It’s commonplace to apply for dozens of jobs that are far from your dream gig, but when you’re stressing over a job hunt and have been for a while, it can often feel like you can’t be too picky—you have to take what you can get and run with it.
That’s not always the best way to approach a job search, especially if you get that nagging feeling during the interview that the job just isn’t the right one for you. We tend to focus on what we can do to impress employers (the best resume! the best cover letter!) when in actuality, the hiring process is a two-way street. You are ensuring the company is right for you, just as they are sizing you up. Fail to recognize that, and you could end up accepting a job that leaves you feeling miserable and unfulfilled.
Here are six red flags to look out for during the interview process, including how to determine whether accepting the offer is in your best interest.
1. There is high turnover and a toxic company culture
Tameka Green, director of diversity and inclusion at Weber Shandwick, says checking websites like Glassdoor or LinkedIn to see the company’s reputation before applying or starting the interview process will give you some insight. Twitter user and Talent Acquisition pro @1andOnlyMelissa says researching thoroughly online is a must. One negative review shouldn’t impact your decision, but if you see consistent negative comments, then it’s time to pay attention. “Every word is not gospel, but common threads can tell you a bit about culture and offer direction on questions you may want to develop for your interview.” She also suggests asking the hiring manager about why the job is open and frame questions around mobility and career pathing. “If it’s a dead end, low pay, or toxic culture, they may have challenges maintaining the role.”
2. The interviewer asks illegal and personal questions
Questions about race, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, marital status, and parental status are all illegal in the United States, according to the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Laws. Green says they can ask if you have been convicted of a crime but should stay far away from questions that focus on dimensions of diversity. If you are asked any illegal questions, you can redirect the conversation, flat out refuse to answer, and make a formal complaint.
3. The recruiter falls off the face of the earth
If it’s impossible to get a response or follow up from the recruiter, then it’s a red flag regarding communication. The hiring process can be lengthy, but if you have questions or need to send more materials to the recruiter to move things along, being ghosted by the company can be unsettling. It probably means they have a history of hiring mistakes, high turnover, and bad communication in general.
4. If the recruiter or hiring manager can’t explain clearly what the role you’re interviewing for entails
“If your potential supervisor can’t clearly explain the expectations or goals of the role you’re interviewing for, chances are you’ll be doing more than what the job description calls for,” says Green. Twitter’s @1andOnlyMelissa adds, reviewing the job description and asking for them to describe a standard business day will also give you an idea of expectations. “It’s common for orgs to want a rocket scientist, not say so, yet have expectations, hold you accountable. Be clear on the role for salary purposes and personal goal alignment.” If they duck and dodge answering those questions, then it’s an obvious red flag.
If you receive the offer, congratulations, but listen to your spidey senses when determining when to take the job.
5. Salary negotiations seem challenging
“You shouldn’t feel like you are stepping into the boxing ring to fight for more money,” says Green. If the requested salary amount aligns with your qualifications, you should be able to ask for what you are worth. @1andonlyMelissa says checking compensation information on Paysa.com ahead of time will tell you where the company stands regarding salaries.
6. The company is in a rush for you to start
“It’s not unreasonable for you to take some time to review the formal job offer and address any questions with the recruiter, but if they are asking you to start ASAP, then this is a red flag,” says Green. She adds the employer is probably looking for a quick fix instead of trying to get the right person for the role.
How to reject a job that isn’t right
If you decide this isn’t the job for you, then there is a way to gracefully bow out and thank them for their time. Green says to include the following in your communication to turn the job down:
Thank the employer for taking the time to speak with you about the role
Tell them after reviewing the expectations that it’s not the best fit and you are withdrawing from consideration
Wish them luck on finding the right person for the role.
Green also says it’s okay to disclose why you turned the job down if you are comfortable doing so. “It may be helpful for the [the company] to ensure they don’t make the same mistakes to other candidates in the future.”