Bad interview processes are a warning sign

I once interviewed for a Director of Engineering role at a technology company in Singapore.

Their interview process was bad. So bad. Utterly terrible.

But it wasn't obvious at first.

It started ok and maybe due to my excitement in the role I missed some early signs but it quickly worsened as I proceeded through their long and seemingly unprepared interview process.

By about the 3rd interview/conversation I was unsure about the company.

By the 5th I was certain. Certain I was not going to work here.

We were so close to the end (at least after 5 interviews I hoped we were near the end) so I kept the process going. It would be good practice for me and also serve as a reference point for some of the bad things to avoid when interviewing people.

One of those lessons is the subject of today's email:

DO NOT IGNORE WARNING SIGNS IN AN INTERVIEW.

If something seems odd, strikes you as weird, or just makes you feel uncomfortable during an interview that is a very very very bad sign. Very bad x 1000.

The interview process is a little window in to how your prospective employer operates. It is a process that has been purposefully exposed to people outside the company so you can bet all your money that they've tried their best to show their company in the most positive light possible.

If they cannot get their shit together, if obvious cultural problems arise, or they just seem like douchebags during an interview then you should run for the hills.

Seriously.

If something is making your cringe in the interview it is almost guaranteed that company is not a good fit for you.

How can you tell? Is there some magic formula for measuring companies to validate if they are good places to work or not?

Introducing the Zac Score. It's like the Joel Score but obviously much cooler because it has my name in it…

Ok I think my humour probably doesn't translate to writing in this instance so let me be clear:

No, there is not a single set way to judge if a company is good for you or not.

This judgement will be different per person, per company, and per role.

You need to come up with your own methods for assessing the viability of a prospective employer because ultimately you make the decision and you are the best person to know if something is good or bad for you.

But I can give you some tips. Here is how to think about this:

  • Define your personal values FIRST - you need to know what you stand for before you interview. Doing this is hard but once you do it makes rejecting companies a breeze. Never compromise your values.
  • Define your deal breakers - these are aligned to values but different. These are the non-negotiable aspects you need a role to have. If you work from home Mondays to pick up your kids that is not really a personal value but it is a deal breaker if a company cannot support it.
  • Ask specific questions - don't just ask the standard shitty questions interviewees ask. Ask specific questions that will highlight any potential deal-breakers for you.
  • Pay attention to your 'gut' responses - if anything during the entire interview process makes you feel uncomfortable (not just normal interview nerves) then do not ignore it. Dive in to that feeling and figure out why it is happening.
  • Ask follow-up questions - if something is bothering you, or one of your questions is unanswered, do not be afraid to ask follow up questions. Don't stop asking until you have your answers. This follow-up can be on the spot during an interview or even later on in correspondence before you get to offer negotiation.


How you are feeling during an interview process at a company is an indicator for how you will feel working there.

If you feel doubt you owe it to yourself to explore that doubt until you have silenced that inner critic or confirmed their worst fears.

Cheers
Zac Sky