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Clues That This Might Not Be the Job for You

Recruiter Tim Tolan loves to tell the story of a candidate who once went on a job interview and sat in a conference room for five straight hours. Not once during this marathon interview in which he met with a succession of interviewers was he offered food or even water.

That, says Tolan, a senior partner at Sanford Rose Associates in Charleston, SC, was a telling sign that the company would not be a good place to work.

As Tolan and other recruiters point out, when interviewing, there could be lots of signs that taking a certain job might be a bad move. Yes, the economy is bad but sometimes having some jobs may be worse than having no job.

Here are some clues to look for as you search for work.

What is the history of the position?

“By far the number one goal is to gain an understanding of the history of that position,” Chad Oakley, president of Charles Aris, Inc., an executive recruiting firm in Greensboro, NC, tells eFinancialCareers. “On every job interview, you want to understand if this is a new position or if they are back filling it for someone who vacated the position. If you find that the position has a history of people not staying in the role for an extended period of time, something is typically wrong.”

Have you met members of the team?

“If the HR managers do not introduce you to the team that you'll be working with, you have to question why,” says Erica Moore-Burton, a career coach and vice president of Relativity Staffing Group. “At the end of the day, it's important that you meet everybody to get a sense of the environment and the culture. If they want to get you in the door quickly before you have an opportunity to make an educated decision, then beware.”

Do the executives have consistent expectations of your job performance?

“If during the course of interviews with multiple people you’re receiving different feedback as to what the goals of the position are, that is a major red flag,” says Oakley. “You don’t want to be in a position where different executives have different expectations because that person will never be able to please everybody.”

Are the wages unusually high?

“If a salary is above market for a position, this could be a bad sign,” says Moore-Burton. “You have to ask yourself why the salary is high. Is it a combat desk? [Convicted and disbarred attorney] Mark Drier paid his legal secretary $200,000 per year, three times the amount that secretaries are typically paid. Although this is an extreme example, if a salary is unusually high, there is usually a reason—excessive workload, difficult personality or combat desk.”

Did you get a feel for the culture?

“I’d have candidates that go into an organization and interview and would say they just don’t know if people are happy there,” says Oakley. “If your gut tells you that the people you’re meeting with don’t seem happy, that’s a pretty good sign. Trust your gut. If you get the sense that people aren’t happy, that’s a big one. Make sure you really do connect with your boss. People don’t go to work for companies; people go to work for people.”

Tolan encourages job candidates to talk to other employees at firms they are looking to join. It’s become so much easier to do with social networking sites, he says.

“You could ask general questions,” he says. “If it’s a bad place to work, they would come right out—because people love to complain—and say it’s not a good place to work.”

AUTHORLekan Oguntoyinbo Insider Comment
  • pb
    1 August 2012

    When a firm conducts interviews in HR only, they are making sure you can't see what the environment is really like. Not a good sign. The bit about hours and hours of interviews with no food or water, agreed. In fact, even on a nice day, most firms will offer a professional at least water or coffee.

    I interviewed at a firm I had been a customer of. They set a time, and have you wait on a bench near the employee food and beverage area, and you are encouraged to take something. That's nice, especially if you are early. But then the fun began. Interviewers were late, not all that thrilled about being there. Not exactly warm or even all that professional. At one point, 3 at a time taking turns asking questions. And then the boss announced that his current prime mission was to take over the functions of another department whose boss and staff he didn't like, and force them out of the firm. Not so nice. And I'm sure my opinion somehow showed, but by then I really didn't care anymore. As badly as I needed the job, I didn't want to work for this guy - ever. Nor would I ever trust him in any capacity.

    I've also had a couple interviews where I was told I'd go into a new position. Who knows when they'd finally approve it? On top of that, I finally realized that I wasn't so much being interviewed but was being squeezed for my knowledge on a subject they didn't have the expertise on. Like they hoped to learn enough from me and others they interviewed to avoid actually hiring anyone.

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