Ways to spot a bad employer before it's too late

Identify companies you don’t want to work for before you accept an offer.

Ways to spot a bad employer before it's too late

Some bad employers wave red flags in your face.

Some bad employers wave red flags in your face, while others present more subtle signs. You should be ready to notice both.

Here are six ways to spot a bad employer before you take a job that will turn into a nightmare down the road.

Ask pointed questions

During most interviews, you’ll have a chance to ask some questions of your own. Donna Shannon, president and CEO of Personal Touch Career Services and author of How to Get a Job Without Going Crazy, recommends two: “What is your turnover rate?” and “How long has this position been open?”

Shannon says to watch out for evasive or distant answers to the first question, and a vague response such as “We’ve had some bad luck with recent hires,” can mean trouble. For the second question, if the employer seems in a rush to fill a recently opened position, you may want to slow things down because they may not be thinking about fit and finding the best person for the job.

Melissa Cooley, founder of The Job Quest LLC, recommends asking your interviewer, “Why do you like working here?” It’s not always a common question, so your interviewer may take a moment to answer. “If the interviewer stammers a lot, breaks eye contact, and fidgets nervously while answering, there could be something amiss.”

Pay attention to the workspace

When you go in for your interview note how people are behaving. Are they personable and welcoming, or do they seem to be hiding and fearful of their boss? “No one smiling is a definite red flag,” Cooley says, especially from the people who are interviewing you. “If this is as good as it gets, what is the atmosphere like when they are not putting their best foot forward?”

If you get a tour, watch how team members interact with supervisors, Cooley says. “Do they warmly greet their boss? Are they relaxed? Do they get input from their boss on a project? These are all signs of a healthy work environment. But the absence of these cues could indicate problems.”

Look for signs of job creep

During your interview, watch out for the hiring manager talking about additional work commitments that go beyond the job description for the position you’ve applied to, says Howard Davies, senior career expert at Resume Writer Direct. While most people are willing to put in extra hours when needed, companies that depend on regular non-contracted hours aren’t managing their people properly.

Watch for disorganization

Even if you’re applying at a busy workplace, you should expect common courtesy and organization when you go in for your interview. If the people you’re interviewing with seem disorganized, caught off guard, or run late for their meeting with you, those are red flags of bad employers, says Greg Szymanski, director of human resources at Geonerco Management LLC. Other bad signs are interviewers who haven’t looked at your resume before you arrive, or people asking questions that are clearly answered in your resume.

Be concerned about inconsistencies

If you are going through multiple interviews and get conflicting information about position’s role and responsibilities, that’s a bad sign, Szymanski says. For example, the hiring manager might tell you it’s a strategic position with the ability to make a real impact on the business, while others indicate you’ll be doing day-to-day support of other departments. If the employer doesn’t know what the job is, how will you?

Seek out signs of the future

If the hiring manager doesn’t ask about your career goals, there may not be a future for you at the company, says Joel Ingersoll, president and founder of Take On College LLC. You don’t want a boss who’s only concerned with your productivity and doesn’t care about your professional development or career path.

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