Spotting Red Flags During Your Job Search

Interview Tips

“Any job is better than no job.” Isn’t it? That certainly seems true if you desperately need a higher income or have been unemployed for months on end. Beggars can’t be choosers, after all. But if you take the wrong job, you may find yourself back at square one before you know it. Low morale, bad management, and rapid change in the industry may be enough to force you to update your résumé once more, either because you have no choice or because you have to get out of there.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to avoid finding yourself in this scenario. Red flags can pop up at any time during your job search, and you’ll see them as long as you stay alert. If you are already moving forward with a particular job, be sure to keep your eyes open as the process continues, especially during your interviews, either in person or by phone or Skype. Everything you see, hear, and feel in your gut deserves attention before you say something you can’t immediately take back. Here are some signs you might see indicating that the job is a bad fit for you:

1. What do you know about the company already?

To earn one negative Glassdoor review may be regarded as a misfortune; to earn 20 negative Glassdoor reviews looks like a toxic workplace environment. If those reviews indicate patterns of poor compensation and high turnover, you may be better off leaving your application unfinished and moving on to the next one. But don’t just take Glassdoor’s word for it. Seeing the same positions advertised multiple times a year suggests that the company has had a lot of “bad fits” lately. Seeing headlines about their weakening market share or financial performance suggests that many more employees might have to leave in short order.

2. What is the inside of the office like?

This may seem trivial at first, but we’re not talking about the artwork on the walls or whether or not they have a beer keg in the kitchen. We’re talking about the feel of the workplace. Are the rooms well-lit and well-organized, or gloomy and cluttered? Do the employees seem happy to be there, or are you catching multiple people playing Fortnite at 10 a.m.? When you overhear conversations, are you picking up on tension, anger, or disrespect? Are people taking to each other at all? Is anyone smiling? Think about where you want to spend eight hours of every day. If this isn’t the place, you don’t have to run screaming out of the room, but you don’t have to take any offers, either.

3. How is the interviewer treating you?

You’ve gotten past the reception area. How long did that take? Did they keep you waiting, even though you had an appointment and arrived 15 minutes early? Is the interviewer pleasant and interested in what you’re saying, or do they seem distracted and disengaged? It’s two hours later. This shouldn’t be taking this long, but the interviewer has been talking about themselves for the past 90 minutes. They’re not being respectful of your time or your talent. Do you really want to work with this person? If you neither like nor trust someone who is going to be a critical factor in your workday, it may be time to wrap up the conversation.

4. What does the employer expect from you after the interview?

The first thing you hear from the employer after your sit-down interview may not be a yes or no. It may be a request for references or a background check. Or it may be an assignment to complete a full plan for a project you’d be managing – before you’ve been hired to manage it. This is not a reasonable request for a prospective employer to make. You deserve to be paid for any work you do for this company. If they’re not willing to do that, they’re trying to exploit a job seeker. And if they’re trying to exploit you now, what will they expect later? If they can’t show you some basic respect, show yourself some respect and keep looking.

5. How flexible is the employer when it comes to terms?

You got the offer – but don’t celebrate until you examine it thoroughly. Is a competitive salary and benefits part of the deal? What about a reasonable number of vacation days? If you think you’re about to be given less than you deserve based on your experience and skills, think about how easily you’d be tempted to leave this company for something better within six months. Before you sign, you’re within your rights to try to negotiate a more appealing offer. If they’re not willing to budge, you may have to leave that signature line blank and hold out for an employer that can afford you.