These 5 huge red flags are signs you shouldn't accept that job offer


Sure, a good paycheck is great — and perhaps a big enticement for a new job.

But remember, if you're going to spend an average of 47 hours a week at a full-time job, you'll probably want to be sure you can actually tolerate it. During a challenging job hunt process it can be easy to forget that you're also interviewing every person who interviews you.

Best case, you land a position in a workplace that is a bastion of happy employees. Worst case, your job will slowly drive you mad.

So look out: There are signs that things could work out for the worst — which you can learn to look for.

While this job market isn't exactly a job hunter's paradise (particularly in some highly competitive fields), since the unemployment rate is now down to 4.6%, try to think positive: You can afford to be choosy.

Especially when your sanity is at stake.

Now, yes, each job candidate's ideal workplace is different: Some would never tolerate the disorganized communication pitfalls that can happen at a startup, while others would chafe at the structured formality of a corporate titan.

But workplace cultural differences aside, there are some clear warning signs. Here are the universal red flags to beware as you search.

High turnover

When the combined time all four people interviewing you have worked at the company is eight months, it should set off your wonky-workplace radar. 

If everyone is new — and the company is not — that workplace has high turnover. 

Acceptable reasons? There is new ownership or management in place and it is hiring an entirely new team, to which you could contribute. That's a great opportunity!

But if there's not a new regime in place, this workplace is churning through people faster than Hogwarts goes through Defense of the Dark Arts teachers. You'll want to know where the demons are hiding.

"Any good interviewer will leave plenty of space for you to ask questions," said Rachel Marcuse, vice president of people operations at nonprofit NextGen Climate.

Be sure to ask the interviewer how long that person has worked at the company, and their likes and dislikes.

Asking about the company's culture doesn't just make you look good — it's an important way to find out if a possible employer is on top of their business.

Terrible reviews

Thanks to a host of crowdsourced job sites, you can now do research on your intended employer as if it were a product on Amazon or restaurant on Yelp. 

At Glassdoor, LinkedinIndeed or dozens of other industry-specific sites, job seekers can see what current and former employees say, compare salaries they are offered to what others are paid, and connect with current and former employees. 

If the reviews keep coming back kind of "meh," you're going to think twice.

You would think twice about parting with money to see a movie that received terrible reviews, and it's no different with jobs. 

Especially if the highlighted criticisms are aspects you value: They have terrible family leave! The pay is meager compared to the hours worked! You are owned by them on the weekends!

Hold those red flags closely and raise your concerns in the interview; don't just nod and smile. Ask specifically about the bad reviews you read online. 

You may be told those are disgruntled employees. If so, you may want to ask your interviewer if there are current employees you could talk to or shadow. 

If sour grapes (or even a whiff of them) are also coming from those currently working there? The bad news may be real enough to push you out the door.

You're asked to work for free or pay in

This seems obvious to most job seekers, but you'd be surprised how craftily potential employers try to test the milk before buying the cow. 

Unless you are an investor or a partner in a new business, you should not be paying in to anything to work. That is a pyramid scheme — maybe you've heard of people paying in $192,000 only to earn $30,000. Occasionally you may encounter fees for uniforms or screening tests, but those can often be written off at tax time. 

A situation that's less egregious, but more prevalent, is when a potential employer asks you to do some spec work, so they can get a "feel for your work product." 

However, if they are not able to determine your potential as an employee from your resume, cover letter, an in-person interview and any work samples you are able to provide, that's a red flag.

We hate to break it to you, but this means you're not an automatic "yes!" for them. So ask yourself: Are you okay with not being enthusiastically hired? If that doesn't jive with your ego, move on. 

If you want to stay with this job, proceed with caution.

In the best-case scenario, there could be some disagreement among the hiring panel and they need more information. Or they may be creating a competition among a few finalists. If so, you should be told as much.

But in the not-so-great scenario, it could be that the panel is disorganized and unsure of what it wants. Or they are just trying to get some work out of you before paying you.

If, in spite of the caution flags waving, this opportunity is valuable enough to you to proceed: Ask abundant questions and at least once request to be paid for your work.

Tell the hiring manager that you would be happy to complete the work for the going freelancer or contractor's rate.

The job is continually advertised

You finally got that interview. Yay!

But you're not counting your chickens yet and continuing to look at job boards. And there — to your dismay — is the very job for which you're interviewing. Today, tomorrow, and the next, and...

Red flag alert!

This job could be a red herring to get a steady stream of candidates in the door, particularly if the company employs many people in the same position. Or there is so much turnover that there is just a standing job listing. Or the hiring managers may not be thrilled with the candidates they've got so far — um, including you.

In any case, be aware and ask a lot of questions. 

Find out why the job is still being listed. Is it continually listed? Why? If not, why is it still listed?

This line of questioning may — hopefully — open up a candid discussion of what specifically the employer is looking for in the position that they aren't finding in the candidates. Areas in which you can hopefully demonstrate proficiency.

If your concerns are not addressed, move on.

You are treated as a nuisance — in the interview

It is understood that, once you clear the hurdles of human resources, hiring probably is not your interviewer's primary occupation or interest. Vetting and interviewing candidates takes them away from their own work, and if there are several job searches going on concurrently, it can feel like a real slog for them. 

The interviewer, however, should never dump this on you.

It's a red flag if they do.

The interviewer who is too busy to show up, the interviewer who has clearly just grabbed your resume off the printer and is reading it for the first time in front of you, the interviewer who grouses about the time the chat takes and the interviewer who complains about other co-workers should all be treated with suspicion. 

Not only is this a red flag that the workplace is disorganized and that workers may be disgruntled, it also sends up a warning about the priorities placed on the interviewing and hiring process. 

Maybe these slipshod interviewers were hired by other people who couldn't be bothered to interview them properly either. These are probably ranks you don't want to join.

Put simply: Don't just turn a blind eye to the warning signs. Before you sign on, be sure that you fit the job and the job fits you.

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