I had three interviews with one company recently. I was a finalist for the job. They checked my references.
They promised to get back to me last Thursday with their final hiring decision. There was one other finalist candidate.
When I woke up on Thursday morning my wife June said “You were talking in your sleep.”
She said “You kept saying ‘This is not right, this is all wrong.'”
Then I remembered having bad dreams about the new job.
As it turns out, the company never got back to me on Thursday, or Friday either.
This morning I left a message for the recruiter and told him I’m not interested anymore.
My wife’s comment about me talking in my sleep shook me into the realization that I would have hated that job.
There were signs on all three interviews that they hire and fire people without giving it a second thought.
Every single person I met in that company said some variation of “It’s a tough place to work, but we hire really smart people so we can handle it.”
In my experience, being smart has nothing to do with putting up with abuse, and the people I met at my three interviews all seemed to be putting up with a lot of abuse.
I guess I was so desperate to get a new job that I ignored the signals. Here are a few of them:
1. The first person I met was someone who had just started in the HR department the week before she interviewed me. She said “Please forgive me — this is my first time interviewing anyone.” I told her it was no problem, of course, and I asked her about her interview training. She hadn’t had any — nor any tips or coaching, either. She didn’t even know which questions are lawful and unlawful to ask candidates.
2. I asked my prospective hiring manager what happened to the last person in the job, and she said “They weren’t up to my standards.” She didn’t see the failure with that person as a learning experience for herself at all. She also basically told me that she fired the woman. That’s not very professional.
3. Apart from blowing off the date when they promised to let me know about my offer, this company routinely ignored my email and voice mail messages, got their basic facts wrong and made clerical mistakes beyond what any business person is used to. I really believe the only reason I had three interviews is because my recruiter kept hounding them to move the process forward.
Now I can see that the company has a toxic culture. I would have hated working there.
The recruiter called me back when he got my message.
He was pretty disgusted with his client.
“The other candidate dropped out, too,” he said. “Now they have no one to fill the job.”
I asked him whether he’s going to source additional candidates and he said “No. This client has been on probation with me, and now I’m done.”
He confirmed that my instinct was correct.
There’s something very wrong when both finalist candidates drop out of the recruiting pipeline because they’re so frustrated with the process.
Apart from picking myself up, dusting myself off and continuing with my job search, is there anything else for me to learn from this big waste of time?
The next time, you won’t be so easy to fool. Now you know what a dysfunctional organization looks and sounds like.
Here are 10 signs of a toxic culture — signs you will easily spot during the recruiting process if you look for them!
1. The interview process is cold and bureaucratic. Official communications have no warmth or personality in them at all, but rather read like form letters. You are nobody special to these people — just another applicant in a long line of them.
3. Recruiting seems to be this company’s lowest priority. They make promises about when you will hear from them but they miss their promises by a mile.
4. Your interviewers read you questions from a script. They make no attempt to have a human conversation with you or to sell you on the opportunity in any way. On the contrary — they want you to sell them!
5. They demand your last year’s W-2 to prove your earnings at your last company. Why would you want to work for people who expect you to trust them, but don’t trust you?
6. Their interviewing process is in shambles. Their interview schedules always get goofed up, and when they do they grab the first person they can find to interview you. You can’t get your questions answered, and waste a lot of time with people who know nothing about the role.
7. They ask insulting job interview questions like “What would your last boss say about you?” and “How many days of work did you miss last year?”
8. Everyone you meet seems fearful, exhausted, downcast or overly sensitive. They have a culture problem — that’s why! You can feel it in the air every time you enter the building.
9. Communication inside the company is a disaster. Everyone you talk with has a different idea about what the open position is all about. In some cases you can even notice bad blood or tension between the people you meet. That’s not a good sign!
10. Finally, you can’t get anyone to have a straight and honest conversation with you about your compensation or the terms of your employment. They tell you everything will be fine and not to worry about it, but you can’t pin them down to a definite salary and/or bonus number — and they bristle when you bring up the topic.
We can feel sorry for people working in a place like that, but you don’t want to join them!
To avoid wasting time in another vortex of dysfunction, make a conscious effort not to slow down your job search until you’ve accepted an offer.
Until that day, keep your job search engine running at full power!
Keep sending out Pain Letters, right up until the end.
Never count your chickens until they’ve hatched, and never put yourself into the position where you have to accept a job offer because you’ve stopped your job search activity waiting for one offer to come in.
That’s a bad plan. What if you stopped your job search and the job offer arrived — but it was a terrible offer? Don’t slow down a bit until the right deal is struck.
Then, you and June can go out for a nice gelato and celebrate!
All the best,
Written by Liz Ryan writes about bringing life to work and bringing work to life. She is CEO/founder of Human Workplace and author of Reinvention Roadmap. Follow her on Twitter and read Forbes columns.