Red flags in interviewing: How do they treat wait staff?

3 tacos, elegantly served

Everyone seems to have advice about what potential employers and employees should look out for in the hiring process. Some of the suggestions for job seekers come from a position of privilege, and assume that you have multiple job offers to choose among. This was never the case for me, so I completely understand that advice may only be useful when you have choices. What follows is a tip I’ve seen elsewhere, which I share because I have had occasion to confirm it for myself.

If you have the opportunity to interact socially with your prospective future manager before or during interviewing, take it. I once went out to lunch with the person who was trying to hire me. Their interactions with the wait staff were troubling. They had many questions about the menu – it was reasonable to ask questions, given their dietary restrictions. But when the meal that arrived was not precisely what they expected, they were nitpicky. Not rude, but condescending: “Oh, I thought it would be…” There’s nothing wrong with sending back food you can’t or don’t want to eat, but the way this person responded to a minor contretemps was troubling.

That incident stuck in my mind and, in hindsight, was a red flag. This person would prove to be a terrible manager – themselves disorganized, and unable or unwilling to correctly use company tools such as the calendar, while expecting their team to accommodate by being constantly available. They micromanaged to an insane degree (“Copy me on all your emails”), a sure sign of an inexperienced and unconfident manager.

I took the job in spite of this and other red flags because, as usual, I couldn’t afford not to. I came to regret it almost immediately, and spent several miserable months on the verge of quitting (others on the team were also unhappy) before the situation was finally resolved by reorganizing the team so that I no longer reported to this person.

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