By Matt Dodgson

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  Warning signs are out there.

With 20/20 vision we can see the distinct lack of wisdom in those relationships we should never have had, the marketing job we should never have taken, and that kebab that was best left at the back of the refrigerator.

Somehow we go blind and deaf when we are dealing in the now – with a current situation which requires us to have our wits about us.

An interview for a marketing job is one of those situations.

We fret about what to wear and being on time, making sure we say the right things and not calling the Marketing Manager “mate”. But during this time of emotional overload, we pay very little attention to the giant red flags waving at us from behind the interviewer’s desk.

Yes, your first interview is the time to sell yourself to the company. But it is also a very good time to examine tell-tale signs that hint at the personality of the company. You need to stay alert to the not-so-obvious signs that you may be heading right down Bad Career Move Street.

So what should put you on high alert?

Warning Sign #1: Disrespect

Just like an arrogant boyfriend who thinks rather more of himself than he should, the staff at this company feel no need to extend social niceties to you – the lowly candidate.

You find yourself waiting on them to return phone calls or an email. Perhaps they have cancelled your interview on short notice with no explanation or apology. Or maybe they’ve called you in at the last minute at an impossible time without making sure you can manage it.

An interviewer who arrives late for a meeting, or not at all (it happens!) is saying in a loud clear voice that their time is more valuable than yours. Further, an interviewer who shuffles around his desk to locate your CV and says, “So… Sue..is it?”, is talking down to you.

Can you imagine working with this person? Does it sound like fun?

Warning Sign #2: Distrust

A wise hiring manager will always display a level of caution when meeting a marketing candidate for the first time. Let’s be honest, nobody wants to be burnt by a bad hire.

But there is another level of distrust which runs deep within a manager who lacks trust in his employees.

You will be able to see by their choice of questions what is important to these managers. A clock watcher is a total bore to work for, as is someone who removes all autonomy from a role. Can you say “micro-manage”?

If you are fine working with someone who monitors your emails and is constantly peering over your shoulder, then this will be a great job for you. For the rest of us, this is a red flag.

Warning Sign #3: Negativity

We all have good days and bad days. However, it’s all about how we deal with them.

To work for a manager who oozes a negative vibe will wear you down. You’ll be able to spot these by their use of negative language such as impossible, little value, loss, mistake and problem. This may come out when they talk about a previous employee or even their existing marketing team.

Someone who uses negative language will create problems in communication, add blame or exacerbate existing problems.

At best, this pessimism creates a demotivated and discontented workplace. At worst, it can be offensive and cause conflict.

 Warning Sign #4: They talk AT you

We all know one of these. The egomaniac who likes to impress you with how they came from nothing and how much they’re worth.

Yawn.

That’s fascinating information if you were there to sell them life cover, but as a candidate in a marketing interview, you remain less than impressed.

On its own this isn’t the worst problem in the world. But you may find that you leave there knowing all about them, yet they still know nothing about you. How can they make a hiring decision on your b2b marketing skills when they have barely looked through your CV?

Do you think you’ll get the job?

Warning Sign #5: Things move too quickly

You would think that this is a good thing. Seriously – how many times do people complain about the aeons of time between submitting their CV and being called in for an interview?

But there is such a thing as too fast. Sometimes it means highly motivated and organised, other times it means desperate.

For the record – desperate is bad.

They call you 2 minutes after you’ve sent your CV and your interview is set for that afternoon. Then you get the job. Whoa, take a breath.

Why is this moving so fast? Is it because they just want ‘anyone’ to fill a hole? How attractive is this marketing role? Does the company have a bad reputation?

Warning Sign #6: They don’t include personality-based questions

Cultural fit is everything! If the Marketing Director conducting your interview scans through your CV and doesn’t ask anything about you, then run away.

Yes, we are all employed based on a skill set.

However, every company has its own culture and you need to fit in.

The interviewer should be asking you about your interests, behaviours and future plans.

If not, then either they’re really rubbish at hiring, or they don’t care.

The first one is their own problem, but the second is yours. If they don’t care who you are or how you will fit in with their team, then you are just a number on a giant assembly line. Give them their pound of flesh and everyone goes home happy. Sounds like a fun day – or not.

Warning Sign #7: Things seem too good to be true

So, the job sounds amazing. The salary is brilliant, and the benefits are more than you possibly imagined. The office is so close that you got to work the day before you started, and your Marketing Manager is a mix of Tony Robbins and Gandhi. It almost feels like you’re about to pick up a job offer. 

Sound too good to be true? It probably is.

The problem most likely to surface is that they are overselling the role. What – exactly – will you be doing? Where will you be working? Are there any skeletons hunched over in the company closet, which will jump out grinning after a week? How engaged are sales with the marketing team? Do the people running the business truly ‘believe’ in marketing? Are they on the brink of liquidation?

If everything checks out, then enjoy riding your unicorn to work – we wish you all the best.

Warning Sign #8: The office atmosphere is diabolical

You’ll be spending the best part of your day with this group of nameless and faceless people behind that door. It stands to reason that you want it to be as pleasant as possible.

It’s well worth asking to meet your potential new marketing team and have a look behind the scenes.

It’s quite amazing how much information you can gather from just a few minutes in a new environment. Are people generally happy, or is there an undertone of fear or anxiety? Are there family pictures on the desks, open windows and fresh air, or does it resemble Alcatraz minus the inmates? Do people hunch over and avert their eyes when your manager walks past?

Warning Sign #9: It’s all done all the DL

Far too many jobs are filled on the down low.

Family members or friend’s friends start popping up in jobs that were never officially advertised. Staff members have no idea that they are being replaced. Management don’t post these “vacancies” on any public platform.

Yeah, this is a problem.

If you’re being hustled in and out via the back door and your access to the rest of the employees is restricted, then there’s a problem.

While there may be good reasons for replacing someone without their knowledge, it does raise a few questions. Why aren’t they dealing with this problem up front? If you get the job, can you expect to be secretly replaced one day? Don’t they have official channels to handle grievances or non-compliance?

Warning Sign #10: Pressure.

You’ve had your interview, and it was great. And oh joy – they’re offering you the job. But it comes with a boatload of pressure.

“We need your answer within 24 hours!”

What’s the rush? Why the pressure? Is this how they do business? If a company, or even a recruitment agency, is playing hardball you need to press pause.

While it’s fair for a company to expect a reply in a reasonable amount of time, they must know that you have a few factors to consider. Perhaps this position is further away and you need to consider transport costs. Or, you want to talk to your significant other. Maybe you need to factor in a change in earnings or working times.

By all means acknowledge the job offer if you are keen, but don’t allow yourself to be bullied.

No, great marketing jobs are not simply lying about on the street waiting for us to trip over them. And competition can be fierce, especially for great marketing jobs.

But the last thing you want to do is ignore the signs that this isn’t a great fit for you, and jump into a bad decision.

You know your own triggers, and what you can and can’t deal with in a manager, or in a company. So go into your next interview with your eyes wide open and your emotions in check.

You’ll be surprised what you can spot if you listen to your gut.