In wake of the Great Resignation, many organizations are rapidly trying to attract talent. It’s a good time to be a job seeker, as experts believe 2022 is a year favoring employees. But while many companies are hiring and job seekers have a plethora of options, not all of those options are good. Navigating the job market can be like walking through a minefield as you try to avoid questionable organizations.
Thankfully, a well-prepared job seeker can avoid these “mines” by recognizing the red flags these organizations put out. Whether in the job description itself or based on statements you hear in an interview, there are telltale signs you’re heading for an unpleasant role. We’ll cover six of these major red flags to avoid during your next job search.
Vague or problematic language
Before you even interact with someone from the company, the job post alone can tell you a lot about the company’s culture. Just as in dating, there are plenty of words and phrases that should immediately set off warning lights.
Being described as a wizard, ninja, or rockstar might be cool in a video game, but avoid companies seeking these fantastical titles. Dice writes that many tech companies used these titles to jazz up descriptions, but now they are commonly used as a vague, catch-all term to describe someone that checks every single box they want. These terms are also often gendered and can indicate a workplace lacking diversity.
Meanwhile, avoid companies that claim to be “like a family”. Families can often be dysfunctional, and while that may be okay for you and your loved ones, it isn’t how you want a company to run.
“Workplaces that claim to be a family can come with the downsides of family—poor boundaries and guilt trips. No thanks.” –Hcareers
Vague descriptions, or conversely overly long descriptions, can be a bad sign, too. The company may not know exactly what they’re looking for, or they may have unrealistic expectations for the position.
Finally, pay attention to words that imply the position will come with lots of extra work or lead to burnout. If the job description mentions “work hard, play hard”, “fast-paced”, “must be a self-starter”, or “unlimited earning potential”, you could be heading for a bad time, writes Forbes. While these terms don’t need to be immediate deal-breakers, feel free to ask the recruiter what exactly they mean when they use these terms.
Avoiding discussing pay
Even if you’re passionate about your career, you’re still getting paid for your work. Ideally, you’ll make a comfortable living. If a job is vague or dances around the subject of salary, it can be a bad sign.
Some companies may use vague language like “based on experience” or “competitive salary”, but when asked, they should be able to provide a range.
“It’s just basic human choice. We would never accept a job without knowing how much money we’d get in it. We cannot make a decision without that core information.” –Katrina Kibben
Lots of turnover
You may need to do extra research on this tip, but if you see the same position in your search multiple times, it may mean the organization has a high turnover rate. Jennifer Parris suggests you may need to dig deeper to find out why this position is constantly open.
It can be worth asking the hiring manager but don’t be afraid to look outside the current organization. Look at reviews on Glassdoor, check LinkedIn to see how long people remain with the company, and if you know anyone that worked there, get the inside scoop.
Lack of communication
If you’ve started the process of applying and the communication between you and the hiring manager is sporadic, this may be a sign of a dysfunctional organization. While both job seekers and hiring managers can be guilty of ghosting, if you’re having communication issues this early in the process it’s a bad look. We all have bad days, but if you’re consistently being ghosted or the manager feels unprepared, you may wish to look elsewhere.
Long hiring process
Glassdoor’s research team found the average hiring process is 23.8 days, though obviously, this is industry and position-dependent. But the longer the process takes, the more skeptical you should be.
Some organizations may ghost you completely after your interview, but if it takes weeks to hear back even when you’ve got the job, it can be another sign of disfunction, writes Jennifer Parris. The position may not be a priority, meaning you won’t get the support you need once you start the job. Or there could be communication breakdowns between different departments.
Expecting unpaid work
For some positions, you may need to provide some extra examples of your work. If you’re a content creator, for example, a company may want to see writing samples. And while skills assessments are frustrating, they do have value. But if it feels like a prospective employer is asking for too much, it’s a bad sign. This can also apply to the phrase “mandatory overtime”.
If it feels like you’re doing free labor, approach the interviewer. Their response can be telling, believes Fairygodboss. Your time is valuable.
Armed with this knowledge, it should be easier to spot job openings that might not be for you. While you should watch out for these potential red flags, it’s always worth asking the hiring manager about them. Extenuating circumstances happen, and some managers may not know why certain phrases can be problematic. Do your research, ask necessary questions, and ultimately, trust your gut.