1. Be aware
Anywhere that advertises what you COULD earn instead of what you WILL earn.
They’re going to use you up and spit you out.
I had an interview at an Outback in college once. About halfway through the interview, the interviewer (who owned and operated that location right by a busy highway and mall) says “Now you realize that once you have this job, I own you. You can’t take multiple days off to see family, you can’t take ANY holidays off, and you can’t go out of town.”
That sounded like slavery to me, so I got up and walked out. Two of my friends now work there and that guy was dead fucking serious about owning his employees. Fuck that.
As questions about how time is tracked. If you have to use a punch card, if they count the minutes of your breaks/lunch, etc… I once worked for an IT services company that tracked every minute of every day and required that every minute I worked was billable to a customer. So if I had to take a shit, I had to find a way to bill it to a customer, or make sure I went during my lunch period. Companies that are abusive of your time are hell holes.
4. Red flags
Any time you are interacting with a group of people at a potential employer and the ‘boss’ is talking, check out everyone else in the room. If they are looking down and trying to act like they aren’t there, that’s a huge red flag. The boss is either extremely dominating and won’t accept any opinion from anyone that contradicts his own, or he habitually fucks up and they are perpetually embarrassed for him.
Whenever I go on a job interview and it’s time for me to ask a question, I always sneak in a friendly way of asking “what’s the best thing about working here? and what’s the worst thing?” Usually people are really honest with you, especially if their boss isn’t also in the interview.
All the employees seem new to the job.
When the interviewer complains about their current staff, it’s a concern to me. If someone is going to air their dirty laundry when you first meet them, they are almost certainly a drama-queen manager.
Unpaid training and/or you have to buy uniforms from them up front. I’ve had both happen, and I just noped the fuck out of there with a smile on my face.
Random buzzwords and extrapolant phrases like “unique opportunity”, “looking for a rockstar” etc. is always a red flag for me.
The ones where they say “marketing trainee” in the job listings.
It’s codeword for sales person.
Any kind of telesales business. A lot claim they don’t have a high turnover of staff. Turns out its a fancy way of saying “WE LIKE LYING TO PEOPLE.”
“You can be your own boss…” Okay pyramid scheme!
In one of my own experiences, when the hiring person or orientation person spends a lot of time trying to sell YOU on the job. That’s a red flag to me.
14. That pause
Best to check the facial expressions/body language of the people you pass. You can easily tell if a person is defeated/hate their job.
Also ask your interviewer if they enjoy their job. If they hesitate in their answer, then that’s an indication that it isn’t the greatest place.
I applied for a job as a massage therapist. During the interview, the person doing the interview answered the phone four or five times, a different business name every time. When I got home I called the license agency and asked about them; turns out they were a poorly-disguised front for prostitution. They had a legit massage business, which they were using to hide the fact that they also had half a dozen not so legit “massage” businesses. I was advised not to accept the position as they were, once again, under investigation. A month later, I saw my interviewer on the news, in handcuffs.
Be careful with anything that advertises as an “entry-level marketing position” – I interviewed for this position last year, which took place at a Starbucks where I paid for my own drink. It turned out to be door-to-door gas payment plan sales. They expected you to also do sales presentations in people’s house. Er no.
If you have the misfortune of interviewing at a place that has a good reputation, puts up a good front but is rotten at the core and toxic, it can be very difficult to ascertain the crazy. Still, if you pay attention, there are a few clues:
Highly regimented interview process and schedule, where you only talk to selected persons. This is where having some idea of the org chart can help. If you only talk and interact with a few people in a department or company of several dozen, beware.
They do more talking about themselves than asking you questions. They don’t care to find out about you but want to convince you how wonderful they are and how you’d be lucky to join them. Therein lies the way of madness.
Your questions aren’t answered, not really. For example, if you ask about hours, flexibility for appointments, lunch, etc. and you are told that as a salaried person you aren’t tracked but oh by the way, you need to tell your superior and three others when you arrive, where you are, when you leave… RUN AWAY. Micromanager ahoy.
18. A startup?
The phrase “We wear a lot of hats” gets used. That just means the job is not defined and you will have no direction or ability to say no. They will try to get the most out of you before you decide to quit.
In terms of looking for a job, never pay for a search firm to conduct a job search for you. I once went in to a headhunter who assured me that for the reasonable price of $5,000, he could find a job within a week. Turns out the company was one that preyed on desperate job seekers – especially new immigrants. Don’t ever pay a penny to anyone offering to help find you a job. Recruiters get paid by the hiring companies, and they get paid damn well. Sometimes up to 25% of annual salary just for placement.
If you get hired the same day, even if it’s over the phone later on. It tends to suggest a high turnover of employees and means (no offense) that their standards aren’t that high/high enough to keep interviewing and then hire you.
21. Look for these
From my job experiences:
High turnover rate
younger workers/ under-skilled employees
A general “vibe” through the workspace
Low employee morale
Low social interaction with fellow employees during lunch/ break
Your boss is a dick
This is more of a comment for executive level positions, positions high enough they are going to fly you out and put you up at corporate to interview.
The company is typically trying to appear as nice as possible during these meetings. Good companies are flexible with the flights, have a car scheduled to pick you up, the hotel room billed to them, a relaxed schedule (you’re there all day, after all), a nice lunch break on them, and generally realize you’re probably burning a vacation day or two just to interview with them so they should be good to you.
Bad companies insist you fly at odd hours on some low cost carrier, leave you to a taxi, make you pick up the room and expense it only to get a check 6 weeks later, and then even though you’re there all day try to cram everyone into a 4 hour window over a working lunch because “their team is busy.” If you voice any complaint about any of this “you must not really want the job.”
I’ve had a couple interviews like this, and politely told the recruiter (who in each case had called to offer me a position) that if the company treated people like that when they were trying to put their best foot forward then I was not interested in finding out how they treated people day to day.
Arbitrary, confining rules. I once interviewed for an editing job with UPS where I would literally be sitting at a desk for 40 hours editing manuals, in a room that had no windows or carpet and was basically also a storm shelter. This job required a strict uniform. My brother currently works as a package handler for UPS and can wear whatever he wants. Why did the editing job require a uniform? What customers would I be interacting with?
Lots of passive-aggressive signs everywhere. Handwritten is worse but typed is bad too. Examples are like: “don’t put dishes in this part of the sink!” “Don’t leave this door open!” “Don’t leave the x out when not using!”
This usually means that there are a lot who don’t care and someone who is annoyed with them. It’s a good sign of a discordant atmosphere.
When your first day the manager tries his best to put all your training on everyone else.
When everyone in the interview process wants to make sure you have a thick skin and don’t rattle easily… you should probably not take that job if you have any options.
27. No place to sit
When on your first day, they haven’t arranged for a place for you to sit.
My second worst job ever was the one where the day I started, there was an Ikea box in the corner. My new boss points to it and tells me that my first duty was to find somewhere to put my “desk” and build it.
I had one job where they had “Hot Seating” there was a rush at the start of the day to get the best seat, no assigned desk. The managers said this was for efficiency, i stated it seemed like you don’t care enough about employees to provide them a place they could consider their own. They also re used headsets like one guy would quit and they would febreze the headset and give it to someone else the next day.
Personal observation: anywhere where the office seems exceptionally fun. Places with game rooms, and kegerators. A cool lounge area, and fitness area with showers! If the office is offering all the amenities of home it’s usually because you’re never supposed to go home.
30. Good pointers
Lots of good pointers in here, but here’s something new/current that I would like to point out. Don’t let the hip/young companies with free snacks, happy hours, and a foosball table in the breakroom convince you that work is a playground and “totes rad”. Many of these companies just use these perks to compensate for low and below-average pay. Obviously, this totally depends on the company and most of them have been inspired by Google to treat their employees better, which is great. But check out glassdoor.com and read reviews before accepting a position. My first job out of college was casual dress, free lunches, dog-friendly, but I was getting paid less than almost all of my friends who had recently graduated. There was also no benefits package – shit like that matters. You just need to inspect these places if possible and if by some chance you find the office or work environment that not only treats you well but also pays you well, then good for you!
Also, be aware of companies that use some sort of “introductory training period” with new hires. I was once offered a position where the first 3 months were part-time and then depending on performance, would eventually lead to full-time. This is the company’s way of not spending too much on you and getting an opportunity to fire you if they don’t like you early on. It also speaks to their level of confidence in the people they hire, which is obviously low.
31. Smize, my ass
When you see the people that work there looking completely miserable, you know you’re in the right place.