If you’re eager to escape a nightmare job, it’s easy to take the first offer you can find, but don’t let desperation cloud your judgement. Leaving a toxic or bad workplace, only to end up in yet another one can be demoralising and devastating. It will make you question both your judgement and your competency: after all, if you keep ending up in one terrible job after another, you must be the problem… right? Not quite. The real problem is most likely your inability to spot big red warning signs during the recruitment process. If this sounds familiar, listen up. Here are the seven ways to spot a bad workplace before you accept a job offer.

Arranging the interview is a long-winded and frustrating process

Repeated cancellations, rescheduling, long periods of silence between emails and failure to confirm information after inviting you for an interview all point to a seriously disorganised company. The interview process is the honeymoon period. If a company isn’t putting its best foot forward at this early stage, it’s unlikely to get better once you’re actually working there.

Your interview is disrupted several times by people asking for things to be approved

It’s possible that you may have arrived at a particularly hectic time for the company and that’s why people keep interrupting your interview; however, a more common reason for an open-door policy during your interview is a micromanaging boss who requires employers to keep him or her up to speed with every decision. It’s also worth bearing in mind that a company that allows employees to interrupt interviews as they please isn’t particularly respectful of its new recruits’ time.

This job at this company has been re-advertised more than twice in the past year

If you’ve been job hunting for a while and the job you’re now considering is one you’ve seen advertised, filled and then re-advertised months later, high staff turnover could be an issue. One re-advertisement can be dismissed (but be sure to ask why the job was re-advertised before agreeing to an interview), but if it’s been re-advertised twice or more, this indicates that new recruits are being let go or resigning soon after taking up the job. Both scenarios suggest that either the company’s culture is extremely challenging or expectations for that role are mismatched with the types of candidates being hired to do the job. Whatever the reason, it’s clearly a messy situation and you probably don’t want to get involved in it.

how to avoid a nightmare job
Don’t make the mistake of signing your employment contract without reading it thoroughly. This is where you’ll spot some classic signs of a dysfunctional workplace.

You’ve seen multiple negative employee reviews on review sites

Always check out sites like Glassdoor and Indeed for employee reviews. Does the company have more than one negative review? Do all the reviewers complain about the same thing? Are the complaints things that would also bother you? If the answer to these three questions is ‘yes’, don’t try and reassure yourself that the reviews have all been left by disgruntled employees. Even if they are, they are disgruntled for a reason and that reason is the workplace you’re desperately trying to convince yourself ‘will be fine’.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that review sites will not have employee feedback for all companies. That’s why it’s important to look at past employees’ LinkedIn profiles… if you want to spot a bad workplace ahead of time. Check the profile of the person who used to do the job you’ve applied for. How long were they at the company? How long have others worked at the company? If several former members of staff seem to have left within a year, that’s another big red warning sign.

Your contract is full of unreasonable or illegal clauses

If you’re someone who just skims over employment contracts, that’s a habit to stop right now. Carefully reading your employment contract will quickly flag up a dysfunctional workplace if the dysfunction starts at the top. Are you expected to work overtime without being paid? Are there excessive rules stipulating how to behave (even when you’re not at work)? What about the probation period, does it seem excessively long? Are there any clauses that contradict what you agreed to during the negotiation stage e.g. is your salary different, have your benefit entitlements changed, is your job title different? Such signs reflect a management team that could be overly controlling and/or doesn’t see the employer-employee relationship as a mutually beneficial agreement (it is and no employer should make you feel like they are doing you a favour by hiring you, that instantly gives them excessive power over you).

HR is M.I.A

The interview process is where you come face-to-face with HR and can judge the department’s competency. Don’t forget that starting a new job is essentially entering foreign territory and HR is your only ally. If HR is notoriously absent during the recruitment process or their involvement is minimal and not at all reassuring, think twice about joining this company. If problems arise at a  later date, you will have no one to help you fight your corner or protect your rights.

The company fails to do its due diligence

A disorganised management team will not have processes in place to correctly onboard new recruits. If you aren’t asked for references or identification documents, or the interview process is really short and your employment contract is brief and lacking in detail, these are all warning signs that the company doesn’t really know what it’s doing when it comes to employment law. And while this may work in your favour if you’re escaping a nightmare job and don’t really want to provide references or go through a rigorous interview process, it may backfire once you’re in the role and find that things you really need – like a proper pension arrangement, an agreement for payment for overtime or fair compensation for unused holidays – have also been overlooked.

Have you dodged any bullets when it comes to bad workplaces? What were the signs that helped you spot a bad workplace? Let us know in the comments below.

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