All Trick No Treat: Beware These 10 Creepy Career Moments

Scary-Career-MomentsAs young careerists are navigating their way into the workforce, it seems many – perhaps just happy to have a job or internship – are prone to ignoring some creepy red flags served up by monster-like employers.

The fact is that as we progress through the hiring process, recruiters and hiring managers are prone to saying what we want to hear.  And rather than recognize that when every hair on the back of our necks stands up… something wicked almost always this way comes.

Some of these issues can be worked out with a conversation or two with a boss, HR or a mentor. Some might mean a change in your expectations, or environment. Others could be deal-breakers.

Here are ten scary moments that, if you aren’t mentally prepared, can really jump out of the dark at you:

Hype Overtakes Realism

Once a recruiter has identified you as a prime candidate, they turn from researcher to salesman. If it ever appears as though the recruiter is trying too hard – and you sense that insincere, slimy-ish feeling that they are trying “too hard” to sell you on the opportunity, there’s a good reason.

Run away.

“We Can Pay You – But Not What You’re Worth”

The business world is full of claims that your pay will go up as soon as the company gets back on its feet, the start-up gets funded or the non-profit finally gets that big grant. You have to offset this red flag with the need to pay bills, and perhaps the opportunity to fill a hole in your resume.

Ultimately, you may want to alter your expectations to “I’m accepting this offer as is, and if the promise is kept… I’ll smile.”

Promises of Management Roles

In today’s economy, most recruiters don’t hire automatons that will be in the same position seven years from now; they hire those who will help the company grow while showing some leadership. Almost always, this gets turned into “you’ll be a manager in less than two years.”

Fine, here’s the follow-up question: “What percentage of your entry-level associates ascend to management roles?” If they can’t answer the question sincerely and without laying on a new layer of creepy… be very afraid.

“You’ll Create Your Own Role”

While this is the perfect intern or first-job situation for some (those who are independent or entrepreneurial by nature, for instance), for others this can be a nightmare. Essentially, the employer is saying: “We know what we need, don’t really have a clue how to do it, and are bringing in entry-level talent to get it done.”

If this working environment isn’t for you… take your talents to the next block.

Research Doesn’t Back-up Their Lofty Claims

You get all excited about the job offer. And then… you can’t find anything online that supports the claims of the recruiter. No press release about that new partnership agreement. No customers who openly champion their products. No sign of their “constant presence” on Twitter. In this case, we want to believe. We do.

In today’s ghostly transparent world, however, if there’s nothing positive about the company online… there’s nothing positive about working for the company.

“This is a Ground Floor Opportunity”

Again, a dual edged sword – depending on your entrepreneurial spirit. If these words are spoken by the Founder of an emerging start-up, more than likely it’s the truth.

If you are interviewing at a company that has been around for five or six years or more – or with someone even remotely responsible for recruiting salespeople, however, 99% of the time this is desperate shtick on the part of the recruiter.

“We’re Changing the World!”

We all want to change the world. And most of us would choose to work for a company steeped in social responsibility. But here’s the fact: organizations that are truly making a difference rarely need to actually talk about changing the world; their actions and reputation speak for them, loudly.

All the rest could be accused of spewing buzzwords in hopes of attracting you with buckets of candy instead of real promise.

Creepy is NOT Charming


We all know the type… he thinks he’s Clooney or Gosling, but he’s really more like Beetlejuice or a Used Car Salesman. You know, the fake laugh; the over-friendly use of “Pal” or “Brother”; trying to appear WAY younger than they are (“Dude!”)… and more.

These guys never change. No matter how many drinks or lunches they buy, or how many names they drop. Attach your star to these clowns, and your career will be full of one scare after another.

The Stalker-Spammer

If you’ve uploaded your resume to Monster or CareerBuilder, you already know this type. The insurance company who thinks you’re perfect for their new sales program. The MLM’er who has a “never seen before” diet supplement. The social networking guy who used to work for Donald Trump. Sounds amazing?

No! This is a huge red flag– maybe the scariest of the bunch.

Gratuitous Nepotism

Especially in start-ups, it seems buddies stick together. In some companies, this works quite well – for a time. If, however, you notice college roomies, frat brothers and sister-in-laws are consistently placed in critical roles despite their lack of qualifications… red flag! This isn’t “cute” or “fun” – it is a sign that management cares little about achieving success – or your role as a team member.

So what do you do if you’re already working for a company where more than one or more of these frightening red flags is already waving?

First, go with your gut when identifying red flags that might exist in your career. If it looks like a snake, sounds like a snake, and slithers like a snake – it’s probably a snake.

Second, realize that denial – yours or that of your employer – is not your friend. Debate and confrontation aren’t easy, but you’ve little to lose. After all, not many of these red flag scenarios work out well in the long run.

Third, keep in mind that you do have options – and the opportunity to make the most out of your bad situation. Come up with a plan to create a remedy. Remember… sometimes we learn a great deal from a scary situation…

Sometimes, no matter how terrified we become, we end up the proud owners of a PhD in “What NOT to Do”.

Lastly, if the road gets too rough, stay calm while you plan your exit. The old cliché about “it’s easier to find a job when you have a job” is true. Even if that current job is full of red flags… and haunted-house-class scary moments.


Mark Babbitt AuthorAbout the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial mentor who has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable and Forbes regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post, Bloomberg News, Switch and Shift, and Under30CEO. Questions? Contact Mark on Twitter.

AWorldGoneSocial 3D ThumbnailMark’s new book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive (AMACOM), with Ted Coine is now available. The Ultimate Guide to Internships: Everything You Need to Know to Get Hired Before (and AFTER) College will be available through Allworth New York in January 2015. 



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