Don’t Get Trapped! Red Flags in the Recruitment Process.
October 24th 2022
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SUMMARY / KEY TAKEAWAYS
In this article, we review red flags that you may encounter in the job offers posted online and at job interviews.
We review common red flags in online job announcements such as blurry job requirements, symptoms of a scam, or signs of an exploitative work culture.
We also touch red flags in job interviews: from disorganized recruitment processes, through inappropriate tone, to incompetent answers to your questions during the interview.
Table of Contents
- Red Flags in the Recruitment Process: Don’t Get Cornered Before Your Job Even Starts.
- Red Flags in the Recruitment Process #1: Online Job Offers.
- The Job Was Posted Months Ago, or the Job Is Constantly Reposted.
- It’s Hard to Verify the Employer’s Information.
- The Company Values Conflict or Are Unclear.
- High Turnover Rate in the Company.
- Poor Company Reviews.
- Unsettling News Reports.
- Potential For Discrimination.
- Statements Suggesting Burnout Culture.
- Experience Requirement Too High for the Position or Long List of Job Qualifications.
- No Specified Salary Range, Low Base Salary, or the Statement “pay Commensurate with Experience.”
- Symptoms Of a Scam.
- Red Flags in the Recruitment Process #2: Job Interviews.
- Constant Rescheduling and Disorganization in the Recruitment Process.
- Too Hard or Too Easy to Get a Job.
- Lack of Clarity or Consistency in Answers to Your Questions.
- The Interviewer Focuses Too Much on the Fun Work Environment.
- The Job for Which You Are Interviewing Starts to Sound Very Different from the Initial Job Description That Convinced You to Apply.
- Inappropriate Tone or Vocabulary by the Recruiter.
- Inappropriate Questions or Comments.
- Giving You a Word Instead of Putting Things on Paper.
- No Clear Career Path.
- Not Meeting the Team Before Getting the Offer.
- Exploding Job Offer..
- Some Important Elements Discussed at the Interview Is Missing in the Contract.
- You Can’t See the Employee Handbook.
- The Offer Is Too Good to Be True.
- It Just Doesn’t Feel Right.
- Conclusions: Is It Difficult To Notice Red Flags in the Recruitment Process?
Red Flags in the Recruitment Process: Don’t Get Cornered Before Your Job Even Starts.
Recruitment is a two-sided process: the company recruits you as an employee, and you recruit them as your employer. And as you probably already know, not every job offer is a good offer!
Therefore, the ability to read between the lines in the job offers can save you from lots of trouble when applying for jobs. What are the red flags you should pay attention to — in the job offers, job interviews, and the recruitment process in general?
The seemingly unimportant, innocent statements or other “little details” can indicate major issues with your potential future employer and workplace. In this article, we will separately review red flags that you may find in the job offers posted online, and at job interviews.
Red Flags in the Recruitment Process #1: Online Job Offers.
Is the job offer posted online worth your attention? Or, is it, potentially, a job in a dysfunctional working environment or, even worse, a scam that can cost you a lot of nerves and money? Here are the red flags you should be aware of:
1. The Job Was Posted Months Ago, or the Job Is Constantly Reposted.
Attractive jobs typically encourage hundreds or even thousands of applicants. Therefore, if you notice that the job offer is available for many months, it might mean that the employer has too high expectations and cannot find anyone suitable, the working conditions are so bad that no one wants to accept them, or the posting is a scammy advertisement. Therefore, remember to only choose relatively new job offers.
2. It’s Hard to Verify the Employer’s Information.
If you start researching the employer and find out that they only have a generic WordPress or GitHub page with limited information about the company’s objectives, or the online presence is outdated, it is a red flag. Also, beware if the posting says, “company confidential.” In that case, it is most likely an illegal business. Just run.
3. The Company Values Conflict or Are Unclear.
If the employer has an unclear mission statement, or there is no mission statement at all, and you cannot find out what problem they actually solve in the company, it is a red flag.
4. High Turnover Rate in the Company.
It is always a good idea to schedule informational interviews before applying. If during informational interviews, you get information that the employees quit or are laid off relatively often compared to other companies in the sector, it is an alarm. Usually, it is some indication that there might be lots of gaslighting behaviors in the company culture.
To learn more about how to handle gaslighting, please check out our article “How To Recognize and Handle Gaslighting At Work.”
To learn more about how to schedule informational interviews, please check out our article “Before a Job Interview: How To Conduct an Informational Interview.”
5. Poor Company Reviews.
If your informational interviews or growing reviews via Glassdoor give you an eerie feeling that there is something wrong with the company culture or that the employer is just predatory, it might be better to stay away.
6. Unsettling News Reports.
If you hear any worrying news in the media, related to the company, such as often changing management, possible merger with another company, bad financial projections, or protests from a labor union, it might mean that you won’t feel safe in this workplace.
In particular, if the vacancy you are going to apply for was created due to a mass layoff in the company, it is a bad sign as it might mean that this will likely happen again.
7. Potential For Discrimination.
If the job ad is unreasonably specific about the demographic of the potential employees, it is an alarm. Statements such as “looking for a (position title). Male candidates only, 21-29 years old” should convince you to stay away.
8. Statements Suggesting Burnout Culture.
The famous example here is a “fast-paced work environment.” More often than not, it means that the working pace is extremely fast, and it is almost impossible to keep a work-life balance. Usually, this statement is the “We told you so” strategy, namely, a way of running from responsibility for the employer.
Other typical examples of signs that typically suggest burnout culture are: no mention of paid time off, no mention of paid sick leave, and mention of “occasional work on the weekends.” In practice, “occasional” usually means that you always work on the weekends in fact.
9. Experience Requirement Too High for the Position or Long List of Job Qualifications.
If the employer is searching for the proverbial “20-year-old assistant with 30 years of experience,” it is a bad sign, suggesting that you will be given lots of responsibility at low pay.
It might also mean that this working environment is a culture of exploitation in which you are left alone with excruciatingly hard tasks and there is no one around to help you, as the management is incompetent — that’s exactly why they are looking for a one-man orchestra.
10. No Specified Salary Range, Low Base Salary, or the Statement “pay Commensurate with Experience.”
This, again, is a sign that the employer will try to avoid paying you a decent salary and it will end with empty promises.
11. Symptoms Of a Scam.
Lastly, some job offers contain information that might suggest that they are just a scam and you should stay away.
Firstly, it should be a red flag right off the bat if there is no verifiable information about the recruiter, for instance, when the company website says the company is in stealth mode and you don’t know what they are actually doing. Similarly, it should alarm you if the recruiter sends you emails from a generic email account or if emails from the recruiter contain lots of grammatical mistakes.
Secondly, it should be a warning sign when the recruiter asks for lots of detailed personal information, for instance, your ID number and your date of birth. It might be a sign that they want to pull put your personal information out of you with the intention of stealing your identity. Such situations happen for real!
Another scammy element to look out for is a request to pay for something, for instance, for admission to the recruitment in itself, or for some courses or qualifications necessary to get hired. Remember that recruitment should never cost you cash — otherwise, it is nothing more than a sales pitch. Desperate people without jobs try anything to get hired and scammers know it and monetize it.
Red Flags in the Recruitment Process #2: Job Interviews.
While you should be alert during the job application process, you should stay even more vigilant during the interview itself! Job offers online often look impeccable, for instance, because LinkedIn and other job posting platforms help recruiters in formulating job offers and offer them free templates for job postings.
But in the interview, you can sniff around and screen the recruiter and their intentions by yourself. Some of the red flags that should draw your attention are as follows:
1. Constant Rescheduling and Disorganization in the Recruitment Process.
The recruitment process will tell you a lot about the company’s culture. If the interviews are constantly rescheduled or you have no chance to contact the recruiter in the meantime, it is a sign that the whole company is a mess.
Similarly, if the interviewer is late to the interview or unprepared and doesn’t know where to start, it is an alarming sign that suggests that the company is disorganized. If their onboarding process is chaotic and recruiters don’t pay proper attention to whom they hire, just imagine the team you will be working with. It’s going to be a real pain!
2. Too Hard or Too Easy to Get a Job.
If you need to get through dozens of hurdles on the way to signing your new contract, it is a clear red flag — especially when you are also asked to perform a small project for free as a “trial run”. Many employers exploit job candidates this way, and never intend to hire them in the first place.
On the other hand, if it is too easy to get a job, it is an alarming sign as well. If it so happens that you receive an offer right on the spot, it should be a red flag. Serious recruiters quantitatively evaluate candidates using a complex evaluation system, and then compare the options and discuss them with a recruitment team before making any final decisions.
3. Lack of Clarity or Consistency in Answers to Your Questions.
If the recruiter dodges basic questions about the company and its working culture, or their explanation of the company mission differs from what you see on the company website, you should probably run. The recruiter should be the best-informed person, close to the employees! If they know nothing about how the company operates, how can they make good decisions?
4. The Interviewer Focuses Too Much on the Fun Work Environment.
The famous phrase “We work hard and we play hard” is a clear red flag. It likely means that you will be expected to hang out with your coworkers after working hours or others, and you will be labeled as “not a team player. Similarly, “we are like a family in this team” typically means that the employer will step on your boundaries and affect your family life without pardon.
5. The Job for Which You Are Interviewing Starts to Sound Very Different from the Initial Job Description That Convinced You to Apply.
Sometimes, online job offers are just generic and imprecise, often on purpose as the employer does not want to explain to the competition how they work. While the actual role is much better defined — and you will be told that at the interview.
But when the job starts sounding completely different during the interview, it is a red flag. It seems that they tried to lure you in, while in fact, they have their own agenda. If the employer is not honest with you now, why would they be honest with you later on?
6. Inappropriate Tone or Vocabulary by the Recruiter.
If the recruiter uses an inappropriate tone, for instance, behaves in an extremely informal way, talking to you like a “bro,” it is an alarming sign. You don’t want to be a part of a “bro” working culture! Such environments are usually unprofessional, chaotic, and subject to all kinds of discrimination.
7. Inappropriate Questions or Comments.
If you are asked about the details that are legally not allowed to be asked — such as questions about your age, ethnicity, medical history, or marital plans — just run.
8. Giving You a Word Instead of Putting Things on Paper.
If the recruiter just makes empty promises such as promising you a substantial salary increase during the first year of work or promising you a promotion right away, it is an alarming signal. Hiring Managers are not in charge of making such decisions — Team Leaders and Human Resources are! So, it is probably just a bunch of empty statements to prompt you to sign the contract at any cost.
9. No Clear Career Path.
If the recruiter does not know what the career path in this role looks like within the company, it is a bad sign. Recruiters should be well informed on how the company is structured and what options they will have for you in the future. The inability to answer such a question should put a lot of doubt in your head.
10. Not Meeting the Team Before Getting the Offer.
If you are going to be a part of a team, not introducing you to the team before signing the contract is also questionable. Good employers want to make sure that the candidates fit the team culture, introduce them to the team members and ask the team for opinions. So, if the Hiring Manager keeps you away from the team, it might mean that they are trying to hide something important from you.
11. Exploding Job Offer.
Exploding job offers are job offers that are given with a very short deadline beyond which the offer expires. For instance, if you are given just one weekend to decide upon the job acceptance, it means that the recruiter is trying to force the Fear Of Missing Out upon you and something is not right.
12. Some Important Elements Discussed at the Interview Is Missing in the Contract.
For instance, if you were promised a medical care package or retirement plan and there is no mention of it in the contract, it is a red flag.
13. You Can’t See the Employee Handbook.
An employee handbook is a document that helps you understand your rights, as well as responsibilities, with the company. The company should allow you to read it and ask questions before you make your final acceptance of an offer. Most job candidates never ask for it, and don’t even know about its existence. But technically, it should be there.
14. The Offer Is Too Good to Be True.
Let’s be real: if something is too good to be true, it is too good to be true. If the employer doesn’t expect too much work experience for the position, offers you pay way above the industry standards, with lots of flexibility and benefits, and offers you the job right away, it might be just too good to be true. That should prompt you to research this employer once again and try to figure out if they are legit.
15. It Just Doesn’t Feel Right.
At the end of the day, your intuition is usually a good advisor. If despite the recruiter’s efforts, the work environment or the job offer doesn’t feel right, just walk away. There will always be yet another, better option.
Conclusions: Is It Difficult To Notice Red Flags in the Recruitment Process?
Well, we all learn from our mistakes. Usually, you need to make a few mistakes before you eventually learn how to avoid low-quality job offers. It is important to stay critical and rational regardless of how much you need a job at the moment.
If an offer is too good to be true, it is too good to be true. If the recruitment process is messy right now, most probably, working in this company will be the same messy all the way. There are too many job jobs out there to stick to the bad offers.
Good luck with your job search! For more information about how to pass job interviews, please check our articles “7 Magic Spells: How To Enchant the Recruiter at the Job Interview” and “Don’t Blow Job Interviews! Red-flags In Recruiters’ Eyes.”
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Please cite as:
Bielczyk, N. (2022, October 24th). Don’t Get Trapped! Red Flags in the Recruitment Process. Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/red-flags-in-the-recruitment-process
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