4 Signs You Shouldn’t Take a Job

interview warning

A CEO I interviewed with the last time I was job hunting called me the other day, asking if I’d still like the job.

I said no, but thank you. What I wanted to say: are you serious? So many red flags were flying during that interview process that I had to walk away from what had seemed a great fit.

The first: She called me at home on a Sunday night of a holiday weekend for a phone interview out of the blue.

The company is booming, she must be very busy.

The second: I arrived for the interview on time. After waiting about 15 minutes, her assistant told me she was in a meeting. Could I come back in an hour?

The company is booming, she must be very busy.

The third: Ten minutes into our interview, she took a phone call. A problem came up that she had to handle right away. Could I come back tomorrow?

Ah, no.

She replied that she was surprised (the fourth red flag: cluelessness). I seemed so right for the job. And that was the hard part: I had been very interested in the job, excited about the prospects, and the salary was great. But I just couldn’t do it. It’s no surprise that the person she did eventually hire didn’t last long.

We spend so much time and energy looking for a job, polishing our resumes and our wardrobe, that we can forget that we are not the only ones who need to make a good impression. We become blind to the warning signs of toxic bosses and cultures, mismanagement, incompetence, or just plain old bad manners. We rationalize: at least I’d have a foot in the door, at least I’d be earning more money. If we really want or need a particular job, we slip into denial.

The company is booming, she must be very busy.

Unless your financial situation forces you to accept any offer that comes along, remember that how a company handles the interview process says a lot about how they treat their employees. Ignore the warning signs, and you may find yourself looking for yet another job in only a few months.

4 Signs You Shouldn’t Take a Job

Your interviewer is late. Being a few minutes late for an interview is no big deal, but pay attention to how long you are kept waiting—particularly if people don’t appear to care. Being on time is a sign of respect. Rescheduling your interview a few times also doesn’t bode well. Your interview might also be overworked or disorganized, and you really don’t want to work in that situation either.

Confusion about the position. Sometimes you get called in for an interview through a referral or because you have great resume, and the manager is trying to figure out where you fit. You may get hired because a manager likes you, but once you are working, you may get frustrated by the turmoil or find yourself doing things you really don’t want to do. Try to pin down specifics about what you will do and how you will be evaluated. Can’t get them? Walk away.

Your interviewer checks email. It is just too rude. And if they are that uninterested in what you are saying, chances are they aren’t going to hire you anyway.

Too much turnover. During your interview, ask why the previous employee in that position is leaving, as well as how long they had or have been with the company. When you meet other team members, ask them about their career paths as well. If you are working with a predominantly new team, make sure there is good business reason such as an expansion or new wave of funding. Otherwise, too much employee churn hints at a toxic boss or culture.

How do you respond to an employer who exhibits these behaviors? Politely thank them for their time – and run.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and, among others.