Eager as you are to find a job in your field, you should always be wary if the interview process strikes you as odd. You have only an hour or less to decide whether this is a place you want to spend 40 or more hours a week, and that's not a lot of time to properly assess the situation.
Here are some red flags that should make you think twice before you sign that job offer.
1. They want you to start yesterday. Always question why a company wants you to start immediately, especially when you have a current job that you have to give your notice to. It might be that they're in a bind, and that the last person in this position left abruptly, leaving them with piles of work. Or maybe the company isn't as organized as they'd like you to believe. Either way, you should know what you are walking into and manage your expectations.
Push to start in the standard two weeks so that you can give appropriate notification to your current boss. After all, wouldn't this new company want the same courtesy? Trying to force you to leave on bad terms with your current employer is a serious red flag.
2. The position has high turnover. Maybe you've noticed the same position at this company being posted on job boards several times over the past year. Maybe you've just heard whisperings. But if you suspect you're far from the first person offered this job in the past few months, ask yourself why that might be. Then question whether you can stick with it longer than the last person, and whether you even want to.
High turnover is often the sign of poor management and a deteriorating employee morale. Do you really want to try to be the change agent that tries to fix a bad situation? Maybe not.
3. The list of duties far exceeds what was on the job description. You came into the interview thinking this role had a certain set of duties, but during the interview you're finding the list growing longer and longer ... without the expected pay increase. This is a bit of the old "bait and switch," so don't fall for it.
Before you say yes to a job offer, make sure you do your homework and set an expectation of a higher salary to commensurate with the experience and responsibilities the company is requiring. If they refuse, walk away. You should never let someone devalue your worth.
4. They want to hire you on the spot. As much as you'd love to shorten the agonizing waiting period that follows the interview, you have to scratch your head when a hiring manager offers you the job at the end of a 20-minute interview. Were you the only person they interviewed? Did she decide she'd hire you before you even came in? Why is she so desperate to close the deal right now?
Tell her you'll think about the offer, then go home and do all the digging you can to figure out if there's something you should know about this company's desperation.
5. The interviewer is disorganized. This isn't always indicative of the workplace being bad for you, but pay attention to how the interviewer handles the meeting. Did she know your name or anything about your background? Does she ask appropriate questions that relate to the work you'd be doing?
If, during the interview, you can't get a sense of what your role would be, ask if you will have an opportunity to meet with the others in the department. There, you might get a better sense of what the job is all about, and then you can figure out if everyone is as scatterbrained as your interviewer.
If your instinct tells you to run, listen to it. You might desperately want out of your current work situation, but there's no benefit to running directly into another bad situation. If you leave the interview being less than enthusiastic about working for this company, you're probably better off continuing your search.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, 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.