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5 Red Flags To Watch Out For During Your Job Search

5 Red Flags To Watch Out For During Your Job Search

The modern talent market was built on a series of asymmetries, which are further compounded by an imbalance of power. Much of the time, even during “candidate-driven” markets (when labor is in short supply), employers have had the upper hand. As buyers of labor, up until recently companies have been able to effectively control pricing by obscuring salary information. The hyper-local nature of talent markets further tipped the scales in the favor of employers.

The pandemic, the rise of remote work, salary transparency legislation at the state level and social media have changed all that. Job seekers today have more information than at any point in history about the places they might want to work, and they also have far more choice. It is no longer necessary to relocate to broaden your job prospects. There is also a lot more “noise,” and it can be really challenging when trying to navigate the post-pandemic talent market to get good “signal.” Here are five things that you can look out for, to help you make more informed decisions about where to work next:

  1. Implausible Salary Ranges On Job Postings
    Currently ten states have enacted some form of pay transparency legislation, and absent any federal-level rules, companies are choosing how to respond. The most forward-thinking companies have accepted the inevitable and have moved to complete nationwide salary transparency, which is of course a good thing. The majority of companies however are resisting, likely because doing so will cause them to have really uncomfortable conversations internally.

This in itself can give you pretty good signal as a job seeker: companies that are posting ranges that show $0 – $1 million or $50,000 – $400,000 are at best conforming to the letter, if not the spirit, of the law. At worst it could be classed as “malicious compliance.” Similarly, companies that have operations in many or all states, but are only complying with pay transparency in select sates (e.g., just for the roles they have in California or New York), should give you pause. It is much harder to operationalize partial compliance at the state level, so companies that are going to extra lengths to do so are probably not the most employee-centric.

  1. WARN Notifications Within The Last 12 Months
    The WARN Act (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988) is a piece of federal legislation that requires employers to make official filings ahead of large layoffs. It’s also supplemented by a patchwork of enhanced legislation at the state level, which can place even stricter requirements (in the form of lower thresholds that trigger the act) on employers.

So while it doesn’t cover all layoffs, you can still get pretty good signal if a significant number of people have been laid off. It’s good practice to see if the company you’re applying to has triggered the WARN act (you can easily check here) both in the state you live in, and also in the state where they are headquartered (if that’s different).

  1. Aggregate Employee Rating Scores On Glassdoor
    Late last year Glassdoor released powerful new functionality that allows you to filter employee ratings by demographic. You can now view the overall employee rating, and then you can slice the data further to see how women, people of color, and those that identify as LGBTQ+ rate the company.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, almost every employee cohort reports lower scores for those that come from diverse backgrounds. A great place to get good signal is the delta between the aggregate score, and the under-represented scores. The smaller the delta, the more likely the company has a supportive culture. However you personally identify, it says a lot about an organization if subsets of employees have significantly worse experiences than their peers.

  1. Job Postings More Than Six Months Old
    One of the core metrics for a talent acquisition team inside a Fortune 500 company is “time to fill.” Recruiters are typically tasked with closing roles within thirty, sixty or ninety-day horizons (depending on the seniority of the role), and the average time to fill across the enterprise typically hovers around 45 days. If you see a role that has been open for six months plus, it’s usually an indicator of either chaotic internal processes or misalignment amongst the hiring team. Neither of which are likely indicators of long-term happiness inside the organization.
  2. How You’re Treated During The Interview Phase
    It’s easy to forget, especially in a market like this, that the interview is supposed to be a two-way-street. As much as the employer is exploring your suitability for their needs, you too need to be evaluating their suitability for yours. Specific red flags to look out for include unreasonable take home tasks, and chaotic scheduling.

It is fairly common, especially for knowledge workers, to complete some kind of task or assessment ahead of the in-person interviews. If, however, this is going to take more than four hours of your time, you should be compensated. Similarly, if the company cancels or reschedules your interviews it is a further indicator that they will struggle to respect your time once you’re an employee. My general advice here is that if it feels “off” then you’re almost certainly correct in that assessment.

Although the last few years have seen an employer-driven talent market, it is likely that we’re about to see a lot more movement. Typically in the United States attrition (employee turnover) runs around 33%, and for the last couple of years it has been single or low double digit numbers.

That’s a lot of pent-up demand that will create liquidity in the talent market, which means as a candidate you will start to have more choice. Taking note of the above indicators will help you make more informed decisions about where you work next.



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