New Job Red Flags That Are the Worst Signs
Have you ever shown up for a job on your first day and felt that something just wasn’t right? In both relationships and work, we frequently ignore red flags that we really should have caught. When it comes to your career, many of these red flags may be evident throughout the hiring process.
As always, Reddit comes to the rescue. In a few threads, people discuss some red flags at a new job and job interview red flags that could indicate a work environment that’s less than ideal. These are warning signs job seekers can’t ignore. If you see any of them at your new job, you should probably just bail.
1. If your first day at work ends with an envelope sliding toward you, rather than a W-9 form, that’s a red flag.
"When they'd rather pay you cash or check instead of payroll…" suggests u/pinkflakes12.
Why Paying Money Under the Table Is a Red Flag
If the company is trying to pay you under the table, it isn’t paying its taxes.
If it isn’t paying its taxes, it isn’t going to be around for much longer.
2. You find out that the last few people in the position left swiftly.
"When the last few incumbents of your position were hired and left quickly. I call it the Defense Against the Dark Arts conundrum," says u/CardboardShrimp.
Why a High Turnover Rate Is a Red Flag
The company is either hiring people unsuitable for the task or is giving them far more work than they anticipated.
It’s pretty likely the same thing is about to happen to you.
3. They want you to take an IQ test or an intelligence test before you get the job.
"Having to take an online IQ test before even being considered for an interview" is u/Flaky_Sandwich9353’s red flag.
Why Having to Take an IQ Test Is a Red Flag
A lot of companies lean on IQ tests or personality tests to place people into roles.
If that’s true, your future with the company is already written in stone, and it has little to do with how hard you work.
4. If they appear to be trying to sell you a service rather than just offer you a job.
u/Zickna had a "really really bad" experience in which the company tried to sell them a service rather than hire them.
Why Selling a Service Is a Red Flag
If the company sees you as a customer rather than an employee, that's never going to end.
You're going to come away from the business with less money, not more.
5. The salary in the job description ranges from $15,000 to $300,000, they keep talking about 'total compensation,' and no one will give you an actual number.
"If the job description has a non-descriptively massive salary range," suggests u/JetSetJACK.
Why a Massive Salary Range Is a Red Flag
Some companies have a toxic work environment that’s more take than give.
Companies that pressure you to use their services, rather than offering you benefits and discounts, are to be avoided.
6. When you ask to talk to HR, you’re told that there isn’t an HR department.
"I know people (rightfully) like to hate on HR, but if a company brags about 'not having an HR department to deal with,' expect them to be very disorganized at a minimum," reports u/AbolishGender.
Why No HR Department a Red Flag
Human resources exist for a reason. HR isn’t just a hiring manager or hiring department. HR is also around to do little things like "make sure you get paid on time" and "manage your health benefits."
If no one’s doing that, it’s a big red flag.
7. The company appears to be constantly holding open interviews.
"Open interviews," u/T-money79 decisively states. "It tells me that people leave faster than you can bring them in, and with good reason."
Why Constant Open Interviews Are a Red Flag
Avoid places where there's high turnover. Open interviews indicate that the company is losing people constantly, and they aren’t being too picky about who they bring in.
It’s a huge sign of a disorganized company or a company that’s growing too fast to manage itself.
8. You ask who your manager is, and they either can’t tell you or hand you a half-dozen names.
In bold text, u/Orpheus6102 shouts: "MULTIPLE MANAGERS TO REPORT TO."
Why Multiple Managers Are a Red Flag
Let’s say you applied for a job, you ask who you report to, and they give you a whole list. Having multiple managers indicates that the organization is disorganized.
At best, it’s top-heavy. There are too few people doing the labor, and too many people managing them. At worst, it means that you’ll be receiving conflicting requests all the time.
9. If you were hired on the same day that you were interviewed, they’re either short-staffed or desperately in over their heads.
"Trying to rush a decision out of you once the offer is made," says u/aattanasio2014.
Why Same-Day Hiring Is a Red Flag
Like "open interviews," this indicates they desperately need help.
Unless they have a very good reason (such as their previous employee getting hit by a bus), same-day hiring usually indicates the work environment is so toxic that they can’t get anyone to stay.
10. You’re expected to work for passion, not pay. In fact, don't even ask about pay.
"'Nobody works here for the money,'" u/ChristmasSkeletor quotes.
Why Working for No Pay Is a Red Flag
Sure, but can you eat passion? Nonprofits, while important, are notorious for this. Some jobs expect you to work because your work is meaningful.
Ultimately, it usually means that they’re going to underpay you. If the job description says salary isn’t meaningful to them, then your interests probably don’t align.
11. You look around and everyone in the company is either very old or very young.
"A couple old senior partners, lots of young employees and nothing in between" is a huge warning sign, u/Thirty_Helens_Agree observes.
Why Very Old and Very Young Employees Are a Red Flag
Think about it. This means that the company has no room for advancement.
Entry-level employees come in, but then they leave because they have no upper trajectory.
Upper management is a thousand years old because they’ve been there forever, but they aren’t retiring.
12. Asking 'How many children are you planning to have?' at the first job interview.
"Asking if I planned to have children in the interview (I was 19)" is one huge red flag, u/votefawnmoscato recalls.
Why Asking About Having Children Is a Red Flag
Asking if you have kids is friendly, if still somewhat inappropriate. Asking whether you’re planning to have children is not.
Often, the potential employer is trying to suss out whether you’re going to need time off and whether you’re going to be dedicated to the position.
If you say you’re going to have kids soon, say goodbye to your job.
13. Setting the stage for some serious overtime hours.
"Asking if you are somebody who's 'willing to put in the time to make sure deadlines are met/work is done'" or if you're 'the type of person who leaves when the workday is finished?'" says u/rockkicker27.
Why Serious Overtime Hours Are a Red Flag
This is a sign of a business that isn’t only going to overwork you. It also is likely to cast the blame on you if you’re not willing to be overworked.
Any company that puts a moral burden on overtime likely isn’t a company that you want to work for.
14. You walk in and hit the 'misery wall.'
As u/PeachLeech evocatively puts it, "There's a misery wall when walking into work. When you pass a certain point in the building the feeling changes significantly. If you know, you know."
Why the 'Misery Wall' Is a Red Flag
People can’t actually sense misery. But what you can sense is that areas of the property are dimmer, cheaper and grimmer than others.
If you feel that you hit a "misery wall," it’s probably because no one has even attempted to make their workspace less oppressive. And that’s a bad sign.
15. You find out that a lot of the provisions of the job are not allowed in California or Colorado.
"If many provisions in company policy say 'except for employees in Colorado and California,'" observes u/arnie_apesacrappin. "Colorado and California have multiple statutes that are more employee-friendly than the other 48 states."
Why California and Colorado Exceptions Are a Red Flag
Colorado, in particular, requires that employers be upfront about salary in job postings. So if you see postings that say "Colorado residents may not apply," it’s because the employer doesn’t want to be upfront. Likewise, in California, there are a lot of protections for employees in general.
16. Your interviewer or manager asks you directly about how you deal with drama.
"At my job interview, I got asked, 'How do you deal with drama in the workplace?' Looking back, I was so stupid to accept that job," reminisces u/24204me.
Why Getting Asked About How You Deal With Drama Is a Red Flag
No one asks you how you deal with drama unless they expect that you’re going to have to deal with drama. This is especially true if they ask you if you’re "drama-free" and even more true if they assert that they aren’t drama.
17. We’re like a family here — you’ll love us so much you’ll never want to leave.
A red flag that might seem like a green flag: Not only do they claim they’re like a family, but according to u/howwouldiknow–, "They claim that overtime isn't mandatory and workers stay longer by choice."
Why Claiming 'We're a Family Here' Is a Red Flag
Sure, it’s sweet if it’s true. But most times when people say that they are treated like a family, what they really mean is that they’re each other’s family because they’re there all the time.
Of course, people will become "family" if you’re with them 16 hours a day.
18. The company seems to be in a constant process of updating its campus and its technology.
"If you get a tour and everything is old, but they say 'they’re in the process of updating' yeah … you're going to be working with broken equipment. 9/10 you're going to get in trouble when it breaks on you," says u/CaptainFrivolous.
Why an Old Campus and Equipment Is a Red Flag
A company that can’t invest in its campus or its equipment also isn’t going to be able to invest in its employees.
If your company doesn’t seem to have any money, consider how long it’ll be until you get a raise.
19. They’re looking to hire rock stars, ninjas, or gurus (and not literally).
Many people, including u/Marquetan and others, have noticed that if the job title is "rock star" the position is anything but.
Why Hiring Rock Stars, Ninjas or Gurus Is a Red Flag
"Rock star" is generally code for "someone who is willing to work very hard for extremely ambiguous benefits." Startups hire rock stars. Microsoft does not.
20. You go to the restroom and there’s see-through toilet paper. Bonus red flags if the 'client-facing' bathrooms have superior supplies.
"The quality of the toilet paper in the bathroom. There are minimal if any cost savings to 1 ply and it just shows they couldn't care about you at all," says u/Siveri16.
Why Low-Quality Toilet Paper Is a Red Flag
While it might seem frivolous and funny, it’s actually a great thing to look out for. Having terrible bathroom tissue means that the company pinches pennies. That penny pinching probably extends to the wages you’ll make.
21. The company culture is 'work hard and play harder.'
"'We work hard and play harder' usually means we like to be nosy about your personal life," says u/Jim105.
Why 'Work Hard and Play Harder' Culture Is a Red Flag
Many have noted that "work hard and play harder" cultures tend to be the worst for work-life balance. The "play harder" usually occurs at work and means that a lot of excess time has to be spent socializing and networking. Otherwise, how would they know how hard or soft you’re playing?
22. You check them out and there are terrible reviews on Glassdoor.
"Overall poor ratings from bad employee reviews on Glassdoor. Seriously — that site exists to give employees a place to review their employer anonymously. Use that info," recommends u/graffing.
Why Terrible Reviews Are a Red Flag
There’s no reason for an employee to give a company a bad review (often going out of their way to do so) unless something bad happened to them. Before you even take the job, you should take a look at Glassdoor.
23. There’s no food safety. Or people's safety.
"When I burned my hands all night on the too hot plates as a food runner. They wouldn't let me use towels to carry them and said I just had to get used to it. Nope," recounted u/NorCalKerry.
Why Lack of Safeties y Is a Red Flag
Bad companies tend to skirt safety rules and regulations. Not only will that eventually be costly for the company, but it’s eventually going to end up with you hurt. And what do companies that skirt safety rules and regulations do? Not pay workers compensation claims, that’s for sure.
24. The mysterious case of the vanishing breaks.
"On the first day of working at Amazon warehouse, the managers broke down to everyone how a 15-minute break works there. Walking to the break room is 2 1/2 minutes. 10 minutes of actual break and then 2 1/2 minutes to go back to your stations. It took me 2 1/2 minutes to walk to my car and I took a forever break," says u/teamfaysal.
Why Break Rules Are a Red Flag
Any time your rights and benefits appear to be continuously diminishing, it’s probably time to walk out the door. Lazy employers often use bait-and-switch tactics, such as promising vacation time and then putting a number of conditions on that vacation time.
It’ll continue happening with other things.
25. Management just can’t get its story straight.
"Those interviewing, management-level folks, started arguing with each other in front of me during the interview," u/Auto_Fac reported.
Why Management Friction Is a Red Flag
With some companies, it’s easy to see that it’s going to be an unpleasant experience to work for them. Look at the relationships between your managers. If your managers hate each other, you’re probably going to be in the focus of that hatred at some point in your career.
Besides, there’s a reason why middle management is one of the fastest dying careers.
26. Work starts to nickel-and-dime its employees for everything from snacks to uniforms.
Redditors report everything from being forced to purchase K-cups to having a coin-activated microwave.
Why Minor Charges for Every Little Thing Are a Red Flag
Some things are bona fide costs of doing business, such as non-slip shoes and a reasonable number of uniforms. But if work appears to be trying to get your money for every little thing, then they’re definitely not giving you any raises in the future.
27. Getting hired in a batch.
u/unelune presents a harrowing tale: "I interviewed for a 'professional marketing assistant' and got the job straight away. I was under the impression that I would be an assistant to the man I was interviewed by. When I showed up for my first day, the same waiting room I was in the previous day was FULL of people. I quickly learned that we were all hired."
Why Getting Hired in a Batch Is a Red Flag
Getting hired in a batch means they don’t particularly care about you. They just care about a warm body. More alarmingly, it usually indicates a really stressful, pressure-filled job, such as door-to-door sales.
28. Your managers start engaging in time theft.
"It was my first day at Five Guys, it was around 10:30 p.m. and they told me it was time to clock out, despite not having finished closing. I then worked until almost midnight. I did not return," says u/thelonecedar.
Why Time Theft Is a Red Flag
Time theft doesn’t just happen once. If your new job is already asking you to put in more hours, then it’s cheating you out of your time.
And if you work $15 an hour for an eight-hour shift, but really worked 12 hours, you’re only making $10 an hour.
29. Your managers don’t seem to do anything at all.
In one of their first jobs, u/cvernie recalls, "Went to ask the boss a question, found him asleep in an empty office. He’d taken off a sock and had draped it over his eyes to block out the light. On my way out the door, the other girl who had started that day said, 'Please come back, don’t leave me alone here.' I couldn’t stop laughing."
Why Lazy Managers Are a Red Flag
Don’t assume that a lazy manager means that you can "get away with anything." Usually, a lazy manager means that you’re going to be doing your own job and their job.
And if no one’s noticed that your manager is lazy, no one will notice that you’re hard at work.
30. They ask you to do something entirely out of your wheelhouse — and give you zero support.
"OK so I know this is your first day at a fast-food restaurant, but I gotta get back to the register, hope you know how to use a deep fryer. Toodles!" remembers u/wanted879y.
Why Getting No Support to Do a New Task Is a Red Flag
This is just a sign of a poorly run business ... and a recipe for disaster. Not only are you going to be asked to do things that could be outright dangerous, but the business itself is likely to be failing. There’s no way to ensure happy clients or customers with this type of service.
31. You notice blatant favoritism within the company.
u/rosecxviii observes, "Bosses seem to have 'favorites' or an undefined hierarchy. You shouldn't have to treat your coworkers like they're your managers just because they've been there longer."
Why Blatant Favoritism Within the Company Is a Red Flag
There’s a social hierarchy at this business that determines what work you do and how you’re judged. And you’re not privy to it.
It’s going to be difficult for you to move up in the company because you’ll have to be a social climber in addition to being good at your job.
32. There aren’t any raises for senior management.
"When all the senior employees say they never got a raise in the 2+ years they worked there," says Ninjapenguin18.
Why No Raises for Senior Management Is a Red Flag
If senior management isn’t getting raises, you aren’t getting a raise either, even if it’s been promised.
In fact, many businesses really only give "raises" when people first come into the business.
From there, it’s stagnant.
33. Everyone you talk to emphasizes that it’s a 'family business.'
Nearly all redditors agree: Family businesses are often the worst to deal with. It may sound lovely until you realize ... you're not part of the family.
Why a 'Family Business' Is a Red Flag
A lot of family businesses prioritize the family members within the business to an unhealthy degree.
Employees can answer to a manager whose only skill is being the owner’s daughter or son — and they may find themselves frequently having to cover for family members who won’t get their job done.
34. Being asked to actually commit a crime.
u/ArtNoobly tells a story: "Worked at a bar and a girl comes in who I know is underage, she has a pack of old dudes glued to her, I ask for her ID, she freezes. … Boss walks over and puts his hand on my shoulder while telling me it’s OK to serve her. She’s fine, and to not worry so much!"
Why Being Asked to Commit a Crime Is a Red Flag
Well, it’s definitely illegal and likely unethical. But also, if an employer is willing to do illegal things, that means they’re also willing to do illegal things against you.
That could include denying workers' compensation claims, not paying you overtime, or just not filing your taxes correctly.
35. Most food service jobs, actually.
"It was a sandwich shop in college. I got the flu before my first day, told them I was sick, they said come in anyway it's just training. Then they had me making sandwiches, no gloves, runny nose, coughing and everything. I left in under an hour and didn't eat there again," reports u/NotForrestGump.
Why Most Food Service Jobs Are a Red Flag
It’s probably not a coincidence that a disproportionate number of red flags come from the service industry. Service industry employees are worked to the bone, often for below minimum wage. It’s one of the hardest jobs in existence.
If you see anything wrong in your food service job, just run. Even the best food service jobs are often not worth it.
36. You’re asked to pay a fee to even start the job.
"A 3 hour presentation and you need to commit $100 to start your "life changing" journey to make money and be your own boss," says u/everythingcute.
Why Paying a Fee to Start a Job Is a Red Flag
This is usually a sign of a multilevel marketing scheme. You aren’t the employee. You’re another customer. And sometimes you’re just straight up the victim of fraud. You should never have to pay anything to start a position.
37. You’re told that your wages are a secret and that you can’t talk to other employees about them.
A lot of people online report this trend. You're hired but told that your wages are a secret. You have no idea what anyone else makes ... but you suspect it might be more than you.
Why Secret Wages Are a Red Flag
In many places, it’s illegal to forbid employees from discussing wages. Ask yourself: Why would they do this?
Most of the time, it’s because they don’t want you to know that other people are making more money, or that money is unfairly being distributed.
38. When there’s a group chant.
u/TommyTwoTats noted that whenever there’s a group chant, you should probably just send in your resignation.
Why Group Chanting Is a Red Flag
Hey, there’s nothing wrong with feelin’ your company culture. But a group chant is often used to create a sort of "cult-like" atmosphere around low-paid retail jobs.
It’s notable in a lot of not-to-be-mentioned big box stores … and it’s designed to subvert your expectations for better benefits and a greater salary because, once again, "We’re like family here."