You have successfully overcome the first hurdle of the recruitment process in your quest for your dream job. You have been invited for a job interview and followed all the relevant advice on how to prepare for your big day.

You have researched the company, rehearsed your answers to those key questions and your appearance is professional and pristine. Barring any unforeseen calamities, you are confident the job offer is within your grasp.

Just bear in mind that not all companies are equal and some, in fact, can prove to be toxic. Don’t be blinded by your eagerness to change your current position — some employers should be given a wide berth. Rather than propel you along your career trajectory, they can bring it to a grinding halt.

But how do you identify those companies during the recruitment process?

Here are seven warning signs to help you to identify a potentially toxic organisation:

1. Poor communication

This is the first indication of a toxic employer, ranging from unprofessional behaviour to a complete lack of respect offered to you as a candidate. Last-minute cancellations and rescheduled interviews add to the general air of indifference.

On arrival at the company’s office, you are met by a surly receptionist who barely glances up from the desk, leaving you sitting awkwardly in the visitors’ waiting area.


2. Lack of a job description

The continued absence of a job description is a cause for concern. If you are continually fobbed off with promises of details being provided “once you have started work with us”, be wary. A disorganised employer that lacks vision does not augur well for your future career.


3. A critical hiring manager

One of the golden rules for all candidates attending an interview is never to reflect negatively on previous or current employers and colleagues.

If the person interviewing you interrupts the discussion to present a monologue on everything that he perceives to be wrong with the company, his boss and his colleagues, consider that to be a flashing red warning.

To confirm this view, ask your interviewer what he enjoys most about working for his employer. A series of sarcastic quips, a hasty change of subject or an uncomfortable silence will provide you with the answer you need.


4. The interviewer ignores your questions

If you have thoroughly researched the opportunity and the company, you will have a list of questions prepared that are relevant to the job, the hiring process and the previous postholders.

If your questions are met with a frown or a response such as “that’s not open for discussion at this stage in the interview process”, this is a cause for concern. Employers who are reluctant to disclose fundamental details generally have something to hide and it normally includes an unhappy workforce.


5. No one smiles

You may have met a miserable human resources assistant when you contacted the company to confirm your interview, but everyone is entitled to a bad day.

When the hostile theme continues with the receptionist on arrival and every employee you meet on the way to the interview room reinforces your initial impression, that’s a whole new level of concern. Can you seriously imagine spending every hour of your working day in such a negative environment?


6. Beware of the instant job offer

If you are offered the job within half an hour of walking into the interview following a distinct lack of probing questions or reference requests, don’t celebrate prematurely.

This is not normal practice with permanent positions or discerning employers in search of the best talent available. Companies that hire quickly normally fire quickly too. Take a mental step back and review the situation before responding.

Our advice? If you are in a financially pressured situation where you simply need to pay the bills, proceed with ultimate caution and continue your job search in the meantime.


7. You can’t wait to leave

The whole process has been a challenge from the outset, you haven’t warmed up to anyone you have met so far and your instincts are telling you to run.

Remain professional, steer the interview towards its completion, thank the hiring manager politely and leave, preferably without a backward glance.

Article by Kate Smedley, an associate writer with Sandbox Advisors, a firm which helps people with careers, job search and training in Singapore.