How to Avoid Bad (or Mediocre) Employers

How to Avoid Getting Hired by a Bad Company

Businessman on phone at desk in office with hand on forehead
••• Thomas Barwick / Stone / Getty Images

It's always a good idea for job seekers to make sure that their application materials are perfect. Take the time to make sure your resumes and cover letters are targeted to the jobs you are applying for. Then,  check, double check, and triple check, for typos and grammatical errors.

Most job seekers do a good job of making sure everything they send is perfect. What happens, though, when someone goes to all that effort, only to discover that the employer doesn't pay similar attention to detail? There are some warning signs to watch for that can indicate the job you're applying for might be a nightmare.

When the Company Isn't Professional

An example is the email I received from Sonya who said, "I sent my resume, portfolio URL, and cover letter to a company last week; addressed to a Vice President as indicated in the advertisement. Several days later I got back a letter that was grammatically incorrect and unprofessional. I guess you could say at least I got a reply."

She went on to say, "Sometimes you just get a little put off when you try so hard to do things correctly and you either don't get a response or you get a really bad one from someone who has the title of Vice President."

I'd be put off too, and, to be honest, I'd wonder whether I would want to work for a company that was that unprofessional.

Communication Skills Matter

It's not just written communications. It can be off-putting to be called repeatedly by an overly aggressive recruiter who has an opportunity that is absolutely too good for you to pass up, but, who can't divulge the employer until much later in the hiring the process.

I'm not impressed, either, by hiring managers who don't show up for interviews, without rescheduling in advance. One job seeker I spoke to me told me he spent over an hour getting to the interview site, only to be told by a secretary that he needed to come back at a later date.

Keep in mind, that even if you need a job very badly, you don't have to accept a job you're not comfortable with. All of the above scenarios are red flags and should give you pause. At the least, you will want to consider whether the employer who doesn't communicate effectively or appropriately is one you want to work for.

Warning Signs to Watch For

Poor Communication Skills
When an employer can't communicate effectively, by email, phone, or in writing, with candidates for employment, be careful. If all their communications are handled that way, how well are they running a business?

Whenever I hear a recruiter or hiring manager say that you absolutely can't pass up this opportunity and you have to send your resume, drop everything and interview, etc. right now, I wonder what the sense of urgency is. Perhaps, it's a legitimate opportunity that needs to be filled immediately or maybe it's just an overzealous recruiter or manager trying to meet a hiring quota.

Limited Contact Information
Vague contact information (no contact person or company name) and phone numbers that don't show up on Caller ID are another warning sign. You should be able to easily search Google and find the company and company information.

Jobs That Sound too Good to be True
That old mantra that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, still holds true. One person who was in the midst of a job search was told by a recruiter that an employer was hiring a high-level executive for a top secret multi-million start-up company. When the job seeker inquired further, he found out that the start-up wasn't funded, that it had no existing products or even a marketing plan.

What a Job Seeker Can Do
There are a few things you can do when you see a red flag. You can stop, or at least, halt the hiring process temporarily while you research the company. There isn't anything the matter with delaying sending your resume or scheduling an interview if you're hesitant about whether you want to work for the company.

Research the Company
Google the company name to find out what you can discover about it online. Check the company's LinkedIn and social pages to see what information you can find. Check sites like Glassdoor and read company reviews which can help you decide whether to continue with the hiring process or not.

Use Your Connections
If you have a connection that will help you find inside information, use it. Do you know someone who works there? Ask them about the company. If you belong to a professional association, they may be able to help you network with people who can give you advice. Use online networking resources, like LinkedIn, as well. You may be surprised at how much you can find out.

How to Say No (Thank You)

It's important to keep in mind that not all companies are "good" companies. They don't all operate professionally, and you may not want to work for a company that doesn't match your standards. You always have the option of declining an interview, withdrawing your candidacy for employment, or declining a job offer.

When it comes to accepting a position, the ball is in your court, and you'll want to make an educated, informed decision to be sure the opportunity is the right one for you.