You got a job offer – yay! You’re probably feeling pretty good about yourself right now. You beat out a whole bunch of other candidates and your job search is finally over! You may be 100% confident that this is your dream job, and if it is, that’s great, go ahead and accept! But if you have even the slightest hesitation, take a moment to consider whether this is the best move. Here are a few red flags you might want to think about before accepting an offer:
1. The salary is lower than what you’d expected. In this case, you should try to negotiate. You should be getting paid what you’re worth. If a company really wants you, a few thousand dollars shouldn’t be that big of a deal given the value that you’re going to bring to the table. But if there’s not much wiggle room, carefully assess how this will impact your lifestyle. Are you going to love the job so much that the lower pay won’t even matter? Look at all other factors before deciding to accept. There are long term-consequences to taking a pay cut or getting paid less than market rate, so you need to make sure the benefits outweigh the costs before you settle.
2. The boss has a bad reputation. If you’ve heard bad things about your potential new boss, you should proceed with extreme caution. You can give them the benefit of the doubt if you want – maybe it was just one person’s experience that you’re basing your decision off of. But if you’re hearing from multiple people that the boss is an ultra micromanager, doesn’t give direct reports credit for projects, or is downright abusive, you probably want to stay away. You may not realize it, but your boss has just as big of an impact on your experience at a company as the actual work does, maybe even more. Try to find out what other people have to say about this person, especially if you got a questionable vibe during the interview. And of course, if there are red flags that come up in the interview process -- the boss yells at an employee, runs excessively late, or assigns you trial work without pay -- know that it only gets worse when they're not trying to woo you.
3. You aren't aligned with the company's mission. This is particularly relevant for start-ups, where the company's future is up in the air and dependent on its mission. If you aren't gung-ho about the team and the company's future, you probably won't be happy at the job, and a small team is bound to fail if its members aren't 100% committed to the vision -- which means you may be out of a job faster than you think. It's also important when you're working on the creative side in a decision-making role -- if you don't agree with the company's development process, or you hate their programming decisions, you'll probably be unhappy devoting creative energy to and championing projects you don't think are good. This is less important at the assistant level -- you can still learn a lot even if you're working on projects you're not 100% aligned with creatively, and there are some jobs that are so competitive you may be open to sacrificing your taste, like staff writer, editor, or reality producer. Evaluate whether the day-to-day of the job will make you happy, or if you'll have room to grow, either within the role or because of it.
4. The lifestyle that goes along with the job isn’t ideal. If you’re going to be working really long hours or have a serious commute ahead of you, you may want to think twice about the job. Everyone has a different threshold for these factors, but you need to be aware of yours before you accept an offer. Are you really going to be comfortable checking your phone all day, every day, including weekends and vacations? Is the pay enough to cover the gas mileage from the office in Playa Vista to your home in Thousand Oaks? Do you need flexibility for childcare? Most people work to live -- if this is going to be a job where you live to work, it may not be worth it.
5. You don't like the office culture. You may love the work, the commute, the pay, and even your potential boss. But is the larger company culture your style? If you get weird vibes when you go in for an interview -- and weird can mean different things for different people, since we all have different work styles -- you may not be happy going to the office everyday. Do your future colleagues seem like people you'd get along with? Did people in the office seem depressed? Is the office dog-friendly and you're allergic to dogs? Were you distracted by the ping pong conference table? Maybe you don't like that the conference table was standard mahogany! No office is perfect, but consider if you'll be happy spending 8 or so hours a day in that space, with those people, following the company's rules.
There are surely other red flags that may pop up during the job search, and some may be entirely specific to you. The most important thing is to trust your gut. If you have some sort of hesitation, figure out what’s giving you pause, and then carefully weigh your options before accepting the job. Your instinct is usually correct, and it’s going to help lead you to the job where you’ll be the happiest.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan