Over a decade ago, after the company I was working for in New York City was sold, I experienced something many people experience in their careers – unemployment. After moving to a new city where the industry I had previously worked in clearly didn’t exist, I was forced to start over again from square one. I embarked upon a number of job interviews, trying to keep an open mind. I knew I was starting over, and any job offer was an opportunity for me to prove myself and work my way up the ladder…or so I thought.
I soon discovered that no matter how open-minded you are or how desperate your situation becomes, some jobs just aren’t worth your time. Now I’m not recommending that jobseekers become “job snobs” and refuse to accept opportunities they think are beneath them. Every jobseeker must decide what is or isn’t a good fit for his or her experience and education level – and as I said before, I was willing to take several steps back in order to make a new start. But just as candidates have certain responsibilities when interviewing, so do employers when offering a job. When these responsibilities aren’t met, it’s a clear warning sign that the candidate should continue his or her job search elsewhere. Had I known this many years ago, it would have saved me much time and frustration. Perhaps I can save a few jobseekers the same frustration by pointing out a few red flags.
1. Unwillingness to divulge job details
One of the jobs I applied for during my period of unemployment simply stated it was an “advertising job,” but I was told I had to attend the interview in order to find out anything further. Since I had worked in advertising for the past several years, I figured I was a shoe-in. When I arrived, I found a large room full of people waiting to interview, and none of them were dressed in interview attire. Soon after, I was told the company was looking for people to sell coupon books door-to-door, and every jobseeker I spoke to was offered the job. Needless to say, I kept looking.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only interview I went on without knowing the job details, but again, I wasn’t in a position to be picky. Some employers aren’t interested in your qualifications – they will hire anyone and everyone to compensate for high turnover, particularly for low-skilled commission-based positions. While this type of job can be lucrative for some, it’s not for everyone, and the fact that an employer is reluctant to give any job details before the interview is a definite warning sign.
2. Disorganization during the interview
In another job interview, I again arrived to find a room full of people invited to interview for one position. We were then required to take a lengthy test to determine our level of knowledge of the industry and the job’s required skills. After completing the test, I sat down with the hiring manager who proceeded to ask me a series of questions that were completely unrelated to the job for which I was applying. Soon after, she realized she was interviewing me for the wrong position. A few days later, I called to inquire about the results of my test and the status of my application. I was told, “Yeah, everyone does well on that test,” and that they’d get back to me. Not surprisingly, I never heard from them again. Having witnessed the difficulty the employer had with recruiting and interviewing for one position, I can only imagine the problems the chosen candidate encountered after accepting the offer.
3. Inability to convey job requirements
At one point during my job search, I answered an ad listing a number of job requirements that I easily met. After submitting my resume, I was asked to come in for an interview. Upon arriving and sitting down with the hiring manager, before being asked a single question, I was told that after closer scrutinisation, my skills were not a fit for the job’s responsibilities. Apparently, due to the hiring manager’s inability to effectively write a job ad or screen a resume, numerous candidates without the required qualifications were invited in for an interview, then immediately asked to leave. As frustrating as it was to have my time wasted, I was very glad I was made aware of the employer’s incompetence before being offered a position and having to deal with it as an employee.
4. Management can’t handle stress
Before obtaining permanent employment, I worked a long-term temporary assignment that lasted several weeks. During this time, it was a normal occurrence for the manager of my department to have an emotional breakdown in her office. Several times a week, she would sob uncontrollably while on the phone, causing one of the employees to walk over and close her office door to give her some privacy. I never inquired about the reasons for her breakdowns as I knew my assignment would soon be coming to an end. However, I felt sorry for both her and her employees. No one in the department ever addressed it, and they all walked on eggshells around her. It made for an uncomfortable work environment that I was glad I would not be a permanent part of.
After a number of false starts, I eventually landed in the recruiting industry, and nine years ago, I interviewed with a company with whom I’ve been happily employed ever since. While hindsight is always 20/20, working in recruiting makes one keenly aware of the responsibility of both the candidate AND the employer in a job interview. Just because the employer is the one making the hiring decision and paying the salary doesn’t mean they don’t have to sell themselves to the candidate. A top candidate has many options, and without top candidates, there can be no top employers. So a word of advice from a former candidate who’s made every possible mistake – choose your employer carefully, because your career accomplishments will never exceed your employer’s limitations.