Warning signs a job opportunity might not be all it seems to be

Signing a contract with a new employer is a commitment. You are agreeing to serve as a part of that team for a period of time in exchange for the wages and benefits offered. That’s great when it works out and the job is an opportunity to advance your career.

Sometimes, however, it doesn’t turn out so well. The job isn’t what you thought it would be, or the employer isn’t who you thought they were. Of course, a contract isn’t a prison sentence. You can always walk away from a bad job. But still, being in a negative working environment takes its toll on your career and your mental health. Quitting is stressful, and it sends you back to the job search. You’ll be better off if you can avoid putting yourself in that position by spotting the warning signs of a bad job before signing on the bottom line.

Here are some red flags to look out for that a company may not be all that it appears to be.

Bait and switch in the job title and description 

A misalignment between the job title you think you are applying for and the description of the actual work you will be doing can be a major warning sign of a bad gig. It happens sometimes that a company will attempt to hire a highly skilled professional for a much lower-paying position, but still have them perform the duties of the much more advanced role.

Don’t rely on the headline alone. Read the job description carefully before you apply and make sure that the job title isn’t misleading and that the work is something you would actually enjoy doing.

‘Earning potential’ vs. actual wages 

Job descriptions sometimes lure in prospective applicants with promises of unlimited ‘earning potential’ in an exciting opportunity. Note that earning potential is quite different from actual earnings. There are so-called marketing roles that require you to purchase the products upfront yourself in order to resell them to other customers that you source before you see any profit. Technically, in this scenario, there is no cap on your earnings if you manage to sell a ton of the products, but you are bearing all of the risk. The company made its profits right off the bat when they sold the inventory to you.

Sales roles that are commission-only or have very low wages and very high commission rates are usually risky propositions. The potential for high earnings is there, but once again, the company is putting the jeopardy on you. Your income isn’t guaranteed.

The problem with very high earning potential in a role is that the opposite is also true. Very low earnings are also potential and usually more likely. Before signing a contract, make sure that you understand how you are going to be compensated for your work and that you are comfortable with the wages offered.

The company culture is a poor fit  

People are seldom happy in roles where they do not fit with the culture of the organization.  Every organization will have its own distinct culture, and this will impact the workplace environment, work/life balance, dress code, management style, and more.

A workplace with a rigid schedule that requires staff to be at their posts from 9 to 5 with regulated, predetermined breaks won’t suit someone who needs a flexible schedule and prefers to work remotely.

Some people might be uncomfortable in a ‘work hard / play hard’ party culture. This is how workplaces often describe themselves when they expect their staff to put in long hours and lots of overtime, compensated by frequent parties, events, and social activities after hours. This culture could be at odds with the lifestyle of parents or staff with other family obligations or interests outside of work. Introverts also might bristle in such an atmosphere.

When weighing a job offer, carefully consider the workplace culture. Make sure that what the company says about its working environment matches what you actually see. What are the dress code, management style, and scheduling options? Does the company focus its communications on fun perks and team comradery? Are there options for work/life balance and flexibility? Workplace cultures can cause striking differences in terms of work hours, supervision and training, job security and benefits, communication style, and much more.

You’ll be happier at work if you can find an environment that suits your workstyle, where you fit in.

Take your time considering an offer 

It is an accomplishment to receive a job offer. You have stood out from the other potential applicants and landed the role. That is exciting. But don’t get swept up in the moment and sign the contract before thoroughly vetting the opportunity. Make sure you understand what the job is, how you will be compensated, and what the working environment will be like.

You are usually better off holding out for a position that is a good fit with your workstyle, abilities, and ambitions than you are joining an employer that might not be all that it seems.

Also, be wary of companies that try to pressure you into signing a contract quickly. Sometimes employers will make you an offer and tell you that you have to accept it in a very short period of time or the deal is off. Accepting a new job is a big decision that will impact many aspects of your life, so take your time evaluating the pros and cons and weighing your options. A company attempting to bully you into making a snap decision can be a red flag about them and could itself be a reason enough to walk away.

Written by Peter Harris and originally published on Talent.com.


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