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Spotting a Bad Employer

Bad EmployerYou may at some point in your job search, encounter an employer who just does not seem to be a good fit for you and you have some questions about what they do or who they really are. There are red flags that suggest questionable credibility. There are ways to uncover the credibility of the employer.

When the Company Isn't Professional

An example is the email received from Sonya who said, "I sent my resume, portfolio URL, and cover letter to a company last week; addressed to a Vice President as indicated in the advertisement. Several days later I got back a letter that was grammatically incorrect and unprofessional. I guess you could say at least I got a reply." She went on to say, "Sometimes you just get a little put off when you try so hard to do things correctly and you either don't get a response or you get a really bad one from someone who has the title of Vice President."

Would this make you wonder whether you wanted to work for a company that was this unprofessional?

Communication Skills Matter

It's not just written communications. It can be off-putting to be called repeatedly by an overly aggressive recruiter who has an opportunity that is absolutely too good for you to pass up, but, who can't divulge the employer until much later in the hiring the process.

No one is impressed either, by hiring managers who don't show up for interviews, without rescheduling in advance. One job seeker once said he spent over an hour getting to the interview site, only to be told by a secretary that he needed to come back at a later date.

Keep in mind, that even if you need a job very badly, you don't have to accept a job you're not comfortable with. All of the above scenarios, are red flags and should give you pause. At the least, you will want to consider whether the employer who doesn't communicate effectively or appropriately is one you want to work for.

Warning Signs to Watch For

Poor Communication Skills

When an employer can't communicate effectively, by email, phone, or in writing, with candidates for employment, be careful. If all their communications are handled that way, how well are they running a business?


Whenever you hear a recruiter or hiring manger say that you absolutely can't pass up this opportunity and you have to send your resume, drop everything and interview, etc. right now, you might wonder what the sense of urgency is. Perhaps, it's a legitimate opportunity that needs to be filled immediately or maybe it's just an overzealous recruiter or manager trying to meet a hiring quota.

Jobs That Sound too Good to be True

That old mantra that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, still holds true. One person who was in the midst of a job search was told by a recruiter that an employer was hiring a high level executive for a top secret multi-million start-up company. When the job seeker inquired further, he found out that the start-up wasn't funded, that it had no existing products, or even a marketing plan.

What a Job Seeker Can Do

There are a few things you can do when you see a red flag. You can stop, or at least, halt the hiring process temporarily while you research the company. There isn't anything the matter with delaying sending your resume or scheduling an interview if you're hesitant about whether you want to work for the company. To help you determine if the company is reputable or not, there are some links below that provide very good information.

Resources Links

Click here to contact the State's Attorney Office in MD and how to report fraud.
Click here to contact the Better Business Bureau in any state
Click here for "Interview Red Flags-How to Spot a Bad Employer" Good information.

Remedies for Unpaid Wages - (What to do and where to go)

If you are an employee whose wages have been illegally withheld, you have three options under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law (you may only choose one):

  1. The Employment Standards Service (ESS), at (410) 767-2357, can provide information on wages and employment rights under Maryland law. On receipt of a proper claim for unpaid wages available by calling (410) 767-2357 or on line at , ESS will conduct an independent investigation and work to collect any pay which is determined due. This may include taking the employer to court if the matter cannot be informally settled.
  2. *For those wishing to file a claim for unpaid wages, and for quickest results, it is suggested that a CERTIFIED letter RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED, be sent to the employer stating the amount of money owed, identifying the hours and days or commissions this money represents, and demanding payment by a specific deadline (such as 10 days from receipt of the certified letter). It may help collection on the claim later to send the letter Certified Mail, as suggested, so as to receive back the green receipt proving the employer signed for and received it. In addition, a copy of this letter should be kept and later provided together with a claim form to the Employment Standards Service if the employer still does not pay. To request a claim form be mailed call 410-767-2357 or you may download the claim form on line by visiting our web site at follow to >Labor and Industry>Wage & Hour>Claim Form. Be sure to answer all questions and follow all directions when completing the claim form. The claim form must include your original signature and be mailed to ESS before an investigation is initiated.
  3. An employee may file a lawsuit. Where a court finds that wages were withheld in violation of the Maryland Wage Payment Law, and not as a result of a bona fide dispute, the court may award damages of up to three times the amount of the unpaid wage plus attorney fees.
  4. An employee may file criminal charges. Under certain circumstances, Maryland law imposes criminal penalties for an employer who deliberately fails to pay the wage of an employee without a valid reason, or provides employment with the intent not to pay.

*Note on Jurisdiction

Claims for unpaid wages must be brought in the state in which the work was performed. If work was performed in more than one state, claims may generally be filed in the state in which the employer maintains its business office-that is, the office where the employee reports to or was hired out of.

The following is a list of phone numbers of wage and hour offices in neighboring states and political subdivisions:

Virginia - (804) 786-2386
West Virginia - (304) 558-7890
Pennsylvania - (717) 787-4671
New Jersey - (609) 292-2337
Delaware - (302) 761-8200
Baltimore City - (410) 396-4835

Research the Company

Google the company name to find out what you can discover about it online. Post questions on Bulletin Boards, like the Job Searching Forum, to see if anyone is aware of the company. Check web sites that have company specific forums to see if you can get any information that will help you decide whether to continue with the hiring process, or not.

Use Your Connections

If you have a connection that will help you find inside information, use it. Do you know someone who works there? Ask them about the company. If you belong to a professional association, they may be able to help you network with people who can give you advice. Use online networking resources, like LinkedIn, as well. You may be surprised at how much you can find out.

Evaluating Bad (or Mediocre) Companies

It's important to keep in mind that not all companies are "good" companies. They don't all operate professionally and you may not want to work for a company that doesn't match your standards. You always have the option of declining an interview, withdrawing your candidacy for employment, or declining a job offer.

When it comes to accepting a position, the ball is in your court, and you'll want to make an educated, informed decision to be sure the opportunity is the right one for you.

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