As strange as it may sound, I think of looking for a job a little bit like dating. Unless you are a reality T.V. show contestant, you've probably never gone on a first date hoping the other person would marry you. You're there to get to know them and to decide whether or not there might be a second date.
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The same holds true when interviewing for a job. Just because a company looks attractive on the outside doesn't mean it's a place you want to spend your time. You could end up with eight hours a day of stress, followed by unpleasant evenings trying to recover.
So, what red flags should you be on the lookout for when assessing a potential employer?
Bad Interview Process = Huge Red Flag
One of the surest signs you should run the other way is an incomplete interview process. Perhaps the employer wasn't terribly interested in interviewing you; rather than asking you about your experience, they were trying to convince you it was a great place to work. This could be a sign that they company is having a hard time finding candidates.
Alternatively, perhaps the hiring manager was not the one to make the final hiring decision. Perhaps their boss loved you and made the decision for them. This may set you up for an uncomfortable relationship between yourself and the hiring manager in the future.
Another red flag could be how many times the role you're interviewing for has turned over in recent years. If more than two people have held a role in a four-year period, you should wonder what's going on.
A number of other red flags can show up at the very end of the interview process, after you've received an offer and are negotiating. Take note if any of the following occur:
- The employer refuses to provide the offer in writing.
- The employer forces you to make a decision in less than 24 hours.
- The employer requires you to start working in less than two weeks.
- You are interviewing for a senior role and the employer is not open to any negotiation around salary or vacation.
Trust Your Gut
The most important red flag of all is when you get a bad feeling about a company. You aren't sure why, but something isn't adding up. Maybe the employees seem unhappy, or the boss seems squirrely, or something else is just off. Even if you can't pinpoint the exact cause of your discomfort, you shouldn't ignore it. There's a reason you are uneasy.
While you're assessing potential red flags, it can be helpful to learn what others are saying about the company. If you don't have a personal contact you can turn to, check out sites like Glassdoor where employees rate companies much like diners rate restaurants.
Whatever you do, don't be fooled. Red flags won't go away just because you love the company. In fact, they often become worse. Know when to walk away from a company just like you would from a bad date.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Memphis Daily News.
Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.