Red Flags for a New Job Opportunity
It can be difficult to turn down a job offer, particularly in this tough economy, but just because you landed a job doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you.
“Don’t assume that because you have made it through an interview that a company is automatically a good fit,” said Samantha Zupan, spokesperson for the job search engine Glassdoor.com. “Obviously we are still in a tough economy and just getting a job interview is a big step, but from the start, you need to think about what the most important aspects of a job are to you and prioritize these as you go through the process.”
For some job hunters who have come upon hard times, the most important part of a job may in fact be the salary and the benefits it offers, but others may have their hearts set on more specific benefits as well, whether it be a strong work/life balance, a culture that fosters creativity, or simply a workplace where the employees are friendly and nurture one another’s ambitions.
As some experts point out, job applicants may be hesitant to turn down a well-paying job in this economy simply because it fails to meet one of these other criteria, but when faced with two or more possible companies to work for, these can easily become the deciding factor.
However, deciphering what the real experience of working at a company will be like requires one to do a bit of detective work. MainStreet spoke with several career experts to find out the real red flags you should look out for when researching a company and going through the interview process to determine if the position is a good fit for your personality and your long-term career goals.
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Tardy, Disorganized Interviewer
In general, we tend to think of the job interview process as a time to impress the employer, but as Zupan emphasizes, it’s just as important for the employer to impress you. For that reason, she urges applicants to pay attention to the professionalism of the employees at the company they deal with throughout the process.
“Pay close attention to how organized and prepared they are to interview you,” she said. “If they are rushing around or are a half an hour late, those can be signs of what the work culture is like, as well as their commitment and focus on bringing in new talent.”
Throughout the application period, Zupan argues the employer should be timely, respectful and keep you informed about what step is coming up next, just as you would hope they would do if and when you started working at the company.
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Do You Get Along with the Boss?
Along the same lines, it’s important to take a step back from trying to please the person who could one day be your boss, and ask yourself honestly if you have a good feeling about that person. If the answer is no, you may want to look elsewhere for a new job.
“The old saying that ‘people leave bosses, not jobs’ is right,” said Alison Green, the writer behind the Ask A Manager blog. “So make sure the manager is someone you'd want to work with.”
Not only do you want a boss that you can get along with, but according to Penelope Trunk, a popular business blogger and CEO of the Brazen Careerist, you want someone who would be open to offering you good feedback and career advice as the situation demands.
“You should care more about the company having solid career management than anything else,” she said. “Ask the person you are interviewing with if they can tell you about some people they have mentored in life. No one will say they don’t mentor people, but you want a boss who is totally excited that you asked that question.”
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Every workplace has at least one employee with an unusually messy desk, flooded with paperwork, food and who knows what else, but if you notice several desks like that when doing a walk-through of the office for your first in-person interview, it could be a sign to stay away.
“People who feel they are in control of their workload and their life generally have really neat desks,” Trunk said. “So if you want to be at a place where people feel like they have a grip on their work and are not overwhelmed, look at their desks.”
On the other hand, if you’re someone who thrives in more stressful or chaotic environments, you may see a messy desk and feel that workplace is right for you.
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Cubicles vs. Wide Open Office Space
In addition to what’s on the desks, you should also pay attention to the general layout of the workplace during your interview. There is no right or wrong way for a workplace to be designed, but the arrangement can offer clues into the day-to-day work experience.
According to Zupan, if you notice the workplace is filled with cubicles and offices, that likely means the space is quieter, but that there is probably less interaction between employees during the course of the day. By contrast, if the area is wide open with few closed doors, the experience will likely be that much more collaborative, if noisier. Applicants should take the time to observe the layout and figure out whether it suits them.
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Employees Focus Solely on Salary
The salary may be the main consideration for many job applicants, but it shouldn’t be the only point highlighted during the interview process.
“If a company focuses a lot of time on salary when negotiating with you, it means they really have nothing else to offer,” Trunk said. In this case, you may end up with a job where “it’s all salary, and you are treated poorly and have no flexibility.”
The best companies are arguably those that try to sell you on the opportunities and quality of life that come with working at the company, in addition to the paycheck.
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Turbulent Company History
Even before you secure an interview for a job, there are several simple things you can research on your own to determine if it’s a safe bet.
Two of the most important things to look out for, according to the career experts we spoke with, are any changes the company has undergone in the previous five years to get a sense of the organization’s stability and general direction, as well as the career path of the employee(s) who held the position before you.
To do this, one can use social networks like LinkedIn to research current and former employees at the company and find out their general career histories to get a better sense of the kind of person who fits the position and how long they stayed at the job. In some cases, it may even be appropriate to reach out to former employees to ask for feedback on the company and their general reasons for leaving.
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Are Your Coworkers Well-Connected?
You may initially consider a job based on how well it fits your situation at the moment, but ultimately, it’s important to consider how that job may help or hurt your career in the long term. With that in mind, the applicant should seek out bosses and co-workers who are well-connected in the industry and have the contacts to help you advance your career as well.
“You want to work with people who have a very strong network, because if they don’t have one, they can’t help you build one,” Trunk said.
Once again, the best way to find this out is to surf the various social networks and see how many people your coworkers are connected to and how much attention they have paid to building up their profiles online.
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