*

    I’m the med student from prior posts:

    I think of medicine, where at least 1-2 attendings per specialty per hospital has a reputation of being nasty to their employees, where equipment is thrown from time to time and the joke is not if but when it will be thrown, and students are afraid to speak up for fear of being kept from practicing. My friends in the Real World say toxic behavior and high-stakes employment are the norm. Bad bosses are rampant, lack of instruction on how to do the job is standard, and being ignored as a low-level employee is pretty much okay. I know this is true in call centers and software Q&A but is this okay everywhere?

    1. Snark*

      Honestly, no, my experience is that mediocrity – the spirit is willing to be a good boss, but the competence is weak – is much more the norm. You do run into genuinely toxic workplaces and bosses, but “okay except for this one thing that drives me bananas” is what I hear from most folks in the professional world about their work situations.

      1. Marina*

        This. It’s been pretty rare to have a boss that cares about me as a person, has my back with higher-ups, and mentors me into the next step in my career. But it’s even more rare to have a boss who throws things. Most of my bosses have not really cared what I do as long as I don’t make them look bad to their boss.

    2. K.*

      I’ve heard stories of this in BigLaw (my ex’s boss threw a stapler at him, for example), but it’s definitely not OK everywhere. I have never worked in a place where throwing things would have been tolerated.

      (People talk trash about call centers but I had a part-time survival job in a call center for about six months and it really wasn’t bad. I was good at it, which I think helped – I was training people after three months or so. Turnover there was as high as people say it is – I quit because I got a much better job and they were kind of surprised that I gave two weeks’ notice, as many people just didn’t come back or were fired – but other than that, it wasn’t a bad place to work. If I found myself in need of another survival job, I’d go back.)

      1. Yes, I can pack that for you*

        Throwing things may actually be (sometimes) appropriate, at some work places. I worked at a retail packing/shipping/mailing place once. “Hey, can you throw me a roll of tape?” was a pretty common request. As were the requests to throw up a bag of peanuts or a certain size box from our basement storeroom.

        I can also imagine that throwing would even be a required part of the job in some situations … a professional baseball player come to mind, but I feel like that one is the exception, not the rule.

        1. JanetM*

          I think I would distinguish between “throwing to” and “throwing at,” with the former being probably okay and the latter not. Except in baseball, as you said.

        2. StarshipMederprise*

          The instrument in question is meant to be used for patient care and is instead hurled at the head of an unfortunate student/resident to teach said person a lesson and/or express frustration. Typically items of this sort are passed to the doctor by the firm hand of the scrub tech. Having it tossed is unprofessional and dangerous.

          1. Not a Morning Person*

            I work for a medical provider. That throwing at people or throwing of expensive equipment/material would be a disciplinary offense if not outright termination. So, no, not at all the norm. Not saying it would never happen in some places, but I’ve never heard about it happening at any of the numerous medical facilities in the city. People will talk. So if it happens in your community, relocate!

      2. I See Real People*

        I’m an executive assistant. I’ve had a full three-ring binder thrown at me before. Lots of things slammed on my desk.

        1. Anon anon anon*

          I’ve never seen anything like that. I’ve seen a lot of stuff, but no physical violence or throwing things. Not in the office world.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’ve seen people do this in law, but they also have notorious reputations. So it’s this weird balance of, “that is absolutely not ok…. but no one in a position of power/authority has fixed it” (oftentimes because the person doing the throwing is the person in a position of power). But people certainly talk about it as a cautionary tale for when you pick who you work with. And in my experience, 90%+ of attorneys do not throw things or yell at people. It’s just that the rage-y people are very out of control and often in positions where their impact is more broadly felt.

    3. SirTechSpec*

      Yeeegh. I mean, it’s true that training now looks like “do your best to figure it out and talk to X if you have any questions” as often as not, where X may or may not be available and a good teacher, and “bad bosses” in the sense of “bosses who won’t help you prioritize your workload” or “bosses who are stingy with raises” or whatever are pretty common, from what I’ve heard, but *throwing things*? I’ve never heard of that from any of my friends or family in various industries – I gotta figure it’s unique to medicine (I can imagine hospitals being a pretty high-stress area.)

    4. Kiki*

      I don’t think it’s “ok” anywhere, but some places do get away with it. My last workplace (software company) was rampant with this type of behavior. I attended meetings where people threw the phone at the wall, had files chucked at my head, was called names, etc. But that behavior shouldn’t be acceptable at any company, and I’m sure there are many software companies where that behavior isn’t tolerated.

    5. Artemesia*

      I have never understood why medicine can’t police itself better. My mother, who would be 105 now if she were alive and practiced nursing in the 30s, told me horror stories of surgeons behavior including throwing instruments. Rampant sexism was also the norm; she had ribs broken by a doctor who shoved her up against a wall to grope her. No criminal or even career consequences for him or for the other doctors misbehaving like this. It is the worst of the patriarchy. I just hope the recent wave of men being held accountable can change the workplace for tomorrows women.

    6. Book Lover*

      I am not sure where you are studying, but I had that experience in one community hospital while I was a student. I definitely have not had that experience as a resident or attending where I am now. There is no need to accept a position in a hospital where that kind of attitude is accepted. There are lots of options out there.

    7. Specialk9*

      Uh, no. That’s not normal. I’ve worked in some fairly routinely unkind and dysfunctional environments, but have never even heard of someone throwing something at another person. Slander and pointless backstabbing and passive aggressive emails cc’ed to bosses, yes, but what you describe isn’t common. How awful that’s a given in medicine! Like it’s not already soul-sucking enough of a profession. Doctors and teachers, man.

    8. Alexandra Lynch*

      Never forget that the person who set up the first medical school in the US, who set the model for physician education on the job… was a cocaine addict, and therefore thought nothing of working thirty hours straight.

    9. The Strand*

      This is late, but the two most abusive places I’ve ever worked were both in health care. And I’ve done software Q&A, one of my old friends also made a career of it. Not even close to what I’ve seen in medicine.

      There is a reason for sayings like “Nurses eat their young”.

    10. Julia the Survivor*

      I work in a teaching hospital and I don’t think that would be tolerated here. I work in administration, not with residents or patients. When I applied I was required to sign a document that said I would always treat everyone with respect and decency, and I was told they make everyone sign that, including attendings. Since I want to do that anyway, this was not a problem. My boss told me before I started they had to let a physician go because he/she didn’t follow this, even though their technical skills were good.
      My employer seems to make a real effort to make sure that kind of abusive behavior doesn’t happen here, not least because it affects patient care. Care providers who are not physicians are encouraged to speak up if something is wrong or procedures are not followed, and they have training procedures with steps like stop, think, review, continue, or something like that, for all providers.
      It sounds like you and the people you’ve been talking to have been working in hospitals that aren’t the best. Maybe when you’re an attending you can help improve things.
      When I began working here they gave me a book called Hardwiring Excellence, this might help with the concepts I’m trying to express. Good luck! :)

  21. Anonymous Educator*

    Amendment to the No one seems to stay there very long bit: if only senior staff stay long but everybody else leaves, that’s also a red flag.

    And there’s a flip side to People look miserable or sound cynical when you talk to them: if every single employee you talk to has only good things to say about the company and cannot think of a single thing they’d like changed, even when pressed, beware of a cult-like workplace.

    1. I'll say it*

      agreed!! I was also going to comment that if everyone has been there FOREVER, it’s also a red flag. it depends on your field, of course, but in my field (technology ad agencies) if you’re there more than 2 years but less than, say, 7 – that’s fine. more than 7 years? you’re no longer really sure of what other people are doing and the liklihood of you not tolerating new people or outside ideas is pretty high. actually I’d start to worry after 5 years.

    2. C.*

      I completely agree with your first point, and feel like only now in my current work situation am I really understanding that. The company I work for has a terrible time with retaining junior employees–the message is very clear from the top-up that the higher-ups are not all too interested in investing in younger, emerging talent. You get the impression quickly that, after 2-3 years, they have zero idea what to do with you or your career. It’s bizarre.

    3. Twice Shy*

      if only senior staff stay long but everybody else leaves, that’s also a red flag.

      So much yes to this. And this isn’t just if all the junior/lower-level staff leave for other jobs. In OldJob, a lot of the people who left went on to grad school. Ex!Boss liked to take credit for it and say how Boss provided such wonderful opportunities for people to go on to greater studies. Yeah, no, it was just that some people jumped ship with a lifeboat, and others with a life raft. Either way, we wanted the hell off that ship.

  22. Tuxedo Cat*

    For me, a red flag is if senior employees treat the admin poorly. Even if you’re not going for an admin role, I take it as a sign. It’s like if a date treats the waitstaff poorly.

    Another sign for me is when the management talks up one staff member as though the company would collapse without that person and ignores talking about the rest of the staff. In my experience, management had highlighted blatantly who the favorite was. That did not bode well, especially when the favorite was a problem for everyone who wasn’t management. Think throwing everyone else under the bus when she screwed up.

    1. Manders*

      Yes, great points. Common signs of your first red flag: admins thinking it’s normal to get yelled at, senior employees thinking it’s normal for admins to cry, or one particular senior employee’s assistants turning over at a drastically higher pace than the rest of the office. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to spot these flags from outside a company.

      1. Manders*

        Oh, plus senior employees seeming to believe that everyone who left the office was “crazy” and a pattern of people quitting with no notice. One or two accounts of someone making a scene and quitting on the spot *might* be a coincidence. More than that, and there’s either something badly wrong with the company’s vetting process for new hires, or reasonable people are getting fed up with dysfunction and snapping.

    2. Annonymouse*

      I can understand that at my current work because I’m full time and everyone else is casual.

      The most troubling thing is if something happened to that one person what would the company do?

      Do they have back ups, cross training and smooth processes or does that one person have all the knowledge and no-one understands what is going on without them?

    3. Anon anon anon*

      Yes! High turn over in positions like administration and HR is a huge red flag. People who see a lot of what goes on but don’t have a lot of formal authority in the organization. Same with high turn over in Legal. If lawyers don’t want to be associated with the company, then, yikes.

  23. Sharon*

    On the other pendulum swing from “nobody stays very long”, I’ve learned to shy away from companies where most people have tenures of 15 or more years. (Key word is MOST, a few are okay.) My current place is like this. The seniority people know their stuff without even thinking about it, so they’re unable to make the information relatable to new people. They’re also extremely “stuck in their ways” so are extremely critical of anything that’s different from how they’ve been doing it forever and extremely risk averse. The icing on the cake is that senior management thinks they walk on water, so all problems are caused by the new people.

    There have been a lot of issues I’ve had with workplaces where even in hindsight I couldn’t think of how I’d have screened for that in the interview. For example, I like using best practices, or at least having some established processes to follow. So when interviewing for my current job, I asked if they used project management methods. I was told “we have a PMO (project management office), which I interpreted as “yes”. Turns out the PMO does nothing more that write down estimated dates. No risk mitigation, resource planning, no schedule management, nothing. Projects here are utter chaos.

    1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      I’ve been struggling with this too (your second paragraph)! I feel like every job I’ve had has had some sort of red flag or significant issue, and I’ve learned from each and every one of them, but I’m wondering if I’m just no good at screening for things unless I’ve personally experienced it (or had it be the major issue).

      Ex: the main one that is really messing with my mind. At my last company – things were going well. It was a smaller company (50 people in out office, 100 wordwide – but I knew everyone in our office, fairly well, so I thought) and overall was not toxic or dysfunctional (not perfect, but overall I considered it a solid company). Then I got promoted into what seemed like my dream role, but it turned out to be this huge nightmare. The company overall wasn’t toxic, but this department sure was (think an oddly co-dependent family that does everything together and puts on a perfect veneer to cover up dysfunction and abuse within the home). So much so that I was having panic attacks and barely functioning (due to extreme anxiety and depression) within less than a year. I don’t get how I missed these huge red flags bc I already worked there!!! When I go back and think about it I keep coming to the conclusion that it wasnt’ entirely my fault. They were a very insular group that I believe purposely isolated themselves to hide their dysfunction. They also flat out lied when I was speaking to them about the role (ok – charitably – they are very poor at self-assessing and accurately communicating their needs).

      But still – what could or should have I asked (or been willing to see – I must have overlooked things in my blind ambition, right?) to avoid this? This has been really bothering me lately (even posted a related question in the open thread on Friday, but didn’t provide enough details).

      Nice to know that others have struggled with what they could have asked to ID red flags as well.

      1. Specialk9*

        If you were already in the company and they still kept their dysfunction quiet, that’s not really on you. Usually that stuff comes up internally.

      2. Marina*

        Nope. It’s okay, you’re not supposed to be able to see the future. Sometimes there are no red flags in the interview. The only thing you can do is that when there ARE red flags, even if it’s after you’ve taken the job, is to not convince yourself to ignore them just because they weren’t there in the interview.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      God yes, ESPECIALLY when it comes to project or change mansgement. Looking at you, utility companies.

  24. Lady By The Lake*

    Another red flag is that if everyone has been there forever. As Anonymous Educator hints, that is an indication that new people tend to leave. I’ve worked at two of these companies and they are utterly resistant to anything new (including new people). This is particularly toxic if the job is supposed to be a senior or change agent role. Run away, run away!

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Far away, and fast! Alternatively, talk to a wall all day and best you head against it sometimes. And do not update your resume with any accomplishments during this time.

    2. Tuxedo Cat*

      Yes. Granted, there are always many factors to consider, I’ve seen situations where staff is on forever because the company provided no really good ways for staff to professionally grow.

  25. Snark*

    Other little red flag: “We don’t really have an HR.”

    Note that I fully recognize many small businesses don’t have the funding for a dedicated HR person, let alone a department. But take it from my parents, who paid for one of their office managers to do some coursework and get learned up on stuff like harassment, employment law, protected classes, that kind of thing – you do need someone to be able to handle that stuff. Preferably not the president/owner/manager themselves.

    1. SignalLost*

      I might add that one of mine is extremely specific but related to this – who is the boss of HR? A colleague of mine at one org was fired by the HR person (it was smaller, so only one HR person and I don’t remember her specific title) … who admitted it was unfair she was firing my colleague and questioned the unsigned writeup in my colleague’s file, but couldn’t do anything, according to her, because her boss, who was the VP of Executive Functions (not her actual title, but she was the boss of the networking people and the payroll people and the HR person and the office manager/receptionists, etc.) would fire her. And that VP hated my colleague because she is a large woman with a small child – the only person with a school-age child in an org of 30ish people, in fact. Her comments and behaviour made it quite clear that this was the real reason my colleague was fired, but HR wasn’t willing to really call out the illegal behaviour because they weren’t actually the HR person in anything other than training, at least in practice.

      1. A.N.O.N.*


        A friend was hired to be the sole HR rep at a nearly 100-person (and growing) company, that had never before had an HR person (already should have been a red flag).

        She reported to the COO who grossly misbehaved – think sleeping with younger, female employees.

        The worst part is that the COO would “joke” with employees, saying wouldn’t it be funny if someone complained about him to HR, and HR would then just tell him about it since HR reports to him?

    2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      100% this. I will never EVER EVER work somewhere without some sort of HR presence. Obviously the HR presence alone doesn’t mean that HR will actually be competent (or empowered, as in SignalLost’s case), but it’s a start and I can try to evaluate from there.

      However, no HR presence at all. Nope. I’m out. Immediate deal breaker.

    3. Manders*

      Ooh, great red flag. I’ve worked at small companies with no dedicated HR person, and there are times that can work, but the person who handles HR duties absolutely must be 1) actually formally trained in HR in some way and 2) fireable if they screw up their HR duties too badly (so, not a spouse or direct relative of the owner).

      In my experience, small companies that are smart enough to know what they don’t know and contract out HR duties when necessary are more functional than companies that hand those duties to an untrained admin/the owner’s wife/etc.

    4. Hills to Die on*

      I’m the ‘HR person’ and I have such little authority that it depresses all of us. Very small company, no real impact. :’(

    5. C.*

      SUCH a good point. I’ve worked for tiny non-profits and small businesses before in the past and never will again. I work for a much bigger company now and even though the reputation of our HR group isn’t the best, I still wouldn’t trade it in for not having an HR department.

  26. Fiona*

    I have no actual proof that it means anything, but I bristle at a job listing that lists “a sense of humor” as a requirement. I usually view that as evidence that prior employees spoke up about things that bothered them or didn’t particular enjoy the dysfunctional antics of that particular workplace and now the hiring team feels like they have to screen for people who fit the culture.

    Having a good, relatively relaxed personality is important for an employee, but you don’t actually need a *sense of humor* (which is rather subjective anyway).

    1. AnonAndOn*

      I’m not a fan of that one either. That usually means that the place is dysfunctional and that one is supposed to be able to laugh off the dysfunction and turn the other cheek. It could also mean that people act silly on the job and don’t take things seriously. And I agree that “sense of humor” is very subjective.

    2. JulieBulie*

      Ah, that’s a good point.

      It might also be a bad idea to tell people that you want them to have a sense of humor, because this will attract people who think they’re funny. Think Michael Scott.

    3. Artemesia*

      Yes I agree that is code for ‘willing to tolerate sexism and racism’. Just as ‘very high morals’ in a reference is code for ‘rigid, prig who will be nightmare to work with. People don’t say these things usually so they are euphemisms for what people usually don’t say.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For what it’s worth, I think you’re reading that one wrong. I’ve worked with several organizations that have listed that and it wasn’t code for that at all. It was an attempt to convey that they have a warm culture where people joke around in a positive manner. In fact, the most egalitarian organization I’ve worked with, the one that’s truly committed to working on equity and inclusiveness, makes a joke about humor in their ads. (You can argue that they’d be smart not to since some people read it the way you do, but my point is that it’s really not always code for that.)

      1. Hills to Die on*

        Interesting. I’ve always interpreted it as, “haha, isn’t it funny that whenever we ask Jamie the HR person for something, she tells us that she’s ‘easy but not cheap’, and then we have to talk about ferrets, her abusive exboyfriend, and her gastrointestinal issues for a full hour. Then, she will have a screaming fit right in your face later in the week! So fun!”

        I will have to keep an eye out for postings where everything else looks okay besides the sense of humor comment. That’s good news!

      2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        This is really interesting. I’ve always really looked down on ads that include sense of humor as a requirements because it seems like something that you don’t need to list out and the fact that it is being included in the ad means there is a (usually very specific) reason it is being added (ala: last person in this role complained about me making sexist jokes).

        Sort of like when someone makes a point in an interview to say that they are “not a micromanager” (particularly if it does not come organically). The fact that you felt the need to announce that makes really think you are one…

        1. Lalaroo*

          Exactly. My current boss will say things like “I can read very well,” or “I can count very well,” and it’s just so bizarre. Why would a normal, not-insecure person feel the need to declare that to their subordinate out of the blue? They wouldn’t, that’s why.

            1. Lalaroo*

              LOL! Nope, thank God! Once I leave on Friday I won’t ever have to deal with them again, hopefully, which is not the case for the former employees of the resident of the White House.

        2. JulieBulie*

          It could also be that the person announces “I am not a micromanager” because a previous employee needed to be spoon-fed instructions and complained that the boss was too hands-off. So this could be the manager’s backwards/tactful way of saying “I hope you don’t need constant supervision.”

          Or it could be the manager’s understated way of saying “I’m never around and I tend not to answer emails.”

          So, to your point and to Alison’s, I guess any of those phrases (not a micromanager, have a sense of humor) could mean anything, and you’d need to ask the right questions to find out what they really mean.

        3. Cedrus Libani*

          Yeah, I’m with you. It wouldn’t keep me from applying, but it would put my antennae up if I was called in for an interview. Why is a sense of humor so vital for this job? Are you sick of firing people because they “had no sense of humor”, as in they kept reporting your bad behavior to HR?

          I’ve spent my career in startups, which does require something akin to a sense of humor – or at least the ability to remain unfazed when the poop hits the fan, because that’s going to happen, and often. But we at least have the decency to code that as “adaptable” (or similar).

      3. Fiona*

        I hear what you’re saying – but I suppose that I would prefer that to be included in a description of the office culture itself. (“We’re a hard-working but flexible office – people here are dedicated to their jobs, but have a collaborative spirit and a sense of humor” or something). Rather than a “requirement” or desired characteristic of a specific employee. I bet you’re right that many places post it very earnestly and innocently, but it just rubs me the wrong way

    5. Anon anon anon*

      Yes. I get skeptical when they mention personality traits that should be a given. “Cheerful”, “positive attitude”, “smiling”. It makes me wonder what they did to the last person to keep them from being cheerful and smiling!

      If it sounds like it fits with the job, then it’s not a big deal (“This requires a lot of patience because of XYZ”). But emphasizing obvious things that should be part of any job is a little creepy.

  27. clow*

    So many of these ring true for the last job I left, which was super toxic to the point where I am still not over it. I wish I had noticed the red flags during the interview process. I had a phone interview out of the blue with no time set, the HR guy just said he would call some time to set up a time for an interview, that call ended up being a screening call. During the interview, only two of the three people spoke to me, the third, my actual manager, said nothing at all, that should have been a huge red flag. They also hired me after that 30 minute skype interview and I never met the rest of the team until I got there. The entire process of relocating me was also so disorganized that I started worrying if I was making the right decision. When you desperately want a job, it is amazing what you look over.

  28. WG*

    I was just in a meeting where our CEO defined workplace community as being like a family. Then I came back to the office and read this article. Wow, does this hit the nail on the head. We are the poster children for dysfunctional around this workplace!

  29. Tina*

    Turnover – that’s a good one. I once was at a toxic, poorly run nonprofit that had terrible turnover, but I missed it because they explained it like a positive: “since I [new Executive Director] came, we’ve been finding the right people.” It was all about finding the right people who really get the mission. Turns out all the “wrong people” left (or were asked to leave) when they found out ED is (1) a terrible manager and (2) decided to hitch her whole deal to a longtime employee who was the ground zero of toxicity. People either couldn’t stand for it all and left or they waited out the clock until they were inevitably asked to leave because they “weren’t the right fit.” They spun it really well during the interview process. During said interview process, I was interviewing for Toxic Lady’s old role (she was moving into a part time position), so I initially interviewed with her and the ED. They then also wanted me to speak with new hire who would be reporting to me and members of the program staff. ED and Toxic Lady were present for all conversations. They literally accompanied me as I moved from office to office to speak to others and sat in on every exchange. Red. Flag.

  30. anon for this*

    A well-known organization in my field/region keeps posting “Emotional maturity and ability to accept criticism” as minimum qualifications, and has a paragraph about running a lean program and how proud they are of how much they accomplish despite being so lean.
    To me that would read “We’re understaffed and will be mean to you, but you’re not allowed to push back on it or we’ll say you don’t have emotional maturity!” it’s no coincidence that most of their staff only last about 60 days.

  31. wonderful_woman*

    I think the biggest thing is to watch for all these signs and listen to your gut. I am miserable in my current job (and as I am almost at the 1 year mark have started aggressively job hunting). The two directors I work under do not communicate to each other causing conflicting priorities. But both insist that we are a big fun family! After my first interview, I didn’t really get a good vibe off the place but got a second interview very quickly and then was hired the next day and after being made suddenly redundant I ignored all the warning signs in favour of the relief I felt for being employed again. The fact that most desks where unoccupied and the office as deadly silent should also have been dead give aways that it was not a great place to work. But oh well, you live and learn and I have had a very big learning curve and have definitely perfected the art of time management and handling difficult bosses

  32. anyone out there but me*

    “We believe in paying our people what they are worth…” followed by, “We will start you at $10/hr and in 90 days if you are still here, we can talk about a small increase.” — Um, hello, I’m a 20-year full charge bookkeeper. You’re delusional.

    And my favorite, during an interview:
    Me: “Might I ask why you are hiring for this position?”
    Hiring manager: “Oh, well, the person who held this position before you left suddenly. Yeah, it was so weird. We just came in one morning and she had left her keys and all her files on her desk, with a post-it that read: I can’t take this anymore.”

    I ran away. Quickly.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      I literally laughed out loud at this. That tells the whole story right there!

      Definitely right to run away quickly.

    2. Specialk9*

      Is there any way they could be that oblivious to tell that story for real? Any chance that guy was not the cause of the toxic but was giving you a heads up?

  33. Baska*

    I managed to dodge a bullet at my current job. One of the questions I was asked was, “Do you have experience dealing with difficult people?” This SHOULD have been a huge red flag, but it didn’t really set off any alarm bells for me. Turns out, what the interviewer was implying was that my predecessor was a “difficult person” and it would be very hard for me to train under her. And, lo and behold, this was exactly the case. Not only had she been in the position for 10+ years and had no documentation on any of her tasks, she also was extremely disorganized and her office was FULL of random collections of papers that hadn’t been filed… for years. Also, she wasn’t used to working with anyone, so her method of “training me” essentially involved her doing her job and refusing to tell me what she was doing or why. (I assume she thought I’d learn through osmosis or something?) Her go-to phrases were, “You can’t train for a job like this,” “This isn’t a routine job,” and “There’s no time to do anything.”

    Yes, I had a hard few weeks of trying to cram as much scattered information as I could into my brain, and then a hard few months as I diligently worked to learn everything I needed to know, write documentation, and bring order to the office. But after that? It was fine. It could have been so, so much worse with a question like “Do you have experience dealing with difficult people?” And the kicker of it all? This is actually one of the *most* routine jobs I’ve ever held. (Office manager at a fairly small non-profit.)

    1. AnonAndOn*

      “You can’t train for a job like this”

      With someone like that training you I’m not surprised! But it sounds like you rose above her mess and made the job your own.

    2. MissMaple*

      Yeah, I’ve gotten the “how have you dealt with difficult people?” question. It was a job masquerading as a dream job that I should have run from after that question and the messed up hiring process. It turns out I deal with difficult people by getting ulcers, gaining 30 lbs, and leaving ASAP.

  34. Elizabeth West*

    I just thought of one potential red flag that might be kind of subtle–if the person interviewing you speaks in glowing terms about your predecessor. It could be problematic if they want the exact duplicate of that person to replace them or they feel like nobody can measure up to dear departed Glenda. This will make your job ten times harder because you could end up hearing “But Glenda didn’t do it like thaaaaaat” 654925219624911 times a day.

    Even worse if they view their departure as a betrayal, as in “We loved her so much; how could she do this to us.” If you end up leaving, prepare to be walked out the day you resign or endure a really uncomfortable notice period.

    I always ask why the job is open. As others have pointed out, sometimes a boss will badmouth the previous employee. If the interviewer really liked their former employee, and they express happiness for whatever life or professional circumstances led them to move on, that’s a good sign. It’s even better if Glenda was awesome and left scads of documentation behind.

  35. Bea*

    I to cry. I’m stuck in a living hell after being fooled by these people. I’m spending long hours rereading and absorbing these lessons as I hatch my escape plan. It’s a race to see if I’m fired or quit first.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Stay strong, take good care of yourself (meaning as much as you can–self-care can be hard when life is stressful), and read this blog. Others here have extricated themselves from miserable situations. You can, too. Most important, have faith in yourself while you hatch your escape plan. Commenters and lurkers alike will be here to cheer you on.

    2. Lux*

      Whist you plot your escape make sure you give yourself something to look forward to at the end of every work week (or day) to get you through it, a treat however small which you can keep your focus on.

  36. Brunch with Sylvia*

    When the nickname for the surgical ward 4-L is “4-Hell”, you can be sure that your colleagues will haze you and cover your 15min break so you can pump milk for your new baby because it is time for their smoke break.

  37. Talia*

    They interview you on Christmas Eve. (All right, that probably wasn’t the only red flag in that interview, but even in hindsight I’m having trouble registering the others.)

  38. Mimmy*

    The last two points (“The hiring manager can’t tell you how the success of the person in the job will be measured” and “The hiring manager isn’t interested in having a real dialogue with you or answering your questions so that you can figure out if the job is right for you.”) assume that the interview is for an existing position. What would the advice be for a newly-created position, especially one in which they’re “still working out the details”?

    This is what happened with my current job – the director had all of these ideas, A, B, C, and D (he did most of the talking in the interview) whereas the direct supervisor only had A in mind, though it wasn’t apparent to me until a few days into the job, which I’d started about 2 months after the interview. I was actually more excited about the director’s vision of the job; had I known it’d be what the direct supervisor had intended, I probably would not have accepted the job. I’m doing better now than I was a couple months ago, but there is definitely some dysfunction.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      I took a job where their answer to all my questions was “we’re still working out the details” or “the person in this position can decide that”. Literally every single question other than “what’s your health plan like?”

      It turned out that no one at the company actually wanted to hire for this position, but clients had requested that they start doing this type of work so they hired someone to do it even though they didn’t want to or think they needed to. That was me. Once they got me they had no idea what they wanted me to do and expected me, a newcomer to their field, to tell them. (They also hired someone very early career because their pay was below market.)

      Other red flags: The actual hiring manager never interviewed or spoke to me until she called me to make an offer, because she was either on a business trip or on vacation for the entire interview process. It was impressed upon me that she was extremely busy and didn’t have time to do interviews (she didn’t have time to manage me either). None of the people who did interview me had any idea what the job would entail. None of the people who interviewed me were technical, even though it was a technical job. When I negotiated salary (the first time I talked to the hiring manager) she acted like she was doing me a huge favor by accepting my counter (spoiler: she thought they paid too much for me and held it against me FOREVER).

  39. Cassie*

    Not having a clue what the interview questions have to do with the job, like applying as a literature editor and getting asked about trigonometry concepts.

  40. Jenny*

    Job postings that say “We’re looking for someone who will work around the clock to get the work done” (yes, I’ve really seen this!).

  41. Anonymoo*

    I have one caveat to having to reschedule multiple times and mine was definitely an outlier. I had an initial interview with the recruiter and that went well. However, when it came to the second phone interview (with the head manager), the recruiter had to reschedule it 3 times before the manager finally called me. However, I needed the job, it was in the field I’d been trying for years to get into, and I had other indicators that they were just very busy (large, well known company that’s known to have high standards in its industry, friend there had been posting about working lots of hours, etc.). Turns out yep, the manager was just that busy and even now her assistant has a hard time finding her (thankfully the one I report to isn’t as difficult to find).

    1. Anonymoo*

      Forgot to say, this has been the best job I’ve ever had and I don’t want to leave and I”m hoping they’ll extend my stay or hire me directly.

  42. Stained Glass Cannon*

    I have a good one! The manager who interviewed me brought an intern into the interview and had the intern ask me questions, then in front of me, asked the intern for her opinion. I have ten years of experience in a specialized technical field.

    In retrospect, that was a huge red flag that should have warned me off right away. But I foolishly accepted the job and I’m now regretting it. The workplace has turned out to be one of those floaty environments where assignments get changed, moved around or cancelled without explanation, the manager can’t manage her time and makes the team do extra hours to compensate, and most egregiously (for me anyway) the manager pulled me off a highly specialized major project, one that I was supposedly hired to work on, and put me to doing sales. The project…got assigned to that intern from the interview.

    That turned out to be more of a rant than originally intended, heh. Anyway, I am making plans to escape. Wish me luck!

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Oy vey, your current situation sounds dreadful. But there is one silver lining: when you leave you will be free to shape your life in a way that pleases you (even if you have to adapt to another imperfect situation elsewhere). Meanwhile, the intern will still be back on the Devil’s ranch with the manager from Hell.
      Shadenfreude is not nice, but sometimes a tiny sliver can keep one focused on one’s goals. The idea is not to gloat about another person’s unhappiness but to leverage the local dysfunctionality into enough momentum to propel oneself out of the unhappy setting.
      Good luck finding better soil in which to thrive.
      It’s almost past my bedtime which is why I’m mixing metaphors.

  43. Irene Adler*

    At the interview I asked, “How do you support your reports?”
    The manager to whom I would report responded, “I’m the only one who can yell at you. I won’t allow anyone else to that to you.”
    Then she laughed.
    I was hoping to hear about how she worked with her reports. Guess not.
    Passed on that one.

  44. Former Computer Professional*

    I wish I’d had this advice before I took my last computer-related job.

    My phone interview lasted an hour. They flew me out to meet everyone.

    I spent the day with them and maybe spent 20 minutes talking about the job. At one point the manager insisted on driving me around the city so I could see how awesome it would be to live there!

    I was allegedly hired for my knowledge of a niche software package as well as my ‘reputation’ with it.

    It was a poor fit. I didn’t last long.

  45. Wintermute*

    When the job posting is laden with hip buzzwords and they’re trying way too hard to seem “with it” one of a few things will be true:

    1) Their processes and procedures make Ma Bell look like the model of low-overhead lightweight management. At some point in your career you WILL run into a catch-22 where you need a business case authorization form to contact vendors for pricing, but you need a price estimate before you can fill out your business case authorization form, and you can’t do EITHER of those without the permission of a manager who quit a month ago.

    2) They think that sounding all silicon valley will make you work silicon valley hours, when they’re not giving silicon valley stock options.

    3) The job ads are written by someone with no knowledge of the industry or norms, and they are blindly copying what they think better companies do in hopes of success by osmosis.

    as the parody twitter “Honest status reports” said: “We have plenty of Ninjas and Gurus, it turns out what we really need is a systems administrator”

  46. KS*

    When, as a demonstration of how much the company values work-life balance, the hiring manager describes how a previous employee left to take a position at another company, then found that she preferred the work-life balance at her previous job and inquired about returning… to be turned down by the hiring manager basically out of spite for her “disloyalty.” The fact that this incident was still fresh in the hiring manager’s mind years later and was described with no small amount of vindictive glee spoke volumes, and not about work-life balance. I should also mention that the interview was three hours long, most of which was the hiring manager talking about herself.

    I took the job anyway. Shockingly, it turned out to be a cesspit of toxic drama fueled entirely by the hiring manager (also the company’s owner, naturally)’s narcissism. I was having increasingly persistent fantasies of killing myself in front of the rest of the staff by the time they (mercifully) laid me off a year later.

  47. Andrew Kelly*

    Hi All;

    I have been job hunting for most of my life it seems like. I went to college got a post secondary school diploma in Business and posess a drivers licence in commercial vehicles.

    I have been working in security for 17 years, mainly as a security guard with some supervisory experience. It seems I can not get any further then this. I took courses in University to be a property manager and first year physics and electronics at a community college.

    I have had many interviews in the past and about 80% of the interviews the interviewer starts screaming his\her head off to, “Get out of my office.” as soon as I say, “I can drive” or they freak out when I tell them, “I have a post secondary school diploma in Business” I have had interviews were the interviewer never read my resume and when they do they start shooting from the hip attitude. The first thing they say during the interview, “You don’t have a drivers licence, it’s fake!” Using a demining voice. The other type of interview is where the employer screams at me during the interview, ” You don’t have a Business Management diploma retarded boy, it’s fake” or the other type of interview is, “Look at the guy, look at the guy” or “We don’t hire people who look like you.” in a demeaning type of tone. All this during the interview.

    Most interviewers never read my resume and they just look at me, look at my resume, look at me. Etc. Then the employer says in a rude voive, “We will call you if we are interested!” In a demeaning voice hey what? Your company called me into an interview and this is the respect I get.

    I carry a portfolio and had to open it up to defend my education and licences as the interviewer just attacks and even with my portfolio I still get, “Anybody can make this up a on an ink jet printer” according to employers I went to a fake college for 3 years to pay fake money after going to fake classes and studying fake material costing me thousands of dollars.

    I never hear back from interviewers from the jobs I am qualified for. I get these type of responses upon me following up on my resume. “If we are interested we will call you! Click” or “Hopefully somebody will call you back.” and that is the manager who does the hiring.

    I also had interviews I got called in for where the manger says, “We are not going to train you because you have no experience!” Yet the position advertised no experience. Do the interviewers just turn off their brains when interviewing people? Do they put on their rear end on their head every morning when they wake up?

  48. Playing The Long Game...*

    I actually had a very recent interview with a pharmacy, and it was a disaster from minute one. As I’ve been on a LOT of interviews, I know the basic drill. I turned up ten minutes early for the appointment, only to be kept waiting half an hour beyond the scheduled time, because the pharmacist on duty had been interviewing all morning and all of her work had piled up, hence the wait. Then, when I was finally seen for my interview, she admitted that the recruiter had only emailed her my resume that morning, despite my arranging the interview with them two days beforehand, ergo, she hadn’t read it. And, during the interview, she kept disappearing into the front shop, leaving me sitting there in the office, so her attention just wasn’t at all focused on me. I should have walked out after waiting fifteen minutes to be seen, but, as I’d laid out a fair amount of money to attend, I decided to stick it out. And, I was given a very vague time frame in relation to when a decision would be made. Needless to say, I got the standardised rejection email two days later, about how they chose someone with better skills and, bizarrely, profile?! I’m of the opinion that your skills land you the interview, but, it’s down to whether they like YOU as a person, that closes the deal, irrespective of your skills and talents, so, in my case, the boilerplate feedback/rejection email didn’t cut the mustard, and defied logic, as I have over fifteen years of experience in the field. However, I think I dodged a bullet…because, any prospective employer who displays such disrespectful behaviour in the presence of a candidate, isn’t likely to improve once you’re on the payroll…are they?

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