Red Flags When Job-Hunting

I have done a lot of job-hunting in my day and have come across a lot of the same red flags during my searches. I thought I’d share them with you, as I know job-hunting is not easy, the process of interviewing can be grueling, and the amount and variety of job ads posted on the internet can be overwhelming.

The company is disorganized. This could mean they don’t get back to you when they say they will. They lose part of your application. Their web site doesn’t work. Or other signs they don’t “run a tight ship”. If it’s like this before you’re hired, it most likely will be the same afterwards and could prove to be a big headache.

The pay is not stated. You’ll notice job ads always include what they’re looking for in an employee and the qualifications of the job. But job ads that don’t also include the wages/salary and other employee benefits are disrespectful of a job seeker’s time, energy, and expectations. At the very least, they should offer a range (to account for differences in years of experience and education level). Best believe they will require an application and resume from you before bothering to reach out, so they should also divulge what they “bring to the table” as an employer.

They seem desperate to hire you. They don’t want to give you time to think it over. They make an offer on the spot. They receive your application and are wanting to interview you the next day. They act unhappy when you tell them you plan on giving your current workplace a two weeks’ notice before you can begin work. These are all red flags that they’re not the sweet deal you might think they are.

They violate labor laws. They ask you inappropriate questions during the interview (“Are you pregnant/have kids?” “Do you believe in God?” Etc.) or sneak legally unenforceable language into your contract, such as not sharing your salary with your coworkers. This means they’re either stupid for running a business without knowing the law, they perceive you as stupid and believe you don’t know the law, or they just don’t care about breaking the law. If they’re doing this now, you can be sure they will do more of the same after you’re hired.

They require too many hoops be jumped through for a low-paying, dead-end job. Multiple interviews, multiple assessments, multiple kinds of background checks over months. They might be unreasonable employers looking for a unicorn to fill the role. Even if you get the job, you might find you’re miserable in the role.

Job duties are not clearly defined. This might mean they don’t have a clear vision for the role themselves. This might mean they need a Girl or Guy Friday whose job responsibilities will be loosely-defined and boundary-less. Either way, it’s important for you to know what you’re getting yourself into, and it’s important for them to communicate this in the job ad so as not to waste your time.

You find lots of bad reviews online or lawsuits related to them. This means others have “run the gauntlet” before you and serve as warnings so you don’t have to find out the hard way.

They are constantly posting ads. This means a high turn-over rate, which probably means it’s not the best place to work. If the job is as great an opportunity as what’s being advertised, why aren’t they able to keep employees?

They are open 24/7 hours or say something like “Monday to Friday job but we may need you some nights/weekends.” This could mean a poor work/life balance for you if you take this role.

The ad uses flowery, infomercial-like language like “Do you want unlimited earning potential? More freedom? Do you want to reach your dreams?” These are often commission-based sales jobs which will entail a lot more work than you might be expecting. There are usually two types of people in this job: the majority who “sink” and end up quitting or being fired, and those few who “swim”, who very often have the personality traits and connections that make them good at this type of work.

They promise very high income for little to no education/credentials. If anyone could do this job but the salary/wage is suspiciously high, it’s probably not a legit opportunity. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Very high qualifications are required for a low salary. They want something for nothing and have no intentions of treating you fairly.

Pay is commission-based with little or no base pay. This can be okay if you’re not in a position where you need to be making money immediately and where you’re already a great salesperson and the product/service you’re selling is something for which there is a high demand. Otherwise, you might put in a whole lot of time and effort for little to no pay. Also, these very often entail sales jobs where you have to come up with your own leads, which means bugging family, friends, and strangers in line at the grocery store. These jobs can be very lucrative, but it takes a certain specific type of person to feel comfortable in this role.

What red flags have you identified when job-hunting?

What the Jobs I’ve Held Have Taught Me About Myself

I’ve held several different jobs, in different fields. Some I have liked and felt were a good fit. Others I simply tolerated but did not feel comfortable doing or enjoy. I believe my experience is pretty typical of most workers. Here I’d like to consider the reasons behind why certain jobs were “right for me” and certain jobs weren’t. I think you can learn a lot about yourself based on the kinds of jobs you do well in and those you don’t, those that inspire you and those that drain you.

I have worked as a childcare professional, as both a private babysitter and in group settings (daycare and gym kids’ club). From this line of work, I have learned that I enjoy creativity in my job. For example, I got to make up games, do crafts, and make lots of cool things with Legos with the kids. However, the chaotic, unpredictable nature of children and working in child care do not jive with my spirit but instead cause me anxiety.

I have worked as a caregiver to the elderly via a senior care agency. I enjoyed the solo nature of this work —not having any coworkers—because I worked with private clients and generally in private homes. Even when I would go to a nursing home, assisted living facility, or hospital, I worked one-on-one with the client. I also really enjoyed hearing my elderly clients’ stories and life experiences from past eras, as I love history, and it intrigues me. However, similar to child care, it caused me great anxiety to have someone’s life in my hands or to have to respond quickly and competently to unexpected scenarios arising, such as dementia-related outbursts or medical emergencies. I am not great “on my feet” and feel much more secure when I have gotten the chance to prepare. Driving these clients (in my own car, no less) was also risky and stressful.

I have worked as a retail manager. I enjoyed, once again, the solo nature of this work. I worked in a tiny gift shop owned by an individual with two other managers in charge of the store. I worked second shift and was the only employee in the shop during my shift. Not even the owner was around unless he happened to drop by for a few minutes to take care of some business. I had great responsibilities including ordering stock, money- counting, ensuring shop security, etc. As a result, I took great pride in my job and enjoyed not being micromanaged by anybody. However, it was stressful not having anybody around to help when the shop was very busy or when I had to deal with irate customers.

I have worked as an at-home transcriptionist. The work was legal transcription of a court reporter’s audio files. It required incredible attention to detail and constant focus. I enjoyed using my grammar and spelling strengths in this position, the lack of coworkers and micromanagement, and the ability to take breaks when needed. I could stop early for the day and wake up to do work in the middle of the night if I wanted, as long as I got the work done by the deadline. However, the work was incredibly tedious and mentally-draining.

I have worked as a patient observer. This job was a non-medical position in a hospital emergency room that required me to do room searches and personal searches of patients deemed to be homicidal or suicidal, in order to protect everybody’s safety. It required me never to take my eyes off the patient and to ensure they didn’t have anything they could hurt themselves or others with, such as pens, scissors, or sheets (they might hang themselves). I was constantly pitted between what my supervisors wanted me to do and what the nurses on the floor wanted to be done, and this actually caused me to feel much greater anxiety and insecurity than working with violent patients.

Several years ago, I worked in a major corporate pharmacy chain for a day before quitting. I was hired as a retail associate and was required to do many tasks, including both stocking and cashiering. The training was minimal, most on the computer (so not very practical), and the job was absolutely chaotic. I’d be sitting on the floor stocking something on the bottom shelf when I’d be yelled at by someone to check the front counter because a customer (who I wasn’t able to see from my vantage point) was waiting to check out.

Several years ago, I worked for a major residential cleaning company for a week before realizing that kind of physical labor wasn’t going to be something I could stand on any kind of a consistent basis, and the pay scheme was such that you didn’t actually know how much you’d be paid.

I have worked as a live-in personal assistant. This was another job that allowed me great freedom over when I did my work and how I did my work. I worked for a woman who was the president of a company headquartered in NYC who needed me to cook, clean, do laundry, run errands, make/answer phone calls, and chauffeur herself and her teenage son. I had tons of free time during the day and could run errands of my own in-between. I would say in a 12-hour day I generally had about 2 hours’ worth of actual work to do. However, I felt a little trapped not being able to go back to my own home every night and feeling pressured to do things with the family members outside of my work hours.

My most recent job, up until Covid, was working a desk job in a call center. Although I had lots of coworkers, I rarely interacted with them because I was constantly on the phone doing work at my own cubicle. I have been working this job from home now since April. I enjoy interacting with members over the phone better than in-person, as it is less stressful for me. I enjoy that it is only inbound calls that I make and that it doesn’t include having to make any sales. However, it can be stressful dealing with computers and computer systems that don’t always work, as well as having to learn new systems and software from time to time.

I have learned from my work experiences that I don’t want to do emotional labor. It brings up too many feelings and memories of my own and I feel too great a responsibility for the person. I don’t want to be micromanaged but I do want to have the support there when I need it. I don’t like feeling as though my supervisors think I’m stupid, but I also don’t like feeling as though everything ultimately lies on my shoulders and I don’t have a sounding board. I like knowing what’s expected of me and having those expectations remain consistent. I don’t like being told contradictory information. I want to make sure I’m doing my job well. I like challenges but do not like being set up for failure. I appreciate jobs that are relatively routine but allow me to express my creative side and use my own discretion. I like doing my job but then also having a life separate from that job when the work day has ended. I don’t want work life bleeding into my “real” life. What have you learned about yourself based on the jobs you’ve held?

Why Job-Hopping Makes Sense

*Raises hand* “My name is WritingOne3583, and I am a job-hopper.” Job-hopping is typically defined as changing employers more often than every 1-2 years. We job-hoppers have a lot of negative stereotypes attached to us. We are assumed to be lazy, flighty, and undependable. But is this the reality? And are there any positives to job-hopping?

I’d like to start off by saying that it’s not true “Once a job-hopper, always a job-hopper”. There are many legitimate reasons for job- hopping, and people can find themselves in a position where they become a job-hopper when they’ve never been before. And they can find a dream position or employer where they end up staying the rest of their working career, although they’ve been a job-hopper in the past. In fact, most of the reasons people job-hop are due to situations outside of their control. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons workers job-hop.

People job-hop because companies no longer feel any kind of responsibility towards their employees, and corporate culture since the 80’s has been a “race to the bottom” to see just how much disrespect, abuse, and exploitation workers will take for the smallest amount of monetary compensation possible. Regulations and worker protections have been weakened and all but dismantled. Employees are no longer considered assets to a company, but instead liabilities. Pensions are only a reality in government jobs, with most Americans barely making enough to survive on, let alone being able to save for retirement, though working 40-60 hours a week. The only protections workers have nowadays are granted to those few lucky enough to work for the federal government or in unionized occupations. There are very few federal labor laws protecting private-sector employees. In most cases, employers can fire employees for any reason at all at any time except on the basis of certain federally-protected statuses (but even those protections are pretty much in name only considering it’s nearly impossible to prove when they’ve been violated). This can be a death sentence if unemployed for a while and in a state with few social safety nets. Unsurprisingly, workers who feel devalued are more likely to attempt to leave for elsewhere where they have a chance at being treated better.

We “working class heroes” (which, let’s be honest, with the disappearance of the middle class are pretty much all of us now except for the top ten percent) shouldn’t let ourselves be miserable for any length of time. This is not healthy mentally, emotionally, or physically. Working under a tyrannical boss or one who doesn’t appreciate you or who doesn’t take responsibility for their own shortcomings, will wear on you quickly. We all have one life, and if there are better opportunities available, we would be foolish not to take them.

Different roles/experiences will teach you what you enjoy and allow you to increase your skill set. By working in multiple positions, you are more likely to realize your own strengths and natural talents. Why waste years and years in a role that is a bad fit when you could be working somewhere that is more fulfilling? Developing your skill set could land you in a dream position somewhere you never thought possible.

You can make more money job-hopping. It is common knowledge nowadays that wages have not only stagnated for decades but actually fallen in some areas (especially taking inflation into account). Statistically, an employee’s wages will rise quicker and by a larger increment when that worker switches jobs than when they get a raise from their current employer. And many workers who have worked at the same place for years report not getting a raise at all or only getting a “cost of living” raise to make up for inflation. If you can immediately make more money elsewhere, perhaps even doing the same type of work, it makes good sense to “hop” on over to that new job.

There are some caveats to be aware of before making the decision to job-hop. You want to make sure you are in a position of strength when you leave your current job for a new one. Don’t be impulsive when you leave. Don’t let emotions sway you into making a rash decision. Plan. Make sure you don’t just assume the “grass is greener on the other side”. If so, circumstances might be the same at the new job and you might find yourself discontent once again. It might be wiser to apply for a different position or a promotion at your current employer than to “jump ship” completely. Of course, this probably won’t fix severe issues with communication or the ethics of a company. If the structure is rotten, it is definitely better to look for another employer, as foundational issues will infest the whole workplace at all levels, and you won’t be able to escape it. If possible, leave things amicable with your old employer. That way you can return in the future and won’t have any issues with references. Give a two-week notice.

Are you a job-hopper? If so, has it benefited you or harmed you?