Getting that first post-military job is a stressful time, filled with uncertainty. Few things in life are more exciting than getting a call from a potential new employer and scheduling a job interview. That excitement not only is heightened for someone who will soon be separating from the military, but it also can bring a big sigh of relief.
While it’s perfectly normal to get excited about a potential job offer, it’s also important to stay on your game. You’re still in the job search process, and you should keep your eyes open and evaluate any new company just as much as that company will evaluate you.
A toxic work environment, a bad boss or an unhealthy work-life balance can derail a healthy transition from the military to civilian life, so it’s important to remember that you aren’t just looking for any job. You’re looking for the foundation of a sustainable new life, a job that will allow you to do more and better things in the future.
Here are a few things to look at that might signal a potential workplace might not be the best place to start.
1. Company Review Websites
Employers can be reviewed and rated online, just like any product or service. Websites like Glassdoor and Indeed have exclusive sections just for employees to leave reviews and detail what it’s like to work there. Social media sites like Reddit and Quora allow users to share their stories and experiences working there as well.
A company getting one or two bad reviews or having a handful of horror stories may not look good, but that doesn’t mean those experiences are pervasive around the company. But when pursuing a company’s reviews, you notice repeated stories about similar subjects. This could indicate a pattern of behavior or policies that might raise a red flag.
2. Problem Interview Questions
This goes far beyond the tricky questions for which job interviews are infamous. Knowing how to answer questions like, “If you were a crayon, what color would you be?” is a difficult one, to be sure, but it doesn’t indicate a problem company. What should cause concerns are questions asking how you feel about overtime, working weekends or how much vacation time you used in previous roles.
Then there are outright illegal questions for interviewers to ask. Questions about your marital status, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation are forbidden by law to ask during a job interview. They are inherently personal and have nothing to do with the work. Beware that some bad-faith interviewers also will use innocent questions (like, “What did you do this past weekend?”) to try to determine this information.
3. There’s No HR Department
Smaller companies and startups are not likely to have an official human resources department, but should still have dedicated personnel who do the hiring and firing; people who know the rules and legalities surrounding the HR role. In medium and larger companies, there should be an HR apparatus that is respected by employees.
If current employees roll their eyes at the idea of an HR department or their current human resources system, that should be a warning sign that the company’s internal management practices and retention policies aren’t quite what they should be. That’s usually to the employees’ detriment.
4. The IntervIewer Won’t Answer Questions
Everyone knows it’s important for a job candidate to come to the interview with questions of their own to ask about the company and its culture. The interviewer will expect your questions and should be able to answer the bulk of them, even if they’re more detailed than expected. Not opening the conversation to your questions or refusing to answer them directly should raise some eyebrows.
Most importantly in this instance, if the interviewer answers some questions but won’t answer others, that could be a red flag as well. Questions pertaining to workplace culture, management or other HR issues are expected by most human resources managers, so refusing to address them when asked is odd and should be noted.
5. The Interview Is Short or Unsubstantial
Did your interviewer seem overworked? Were they distracted? Looking over your shoulder or watching the clock? If you’ve made it to the interview, it’s pretty much established that you have the right qualifications, but the interviewer should be trying to determine if you’re a good fit for the company. If they’re distracted or overworked, they might not be able to do this.
It also could be indicative of the company culture. The company may not be hiring enough people to do all the work required adequately, so if you’re talking to an overworked and antsy interviewer whose job is to establish a real rapport with candidates, there’s a chance that everyone in the company is overworked and antsy.
That could be your future at the company, and it’s not one anyone should want. Proceed with caution.
Want to Know More About Veteran Jobs?
Be sure to get the latest news about post-military careers as well as critical info about veteran jobs and all the benefits of service. Subscribe to Military.com and receive customized updates delivered straight to your inbox.