30. Red Flags to Watch Out for When Choosing an Employer

We all create narratives based on what we think is important. We see what we want to see. Just because you’re not looking at something doesn’t mean it’s not there.

I’m telling you this, so you know as a job seeker I’ve been there.

Job seekers desperate to get back on a payroll to pay their bills and stop using their savings tend to overlook red flags. With your fingers crossed that the ensuing employer/employee relationship will work out, they want an employer to make them an offer.

Employers own their hiring process. They design their hiring process to ensure they hire the best person—the candidate that best serves their self-interest. Your self-interest is not the employer’s concern—nor it should be—and therefore is on you to look after. Complaining how employers hire is futile and wasted energy.

As a job seeker, you need to be diligent in determining whether a potential employer is right for you and your career. Before accepting a job offer vet the employer to make certain the opportunities and work environment is accurate and will serve “most of” your self-interests. You don’t want to find out, after joining, that the company, your job, or your boss isn’t a good fit for you. I’ve been there—not fun.

Don’t ignore red flags because you want to see an end to your job search.

When assessing an employer, look for these red flags:

  1. They’re too eager to hire you.

I’ll admit more than once I was taken in by a hiring manager stroking my ego. (“You’re just the person we need.”, “You have much more experience than the candidates who’ve applied for this position—Thank you for applying.”, “I can see you doing great things around here and moving up fast.”) Gushing flattery feels good; however, it usually comes with an agenda, an agenda not always in your favour.

There’s a big difference between an employer pursuing you versus being too eager to hire you. Be wary of employers who move quickly through the hiring process. Depending on the position, expect at least three interviews (a video teleconferencing “get to know you” interview and two face-to-face interviews, one with the manager you’ll be reporting to.)

  1. The employer is always hiring.

An employer having many job postings can mean they’re in a growth phase; it can also mean they’re having problems with retention. This may especially be true if the employer is reposting the same roles repeatedly.

I always ask my interviewer what’s their tenure with the company is. Then I ask what’s the tenure of certain key people (Regional Managers, Directors, VPs, the President) and who’s the most tenured in the department I’ll be joining.

  1. You’re not comfortable with the work environment.

From the moment you start the video call with the interviewer, when you visit the company, or meet employees you’ll be working with, if something doesn’t sit right with you—something seems off, you’re getting a bad vibe—don’t ignore your feeling. I believe in feeling negative energy just like I can feel positive energy. If the employees don’t seem actively engaged, that’s a telling sign. 

TIP: Since my career revolves around people management, I always ask to meet, ideally over coffee or lunch, with those who’ll be reporting to me. A few times, I’ve been discouraged from doing so (e.g., “Their schedules varies, it’ll be hard to arrange.”, “Raj is off for the next two weeks, and we’d like to make you an offer today so you can start on the 21st.”) and ended the interview then. 

Being discouraged from visiting what’ll be your actual workplace, meeting your potential team members and reports, if applicable, is a huge red flag!

  1. Unfavorable reviews.

Your employer’s reputation has a significant influence on your career. Go on Indeed, Glassdoor, MouthShut, or type in Google the company name and then “reviews.” See what employees, current and ex, are saying about the company you’re interviewing with. As well, check out the comments on the company’s social media channels.

I’ve gone as far as to look up on LinkedIn past employees and reach out to them. In several cases, I was glad I did. Don’t dismiss negative reviews as disgruntled employees venting or trying to get back at their employer.

As you conduct your job search, pay attention to your instincts-your gut feel. A gut check can save you from ending up in a terrible company or job.