Job hunting is stressful, and it’s crucial to be hyper vigilant during the application process to avoid potential pitfalls. As a job seeker, recognising red flags during the recruitment process can save you from landing a position that may not be the right fit for you. There are some classic red flags to look out for, that could really save you from some serious long-term pain:
1. Job Adverts with No Salary Information:
I will die on this hill, but the lack of any salary information on a job advert should be a massive red flag to any job seeker. Not even advertising a salary banding could indicate that the employer doesn’t want their employees to know just how much they are willing to pay a new recruit, so this lack of transparency about compensation may create a disgruntled workforce. In our industry, job titles are not standardised so it can be hard to know the level of a position before you apply. It’s essential to know what salary you can expect before investing time and effort into an application.
2. Job Adverts That Read Like a List of Demands:
The job advert is the first touch point with a potential employer; you can read a lot into just how they want to talk to the world. Job adverts that come across like a list of demands rather than an invitation to join a team should be off-putting; if they are willing to talk like that at the beginning of a relationship, then consider how they will be once you are on board. Job adverts like this may accurately reflect a company culture that is overly authoritative or lack a positive work environment.
3. High Employee Turnover on Glassdoor and LinkedIn:
Before applying for a position, every savvy job hunter should look at the employee reviews on sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn. A high turnover rate might be an indication of employee dissatisfaction or potential issues within the organisation. Be cautious if you notice lots of negative reviews or see a pattern of employees leaving the company in a short period.
4. No Dedicated Careers Page or Limited Information on Culture and Values:
A company that fails to provide information on its culture, values, and employee experiences might not prioritise their employees’ well-being and job satisfaction. A dedicated careers page is crucial for showcasing a company’s commitment to its workforce and also their growth within the organisation.
5. Their ‘Meet the Team’ page is lacking diversity:
Our industry is incredibly white, and I can forgive a company with an all-white ‘team page’ – if it is publicly acknowledged. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but an acknowledgement that this is a ’work in progress’ (and even a few things they are actively doing to bring some diversity) could be a good sign.
6. An interview filled with non-decision makers…
Filling the room with people who have no power and who may even wonder why they are there is just a waste of everyone’s time.
… or just one person
An interview needs at least two people – one to ask questions and listen and one to take notes. If they can’t be bothered to give this time, then this is another red flag to walk away from.
7. Outdated or Clichéd Mission and Value Statements:
Companies that have clichéd mission and value statements that lack authenticity or fail to resonate with you may not be invested in creating a positive work environment. If their values read like a 90s Athena poster (you know the ones: “Strength; Power; Resolve; Leadership…” etc) or feel out of touch or outdated, it could signal that they don’t prioritise continuous improvement or employee well-being.
8. Companies that call themselves families
These people are not your family so if the F-bomb gets dropped in the interview, then run the F away. You get paid to be there and you really don’t need to be cajoled and coaxed into working longer / cheaper etc. because everyone is just one big family…
9. Companies Refusing to Work with Recruiters:
A company that explicitly states, “No Agencies,” in their job advert might not be open to working with recruitment agencies or external talent partners. This could indicate they are resistant to change and not interested in considering a diverse pool of candidates.
10, Unreasonable Application Processes:
Be cautious of companies that demand extensive and time-consuming assessments or tests before even meeting you in person. If they ask you to perform a task that seems like it shouldn’t be part of the hiring process, it could be a sign of them taking advantage of candidates’ time and effort. I recently spoke to a candidate that was asked to prepare a 12-month business plan for their potential employer… that’s a lot of free work there! And if an agency asks you to respond to a ‘fake pitch’ you know damn well that it’s something they are currently pitching for…
11. ‘We will only respond if you are successful’:
Many companies and recruiters do this, and I think it is just plain rude. If you take the time to apply, they should take the time to reply. Simple.
12. Slow Response Times After Interviews:
If you’ve been through an interview and the company takes an unreasonably long time to respond (more than 72 hours), it could suggest disorganisation or a lack of consideration for candidates’ time and interest.
13. Refusal to Negotiate or Lack of Flexibility:
If a company is rigid in its terms and unwilling to negotiate salary or benefits, it may indicate an unsupportive and unresponsive work environment. Negotiation is an essential part of the hiring process, and employers who refuse to engage in it may not value their employees’ needs and contributions.
As a job seeker, recognising red flags during the application process is essential to make informed decisions about potential employers. I always say that recruitment should be a balanced, two-way relationship and it must be right for both parties. By staying vigilant and considering these red flags, you can ensure a more positive and fulfilling career journey.
About the author.
I’m Robert Kenward, Chief Talent Officer and creator of FitabilityⓇ.
I’ve been working in the recruitment, Live Events, Brand Experience, and Experiential Marketing space for over two decades. I’ve been a candidate, a client, and a recruiter.
This makes me well acquainted with the challenges you face and enables me to cover the entire talent spectrum above £60k.
I care deeply about my work and I’m generous with my time.
Hit me up if you’d like a new perspective on solving classic hiring problems.
Or book directly into my diary HERE to see how I can help you attract, select and retain your next senior hire.