One of the key trends we observed in 2022, is that it’s a candidates’ market.
As this trend carries over to 2023, unemployment remaining at 3.5%, key sectors continuing to face staff shortages, and employers looking for new and creative ways to attract and retain top talent, you (the jobseeker) can afford to be picky when assessing potential employers. But to make the most of this situation, it pays to be able to identify red and green flags during the recruitment process.
While a red flag may help you avoid a poor career move, green flags can provide a strong signal that you’ve found an organisation with a great workplace culture.
Red and green flags are different for everybody
Keep in mind that this is a very subjective area – not everyone will agree on what constitutes a red flag. For example, one person might be fine with the application process and response time of an employer, while another may want more or less communication throughout the same process.
Green flags also differ because we all have different priorities and ideas of what we want from an employer. For example, evidence of genuine career development would only be important to someone who intends to join an organisation for the long-term and not so important to a shorter-term employee such as a contractor.
Think of it as a workplace culture alignment checklist: perhaps your experience during the recruitment process leaves you with a dozen green flags and only one or two red ones – in this case, you may decide that (on balance), they’re probably going to have a workplace culture that’s right for you.
Download our free Workplace Culture Alignment Checklist:
Where to look for red and green flags
Red and green flags can be found at every stage of the job-seeking process – you just need to know where to look.
1. The job ad
There’s no such thing as a perfect job ad, but savvy employers should know what to include and what to avoid. Here are some indicators to assess your red and green flags against and help you decide whether to click the “apply now” button.
- Job responsibilities and expectations are realistic and clear. It should outline what the job entails and what is expected of the candidate.
- Information about benefits, flexibility and wellness initiatives may be highlighted. Additional information on company culture or values can give an insight into your individual alignment with the employer, including links to further information such as a careers page, interviews with current employees, or video content on employee experience.
- The employer only asks for the skills the job will require, not an overly long list of required qualifications/skills/experience.
- Keep an eye out for things like basic spelling and grammar errors or gender bias/gendered language in the job description. These could be a red flag!
2. Discovery/online research
You’ve seen a job ad from an employer and want to find out more before you apply. Here are some flags to watch for when you jump online:
- Check to see if their website is up to date and information for job seekers, such as a careers page, information on the Employee Value Proposition (EVP), company values, mental health policy, flexibility, etc can easily be found. Also check to see if this information is accessible via their social media.
- Use publicly accessible information on websites such as Glassdoor to read about employee experiences. Several negative reviews from former employees or candidates can be a red flag. Glassdoor can also indicate whether an organisation has a low or high turnover rate of employees. A low turnover reflects a positive workplace culture and happy employees.
- When researching the organisation, keep an eye out for any press or media releases. Evidence of unsubstantiated claims such as “greenwashing” can be a red flag.
3. The online application
Satisfied with the results of your research, you may begin the application process. Is it a pleasure or a headache to complete?
- The application process is easy-to-use, short and easy-to-complete. Basic problems such as difficulty uploading your CV and repetitive fields asking for the same information can be a red flag.
- An application process that is on-brand, e.g., includes consistent brand language and tone of voice, is an excellent sign. Not to mention if they offer assistance throughout the process, for example, presenting a direct contact from the talent acquisition team or a Chatbot.
Sometimes an application and recruitment process run so smoothly that there is no need to email the talent acquisition team with questions. But if you need to communicate, their response may offer a green or red flag.
- Make sure it’s clear who to contact throughout the application process and that they’re responsive and attentive. Information like this shouldn’t be difficult to find, especially when applying for a job.
- Personalisation is key! Look for automated responses that have a human tone rather than those that leave you feeling like you’re communicating with a robot.
5. The interview
You’ve proceeded to the interview round. Whether it’s at the office or via video call, this is your first chance to assess the people you may soon be working with.
- Look for professional and respectful behaviour by the employer during the interview process, such as being respectful of your time. Unprofessional behaviour by the employer is a major red flag. This behaviour can include last-minute cancellations, inattention during the interview and obvious boredom.
- Being offered a quick tour of the building suggests the company is proud of their workplace culture and has nothing to hide.
- A green flag to look for includes the interviewer asking thoughtful and challenging questions, and allowing you plenty of time to ask your own questions.
6. The job offer
Congratulations! You’ve aced the interview and the employer has made you an offer. But even this stage may come with red and green flags.
- Employers should always be willing to negotiate on salary or accompanying benefits such as flexibility. Be wary of a “take it or leave it” approach.
- If a contract has been written that includes your needs discussed throughout the application process, it shows the employer has listened and gathered an understanding of a solution that works for both parties.
7. Welcome and onboarding
It’s your first day at the office and day one of your probationary period. Remember, this is an opportunity for you to assess whether you’ve made the right decision.
- The company and your new team should make you feel welcome and valued from the moment you arrive. Your desk, laptop and system access are all setup and ready to go.
- Take note of the onboarding process. It should be smooth, well-planned and engaging, with introductions to key colleagues.
- The responsibilities of the role discussed throughout the application process should remain the same. If they appear to be different from what was advertised or what was agreed to, this could be a red flag.
- A reasonable amount of time should be given for you to find your feet in your new role.
- Look for evidence of a vibrant, positive workplace culture with a focus on engagement and wellness. Signs of the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) coming to life is the ultimate green flag.
If you’re currently looking for a new role, we recommend downloading our Workplace Culture Alignment Checklist. This template will allow you to visually track potential flags listed in this article and effectively weigh up your options to find the workplace culture that’s right for you.
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