Saturday, April 13, 2024

Smart Questions to Ask a Hiring Manager to Spot Red Flags

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.

Now that you’re searching for a new job, it’s essential to look for any signs as to whether or not the company or work environment will be a good fit for you.

That might mean determining whether the culture aligns with your values or whether the company offers a flexible work policy to meet your needs.

It would be ideal if all companies posted those details front and center. You could apply confidently, knowing the organization offers exactly what you need.

But since that’s not always the case, you’ll have to do your research and read between the lines a bit. And if you know what to look and listen for, you can ask the hiring manager questions to uncover any potential red flags.

When you ask the right questions, you can analyze the company’s response to better understand its values and priorities.

The answers you get can help you determine potential challenges and whether or not the company culture will be an excellent fit for you. Use this list as a starting point while preparing for upcoming interviews.

1. What are the challenges of this position?

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Give the hiring manager a chance to reveal how the role fits into the company. Their answer can offer insight into the workload and benchmarks you’ll be expected to meet.

Will you be juggling multiple projects and trying to meet tight deadlines? What about hard skills and communication styles that are preferred?

Navigating the hiring manager’s answer will help you understand how the role fits your personality, skill set, and work style. You’ll also gain deeper insights into the organization’s efficiency and structure.

2. Why is this position open?

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Did the role evolve due to growth? Was the last employee promoted? Those are excellent signals of a company with healthy development.

On the other hand, if the role is open due to turnover or dissatisfaction, that may be a red flag.

One team member that could have been a better fit or had a change in circumstance shouldn’t cause you concern.

But if the hiring manager indicates that the position is hard to fill and has frequent turnover, that’s a different story. In that case, you should conduct more research before accepting any offers.

3. If you could change one thing about the company, what would it be?

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When you ask this question, the hiring manager can give you some telltale signals about the company’s culture. Their answers hint at the organization’s structure and the efficiency of its communication channels.

You might also discover how performance is measured.

Listen for any frustrations with communication and departmental collaboration.

For instance, do they mention a desire for more support with training and updated tools? Those are red flags that will require some analysis.

4. What is your approach to work-life balance?

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Companies approach remote and flexible work differently. If you’ve already determined your needs, this is a great way to narrow down the specifics without coming right out and asking for the details of their flexible work policy.

Listen for words like “remote,” “flexible schedule,” and “results-oriented work environment (ROWE).” Those indicate that the company supports work-life balance to meet employee needs.

Does the hiring manager mention support for mental health and overall wellness? There may be a focus on time away and a healthy perspective on overtime and workload. Those are excellent indicators of a healthy work culture.

Conversely, if the manager hesitates or passes the question off as insignificant, that’s not a great sign. When there are concerning references to policies that won’t meet your work-life balance needs, it’s time to consider another option.

5. What resources do you offer to support employees?

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Organizations striving to build a healthy foundation invest in their employee’s wellness in several ways.

Beyond standard benefits packages, listen for the manager to touch on structured training and mentorship opportunities to assist team members in getting up to speed and growing into new roles.

Mentorship opportunities might include a formal program for those pursuing leadership or general career counseling. If you’re interviewing with a smaller startup, they might not have a formal mentorship program.

At a minimum, you want to hear that there are performance reviews and frequent feedback. Regular check-ins ensure you get the support you need to excel and grow into new opportunities.

6. How do you handle mistakes or setbacks as a team?

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Ideally, you’ve found a company with a growth mindset.

Steer clear of companies that openly state that there is no room for mistakes. Hiring managers who seem overly critical, even if they say it with a smile, can be draining to work for.

Instead, you’re hoping to hear the hiring manager talk about a team environment that values innovation and the chance to learn from mistakes. Accountability isn’t a red flag, as it can help ensure everyone you rely on has clear expectations.

However, there should be a healthy expectation around growth, rather than perfection.

7. What does communication look like in the company and on the team?

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Communication is crucial when you work on any team, but even more so if you’re looking for a remote or flexible job. When a team is distributed, the company should have an established process for check-ins and meetings.

Last-minute meeting requests and ambiguous expectations may increase your anxiety.

Clarity and transparent expectations help ensure that the work environment promotes trust, even distribution of the workload, and open dialogue.

8. How do you measure success in this position?

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You need to know beforehand if the role has clearly defined outcomes you’re aiming for, both in your personal development and in the deliverables. Will you be measured based on criteria you control, or is it dependent on others?

For example, if you’re an editor on a content marketing team, are you required to edit a certain amount daily? That might be out of your control if you wait for writers to create their work.

On the other hand, if you’re measured on the quality and timeliness of your editing turnaround, you’re getting evaluated based on your work alone.

9. Can you describe the team dynamics and working relationships?

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Do you love to work closely with your teammates? A culture focusing less on creative brainstorming and building relationships within teams might not be an excellent fit for you.

On the other hand, a hiring manager that talks about weekly meetings and focuses on asynchronous and synchronous communication standards is a great sign.

Alternatively, if you prefer autonomy and working alone, a work environment involving extensive collaboration at every step might not match your personality and work style well.

Regardless of where you land in terms of teamwork, look for a role that has a solid foundation of clarity around how the team works together. If it sounds like they’re figuring it out as they go, that’s not a great sign.

10. What opportunities for growth and advancement are available within the company?

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No matter how much you love the job you land, it will get boring eventually. Rather than find yourself looking for work again in a few years, look for a company that prioritizes employee development.

This can be a bit of a balancing act since you don’t want the hiring manager to think you’re taking this role only to look for something else. As such, it would be best to convey that you’re looking at how the organization fits in with your long-term career plans.

Likewise, you want to join a company committed to your career and growth, hoping you stay for quite some time.

Identifying Red Flags To Make an Informed Decision

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The hiring manager’s answers can help you look beyond the job description to determine if the job will fit.

Finding a culture that fits your work style, personality, and goals is essential for long-term satisfaction and success. Don’t be afraid to ask questions so you can make the best career choice for yourself.

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