When to Say No to a Job

If you see any of these warning signs during an interview, think twice about accepting the job.

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Interviews aren’t solely for the sake of the company—they’re intended to help the job seeker figure out whether the company is a match for them, too. And while most of us can’t afford to be too picky in this economy, if you interview for an opportunity that doesn’t feel right, listen to your gut.

Here are a few tell-tale warning signs about a potential job, ones that might set off that gut reaction:

1. The position has been filled multiple times and nobody has lasted more than 18 months. High turnover is a sign of multiple issues. It could be poor compensation, a negative work environment, little opportunity for growth, or often times, a bad manager. If you’re spending eight or more hours a day at work, you need to like most of the people you work with.

[See 21 Secrets to Getting the Job.]

2. You're treated poorly in the interview. Were the interviewers prepared for the meeting? Were you left waiting for an unreasonable amount of time? Were you in asked to go in for day-long interviews and never given a restroom break or offered a drink or lunch? How a company behaves in the interview process is a clear sign of what it’s probably like to work there.

3. You're asked by the interviewer to give confidential information about other companies or people. An interviewer may come right out and ask you to divulge information that you know you shouldn't share. Don't be tempted by such requests. Prepare for how you will deal with these situations in advance and you should be able to handle it gracefully. Acknowledge the request and the confidentiality of the information and back it up with something you can share because it's public information. A reasonable person should understand and respect your reluctance to share proprietary information. If the interviewer continues to push, you're probably dealing with someone who doesn't adhere to ethical business practices.

4. You're given a project that could be used for the company's benefit—even if you didn't get the job. Unfortunately, this happens too often. A writing test, a portfolio sample, a request for references, a walk-through of previous marketing/staffing/sales/etc. plans, even a mock assignment are normal requests to evaluate your skills for the job. Depending on the company, you may be asked to take a personality test and submit information for a formal background check. But a request to develop original, ready-to-use content for the company is not acceptable. Keep those ideas to yourself and spend your time looking for something more solid and with a company who will respect you and your ideas.

[See When to Ask for a Raise.]

5. The hiring manager has unreasonable expectations. Check the job description, twice. If this is a new role, it's important to ask questions about the expectations. If the duties seem like something only a team of six could handle, you'll need to bring it up. The company could be clueless about how much one person can realistically handle.

6. Salary doesn't match the skills required. Your decision to take a position shouldn't be only about the money, but you should receive a fair wage for the work performed. You have to consider the long-term benefits and not just short-term gain. However, a company offering a salary way off the mark is a sign of how they value their workforce. If they are cheap now, they are probably stingy on promotions and raises.

It can be difficult to be picky when the economy isn’t offering many jobs to choose from, but in certain situations, it may be smarter to pass on a job and wait for the right opportunity.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.

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