According to the US Department of Labor, the average employed adult spends 7.5 hours a day on the job. Over time, that adds up to a significant chunk of your life, so (as many people know from experience) an unhappy work situation can make the rest of your life pretty miserable as well.
For that reason, you'll want to avoid working for a miserable company. But how can you spot a bad company to work for? By doing your research and looking for the following seven warning signs during the hiring process. Of course, one or two of these signs aren’t necessarily cause for alarm, but more than a couple should set off alarm bells.
1. Communication with you is unprofessional or disrespectful.
Your treatment during the hiring process is a clue as to how you’ll be treated as an employee. Once you've started a dialogue with a hiring manager or recruiter, you should expect to be treated with courtesy and respect. For example, your questions about the hiring timeline and your application status should be answered forthrightly. If that isn't the case -- if emails and phone calls consistently go unreturned, or if interviews are canceled at the last minute without apology -- you may want to take your business elsewhere.
2. The recruiters and hiring managers actively distrust you.
Just as you don't want to make a bad career move, employers don't want to make a bad hire -- so expect a background check and reference check. And if your job will involve working with sensitive information or company finances, expect a bit more scrutiny. But these checks should all be carried out in a nonaccusatory manner. Companies that don't trust candidates probably don't trust employees either -- and an environment of distrust is no place to spend nearly eight hours a day.
3. The workplace seems unhappy.
You shouldn't take a job without paying a visit to where you'll be working. Note the attitudes and interactions of the workers there as well as the overall environment -- including employee common areas. Warning signs include unclean or unsafe-looking workspaces, angry-looking posters (such as "ALL EMPLOYEES MUST WEAR BADGES!") and disgruntled faces on employees. If a visit to the office is depressing, you won't want to work there for several hours a day.
4. The company has a bad reputation.
The Internet makes it easy to find out what former and current employees have to say about a company. Doing your research into this aspect of an employer -- as well as into its financial situation -- should be part of how you prepare for a job interview. Several Web sites provide forums where employees can rate companies, but also reach out to networking contacts to get their insights into any prospective employer.
5. You don't think you'll get along with your boss or colleagues.
Having a boss you click with can really make a difference in your on-the-job happiness. Be sure to discuss work styles and communication styles with the hiring manager to make sure they're at least compatible with yours. But trust your instincts. If you actively dislike the manager after the first interview or two, you might not want to take the job.
6. The job's duties are unclear, or your interviewers can't define what success in the role will look like.
After you've interviewed with one or two people, you should have a clear idea of how your job performance will be measured and what your key objectives will be in your first few months on the job. Walking into a situation where different people give you different answers about job duties, or where there are no clear goals for you to work toward, can lead to a confusing and ultimately disastrous job situation.
7. They want to hire you right away, without any interviewing or reference checks.
This happens for good reason sometimes -- for instance, in seasonal jobs that don't require a lot of experience. But in many cases, desperation on the employer's part is a danger sign. In the hiring process, recruiters and managers often rely (at least a little bit) on their "gut" when making decisions about candidates. Trust your gut, too. If it doesn't feel right, do a bit more research before accepting a job offer.