Major red flags that your boss is a tool

Here are some warning signs you that a job is going to suck worse than being unemployed – and how I experienced them all in a single job interview.

A bad working relationship with your boss can be a career damaging situation. Whether you get out before the axe falls or are fired because of it, it’s emotionally painfully, stressful and can harm your professional reputation.

The best way to avoid it altogether is to spot the signs of a bad boss before you even take the job. Here are some red flags to watch for in the interview that you probably shouldn’t take the job.

Major warning signs that your boss is a tool

  • They are late and unapologetic. This shows a serious disrespect for your time as a professional.
  • They haven’t prepared for the interview at all. You’ve taken the time to come in and meet, the least they could do is read your resume before the interview.
  • The workplace is a cult and they would rather talk about how all candidates are just desperate to work there than actually treat you as an individual.
  • They read their emails or check their phone while you’re talking to them.
  • Your gut tells you to get out. Get out now.

Here’s an illustrated example of how I experienced all of these and more in a single job interview.

They’re late for the interview and unapologetic. I once interviewed for a travel marketing company that had a small office with no reception area. You came out of the elevators right up to the reception desk. I arrived five minutes early, and killed time looking at the pictures on the wall. They seemed to all be of the owner/founder of the company at various locations around the world.

About fifteen minutes later (so I’d been cooling my heels for twenty now, trying not to look awkward) a woman breezed by me without slowing down and said, “She’ll be with you in a moment.” It was at least another ten minutes before my actual interviewer emerged and greeted me without even a token nod to the fact that I’d been standing in a hallway for half an hour and led me to a meeting room.

That’s just discourteous. It’s a bad sign.

They haven’t prepared for the interview. When we sat down at the conference table, the woman picked up my resume and began to read it, apparently for the first time. To break the silence, I attempted to make some small talk. She held up the hand that wasn’t holding the resume and said without looking up, “Just a minute.”

I’ve researched this company, come up with a few creative ideas of how I could make it more successful, dressed up, and crossed town full of enthusiasm. I’ve been in your office for forty minutes, we haven’t yet spoken, and I already hate you.

They assume you’d be desperate to work there.
When she finally lowered the resume and looked at me it was to say, “I’m meeting with many people about this position, so we’ll have to make this quick. Tell me five reasons why you want this job.”

Of course, at this point I wanted to say, “I can’t even think of one.” But I am a professional and that would have reflected poorly on me. I gave some standard answers about believing in the product, liking the brand, seeing areas where I could make a significant contribution.

She didn’t look satisfied – or even as though she was assessing the relevance of my response. She was counting. She said: “That’s only three.” Bad sign.

It’s a cult. “What about [Founder’s Name]? Everyone wants the opportunity to work for him. We turn down requests for unpaid internships weekly.”

I had a flashback to the framed picture of [Founder’s Name] up and down the hallways. Red flag. “Yes,” I said. “He seems like a well-travelled and inspirational leader.” I had never heard of the guy except in the About Us page of the company’s website when boning up for the interview.

“So, it’s travel. Of course, everyone wants to work in travel,” she said looking down at her phone and scrolling the screen.

That’s twice now in less than a minute I’ve been accused of being an anonymous candidate wanting what “everyone wants.” What I haven’t been asked is anything about those contributions I mentioned that I felt I could make, my past accomplishments, experience, skills or ideas. Bad sign.

You walk out with a huge negative feeling. The excitement and enthusiasm I had started out with that morning was gone. Job interviews can be nerve wracking, but they usually create an adrenalin rush for the potential of a fresh start, new challenges. This left me feeling deflated.

I can’t even remember if we discussed next steps in the hiring process. I just wanted to get out and never come back. The wait for the elevator back down was the longest of my life. I asked a guy passing me in the hallway if there were stairs I could use. He glanced at me startled, but didn’t slow down or respond.

I don’t even know what that’s about, but it seems like another huge red flag.

I didn’t get the job, and if I had, I wouldn’t have taken it. Being broke sucks. This would have sucked more.

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