Consider this situation: You've been through three rounds of interviews for a company, and they seem solid with awesome growth potential. The hiring manager finally calls you, but instead of the full-time job offer you hoped for, they ask you to join them as an assignment contractor, unpaid intern, or part-time employee—with no benefits.
You're irked and realize you may have missed some red flags along the way. How do you identify these during the interview process, and more importantly, how do you politely bow out when you spot them? Here's what you should do for the five biggest red flags I've come across.
Red Flag #1. They Are Very Vague About The Job
If a company's not giving you details, that's often a telltale sign that they haven't been able to fill a position because it's less than desirable. How can you tell if they are being vague? Ask questions about specific job responsibilities or day-to-day tasks, and see if they deflect or change the subject.
Here's another good litmus test: Can you explain the job to your friends and family? If not, this should raise major concerns.
Red Flag #2. You Pay Your Own Expenses For Training
If the job requires training (for instance, some customer service or sales rep positions), find out if the company will compensate you for it. If you have to pay for yourself, you need to pass.
If a company is serious about you, they will pay you while you are training. It may be less than you'd typically make, or you may not get commissions (if applicable), but they pay you to be there nonetheless.
And if the company asks for your training money upfront, run. (Or, better yet, contact the Better Business Bureau. It may be a scam.)
Red Flag #3. They May Hire You—If You Start As An Intern
Internships are a touchy subject. They can provide you with experience in exchange for college credit (among other benefits), which is great. However, there generally comes a time in your professional life when having an internship won't cut it.
If you are looking for full-time employment and the employer offers you an unpaid internship that they claim might lead to a job, it's not the right fit for you. You don't know if you'll get hired. In fact, they don't even know if you'll get hired. If this is your dream company and you can manage a part-time job elsewhere, then it's not as bad an idea.
Also, if you're making a major career change, you may want to consider the internship route if you're confident that a particular opportunity can help you make the transition. Just make sure you can afford to work without pay, and if you can't, don't interview for a full-time position and agree to an internship as a backup plan.
Red Flag #4. The Company Has High Turnover And A Toxic Culture
Do your research before the job interview by visiting sites like Glassdoor.com or talking to contacts who work there. If you find that the company can't keep its employees, has awful reviews, or a toxic environment, go in to your interview with your eyes open. And be sure to ask about their culture. If you get bad vibes once you're in the interview, bow out. Sometimes, our guts know more than our brains.
Red Flag #5. The Interviewer Asks Personal Questions
A prospective employer may ask you some tough questions in a job interview. But if they press you on your marital status, kids, or how you spend your weekend, it's usually a red flag. There's a difference between pleasant small talk and prying.
Anti-discrimination laws may not prohibit these topics, but that doesn't make them any less unprofessional for a job interview. Bottom line: You're there to talk about the job, nothing else.
How To Politely Bow Out
First, remember that people turn down jobs all the time. The hiring manager shouldn't be offended. Second, send an email thanking them for their time while explaining that another opportunity has come up and you're no longer available. Simple as that.
If the interviewer asks questions about your new opportunity (another red flag), ignore them. Business is business, and you don't owe anyone an explanation. You may have to go through a lot of bad opportunities before finding the right job. That's OK. Just keep your eyes peeled and bow out early if you feel uncomfortable.