11 Red Flags to Heed Before Accepting That Job


You talk about red flags for companies hiring employees. What about red flags for us job seekers? What should we beware of in a potential boss or company?

Dear Wary Larry,

After last week’s post on what hiring managers should avoid, let’s turn the tables and outline the warning signs job seekers should steer clear of in a prospective employer.

  1. Disrespect. A hiring manager who keeps you waiting for 35 minutes without a very good excuse is not offering you the same courtesy you showed when you arrived for your interview on time. If they seem unprepared for the interview, strike two.
  2. Anger Management Issues. If you overhear your future supervisor castigating a subordinate or rudely yelling at a vendor on a phone call, run, don’t walk, to the exit.
  3. Low office moraleLow Morale. You may me able to sense the stress level when walking through the office, or the demoralized mood may only be apparent when you peruse workplace reviews on Glassdoor or a “rate your boss” website. Online reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, as statistics show that 95% of people who’ve had a bad experience will tell someone about it, and only 87% will share a good experience.
  4. Unclear Job Description. The human resource professional conducting the phone pre-interview may not be able to answer “What is a typical day like in this position?” But if your future supervisor is vague, how will you know if you will be a good fit, much less excel in the post?
  5. Tight-Lipped About Key Criteria. Unless you really do need security clearance to discuss certain aspects of a government job, your potential employer shouldn’t deflect questions about success benchmarks, compensation, bonus structure, or benefits. What are they trying to hide?
  6. Illegal Questioning. You want to work for a company that is up to speed on employment law. Check out my post, 20 Interviewer Questions that Should Not Be Asked, to see the difference between right and wrong ways for interviewers to obtain information.
  7. Chaotic office environmentChaotic Environment. The hiring manager’s desk doesn’t have to look he has OCD, but a disorganized office can indicate a lack of business systems and a helter-skelter approach to such important duties as performance reviews, salary increase and bonus submission, and even day-to-day workflow.
  8. Immediate Job Offer. While being offered a job on the spot may be good for your ego, don’t give an immediate “yes!” It takes an average of 9 days for employers to thoughfully fill open jobs. A desperate employer who hires the first warm body may have a high employee churn rate, and you may not last long.
  9. No Follow-Up. It’s a pet peeve of mine when companies don’t acknowledge an application or résumé submission, if only with an auto responder. A company that does not follow-up after you’ve taken the time to interview is not the type of company you want to work for. A hiring manager who is uncomfortable giving you the news that she’s chosen someone else is not a good leader.
  10. No Opportunity for Growth. Make sure you are satisfied with the answer to your questions, “What kind of person gets promoted in your department?” or “What is a typical career path from this position?” If professional development is not encouraged, you may be headed for a dead-end with this job.
  11. Doesn’t Align with Your Goals. Through no fault of the employer, you may discover after a learning more about the company that its mission statement – or just the open position – doesn’t align with your career objectives.

Even if none of these red flags are present but you have a nagging feeling of unease about the opportunity, listen to your gut and decline the position. Your intuition won’t steer you wrong.

Readers: Have you experienced these or any other red flags when exploring job opportunities? Tell us about it.

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. a L
    Aug 16, 2016 @ 11:13:58

    Short Jobs are not necessarily a negative– esp. if you’re an entrepreneur — sometime you take on short assignments in between good jobs that you’re targeting. Also in hi-tech jobs like Silicon Valley, it is common for folks to jump to the best rising technology company, or for companies to reach out to the best talents as well.
    I remember in the dot com days– when you worked for some great people and they moved and you get summoned to move as well, it was tough to look the other way.


  2. L.D.M.
    Aug 16, 2016 @ 10:38:38

    Glad I read this and the “20 Questions” that should not be asked during an interview came in very very handy. I need this for my next job.

    Thank you so much AnitaClew!!


  3. RD
    Aug 16, 2016 @ 10:19:36

    Just reading your comments on Red Flags from interview hiring.my story starts after I was hired by a owner of the company from India who did not understand the American Culture work ethics, laws, etc. The first clue was I had to sign a non-compete contract if I were to leave the job for whatever. The Office Manager was let go shortly after I was hired since no one got along with him, and everyone had to watch their back when dealing with him. The India owner also micromanages with those he trusts with constant phone calls (still does). My supervisor were constantly monitoring my work from job to job and reporting back to the Owner several times a day by phone, even though I have over 30 years experience in doing this type work. Being told by the Owner not to do as good a job I was capable of, as my Supervisor as it created issues mentally with the Supervisor who had low self esteem.

    Surprisingly for me the job did last for 6 months, but I was glad to be let go because of all the bad work environment, lack of team work with others, constant over monitoring of the workers, bad attitudes of others that you had to work with, constantly have to watch what you said what you had did. The high turn over in employees. A foreign Business Owner not understanding how a similar business was run in the USA, and trying to run it like one in India.


  4. Linda
    Aug 16, 2016 @ 09:52:12

    This was a great article. I agree!


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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