Interviewing

Am I Interviewing for a Toxic Company?

interview toxic company

Imagine for a moment that you’re lost in the middle of the woods.

Suddenly, a figure appears in the distance and beckons to you.

Do you throw caution the wind and go over without a moment’s hesitation?

Or do you approach carefully, hoping for the good, but not so blinded by hope that you ignore any signs of bad intent?

Most would answer the latter. And yet, amidst the pressure of interviewing for that new role at that incredible company, we IGNORE the warning signs. Any company, no matter how toxic or dysfunctional on the inside, can FAKE being a good fit with you. But like an imperfect actor, there are clues, breaks in the facade where their real identity comes out.

Also read: How to Positively Answer Negative Interview Questions

Here’s what to look out for:

Aggressive Signals

  • Stress Interview. This is where an employer, in an attempt to see how well you handle stress, will subject you to a series of confrontational situations: asking a lot of rapid-fire questions, constantly challenging your viewpoint, and generally acting like you’re “less than.” It’s bullying behavior, and if you find yourself on the receiving end of it, I implore you to get up and walk out. No explanation necessary. Walk out and consider yourself incredibly lucky for the warning. If that’s how they treat someone they’re trying to attract to their team, can you IMAGINE what it’s like to actually work there?
  • Completely 1-sided process. Do you find it impossible to get a word in edgewise? Do they refuse to engage with you until after you’ve run through several hoops of testing and/or free work? Are you forced to plan next steps on THEIR timeframe, and their timeframe only? This is an employer signaling how things will be if you land the job: they order, and you march.
  • Bad Behavior between others. If the hiring manager yells at someone in front of you, or openly criticizes others behind their back, you should fully assume that they’ll do the same to you once you’re a part of the team.

Low-Value Signals

  • Active distrust. Things like background and reference checks are part of the process. Treating it like a “guilty until proven innocent” situation is not. This is a meeting amongst two equal parties- if they can’t understand that, it’s a problem.
  • Using salary as a screening mechanism. Insisting on talking salary before discussing the position in-depth, or giving you a chance to demonstrate your unique value? They’re trying to commoditize you.
  • ANY differences between the verbal and written offer. No excuses for this! If they’re playing games at this crucial stage, what will they pull on you if you accept?
  • Constant rescheduling of interview and call times, often at the last minute. They’re saying their time is more important than yours.
  • ZERO negotiation on compensation and other factors. “Take it or leave it” is never a good way to enter into a working relationship.

Internal Chaos Signals

  • Super-rushed interview process. No hard-hitting questions, and an offer with a ticking deadline. You need to ask yourself: why are they so desperate to fill the position so quickly? What happened to the last person who held it?
  • You’re not allowed to meet anyone on the team and/or all interviews take place at non-work locations.  Usually occurs when they’re pushing some kind of false narrative, and are afraid someone else will contradict it.
  • No job description. Hard to succeed at a job if you don’t know precisely what criteria your performance will be judged against.

Also read: How to Handle a Bad Interviewer

Key Takeaway: So if you spot any of these red flags during the interview process, is the position an automatic no-go? Not necessarily. But ONLY if you honestly bring up the concern, and get an answer that satisfies you 100%. It is infinitely easier to walk away during the interview stage versus once you’ve started the position, so do not ignore the signs!

About the Author

Anish Majumdar is a nationally recognized Career Coach, Personal Branding Expert, and a fierce advocate for transitioning leaders. His posts and videos on disrupting the "normal rules" of job searching and getting ahead reach a combined audience of 30M professionals every month. Go down the rabbit hole of Anish’s career videos at HelloAnish.com, and connect with him on LinkedIn to receive daily career tips and advice.