This isn’t the job I signed up for: What now?

The low unemployment rate has some employers overselling themselves–and new hires are winding up in roles that aren’t exactly as advertised.

This isn’t the job I signed up for: What now?
[Photo: Nikola1988/istock]

It’s a longstanding cliché that job hunters bend the truth on their résumés to portray themselves in a better light, but with unemployment at 3.6%, employers are now the ones who may be doing the exaggerating.


As a result, more new hires might be finding themselves in roles that aren’t exactly as advertised.

According to a study by Glassdoor, 61% of new employees have found that their role isn’t consistent with the expectations set out during the interview process, and a recent study by the Addison Group suggests that candidates are looking for more transparency when interacting with prospective employers. The survey found that when it came to interacting with a new employer, 29% cited transparency in regards to compensation and benefits as their top priority, and another 28% said they most cared about getting sufficient information about the role.

“Unfortunately, it’s more common than you’d think that people get into a role that they feel is not quite what had been laid out during the interview process,” says Glassdoor career expert Alison Sullivan. “Things like the job responsibilities weren’t exactly what had been discussed, or company culture was different than what it seemed, or work-life balance and the hours expected were misaligned.”

Sullivan says there are a lot of factors that can lead to miscommunications over expectations, adding that the competitiveness of the current labor market is putting employers under increased pressure to fill openings. Peg Buchenroth, the director of human resources at Addison Group, agrees, adding that the squeeze has resulted in shorter and often less thorough hiring cycles.

“If a company needs to fill a position, and it’s very critical, and they speed up their hiring process, that’s where things can get lost in translation,” she says. “If the vetting process isn’t thorough enough, people may accept roles or offers may be made before [expectations are] fully understood.”

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But the blame doesn’t just lie with employers, according to Monster career expert Vicki Salemi. She says that job seekers often find themselves in a role that differs from their expectations when they focus too heavily on the employer, rather than the position itself. “It often happens when someone is interviewing with a ‘dream employer,'” she says. “They interview with rose-colored glasses.”

Warning signs

Salemi says there are a number of red flags candidates can look out for that might help them avoid accepting a position that differs from their expectations. Job descriptions that are too high-level and short on specifics, for example, can suggest that the employer hasn’t properly defined what the role will look like. “If they’re talking in really pie-in-the-sky terms, very macro level, you can ask them ‘what does that look like in practical terms?'” she says.

Glassdoor’s Sullivan adds that candidates should also be wary of descriptions with too much detail. “If you find a job description that has too many requirements, that can be another sign that they’re not really thinking about what success looks like.”

Ask the right questions

Key to avoiding a role that fails to meet your expectations is asking the right questions during the interview process, explains Sullivan. She says that asking very specific questions—not just about the responsibilities but what percentage of the successful candidate’s time will be devoted to each task—can help paint a more accurate picture.

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“Before you go into it, make sure you know what priorities really matter to you, and don’t hold back; make sure you ask those questions, they should have an answer,” she says, adding that candidates often fear that asking tough questions might negatively impact their chances of landing the job. “If it’s a great company, they will appreciate the fact that you’ve done your research, because it shows that you really care.”


If it’s a bad fit, move on

Those that find themselves in a job that isn’t quite what they thought it would be can often feel helpless, but Sullivan believes there are a number of ways they can turn the situation around. First, however, she recommends giving it a fair chance.

“Any new job has an adjustment period, so some things can get better after you figure out how to work with your new team and how you fit in the organization,” she says. “Depending on how that feels for you, it could be a few weeks, a few months, even a year, but find a timeline that works for you.”

If you’ve given the new role an appropriate amount of time and still aren’t satisfied, she then recommends taking stock of what it is you don’t like about the job. “Make sure that when you’re leaving that you convey that to your employer; that’s a great way to be helpful to them and will reflect well on you,” explains Sullivan. “Knowing what didn’t work can also help you when you’re looking for a new opportunity, because you can better convey that if a new potential employer asks why it didn’t work out.”

Salemi of Monster adds that leaving on good terms can also lead to new opportunities in the future, even if the employment was short-lived.

“As a former recruiter, I’ve made hires that way,” she says. “Candidates were up front with me and were very respectful and professional in withdrawing their candidacy or declining a job offer altogether, we stayed in touch, and when an opportunity that was more in line came along, we were able to continue the conversation.”

Job hunters often feel more confident in interviews when they’re already employed elsewhere, so even if the new opportunity isn’t exactly what they expected, sticking it out could make them a stronger candidate, adds Salemi. At the same time, she warns against remaining with an employer that is having a negative impact on your level of self-confidence, as it could have the opposite effect.


“I don’t think it’s important to stick it out if you really loathe it and you’re not going to be able to excel in that position,” she says. “Your interview skills are probably pretty sharp because you were just interviewing, your résumé is up to date, so just continue the process.”

About the author

Jared Lindzon is a freelance journalist and public speaker born, raised and based in Toronto, Canada. Lindzon's writing focuses on the future of work and talent as it relates to technological innovation, as well as entrepreneurship, technology, politics, sports and music.