On its own, a job search is a stressful situation. You have to polish your resume, craft a custom cover letter, ace a phone interview to get an in-person interview, dress the part and impress everyone.
That’s why it’s such a shame some situations make your job search even more stressful — and they’re not the normal parts of the process that might make you anxious. Rather, they’re situations potential employers put you in that are not quite right.
It’s Alright to Say No
It’s okay to take a stand on your next job search or interview. If you rise above the nerves and the nuances of the place where you’re interviewing and still don’t feel quite right, there’s a reason.
If you need a little help discerning what’s okay and what’s not, here are seven situations where you should always go with your instinct — especially if it’s telling you to run the other way:
Interviewers who aren’t kind
You walk into an interview with your sunniest disposition because you expect your interviewer to come with the same. Unfortunately, what you find is someone who is unfriendly, rude or condescending.
If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable with an interviewer of this nature, act on your instincts — but stay polite. Either excuse yourself from the interview or turn down the offer when it’s received. You have to remember that interviews are not only your chance to put your best face forward. Companies should be trying to woo you as well.
If people are treating you, or each other, disrespectfully on day one, imagine how it might be when you actually get into the office. Even something as simple as an omission of detail, an unreturned phone call or a cancellation of a scheduled interview at the last minute can be a sign this isn’t a place you want to work. Act on those signs.
No matter what happens in the interview, “aim to protect your reputation and stay calm and collected, giving your interviewer no ammunition to talk about you in a negative light,” says Caris Thetford, counselor at Tarleton State University.
Travel requests — on your dime
Sometimes, it feels like a good idea to move to another city for employment — whether it’s nearby or far away from where you live now. When you land the interview in the location of your dreams, it can be hard to imagine anything getting in your way. In fact, one in six potential employees said they’d travel more than 100 miles for an interview, according to a survey by TotalJobs.com.
Unfortunately, some companies will ask you to pay for your own interview travel expenses. Perhaps they’ll tell you that the company can’t find room for it in the budget — which should create few questions in your mind. You should wonder whether or not the company is in good financial standing if it’s asking its job candidates to pay out of pocket to come and interview.
You’ll certainly want to delve into this deeper with the person who has been your interview point-of-contact. Find out if they’d be open to a Skype interview or, at least, a Skype interview to replace one of the first-round meetings. Then, don’t be shy to ask how you rank among the other candidates before you travel a big distance. If you’re at the front of the pack, it might just be worth the trip. Otherwise, you’ll have to think about whether or not it’s worth it for you.
Phone interviews conducted at unfair intervals
Cable companies have a horrible reputation when it comes to appointment-time windows. Sometimes, they’ll tell you to expect them at some point within a four-, six- or eight-hour margin.
A future employer should never treat you with the same nonchalant attitude. Instead, they should be itching to get you in so they can move forward with the hiring process. In this situation, then, it’s perfectly okay to push back against your interviewer to give yourself a more solid idea of when they’ll call.
To give your plea a bit of legitimacy, be sure to understand why you can’t simply wait by the phone for a call. Give them a smaller window that works with your schedule. This will also be a good gauge as to whether or not they’ll be accommodating of you in the future.
If not, you can find ways around it, says Alison Green, founder of Ask A Manager: “If you drive to work, taking the call in your car can work well.” You can also find an empty conference room or take a quick walk outside of the office if your workplace isn’t too strict.
On a similar note, feel free to ask as many questions about any pre-interview work assignments the company gives you. This ensures you’ll be doing just what you’re supposed to.
You’re putting in the time and effort for the hiring process, even though you’re not actually hired. Therefore, the company should be putting in effort as well.
A room with bad vibes
Hopefully, your interview will take place in the office where you could potentially be working. Take advantage of your bird’s eye view of the office’s inner-workings.
Do people seem chummy or cold, happy or unhappy? Happiness at work hinges upon the relationships you make there, so don’t say “yes” to an environment that seems less-than-welcoming, just for the sake of getting a job. You might also want to consider the gender breakdown of the office, too: women in male-dominated jobs have more stress, according to a study by Indiana University Bloomington.
Find a place where you think you’re better suited instead. The search might be longer, but you’ll be happier in the end, which is the most important part.
You might also want to consider the office itself. If it’s super dated or dirty, consider that another potential deal-breaker. Employers who don’t care about where their employees work probably won’t be good employers to work for.
An interview with too many extras
The days of a simple overview are fairly nonexistent. Now, employers give potential candidates a handful of interviews, exams, activities and assignments to complete to see how they work and how well they’ll fit in.
In a way, it’s nice to have a few ways to prove yourself should you flub an interview question. It also shows that your potential employer is doing their to find the best way to hire someone. But if the process starts to drag you down — imagine you keep having to complete tasks without receiving a firm offer — you might want to hit the road.
The same questions might linger if your employer wants to hire you on for a trial period. It makes sense to see if you can work well in the position before handing you a full contract, but make sure you and your new company agree on the length of the trial, how much you’ll get paid during that time, etc.
If they change the terms beyond that, it’s okay to leave. In fact, it should be expected. One consultant, Matt Villano, shared his story on Monster, as he was signed on for a 90-day trial period that his employer extended to include another 90 days. After that, he ditched the company because he felt like they were taking advantage of him.
A desperate job offer
It’s great to receive a job offer — unless you get the vibe your potential new employer is a bit desperate to hire people. Desperation likely shows the general public’s lack of interest in working at the company, and your potential boss might be trying to patch the holes in a work force with a high turnover rate.
Perhaps most important is to be wary of an offer letter with a time stamp. By giving you a 24-hour window, for example, they’re forcing you to say yes without considering any other positions or interviews. Even if you liked the place, this should and could cause you to ask a few questions about whether or not it’s the right fit
Also, beware of any company that gives you an offer without ever interviewing you. This is actually a common practice when companies hire seasonal employees, for example, because the work is typically easy enough for anyone to do. Otherwise, it might be a desperate plea for more manpower — a plea you don’t want to answer.
Really, all employers could be desperate, according to Harrison Barnes, founder of career site HB.org: “If the position is advertised, the employer is actually desperate to hire you. The employer wants you yesterday, not today.” It’s up to you to discern now desperate is too desperate.
A lot of lingering questions
Finally, you should never walk out of a job interview scratching your head in confusion. That “what just happened” vibe should simply not be in the air after you finish an interview. That’s because it’s your interviewer’s job to answer any question you might have and familiarize you with other team members, office practices, job requirements, etc.
You might find that some employers completely omit information, while others can’t answer the simple questions you might have during an interview. If you ask two people about your potential job’s duties, for example, you should get the same answer from both. It’s simply a bad sign if it doesn’t go that way. It illustrates the position was not clearly defined with the last employee, and it probably won’t be much different if you take it.
Finally, a potential employer should make a great effort to get to know you, and they’ll have to ask questions in order to do so. Career coach Ryan Kahn says, “A candidate may have a stand-out experience that is particularly relevant to the employer, but if they are never asked about their qualifications or prior work history that may not come to light. As a result, the employer may overlook the best person for the job.”
In other words, you shouldn’t have questions about the employer, and they shouldn’t have any about you, either. Failure on their part should lead you to question your place with them.
Trust Your Instincts
You know that sense of relief you look forward to post-interview? The one that can sometimes kick in as soon as the interview started because there’s no longer anything to be shy about? You should experience this feeling on your next job hunt, and with the above tips, you’ll be more likely to.
One of the best things we take with us into the adult world isn’t our CV or smile or ability to dress smartly for an interview. Instead, it’s our ability to feel our gut instincts — and know they mean something. Follow what’s in your gut and feel free to say “no” at the next interview if you’re feeling like something’s just not quite right.