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Ignore these job advertisement and interview red flags at your peril

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Ignore these job advertisement and interview red flags at your peril


The more things change the more they stay the same in the recruitment ecosystem. Despite all the hype over the last few years of the great resignation, quiet quitting et al, hiring and interviews and job advertisement still wield an imbalance of power and ego posturing. Sue Parker explores.

Searching for a new job is fraught with different emotions and frustrations at the best of times. And particularly so if a person is not working or facing sexism, racism or ageism. 

Maintaining self esteem and dignity is important for mental health and identifying and taking notice of the red flags are essential to minimise job risks.  

And despite the changes in the market over the last few years, hiring red flags haven’t changed, nor the need for mutual respect.

Holding power, listening to your instincts and expecting courteous and professional behaviour should never wane in the hiring process. But it does wane frequently at all levels across $80,000 to $800,000 roles.

Tales from vault

I’ve been around marketing and executive careers for a very long time and the acquiescence I’ve observed from highly skilled and experienced men and women encountering poor form is staggering.   

I recoil at some tales shared with me over the years including:  

  • The media director who was chomping on his bowl of Chinese noodles whilst interviewing my advertising sales management candidate
  • The owner of a media agency telling a candidate she was the hottest person he had ever interviewed, but his staff would find her too distracting so not a good fit.  But, could he take her out for dinner!
  • The marketing manager who kept a digital senior candidate waiting for over an hour without an apology or the receptionist offering a drink.  And a whole swag of other disrespectful interview attitudes.  
  • The candidate who was told after a 2 hour interview he was not worth the salary on offer but would be considered for a lower package 
  • Interviewers who don’t show their full face on Zoom interviews.
  • Dismissive and dogmatic greetings on Zoom interviews

Believe first impressions 

First impressions matter. The way a job advertisement and application is responded to.  The communications and tone on email, phone and at interviews. That first hello, handshake, conversation, Zoom call first impressions really matter. 

How people behave and treat us the first time around is a good indicator of what is to come. Listen and watch it intently and don’t try to justify and rationalise it.   

When meeting with a prospective employer the way they treat you will pretty much be the best they will be and a true indicator of what you are in for if you join that company and manager. Trust me, it never gets better.

Rudeness, unprofessionalism or any negative behaviour or issue at the front end doesn’t get better at the back end.

We process information in three ways.  

We ‘think’ with our head, ‘feel’ with our heart and ‘know’ in our gut  the truth. It is the gut that is always right when we trust it. We must trust it!

Job advertisement red flags

This is a short guide. A company needs to sell themselves equally as candidates do:

  1. Lack of a  salary guide/range. 
  2. Use of dismissive and arrogant language: i.e. only short listed candidates will be contacted   
  3. No  contact details to enquire about the role. This is essential for senior and management roles. 
  4. Long list of criteria and candidate demands. Tone matters. 
  5. Ageist language – i.e. a youthful environment. Young dynamic team.  
  6. Little information about the company and its culture.  

Interview and process red flags

  1. The job responsibilities and KPIs are different to what has been communicated on the job advertisement or discussed/briefed previously. This alerts potential internal political issues and/or the company has no idea of what they need.
  2. The interviewer runs down the person/s currently or previously in the role. It’s the ‘blame everyone else’ rhetoric vs responsible EQ frame.
  3. Disrespect by keeping you waiting without any apology or contrition (zoom, phone, in person). 
  4. Lengthy time delays between interviews and follow-up is a big flag that a company can’t get its act together and/or just doesn’t value people and candidates as human beings. Run!
  5. A low vibe/quiet office where you just feel the darkness of a culture of fear and lack of enthusiasm. Or you hear loud aggressive and angry office conversations as you wait in the reception or meeting room. 
  6. If the hiring managers poorly treat their staff, suppliers, receptionists (aka anyone that comes across their path) poorly. Observe this and take notice.
  7. The interviewer/s clearly haven’t thoroughly read your resume &/or are not prepared at all for the interview.
  8. You don’t get satisfactory answers to relevant and thoughtful questions you have asked.  Candidates have every right to ask important questions and any evasiveness or refusal to answer thoroughly is a bad omen.
  9. Reputation for high turnover/poor culture and reviews. There is so many avenues available to reference check employers and get the word on the ground from past and existing employees.  You will get a really good indicator of turnover on LinkedIn and reviews on sites like Glassdoor.   And don’t think bad treatment won’t happen to you – it WILL. Just like a bad history of abuse, it happens to everyone eventually.
  10. The salary, terms and package markedly changes in the offer/negotiation stage and the company refuses to redress despite all efforts. Hiding and evasive communications at any part of the process is a warning of other issues.

Hold your power 

Holding your power means walking away when red flags are waving.  

And make sure you are ticking all the professional and great communication boxes as hiring is a two-way street of equal respect and exploration.

But do bolt if red flags and your instincts indicate a company, role or hiring manager is off.    

And if a noodle bowl is in sight, run as fast as Cathy Freeman did in the 2000 Melbourne Olympics.


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Sue Parker

Sue Parker is the owner of Dare Group Australia. She is a national career strategist, personal branding and LinkedIn expert.

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