One of the worst things that can happen to a talented job seeker is to get caught in the Vortex — that swirling, chaotic place where the hiring-process movement gets to be so fast and furious that it’s hard to keep up with it.
“They want me in New York next week to see the CEO!” you say breathlessly to your roommate.
“Have they told you the title or the salary yet?” your roommate wants to know.
“No, but isn’t it exciting?!” you exclaim.
That’s the Vortex. In the midst of all the phone calls and interviews and paperwork flying around, it’s easy to lose your bearings. You’re so excited and so flattered to be complimented and sought after that you can become disoriented. Then, you might forget that you have a stake in this deal greater than just a job offer.
Accepting the wrong job may be worse than another month or two of unemployment. Taking the wrong job can trash your resume and your emotional health in one fell swoop. If you take a job you hate, will you have energy to work all day in the pit of hell and conduct another stealth job search at night? And how will you explain another job search after only a few months in the new job? For these reasons, it’s important to keep your wits about you and pay close attention to any red flags during the employer-and-candidate tango.
Here are ten warning signs that may signal “Get out of Dodge”:
- If you get a call from someone wanting to interview you based on a resume you sent three months ago, you should get some explanation for the delay. No explanation means: “We couldn’t care less about you. You want to come for an interview, or should we call the next person?” If you’re also expected to remember the details of the job you applied for three months ago and if the phone screener is impatient with you for having forgotten the fine points of the role, take warning.
- Once you’re phone screened, a face-to-face interview should take place within a week or two. Three, four or five weeks of waiting says: “It’s all about our needs, Bucko. You’re not our highest priority.” A perfectly reasonable question (if you can get anyone live on the phone) is: “What is the time frame for having this new person start?”
- It’s normal to have interviews delayed and rescheduled. People are busy – we all understand that. Two or three delays and reschedules for a scheduled interview is a sign of a shoddy selection process. Your time is valuable too.
- Likewise, if you’re kept waiting for more than 35 minutes in the reception area or left to languish in a small conference room in a deserted corner of the building, that’s a bad sign. If they treat you this badly when you still have the option to bail, how will they treat you once you’re on the payroll?
- If they ask for everything they’ll ever need from you, including your references, a writing sample and a twenty-page questionnaire, before you’ve met anyone in person, you’ve been handed a gift from the universe – namely, the knowledge that you would hate this job if you got it. Run away, because this employer does not value you or your talents. One friend of mine was asked by the HR person (on her first interview) for a voided check from her checkbook – so that in case she was hired, they could start direct deposit on the spot! She wanted to ask the HR lady: “Are you familiar with the concept of identity theft?” but she didn’t – she said “I’m sorry, I left my checkbook at home” and sent a quick ‘thanks but no thanks’ letter once she reached her house.
- If the hiring process is rushed, that’s not a good sign. It means that employee turnover is killing them, or that the quality of the hire they’re making now is not all that important – because they think nothing of hiring and firing people on a dime. You’re free to slow down the process, of course, asking for more information and scheduling interviews when it’s convenient for you. If you’re getting pressure at this stage (“The VP is only available at six a.m. on Sunday morning, and only for twenty minutes, so be there early”) it’s your cue to get on the bus, Gus.
- If every interview conversation hinges on salary, be wary. Compensation is important, but if everyone you meet with has his or her own spin on why the company pays bupkus but is nonetheless a great place to work, take heed. If cash reserves are low, they can offer you flexibility in hours, and/or let you work from home some or most of the time. Unthinkable? Maybe it’s time for you to think again.
- If they won’t let you meet the team members when you ask to, flee. Bosses don’t let unhappy chickens out of their coops to meet prospective new chickens.
- If the employer demands your past W-2s as proof of your prior earnings, run away. They’re business people – can’t they determine what you’re worth without relying on some other employer’s practice (and dragging your personal, financial history into it)? You don’t need to work among turkeys like that.
- Lastly, if they won’t show you any relevant document you ask for – from the employee handbook to the written sales compensation plan to the medical insurance plan description – take a hike. Life is too short to get caught up with non-legit employers, and sad to say, they exist. A great job where you’re respected is around the next corner and the quicker you leave this Mickey Mouse outfit in a cloud of dust behind you, the sooner you’ll find it.