8 Employer Red Flags to Look for Before Accepting a Job Offer

If you’re currently applying for jobs, there are a few things you should look out for before accepting a job offer.

By identifying the following eight red flags, you can protect yourself from undesirable companies. Let’s see what they are.

1. No Formal Agreement

A job offer is only valid if you have received an offer letter to prove it. An offer letter is a formal document sent to a candidate to offer employment at the company. It includes details such as your job title, start date, total compensation, benefits, terms, etc.

Without an offer letter, there is no legal proof the company ever offered you a job. Receiving an email or text message saying you’re hired isn’t enough. If an employer is refusing or delaying to give you this document, that’s a giant red flag.

2. Verbal Promises

Verbal promises mean little in the corporate world. If the hiring manager tells you that your starting salary “will not be great” but promises to increase it later, have them write that promise down on your offer letter itself. You shouldn’t agree to a job offer on a verbal promise. That’s not reliable.

If your employer refuses to write down their promise, it’s likely that they never intended to pay you more in the first place. Rather, they simply wanted to use your services for cheap for a couple of months and then replace you with someone else using the same trick when you asked for a raise.

Related: How to Ask Your Boss for a Pay Raise

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3. Unclear Company Goals


two women conversing

One of the questions that every interviewee should ask the company they’re applying to is “What are the company’s mission and vision?”. Through this question, you come to know where the company is headed and for what cause are your efforts being purchased.

Ideally, the hiring manager will have a solid answer to this question, detailing the company’s commencement, success stories, and vision. All of these things are important for you to know as a potential employee because the tasks assigned to you will be based on those goals.

If the hiring manager is not able to answer this question with sufficient clarity and resorts to something cliché and generic, you’d be right to be a little suspicious. In such a case, the tasks assigned to you will have no clear narrative to justify why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Related: Unique Ways to Stand Out in a Job Interview

4. Inappropriate Personal Questions

Things like your marital status, religion, sexual orientation, race, or anything such should be irrelevant to the job you’re applying to. As long as you meet the necessary qualifications, those things only help the interviewer potentially discriminate against you.

Be smart about the way you answer seemingly casual questions. It’s not likely that the interviewer will ask an inappropriate personal question directly, but if they do, know that you don’t have to answer. You can simply say that you don’t feel comfortable answering that question and request them to move to the next one.


Related: Employment vs. Freelancing: Which Is a Better Career Choice?

5. No Employee Handbook


Person holding magnifying glass

An employee handbook is an incredibly useful tool to clarify the relationship between an employee and their employer. It’s a document containing all the work codes, rules, policies, and expectations that you as an employee have to abide by.

If the company you’re applying to doesn’t have a dedicated employee handbook, there is no written record of the rules that are to be imposed on you. This may invite confusion and distrust later down the line, and even result in potential conflicts.

6. Job Vacancy Due to Mass Layoff

Ideally, the reason for there being a new vacant job position is that the company you’re applying to is expanding and needs more manpower. However, if you come to know that they’ve recently laid off a large chunk of their team, that’s a big red flag.


That’s an indication that something similar could happen to you as well in the future if you happen to fall on the wrong side of the spreadsheet. While the reason for the mass layoff might be reasonable on the company’s side, you have to account for your job security.

Related: How to Be a Successful Freelancer: Essential Skills to Know

7. Rude or Sarcastic Interviewer


woman giving an interview

The interviewer is the first company representative that a candidate meets. So it’s natural to assume that their demeanor will give you a rough idea of the overall company culture. After all, it’s expected of an interviewer to be good at conversations.

Given that, if they seem to be making rude or sarcastic comments, that’s a red flag. A well-trained interviewer knows their limits and is skilled at managing people and maintaining professional decorum. If you’re not treated the same way, that’s not a good first impression on their part.


8. No Strong Company Values

What values the company you’re applying to stands for is of great importance to you. It’s these values that will—more or less—determine how you will be treated in the company, assuming those values are enforced, of course. Make sure to ask the interviewer, “What are the company’s values?”.

You can judge the validity of their answer by matching it with other claims made in the interview. For instance, if the interviewer says “we believe in uplifting our employees” but you come to know about a recent mass layoff, it’s right to be suspicious of their claimed values.

Related: Client Red Flags Every Freelancer Should Be Aware Of

Learn How to Spot an Unfit Job

In the same way that an employer assesses you as a candidate, it’s necessary that you assess the company as well to see if it’s a good fit for you.

Using the above eight red flags, you can get an idea of how well you will be treated, compensated, and retained in the company. No job will be perfect in all regards, but it’s up to you to decide how much you are willing to adjust.


A person giving interview
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