4 red flags when interviewing. If the application process is bad, the job is likely to be even worse

Even if you end up accepting a job in a place with one or more red flags, reading the clues can help you not be surprised when you get there.

Job interviews are real traps for candidates PHOTO: Archive

In every game, part of the challenge is knowing the other side. Whether it's poker, football or the hiring game, understanding your opponent's cues – unspoken signals – can help you refine your strategy to win, writes businessinsider.com.

A former vice president of Microsoft's human resources department says that hiring is one of the few external faces of a company, the others being sales and media or investor relations.

But hiring is unique: The company is trying to convince you to be part of the team. Recruiters and hiring managers don't just want you to believe them, they want you to join them. Therefore, they should be on their best behavior.

But some accounts can expose the company's problems and should be red flags for job seekers.

Here are the most common hiring cues I've seen.

1. Chaos

The most common problem in employment is chaos: unclear processes, missed meetings, confusion in appointments or irregular communication.

The candidate sees long periods of silence followed by a desperate need for immediate resolution. There may be confusion about who will conduct the interview or when it will take place. Details are often missing or constantly changing.

This kind of chaos can result from a number of factors: Maybe the company is in turmoil, maybe the recruiting team isn't the highest priority, maybe they're all contract employees, or maybe they're just disorganized people.

Whatever the cause, this chaos is a rumor. If the company's image to potential employees can't even schedule an interview, imagine what it might be like to work there.

2. Bureaucracy

Another important indicator is red tape, such as applications that require information to be uploaded into multiple systems or multiple steps to go through before even receiving a selection call.

Hiring processes that involve seven rounds of interviews or extensive upfront work, such as completing trial projects, are often relics of a bygone era—remnants of processes that once might have made sense.

They are a sign of a company that isn't working efficiently and isn't constantly iterating to improve.

If they can't streamline their hiring process to make it work for both the company and the candidates, we can only imagine the bureaucracy of the day-to-day work there.

3. The secret

Some companies are overly vague about the role, the group, and even the company. They talk about a great assignment, but don't answer direct questions about everything from pay to organization.

Even the most mundane things, like who you will work for or how your work will be judged, are left as is strictly “need to know”. They present fronts that would make national security organizations wince.

They often treat this level of secrecy as a badge of honor, as if it were a sign of the importance of their great work.

Often times, it's just arrogance or bravado. Worse, they may be hiding terrible working conditions behind closed doors. The company keeps both managers and employees in the dark, but asks them to work tirelessly toward vague goals.

You want me to uproot my life and dedicate my career to a job I don't fully understand? No, thanks.

4. Imagination

This tell of organizational hubris is common in the tech world, but is also found in some high-level consulting firms and other “elite”.

They claim to only hire the best and want you to think you're lucky to even be considered for their role.

This conceit leads to many problematic aspects of employment. These companies often have abusive interviews where a panel of experts basically bullies the candidates. They pile on endless preliminary work which they then judge in a harsh and mocking way. I never allow the candidate to ask the same challenging questions to the firm, or I instantly dismiss those who do.

What's worse about these firms is that this arrogance can hide a dirty secret of the reality behind the curtain. Many new hires are put through years of abuse and drudgery, which is itself a form of initiation – and companies expect them to be happy to be there.

It's often best to reflect on your own feelings when interviewing. If the interviewer doesn't treat you like a colleague or at least like you're valuable in the interview, imagine what it might be like to work there as a new hire.