How to Avoid Bad (or Mediocre) Employers

How to Avoid Getting Hired by a Bad Company

Stressed office workers

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A disorganized interview process. Unhappy-looking employees. A hiring manager who acts like your mortal enemy instead of a negotiating partner during the salary negotiation phase.

There are all kinds of signs that indicate the job you're applying for might be a nightmare. Of course, even the best employers have bad days.

Don’t assume that one rescheduled interview means that the calendar is always in turmoil, or that a single harried recruiter means that you won’t connect with your potential boss.

But do listen when your gut tells you that something’s off – and do dig in to find out whether your instincts are indicating that there are real problems at the company, before you accept a job offer.

Signs That You’re Interviewing With a Bad Company

Even if you need a job badly, you shouldn’t have to take a job you're not comfortable with. These signs should give you pause.

No Attention to Detail

As a job seeker, you do your best to make sure that your application materials are perfect. You check, double-check, even triple-check your resumes and cover letters to ensure that they’re targeted to the job and free of typos and errors.

The employer should show similar care on their end of the process. If they don’t, it could be a sign that you’re not dealing with a professional organization.

Here’s an example. A reader named Sonya wrote to say, "I sent my resume, portfolio URL, and cover letter to a company last week; addressed to a Vice President as indicated in the advertisement. Several days later I got back a letter that was grammatically incorrect and unprofessional. I guess you could say at least I got a reply."

She went on: "Sometimes you just get a little put off when you try so hard to do things correctly, and you either don't get a response or you get a really bad one from someone who has the title of Vice President."

When things like that happen you wonder whether you would want to work for a company that was that unprofessional.

Rudeness or Aggressive Behavior

Hiring managers who don't show up for interviews without rescheduling in advance are a red flag. One job seeker reported that he spent over an hour getting to the interview site, only to be told by a secretary that he needed to come back at a later date.

Overselling the Job

Whenever a recruiter or hiring manager says that you absolutely can't pass up this opportunity and you have to send your resume, drop everything and interview, etc. right now, you should wonder what the sense of urgency is. Perhaps it's a legitimate opportunity that needs to be filled immediately, or maybe it's just an overzealous recruiter or manager trying to meet a hiring quota.

Limited Contact Information

Vague contact information (no contact person or company name) and phone numbers that don't show up on Caller ID are another warning sign. You should be able to easily search Google and find the company and company information. Also, check LinkedIn and view the company page and who works there.

Jobs That Sound Too Good to Be True

That old mantra that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, still holds true. One person who was in the midst of a job search was told by a recruiter that an employer was hiring a high-level executive for a top-secret multimillion start-up company. When the job seeker inquired further, he found out that the start-up wasn't funded, and that it had no existing products or even a marketing plan.

What a Job Seeker Can Do

Spotted a few of these red flags? You don’t have to back out of the interview process immediately. There are steps you can take before making up your mind.

Hit Pause. You can stop – or at least halt – the hiring process temporarily while you learn more about the company. There isn't anything the matter with delaying sending your resume or scheduling an interview if you're hesitant about whether you want to work for the company.

Do Your Homework. Research the company. Google the company name to find out what you can discover about it online. Check the company's LinkedIn and social pages to see what information you can find. Check sites like Glassdoor and read company reviews which can help you decide whether to continue with the hiring process or not.

Use Your Connections. If you have a networking connection who will help you find inside information, use it. Do you know someone who works there? Ask them about the company. If you belong to a professional association, they may be able to help you network with people who can give you advice. Use online networking resources like LinkedIn, as well. You may be surprised at how much you can find out.

How to Say Politely No (Thank You)

It's important to keep in mind that not all companies are "good" companies. They don't all operate professionally, and you may not want to work for a company that doesn't match your standards.

You always have the option of declining an interview, withdrawing your candidacy for employment, or declining a job offer.

Key Takeaways

Listen to Your Gut: If your instincts tell you that something is off, pay attention.

Look for Specific Red Flags: These include a disorganized interview process, rude HR reps or hiring managers, or unprofessional communications.

Find Out More Information: Research the company and ask your networking connections for any insight they have to offer.

Need to Decline the Job? Be Professional: You may not want to work at this company, but you still need to conduct yourself with grace and professionalism.