5 Red Flags That Say 'This job is not a good 'un'

So, you’ve spent weeks or months interviewing for a new role and you are almost overwhelmed with a sense of relief because at last you think that you are about to be offered a new job. However, at the back of your mind, you have an uneasy feeling that perhaps all is not well with the role, the form, or indeed, both. It is important to pay attention to your intuition because doing so may save you a great deal of grief. It is much better to do your due diligence and act on what you find than to find yourself having to unravel a bad situation. 

These are 5 tell-tale signs that there may be some hidden problems which at the very least need further investigation, or in fact tell you that it is in your best interests to turn down the job offer. 

  1. Shifting definition of role: You may notice that the role you have been pursuing has ‘evolved’ during the course of the interview process. This may be fine with you but be careful that both you and your prospective employer are crystal clear about what role you are signing up for. It is also worth mentioning that members within the management team may differ amongst themselves in their views as to what your role should be - this may point to deeper divisions on the direction of the firm, which could also raise some alarm bells. 

  2. Flaky communication: If there are gaps and/or inconsistencies in how the firm communicates with you, this may be a sign of a lack of clarity of thought or an inability to organise themselves. If the firm is inefficient here, where else are they disorganised? 

  3. Unclear reporting lines: I would get uneasy if I was told that I was to be reporting to more than one person. Although I realise that this can be the case in some larger firms - ‘You report to X person for your function and to Y person regionally’ - I would nonetheless want to know who will be writing my appraisal, deciding on my ability to deliver on my agreed-upon targets, and deciding how much I will be paid (and whether I get bonus and if so, how much!). 

  4. Funky payment model: It’s important that you know how you are going to be paid, how much and by whom. I have occasionally worked with coaching clients who have been asked by their employer to set up their own company and then invoice the employer monthly, in turn getting paid monthly from somewhere ‘not in the UK’. Whilst this may be perfectly legitimate and a sensible way to arrange things, it is a little unusual and raises a red warning flag that should prompt further investigation. 

  5. Obfuscation on how the role came up: There are two questions that I wish I had asked at an earlier point in my career as a head hunter, which would have avoided making silly moves: how has this role come up, and what happened to the last person? In some instances, finding this out has taken time and effort, and the real picture was not pretty. Asking these questions would have enabled me to avoid what turned out to be a very difficult situation. If you are wise, you will do your own due diligence in this area and be alert to attempts to shake you off the scent.  

Of course, these warning flags may not always indicate a situation which should lead to you turn down a job offer automatically. However, they are an important reminder of the need to do your due diligence and - above all - to have to courage to act on what you find.