8 Signs You Might Not Want to Take the Job

Pauline Millard

4. Your would-be boss couldn’t explain the role clearly.

“If you’re having a hard time explaining the role to friends and family after an interview, that should raise some questions,” says David Lewis, a human resources consultant in Norwalk, Conn. “Sometimes hiring managers—especially ones who are visionary, entrepreneur types—think you’d be great at the company, but aren’t quite sure exactly what they want you to do. They’ll spend the interview talking about the company, the culture, but not exactly what you would do.”

Lewis says candidates shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and admit that the specifics of the role aren’t clear to them yet. “Sometimes people are afraid to do this, because they don’t want to rock the boat or make the hiring manager feel awkward,” he says. “But it’s important from the onset that you can clearly answer the question, ‘What will I be doing?’ ” Another good clarifying question: What would success look like in this role?

5. The company has high turnover, or a toxic culture.

Of course you’re going to do your homework before a job interview. Check LinkedIn to see what friends of friends you may know at a given company or organization, and read up.

When Kate Groebe*, 36, was contacted about a senior role with a stellar salary at a well-known company, she considered relocating her family for the opportunity—until her husband forwarded her an in-depth and reputable article chronicling the firm’s aggressive, antagonistic work culture, promoted by the hard-driving C.E.O. That was one factor Groebe had overlooked while busy getting starry-eyed about the package.

Similarly, if a hiring manager mentions that they’re refilling the role for the second or third time in a short amount of time, it’s important to ask why. Lewis says a good question to pose is what the person who recently had the role was doing five years ago, or what your hiring manager’s trajectory has been in the organization. If there’s been a lot of transferring out of the department you’d be working in, proceed with caution.

RELATED: When It’s Time to Call It … Quits

6. The firm’s online reviews are bad.

Similarly, websites such as Glassdoor offer employees a place to anonymously review companies they’ve worked for. Since they are anonymous, they should be taken with a grain of salt. “A lot of these reviews can just be angry elves with an axe to grind,” Lewis says, but adds that it’s important to look for recurring themes in poor reviews.

If the reviews are recent and all seem to complain about the same thing—bad communication from management, low morale, etc.—that should carry some weight. While you should never lead with that information when you meet a recruiter or hiring manager, you can find a subtle way to ask about the company culture, or what sort of values or management techniques are embraced, during the question and answer portion of your interview.

RELATED: Have More Than One Job Offer? Here’s How to Choose

7. Your interviewer asks personal questions.

“An interview should be objective, not emotional,” counsels Gentile, “and your interviewer shouldn’t blather on about her personal life, or probe about yours.” In general, asking personal questions—about your family, marital status, etc.—is never O.K.

“Hiring managers have lots of ways to try to find out if you’re married or have kids,” says Manciagli, “but that doesn’t mean you have to volunteer any information, especially if they start telling you about their own families. They might not even have one.” Bottom line: You’re there to talk about the job, not how you spent your weekend.

RELATED: 11 Things Hiring Managers Won’t Tell You

8. Your interviewer checks her email during your meeting.

Yes, we live in a digital age, but that doesn’t mean that someone should be checking their phone during the time they allotted to get to know you, says Manciagli. If they’re not paying attention during your interview, chances are they won’t be all ears when you’re an employee, either. Again, consider what role this person might play in your work life.

If it’s a recruiter, you probably needn’t be overly concerned. If it’s your future supervisor, and they demonstrate other less-than-courteous tendencies, take heed.

  • Christine Tarlecki

    oh so much truth to this story!!!!! I interviewed for a job years ago, and i immediately felt awful vibes from the woman who was to be my boss. she was late, ate during the interview and bad mouthed the person i was replacing. I got and took the job, yet i hated every second. After 9 months i was outta there!

  • robin

    I once had a scheduled appointment with a hiring manager. When I arrived, she could not be immediately located and the receptionist, instead, decided to waltz me into the office of the company’s owner. I guess the receptionist, who had already seen my resume, was impressed with it and thought the owner should meet me. Still, he was not expecting me and was just finishing up his lunch (smacking lips, slurping on a beverage from a take-out cup). He was clearly unprepared this impromptu interview and had never even seen my resume. He then wanted me to fill out a paper application while he asked me questions from my resume. There really was no way to bounce back from that debacle of an interview and the company’s unpreparedness was off-putting.

  • kgal1298

    I’ve had a couple bosses like this. Because I don’t play nice though most of them ended up letting me go in the process of massive layoffs which in itself is a sign of a bad company culture. All I know is be thankful you got out alive or without going nuts.

  • B.

    My boyfriend has worked in the film industry for a few years now here in Hollywood, where we live. Apparently it’s pretty common for the higher-ups in that field to be just like the woman Nihad described – rude, demanding, etc. Not saying it’s right, just that many people enter that field expecting to work with and for difficult people.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there were other fields like that – probably the most competitive ones, as people trying to get their foot in the door without connections generally can’t afford to turn down offers just because they don’t feel warm and fuzzy about the boss.

    Makes for a stressful life though!

    • fourmore

      Advertising and marketing.

  • goddessd

    A prospective employer flew me to their office, said all the right things although I perceived the words to be somewhat hollow, had a family emergency (or something — who knows) the second day of my trip and I was on my own, and I still took the job. I relocated, showed up, and quit exactly 525,600 minutes later after a year of alternating abuse and neglect. My gut had said don’t go, but I needed a change. It was a change, all right.

  • fourmore

    Yep to everyone of these….the only one I haven’t personally experienced is the last one…which could be replaced by a manager who has “no vision”…closely related to the manager who can’t describe the job.

  • fourmore

    Another common ploy is to interview candidates with no intention of hiring them…the job has essentially been offered to an internal candidate, but for whatever reasons…they haul a bunch of people in, put them through the grind of preparing for an interview, the stress of the experience and then a few days later call to let you know the job was offered to someone within the organization. Is that a bad hiring manager or a bad culture? Either way, a dodged bullet.

    • Emily

      Sometimes they do that to have someone to compare the internal candidate with so there aren’t any issues raised at a later date. So most likely you’re a competitive candidate and are likely to be hired somewhere, just not there. It’s really crappy, but happens a lot more often than people think.

      • fourmore

        I heard they do it because they are required to post it as evidence that they are not discriminating against race, age, gender, etc. I’m sure I fit one or more of those categories. It is maddening…and unethical, imho.

      • Marie

        How horribly unfair to the candidates, especially those who may not even have a job at all, or who are desperate to work in that particular industry.

        I know it’s probably not practical but my view is if the job is meant for an internal candidate, it should be internal candidates only – some places do this!

  • Don Knotts

    I completely agree with every one of these. There are others that everyone here should think about as well:
    1. Your boss tells you that if you take the job, you’ll have to manage someone who you didn’t hire yourself, especially a former colleague or a friend of your boss. If your boss does that to you, s/he’s telling you that you are being watched not just from above but from below as well. 2. Your boss tells you that you will manage a team – but everyone in that team is in another timezone. It’s hard enough to manage people who report to you locally – imagine the hell you’ll have to endure with dealing with people elsewhere. This means you have to work your hours and their hours, make sure that they are on track (and if they aren’t, it’s YOUR fault, not theirs)
    3. Your boss claims s/he is hiring you for your domain expertise, but proceeds to tell you how to do your job. This is worse than being micromanaged, this is being picomanaged – you are dealing with a knowitall who doesn’t know anything but you have to take her/his lead and if you don’t, you’re history.


    I interviewed for an administrator position. I was asked in for a third interview to meet more of the team. They told me I was asked for another interview because some of the management team thought I would not be assertive enough. All the team asked me questions. The Maintenance director said to me you remind of our last administrator. She delegated and never followed through. He then said she was lazy and did not want to do anything. I was totally insulted. He did not even know me how could he come to that conclusion? He said this in front of 10 managers. I was highly insulted and when they called me to offer me the job I declined. If he could insult me during the interview it shows how horrible I would be treated after I worked there.