In a tough job market it’s always difficult to turn down a job but sometimes the company culture is so toxic or the boss is so insufferable that it’s more harmful to your health and career than the benefit of the paycheck. Of course, that’s an easy thing to say when you have a paycheck. Many people go into bad jobs only to quickly find themselves wrongfully terminated or find the job insufferable.
It’s far better to identify those bad employment opportunities before you commit and forego other job opportunities. I worked a number of jobs before becoming an employment attorney and not all of them were for great employers. I’ll share some of my experiences in the job market in Texas. Today’s post will point out some things to watch for in your job search.
The Texas employer has a bad reputation
The saying, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” is often a fair assessment when it comes to employers. If you find too many people who have bad things to say about an employer then it’s likely accurate. Most employers do a background check and ask for references. You should do the same. Look on customer review sites like Yelp for how they treat their clientele. There are also employee rating sites like Glassdoor where people often leave detailed reviews.
Consider contacting former employees through LinkedIn to ask about their experiences, especially for smaller businesses that may not have much of a presence online. Your experience is likely to be like that of other employees and former employees. Don’t go into a job expecting a different experience or that you will change the company culture–unless that is your job.
Communication from the hiring manager, human resources, or the recruiter is unprofessional
You can get a good sense about the employer’s culture just from the way communication begins. If you are not treated with respect for your time or qualifications beforehand that is usually a good sign of the treatment once hired. Watch out for phone calls or emails that do not receive a callback for weeks and when you have communication with people involved in the hiring process pay attention to how they communicate. This is like the beginning of a relationship when everybody is trying to put their best foot forward and impress the other person. If they are not impressing you from the beginning then it’s probably all downhill from here.
Of course, things do happen and people take vacations. Emails and voicemails will not always receive immediate responses. If there’s no acknowledgement or apology for the delay ever then it’s a good sign that is just business as usual.
After high school and during my freshman year of college I worked at a couple big box retailers. Both had very similar hiring practices. It took forever to speak with human resources to schedule an interview or let me know I got the job. It took weeks both times. This is a common practice in big retail stores as a test of how desperate you are for the job. Unsurprisingly the lack of appreciation for me or my time did not end once hired.
The interview conduct is unprofessional
The way the hiring manager or hiring panel conducts the interview can tell you a lot about how your future may look with this company as an employee. The people who conduct interviews are typically your future direct supervisor or people who work in the same capacity as your future supervisor. The way they behave will give you insight into how that department and its management behaves. You should expect the way they behave towards you before a job offer is the same way they will behave after. Watch out for multiple rescheduled interviews that suggest a lack of respect for your time and a lack of urgency to fill the position.
Similarly, if the interviewer(s) shows up late to the interview that should tell you the interviewer is at best disorganized and at worst has no respect for you. If the interviewer(s) is dismissive of you, your qualifications, the job, etc. then expect to be treated that way as an employee. If you feel harassment or discrimination during the interview then it’s definitely not going away after they start paying your wages.
After college I worked for a large business in which I was up for a promotion. I had worked a long time to get this opportunity and had networked very hard for it. The hiring manager was impossible to contact and the interview was rescheduled several times because the hiring manager didn’t feel like interviewing people for the job. Eventually the interview was scheduled. The hiring manager and a second manager arrived for the interview almost thirty minutes late. They offered no apology, were disorganized and had no desire to be there. Halfway through the interview I decided to sabotage the interview to ensure I wouldn’t get the job by mistake. No thank you.
The hiring manager speaks poorly of his or her current staff
If the manager is willing to tell a virtual stranger negative things about his or her staff you have to wonder how this manager had such unfortunate luck to hire such terrible employees. Is the manager’s decision-making that bad? Or is the manager that bad of a manager? Is the manager just a negative person? You have to expect that you’ll be thought of in the same light. There is a difference between acknowledging that a person you will replace is being replaced because they are underperforming and just negatively speaking about his or her subordinates as a whole. If you can’t tell which the manager is doing then it’s probably the latter.
Of course, it is possible this manager has the unfortunate luck of being saddled with a number of bad employees but do you want to go into a job where you are surrounded by incompetency and work for a manager that doesn’t know how to deal with it? Whether the criticism is true is not the problem. It’s a bad work environment either way.
The hiring manager gives unsatisfying explanations about the organizational challenges to the business
In an interview you should always ask about the challenges the business faces. This is a great question not only because it can give you great insight into the organization but because it can give you a lot of insight about the hiring manager and his or her perspective on the company. A manager who won’t acknowledge that the company faces challenges is either clueless about the business or there is an actual lack of a plan for growth.
Every business faces challenges no matter how successful. A clueless manager is unlikely to be an asset to your career and a company with no solid plan for the future provides no solid support for long term employment. If you get the an answer that sounds a lot like the employer’s version of the interviewee’s answers to your three weaknesses (that are secretly your strengths) then that’s no answer at all.
The job description is unclear or unnecessarily long
A job description can tell you a lot about the company and how it perceives itself. A jumbled or vague job description suggests the same of management. Long, sprawling descriptions suggests you’ll be responsible for anything and everything while micromanaged and underpaid. The job description should be clear and articulate. You should know exactly what the job entails by reading the job description. If you can’t figure it out chances are neither can they.
A couple years ago a fairly young but well known business in Dallas advertising an opening in a non-managerial position. The description of job duties extended to two pages of jumbled mess including duties for every job in the business. The advertisement circulated the industry nationwide with much panning online. They were, and continue to be, known for being unpleasant. The job description gave that same impression.
The job description has unrealistic qualifications for the proposed salary
Employers naturally want to pay as little as possible for the most qualified candidate. Underpaying is a surefire way to staff a company with employees who are unhappy, underperforming and quick to leave. Chances are very good if one job is underpaid every other job in the company is the same way. Companies like this tend to be toxic environments. The employees are usually unhappy and turnover is high. The employees who stick around tend to be problem employees or underperformers who couldn’t find jobs elsewhere. In addition to being an undesirable workplace there is a real probability that it won’t even produce a paycheck for you. They may terminate you when you don’t perform to their unreasonable standards or if they are undercapitalized you may find your paychecks bouncing.
The salary range for the job in the description and at the interview don’t add up
A red flag goes up when a company advertises a salary range for the job but lowers in the interview. Companies sometimes do this to attract higher quality candidates and think once they get you in the door you’ll want to take the job. However, starting off the relationship with dishonesty is hardly the way to build a solid employment relationship. Today will probably not be your only experience with dishonesty. It’s just a bad situation all the way around. After all, an employee willing to accept that kind of dishonesty and undervalue his or her own work is probably not a great employee or is a great employee but is also one who is desperate for work and will bolt at the first opportunity for better money.
Everybody seems unhappy in the office
If the people coming and going look unhappy then there is a reason for it. People aren’t trying to fake you out from taking the job. It’s just not a pleasant place to work. Watch the people in the lobby or in the parking lot. If they look like they are in complete despair about coming in to work chances are very good this is not a place you want to be. That will tell you more about the company’s culture than anything else because they are living it every day. Also take note of whether the company tours you among the employees. Sometimes this can’t occur for security or legal reasons but otherwise any employer should want to show off its talent.
In college and briefly afterwards I worked for a company where everybody was pretty miserable. The pay made it worth tolerating in college but it was a pretty bad place to work. The employer treated people poorly. Management was a mess. I interviewed for my next job and saw how much happier people looked coming into this other business. They weren’t radiant but for going to a job they were much happier. During the interview I talked about how much I wanted the job and how that was one of the reasons I wanted to work there. I was right. It was a much better environment.
If it feels wrong then it is wrong
You know when somewhere feels like a bad environment. You’re probably right. It’s easy to ignore that feeling because you want out of your current job. You can avoid a lot of heartache by paying attention to your internal sensors. Run away from any place that feels like it is not somewhere you should spend your time. Going from one unhappy job experience to another is rarely in your best interests or the best interests of your career.