You’re sitting in the third round of interviews for a job that you thought was going to be perfect for you. When you first walked in, you were 87% sure you wanted it. But after meeting with the first interviewer, who texted her way through the entire interview, your interest dropped to about 68%. Then you were ferried off to the HR manager who, despite this being your third interview, had no idea of who you were and asked you to repeat your entire employment history. Still, the job as UX designer at a brand-new startup is intriguing to you, so you want to see where it goes.

The HR manager leaves, and as you sit alone in the office, waiting for someone, anyone to come in and tell you what’s going on, your interest starts to plummet. Then, after 20 minutes, when the HR manager rejoins you, he tells you that the company is almost ready to move forward with you, but first, the team wants you to complete a trial assignment…

Do I need to go on? It’s red flag city, and the hypothetical “you” would have to be a glutton for punishment to move forward with the job.

As job seekers, we tend to automatically accept that we are not the ones with the power; that the onus is on us to jump through the employer’s hoops and be happy with what we get. You deserve better! And if you’re going through the interview process doubting the company, here are five telltale signs that this isn’t the job for you.

1. You can’t find much information on the company.

With a well-funded startup, you can usually find information on at least the parent company — such as who signs your paychecks, the financial health of the company, and, more importantly, information that hints at the company’s history and values. If you can’t even find a LinkedIn page, it’s time to worry.

2. The job description keeps changing.

Some people love that “we’re building the airplane as we fly it!” work ethos you find at start-ups. But without having a formal job description, how will you know how to set boundaries? How will you know if you’re succeeding? An amorphous and frequently shifting job description could mean that the employer is already trying to figure out how much they can dump on you.

3. The company is savaged on sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn.

Take time and comb through the reviews because while it’s true that people are more likely to go public with nuclear reviews than to spread some love, a slew of bad reviews should make you suspicious. At the very least, it should bring up some questions for you to ask the hiring manager about.

4. You get a lowball salary offer, even though you’ve already talked numbers.

Treating you as if you’re an old sofa at a flea market and lowballing your salary requirements well after you’ve shared them is a huge sign of disrespect. Ultimately, it’s up to you if the experience and other compensation are worth it, but if you accept a lowball offer, the message you’re sending is, “I will lower my standards and allow you not to appreciate my work.”

5. They ask you to do an unpaid trial, or you have to work for free before you get the job.

It’s true that some jobs and staffing agencies may ask you to do small tests as part of the vetting process, but a significant project requiring any more than an hour should get your Spidey-senses tingling that the company is trying to take advantage of you, or crowd-source work so they don’t have to pay for it.

Remember, you have the power.

If you still have questions and your would-be employer seems reluctant to answer, that’s perhaps the biggest red flag of all. Time to get out of there!

Don’t blame yourself or see it as a reflection of your professional worth. This kind of thing happens to anyone who will let it. Cut your losses and count your blessings – what if you’d ignored all of these red flags and actually accepted the job? Take this as a sign to redouble your job efforts.


Lisa is a Creative Circle candidate and seasoned advertising copywriter who lives in Los Angeles. Her background includes both in-house and agency work on Fortune 500 and global accounts in the consumer and healthcare/pharmaceutical fields. She excels at words, fashion, and cats. If you want to work with Lisa, contact Creative Circle Los Angeles.

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