Red Flags When Looking For a Job

14 Biggest Red Flags When Looking For a Job

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The job market preys on the vulnerability of unemployed individuals when job hunting by offering employment opportunities littered with red flags. Naivety of applicants could be pointed to the fact that educational institutions never do an in depth dive into employment offers aimed at trapping you or manipulating you. It could also be a gap in employment due to familial or medical issues leaving you in a completely different job market than you were used to.

When looking for a job, you are not looking at the earning potential and work hours only. The culture and environment in which you work is important to your physical and mental health. Working in a toxic environment lowers your productivity and kill your passion in the field. This is one of the major reasons why you should never settle unless it is the last option and temporary. The toxicity could be gender biases, work cliques and ineffective leadership.

In a study done by Society for Human Resources Management’s (SHRM) 2019 literature review on the costs of toxic workplace cultures and the benefits of positive cultures a lot was revealed. It stated that 58% of those who left a job due to culture claim managers are the main reason they left. 36% of employees say their manager doesn’t know how to lead a team. Mangers set the pace on how people are treated and the dos and don’ts of the work environment. If they fail in leading well in a respectful manner, it results in a lot of issues.

57% of people report leaving work feeling exhausted, and that a toxic atmosphere often compounds that stress. As stated earlier a good working environment is crucial to your health and boosting your moral when working. You want a job that allows you to grow and get higher in rank not suck the life out of you.

Being an employee whether new or seasoned, you seek to learn as well as impart your skills to your field. Sometimes the skills we have are different and can make work easier but you end up getting ignored. There are cases where employers and managers say “I don’t pay you to think, I pay you to work,’ which is troublesome and impacts you negatively. The study also showed that 25% of employees don’t feel safe voicing their opinions about work-related issues.

Armed with the statistics that show how frequent it is, here are the potential red flags to watch out for.

Common Red Flags When Looking For a Job

Earning potential is stressed over salary

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This is a red flag where the employer talks to you about long term earnings instead of what you would be earning at that moment. They often say things like,

‘In 6 years you would be making an x amount of money.’

When you ask them about what you would be paid at the moment, it is really low. The amount they are presenting as your future income is also not guaranteed, it is a valueless statement and you should avoid being lured.

Employers also mention that bonuses make up for the low pay. This happens mostly in fields that rely heavily in commissions where they exaggerate how much you earn in commissions. You should ask about the commission tiers, and the number of employees receive them; preferably in a statistics report.

Occasional weekend

The statement is vague and could lead you to believe that it means an occasional weekend of work. More often than not it means an occasional weekend off so when applying for the jobs or during the interview ask for a clarification. Once in a while the work load you have could extend into the weekend which is okay but if it crosses to every weekend which you had not agreed on it is an issue.

Red flags differ for everyone so as a baby bird in the industry in your early twenties with no responsibilities you can work weekends. It can be that the work gives you something to do on the weekend. This is not the case for those with families and other jobs or businesses to run. Either way the employers have to reveal their expectations clearly and precisely so as not to inconvenience the employee.

Unpaid with a chance of full time work

These job opportunities often lure those who were recently out of school or new to the job market because what they offered was tempting. They call the unpaid period training or probation after which if work is well done they would bump you up to a permanent position with a salary. Many have ended up unemployed after all the work or trapped in a contract. The contract leaves them in a minimum wage job for years and the exit fee of the contract is thousands of dollars. You should always read the fine print and if you cannot understand ask a family member or a friend.

High staff turnover

The manager or interviewers often dance around the topic when you inquire. This is a sign that the business has a high turnover rate. Many employees, more than is expected have quit over a certain time period. There are numerous reasons behind it such as:

  • Overworking without compensation
  • Inability to grow within the organization
  • No voice in decision making
  • No recognition for efforts made

Work hard and play hard

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This often translates to you are over worked and have to come in on days off and weekends. Essentially go past what was agreed upon then after work you would be expected to go to the bar and have drink. In these jobs it’s hard to separate your work from your personal life as it encroaches and monopolizes your free time. When you leave such jobs, you find yourself as an island who cannot navigate relationships easily. You pushed all relationships aside for your work so all your engagement and interaction surrounded it.

If you refuse to partake in the after work festivities with the other employees, you are seen as the bad guy. They make you an outcast and interactions you should be privy to aren’t communicated in the workplace but outside. You end up missing out on not only the work talk but also networking with the managers. Talking with them in such setting makes them recognize you for job promotions.

If you prefer a healthy balance then you should avoid these jobs.

Hiring everyone who applied

There are instances when this happens. It often means that the job is either a scam or you are being set up to compete with your peers for the actual job. Most of these jobs are commission only which can be frustrating to you so beware of such. The hiring processes in these jobs are rushed so you should slow down and ask why. Gather as much information as you can from the interviewers while watching if they rebuff certain points or questions.

Ask about previous position holder

When you have secured an interview, you should ask why the previous position holder left the work. How they answer is very indicative of their attitude so a positive and direct answer is okay. Speaking negatively or avoiding the question all together is a red flag that you should walk away. Professionalism and respect is important in the workplace. Knowing how they regard those who have left gives you a glimpse into how you are treated working there.

We are a family

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This statement is used to exploit your empathy by relating it to a deep connection you value with your actual family and trying to place it with the co-workers. Such companies expect you to go beyond for them despite the bad pay and long hours. Employees are conditioned to work even harder with other underpaid employees to help each other out. Those who truly benefit from this are those at the top of the food chain.

Do an investigation

This decision gives you an opportunity to find out something important. Once you have discussed your pay and schedule (maybe it is a 9-5 job) as you leave, you can look around and see how many people are in the office once it is time to leave. You can also check the parking lot to see if it is empty. If both are still occupied, you are ready to work overtime which gives you a perspective on whether to accept or not.

Changing the work details

We apply for jobs we can do however there are times where you go to the interview and suddenly the details of your job are not the same. It could be the actual work being done or the hours in which you would work in the case of shift types of work. The shift they had listed is suddenly not available and you have to work in another for a while before you got the one you wanted. You might even find added weekend shifts as a way of seeing how ‘dedicated’ you are at your work. This blatant lack of respect is a red flag.

The company culture

This is influenced by the employees and employers. The ambience and environment heavily affects how people work and behave which is why you should keep an eye on it. It is a mixture of the attitudes, beliefs, values and leadership of those within the organization. If you have differing opinions and views to colleagues your work life is miserable. Interacting with them is an added burden on you as you have to watch every step you take keenly to avoid offending them. If you step on toes, you are seen as a threat to their cohesive environment.

Find a job where you don’t have to work harder to impress the people that the job itself. Get in an environment where you don’t get burned out every day after work because of its toxicity. Avoid compromising your morals, value and ethics in order to fit in. You end up hating your job, your colleagues and the entire field because of the stress you experience.

It may take a while to find the perfect fit, but it is better to wait than setting yourself on fire. You enjoy the work and be more productive while growing in the field.


In work settings professionalism is important. This does not mean you have to be formal in all your interactions; there must be a level of communicating that cannot be thrown aside. When in an interview you should look at how the interviewers communicate with each other. If you are introduced to the team you are working with, observe how they communicate with you both verbally and non-verbally.

You can also ask how and when they communicate about work matters. An example is do they use a work email or phone to communicate or do they use your personal line? Do they contact you about work matters on the clock or also after work?

The trick is finding a professional way of communicating without being too excessive. It shows you if your employer respects your boundaries or will over run them. Some employers make unreasonable demands the moment you are employed. You should walk away if you cannot enforce strict boundaries with them.

A lack of communication is also a red flag. If you go for an interview and they say they will get back to you in a few days but several weeks go by without communication it is a negative sign. This shows that whenever you need support they will not help you fast enough if at all.

Not every job you interview for replies, however if they call you for an interview, you have to be informed on what is happening. It is a respectful thing to do and shows how employees are perceived by management.

The interview

There are different types of interviews and interview questions however they have to be professional. Certain biases can be clearly communicated through the questions such as questions about sexuality or gender focused questions such as marital status for women. These biases are illegal yet you encounter them at one point or the other at which point you should leave. The discrimination faced in the interview pours into your work giving you a hard time. If it is communicated subtly, you should be keen to catch it.

It is true that there are jobs where it is certain factors can limit or injure you. An example is an expectant lady working close to heavily vibrating machinery or lifting heavy items. These can easily be communicated in the job vacancy announcement. If not then you have be aware that the safety of the employees is not paramount to the company. In the case that these limitations are not needed, yet they are brought up in the interview, leave and contact relevant authorities.

Another aspect of the interview is the conversation itself. Does the employer guide the conversation or take it over? There are cases where the interviewer does all the talk without letting the interviewee get a word in. This is a clear representation of how you will be ignored anytime you try to speak up. The interview is meant for you to market yourself to the employer by stating your accomplishments and career goals.

Promotion Track

Growth is a necessary part of human life even in the work field unless you do not want it. Getting a job means you are at the starting point with the expectation of growth within the organization after a while. When interviewing you should ask about this so see what you can expect in your future. If the hiring manager cannot tell you the career track you go through when employed then you know you are about to step into a dead end job.


14 Red Flags When Looking For a Job
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Doing research gives you an advantage of knowing public perception of the organization. It also gives you information about the work culture for the employees who stopped working there. The research can also save you from being unemployed after a short employment.

There could be news reports or industry leaks indicating a merger with radical changes or chaos on its way to the company. The red flag could be in form of major lawsuit that could land the company in hot water and many employees are jumping ship early that is why there are vacancies. If you step into the sinking ship you may end up sinking with it so be careful and use the internet well.

Bottom Line

Information strengthens you as a person. You should be able to keep yourself safe during the job searching process. Red flags differ with the person and the jobs you are seeking but this article gave you some of the most used by interviewers. You have to work to afford basic needs and comforts but the work itself has to offer a sense of fulfillment and joy. Many people dread going to work which should not be the case but it is the world we live in.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to find suitable employment that you do not regret in a few years. Financial pressures that can influence your hasty decision but even in that moment make sure you read the employment contract to protect yourself. If you see any red flags, leave.

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