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I moved to New York in search of fame and fortune—just kidding.
In all honesty, I moved to the Big Apple unemployed and in search of an entry-level position—but I’m one of the many casualties of the economic downturn.
It didn’t help that my strategy for landing a full-time job was anything but, well, thought out.
To date, I’ve applied for dozens of jobs—many of which were far from my dream position. In today’s economy, you can’t be too picky, but sometimes the gig just isn’t right. In fact, I’ve learned that it’s probably in your best interest to pass on a position if any of the following are true.
1. Information about the organization isn’t widely available (or presents the company in a bad light)
It’s easy to write off a negative review and consider it a random act of a scorned employee. I thought this was the case when I interviewed for a position at a boutique PR firm. The company’s website was under construction, and the first result to appear in a Google search was a review from a former freelance employee who claimed that the “insane” boss still owed her $50 for her services. Beyond that, there was almost no information available about the firm, and the rarely updated Facebook and Twitter pages had few followers and lots of spam.
Still, who am I to say no to an interview?
During said interview, the owner handed me an in-depth explanation of what my job duties would be, including a page of guidelines on answering the phone. For example, if a certain company should call asking for the owner, I was to say that she was unavailable. Why? These things known as “collections agencies” had been “calling for months.”
One negative review shouldn’t dictate whether or not you accept a job. However, if reviews are consistently negative, the more likely it is that they are true, says Abby Kohut, author of Absolutely Abby’s 101 Job Search Secrets: A Corporate Recruiter Hands You the Keys to Your Job Search Success. Kohut advises applicants to read press releases and news stories for reliable insight. Questions to ask yourself: Has the company ever been the subject of controversy? Did the organization ever have to defend its actions?
A company with no industry presence, explains Michael Woodward, author of The YOU Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy, is even more worrisome. If the organization claims to have, for example, “45 years of experience,” industry leaders and trade publications should recognize its accomplishments. If the company hasn’t made a name for itself, then its credibility is questionable.
2. The prospective employer doesn’t give you the attention, time, or respect that you deserve
Have you ever walked into a place and felt like a complete nuisance? I interviewed with another PR firm and it got off to a rocky start: My original interviewer was too busy, so someone else stepped in—and was completely unprepared. Soon after the interview was underway, another employee interrupted, and both women left the room. When it was time for the CFO to speak to me, he waltzed in, virtually ignored my handshake, glanced at my resume, and told me that I was not a fit for the position.
The hiring process is an expensive endeavor, so prospective employers shouldn’t be frugal with their time. If they are, Woodward says, it’s highly probable that they frequently make hiring mistakes, have an inconsistent company culture, or experience a high turnover rate.
3. The prospective employer is unsure of the answers to your questions (or wary of answering them)
Before giving me the speed-dating treatment at that last PR firm, the employees neglected to answer my questions about the position. What did the job entail? What about time commitment? Wages? My prospective employers knew just as much as I did: nothing. Of course, I should have foreseen this—the job board listing was also extremely vague.
Why would a company be so indecisive about an open position? “They didn’t want to tell you the truth,” Kohut says, “so they told you they didn’t know.” Her advice: If an interviewer pushes your inquiries aside, he could have something to hide. Since an interview is a preview of what your life could be like at the company, Woodward explains that you should discuss both the frustrating and exciting elements of the job. “Test how open they are,” he says, adding that if the interviewer dodges any questions, that’s a red flag.
4. The interviewer gives you a hard sell or an on-the-spot offer
I was contacted by a recruiting agency, and the recruiter convinced me that he’d be my advocate, telling me everything that I wanted to hear: He’d collaborate with his co-workers on positions, and would get in contact with a company he’d previously done work with on my behalf. I was comforted—but not for long. After several unrequited voicemails and emails, communication on his end went mum.
If an interviewer is trying to convince you that he has the solution to all of your problems or a job that’s perfect for you, Woodward says that you should question his motives. In my case, the recruiter sold me a scenario that he knew he couldn’t deliver. His motives were purely monetary—he’s paid to add eager job seekers to the agency’s talent pool, so future openings can be more easily filled.
If a prospective employer offers you a position upon first meeting you, the company (most likely) doesn’t have a long-term plan. If a situation like this arises, tell the interviewer that you’re excited about the opportunity, but you need more time to think over your decision. As Woodward explains, no employer should be too desperate to fill a position.
5. The position forces you to compromise your career objectives
Although I was qualified for all of the jobs that I applied for—they didn’t all thrill me. So when the rejections rolled in for certain jobs that I’d merely convinced myself would suffice, I wasn’t really devastated. Instead, I actually let out a sigh of relief.
Ask yourself in advance what five qualities your job must have—i.e. flexibility, a specific industry—and then determine if the prospective position has all of these characteristics that you crave. If you find yourself compromising on your must-haves, and then rationalizing those compromises, don’t make a rush decision, says Woodward. In most cases, you shouldn’t have to force yourself to fit the job—the job should fit you.
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