When you find yourself wandering in the desert of unemployment, even a sniff of interest from ANY source can send your heart into joyful palpitations. The only thing that kills self-confidence deader than rejection is being unable to land an interview in the first place.
The bad news is that working for some companies might be worse than no job at all. You need to develop the skill of noticing the invisible red flags waving proudly throughout the “vetting” process. Whether it’s in the text of a job ad or in the midst of an interview, here’s how to save yourself a boatload of woe.
The Eternal Job Ad
Do you notice the same advertisement for the same position with the same company running for weeks, months, or even years at a time? That’s usually not a good sign. Either they are hiring people who quickly quit or something about the job makes people – even desperate people – afraid to take it in the first place.
We’re not going to be the ones to say you should turn any job down if you’re unemployed, just realize if you answer a long-running job ad that there is probably a reason, and not a pleasant one, the job is constantly being re-advertised.
Can You Start Now?
A legitimate hiring process moves at its own natural pace. Usually the company collects resumes for a month, then interviews over the course of a week, maybe interviews finalists again, then finally makes a selection.
If you find yourself in the midst of a full speed ahead hiring process where you get an interview the day after you submit a resume and they ask, “Can you start tomorrow?” after a five minute interview, well, beware that this story might not have a happy ending.
In short, this company is desperate. If you’re more desperate than they are, you might take the job. Just know, this is a waving red flag.
The HR Robot
Presumably, the people interviewing you should be excited about adding a new team member. It wouldn’t be unusual to show enthusiasm and interest about your hobbies outside of work. It’s part of the human process of getting to know one another since you will often be spending many hours a week in close proximity.
You should consider it a red flag if the interviewer is formal and cold, with no interest other than moving through the steps of the hiring process. It’s a good bet they already know you’re going to hate the job and will probably quit, so don’t want to waste time and energy getting to know you.
Hello…Is Anyone Home?
And then there is the hiring process where weeks go by and you hear nothing. It’s as if the company was swallowed by a sinkhole. Incommunicado. When you begin to think you definitely didn’t get the job, they reappear with a request for another interview or test. No apology. Nothing to indicate that weeks have passed and not so much as a “We’re still thinking.”
Consider this a red flag warning about the company’s communication style. If this is their method of impressing prospective hires, it’s not going to be any different if you actually take the job.
Something for Nothing
If a company asks you to create some sort of work product for free, under the guise that they need it to evaluate your skills, that might be a good time to consider walking out the door.
Now let’s backtrack a little. You may choose to donate a single hour of free work time if it’s a job you might actually like. Don’t allow yourself to be suckered into creating an entire marketing plan or building a fully-functional ecommerce website.
Past the hour mark, let them know you will be billing your freelance consulting rate. If they pitch a fit, red flag. They’re so cheap they’re looking to outsource work through job interviews. That’s pretty chintzy.
The Bottom Line
We feel your pain. It’s hard to turn down any job when you don’t have one. But you need to get real. The questions in your mind are red flags, and these are a real thing. It’s Mother Nature or Father Experience, or whomever you want to give credit to’s way of telling you there might be a problem down the line and probably sooner than you imagine.
While no one but you can evaluate any particular job opportunity, go into the process with your eyes wide open. If it makes your gut feel funny, maybe you should pass. Like fish in the sea, there are many more to take the place of the one that got away.