“You shouldn’t take this job,” she said in a deep, raspy voice. “It’s horrible. I’m quitting to go work at Fenway Park. You should do that, too.”
Those were the first words out of the mouth of a woman training me to work at a certain chain restaurant I won’t name.
Needless to say, I knew from that moment forward that it was not the right job for me. (And that was before I met my toxic boss, learned how cliquey my coworkers were, and realized how little they’d pay me for the privilege of being there.)
I quit that job in less than a week. If only it was always that easy to realize that a job isn’t a good fit.
Unfortunately, it’s usually not so simple. Sometimes, jobs that seem perfect on paper turn out to be a nightmare. On the flip side, you may be missing out on your dream job because you aren’t sure whether it’ll be a good fit in the long run.
In this article, we’re going to walk you through techniques that will show you how to know if a job is right for you. It’s split into two sections—things to look for before you take a job and things to look for after you’re hired.
How to know if a job is a good fit before you get hired
There’s not much worse than getting excited to find a new job, only to find out after a few days or weeks that it’s a really bad fit. Ideally, you can sort the good matches from the bad before you sign any contracts.
Here are some methods for avoiding career heartbreak before you get too deep into a job application process.
Check employee reviews online
Before you submit a job application, take advantage of insider information from employees who have (or are currently) working there.
There are two websites that allow employees to leave anonymous feedback, and they’re a great place to start:
Both websites will give you salary and company information, but the real gold comes from the candid reviews, where you’ll have a chance to peek into the realities of company culture from people who have lived it.
But a word of warning: People are far more likely to list negative experiences than positive experiences, so these listings can sometimes be skewed. It’s not a good idea to make a decision based on only one or two reviews—look for themes and commonalities among larger numbers of reviews.
Learn what you can from LinkedIn and Google
Beyond Glass Door and Fish Bowl, you can learn a lot about a company by using your own internet sleuthing skills. The best places to do this are on LinkedIn and with a good old Google search session.
Before you start searching on LinkedIn, you may want to sign out of your account so that people can’t see you’re snooping. Once that’s done, you can poke around on LinkedIn, looking at the company’s profile, as well as profiles of people who have or are currently working there.
On Google, you can run searches by putting the company’s name in quotation marks and adding different phrases. Try some of these:
“[Company name] employee reviews”“What’s it like working at [company name]”
“[Company name] workplace culture”
“[Company name] employee satisfaction”
And if you want to get a bit cheeky…
“[Company name] scandal”
You can also use Google to search the names of people you’d be working with— particularly your direct managers, the person interviewing you, or the C-level members of the company.
It may feel a little sneaky to do this kind of research, but all this information is publicly available, and you can bet your employer has Googled you and looked at your LinkedIn profile, too.
Speaking of which, here are some resources that can help you leverage your own LinkedIn page:
Put yourself in the shoes of a customer
One of the best ways to better understand a company is to become a customer yourself. You can learn a lot about a business based on what the experience is like from a customer or client perspective.
Here are a few ways to try this out, depending on the job you’re looking for.
Purchase a product from the company (in-store or online)
Visit one of their stores/franchises as a customer
Sign up for their newsletter
Read their blog
Sign up for a free trial or demo
Chat with their customer service team
During your interactions, pay attention to how happy/friendly employees seem. Unhappy employees should be a big red flag. Do people seem confident, well-trained, and well-taken care of? Are processes smooth from a customer angle? Take time to reflect on all of this before you make a call.
If you try this experiment, do so without making waves or “outing” yourself as a prospective employee. For example, don’t go shopping in-store the day before your interview. If you meet your interviewer while browsing, they’ll be confused about why you didn’t say something before the interview.
Ask the right questions during your interview
If you’ve done all the research you can and decided to apply, your next opportunity to find out if the job is right for you comes during the interview process.
When you’re in an interview, it can feel like you’re in the hot seat. But it’s just as much an opportunity for you to get to know the company before you decide if you want to accept a job (provided they offer one).
The best way to do this is to come to your interview prepared to ask insightful questions. Here are a few examples:
How would you describe the company culture here?
What’s the last event the company hosted for employees?
What time do most people come in/leave the office? (Or sign on/sign off if it’s a remote position)
What’s the best thing about working here?
What’s one thing you hope to see the company change this year?
We have lots more questions you can ask, as well as additional interview tips, right here:
Pay close attention to contracts and employee handbooks
Ok, you did your research, went to the interview, asked all the questions, and now they’re actually offering the job.
Before you sign your name on the line, you have one more chance to get a close look at the company when they show you the contract and employee handbook.
Yes, these documents are usually lengthy, boring, and often contain a lot of technical language that is (somewhat intentionally) obtuse. However, the details inside can help you decide once and for all if the job is right for you.
Here are a few things to look for:
Do the pay and benefits match what was discussed?
Are your working hours clearly defined?
What are the rules around PTO, sick days, etc.?
What guidance do they provide around remote work?
Do they outline any raise or bonus structure?
Are there any strict rules about conduct, dress code, etc.?
What is the notice period and policy?
How to know if a job is a good fit after you get hired
Sometimes, a workplace environment won’t show its true colors until after you start working. You might start to see warning signs on your very first day, or cracks in the facade may take weeks or months to show themselves.
Either way, it’s wise to be vigilant when starting a new job. Here’s what to watch out for:
Look for these red and green (and pink) flags early on
In love and work, sometimes your heart knows things your brain hasn’t picked up on yet.
Pay attention to how you feel as you step into the office—or log into that Zoom meeting—for the first time. If your gut tells you this place is a positive environment for you personally, that’s a big green flag. On the other hand, if you’re getting an uncomfortable vibe, don’t ignore it. Follow your nose, and try to determine what exactly is off-putting. (Here are more tips on how to go with your gut and trust yourself.)
It’s not always easy to understand work-life balance when you’re new—it’s not uncommon for recent hires to have more or less work than usual as they’re onboarding. But as you settle in, watch your fellow colleagues to see what your work-life balance might be like in a few weeks.
For instance, if you notice that everyone’s working late or responding to emails at all hours, take note; that’s a red flag. If people mostly stick to their working hours and don’t seem to be taking calls when they’re off the clock, it’s a good sign your employer respects work-life balance.
You could potentially see green and red flags when it comes to communication. Transparent communication is green: think open-door policies and straightforward chat. If things seem secretive or people are skirting around issues, that’s a red flag.
And then there are pink flags. These signals aren’t quite as clear-cut and require more time or context to interpret. Say you’re handed a major project your first week. It could mean they trust you (good), or it could indicate that they’re understaffed and desperate (not so good).
Think of your first few days and weeks as a chance to keep score. Reflect daily or weekly on how many red/green/pink flags you encountered, and use this to decide if the job is right for you long-term.
Get input from a variety of sources
In almost any job, you’ll meet employees who can’t help but complain about everything and employees who are seemingly blind to the negative aspects of company culture.
But if you hear the same gripe from multiple people, it’s probably not just workplace gossip—it’s a systemic issue. That’s why it’s wise to make a point of talking to people from different departments or teams. Listen carefully to what they say, but also to what they don’t say.
Many companies will run frequent employee satisfaction surveys, and some will even make these available to new hires. If your company does run regular surveys, pay attention to the results and comments. You may learn things you have yet to encounter on the ground.
And if they don’t run employee satisfaction surveys? Well, that might be a red flag to watch.
Beyond other employees, you can look to mentors from the same industry to get valuable insights. If you have trusted contacts in your industry, ask for their take on your new job or employer, and let them weigh in on the red, green, and pink flags you’ve encountered.
Your relationship with your direct manager will have a significant impact on whether this job is the right fit for you. And your chance to find out whether you’ve got a good manager, bad manager, or meh manager on your hands comes during your 1:1s. (You should be having 1:1s on a regular basis. If not, red flag.)
Once again, these interviews are not only an opportunity for your boss to check in on you and your work but also a moment when you can get more clarity and guidance about your role in the company.
Don’t be afraid to ask about the big-picture stuff: company goals, major projects on the horizon, and how you fit into it all. If your manager is upfront and detailed in their responses, that’s a good sign. But if they dance around your questions or give you half-answers, you might want to think twice.
Listen carefully to the questions your manager asks you as well. Are they genuinely curious about your happiness, wants, and needs? Or are they more likely to chastise you for something you’ve done incorrectly? Do they listen to your feedback and questions? Do they seem engaged and happy to be there, or are they bored and itching to wrap up?
After three or four 1:1s with your boss, you should have a pretty good idea of their management style. And once you figure that out, it’s a lot easier to decide if the job is right for you.
When you’re the newbie at your job, inconsistencies can be easy to overlook. You might tell yourself it’s just growing pains or that things will smooth out soon. But if you notice a mismatch between what you were promised and the reality on the ground, don’t brush it off.
Say you were told you’d have the opportunity to work on high-impact projects, but you find yourself stuck with boring, mind-numbing tasks. Or maybe your contract stipulated a flexible schedule, but suddenly you’re expected to clock in at rigid hours. These aren’t just little hiccups; they’re signs that something’s off and you were potentially lied to just to get you in a seat.
Your first move should be to address it head-on. Schedule a conversation with your manager or HR. Lay out the inconsistency clearly: “In the interview, it was mentioned I’d be doing X, but I’ve been doing Y. Can we talk about this?” Keep the focus on the role and what was promised rather than making it about personal dissatisfaction.
If the issue is resolved promptly, great. But if you get a lot of stalling, vague answers, or, worse, an outright denial of what was promised, that’s a cue for you to reconsider whether this job is right for you.
Is it time to walk away? Here’s how to know
Navigating a new job can be tricky. When you’re dealing with persistent issues like broken promises, a distant manager, or lackluster company culture, it might be a sign to reevaluate your situation.
Quitting a job you only recently started can be uncomfortable, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to stay in a role that isn’t a good fit just because you’re new.
Take a hard look at what you’re experiencing versus what you were promised. If the balance tips in favor of the negatives, it might be time to consider other options. Need more guidance? Take a look at our resources on quitting a job: