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These Red Flags May Mean You Shouldn't Take the Job

Colleen Stinchcombe

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Causes & Culture

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The red flags that you should steer clear of a potential employer

You’ve found the perfect job… or so you think. Your skills match up nicely, you’ve got the interview, and you know you’re going to wow them. Except something feels off. Maybe it was the atmosphere of the office, maybe it was something an interviewer said, maybe it’s a question you haven’t gotten a good answer to after doing your research on the company.

Are your concerns a deal breaker? Maybe. To help you decide, SheKnows asked Monster career expert Vicki Salemi what red flags you should be on the lookout for.

1. You don’t like your prospective boss

When you have a chance to interview with the person who would be your direct supervisor, you should be evaluating how strong the chemistry is between you and how engaged they are with what you’re saying. They might be flipping through papers, answering emails or only half-listening to you, or maybe it’s subtler and you feel condescended to or disrespected.

These are all bad signs, and you shouldn’t ignore them. “Be realistic that that’s going to continue and probably get worse as an employee,” Salemi advises.

More: So, You Burned a Professional Bridge — Now What?

2. The job description is unclear

If the job description sounds up your alley but also was vague regarding what your responsibilities or role might be, and especially if during the interview, the job doesn’t become any clearer, be wary. Or as Salemi tells us, “Run, do not walk, to the exit.”

This is because not having a clear understanding of the role you’re walking into also robs you of the ability to prioritize your workload, make reasonable requests for promotion or wage increase or even functionally describe your role to a future employer.

More: Why Interning in My Mid-40s Was an Invaluable Career Move

3. The workplace vibe feels off

If you have the opportunity to see the office, you should be observing as much as possible. There are physical aspects, like whether the lighting is good or the desk spaces make sense, but there’s also the psychological culture. Do people seem happy? Do they talk to each other in a friendly manner?

“Watch and listen. See how people interact with each other,” Salemi suggests. She also says it’s worth asking your interviewers directly if they enjoy working there. If they make sarcastic jokes or snide remarks, it’s definitely bad news.

More: How to Productively Channel Your Emotions at Work

4. They’re aggressive about your history

Many states — like California, Oregon and Delaware — have banned employers from asking about your salary history, but it’s still legal in many areas. Most experts advise you to find a diplomatic way of redirecting the question or provide a range when asked. If you do this and find that they’re still pushing, it’s not a great sign. “You want to make sure they’re presenting themselves in a professional way,” Salemi says.

5. They ask intrusive questions

Questions about whether you are married, pregnant or have plans for children are against the law. Beyond being illegal, they’re also good signs a company won’t be a supportive or appropriate place to work.

But there are other questions a potential employer might ask that could be cause for concern. “Let’s say there’s a gap on your résumé, and you had a tragedy happen and you say it was a personal reason… and they continue to probe unnecessarily,” Salemi says. “[Ask yourself,] ‘Are they going to be intrusive into my personal life? Why does this matter? How is this relevant to the job?’”

6. They lack diversity & have no plans to change it

Most companies have their executive teams on their corporate pages, which can give you good insight into the kind of diversity — or lack there of — that is at the top. If there are fewer women and people of color than you’d like, it’s worth addressing at the interview.

Salemi recommends asking, “Where do you see your company in terms of diversity in the next two years, five years? How do you plan on achieving this goal?”

If they lack a reasonable answer, or worse, if they say they have goals but don’t offer any plans on how to achieve it, it could be a sign that they don’t value diverse teams, and it may be time to consider other options.

7. They’re lowballing you

It’s important to know the dollar amount your skills are worth so you can understand when you’re being offered less than is appropriate. “If they’re not putting dollars behind the quality of work they’re expecting, then that’s a red flag,” Salemi says. “They may try to say something like, 'We didn’t have a good year this year,' or 'There was a hiring freeze,' or 'We wish we could pay you more'… that’s an empty promise even if it’s in writing.”

Ultimately, Salemi says every job candidate needs to remember that you’re interviewing the employer as much as they’re interviewing you. So, she says, “If something seems off, it probably is.”

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