is it a bad sign if a company has lots of job vacancies?


A reader writes:

I live in the southeast but really love the Pacific northwest, so I keep my eyes peeled for job opportunities in that area. Over time, I’ve noticed many job postings for this one particular company. Recently, they’ve listed a position that would be a great opportunity for me and for which I think I would be a good fit. The pay is great too.

However, I’m hesitant to apply because I have seen so many postings for this company, and it’s an industry with traditionally low turnover. It’s a large company, but it still seems to be hiring at an above-average rate. Is that a red flag? I have a good job now, and I’m hesitant to uproot my whole life for what might be a bad situation. If I do apply and secure an interview, are there questions that I could ask to assess the culture and environment, as well as the reason for so much hiring?

I’d say it’s a yellow flag with the potential to turn red. It’s definitely something you should ask about.

It’s possible that you’re seeing a lot of job postings from them because they’re growing and adding positions. If they’re hiring for new slots, that’s different than if they can’t keep people in the slots they already have.

It’s also possible that they have some hard-to-fill positions and so they keep ads for those up nearly all the time. For example, I worked with an organization that was steadily growing and had some roles that were very hard to fill (just a tricky combination of skills that were hard to find in one person but which were essential to the nature of the work) and so we advertised those jobs multiple times a year, figuring that if we found someone good, we’d snatch them up even though it wasn’t a “must hire by X date” situation. (We actually learned over time to explain that right up-front in the job postings because we didn’t want to raise the sorts of concerns you’re having.)

But it’s also possible that they’re advertising all the time because no one stays very long, because there’s something wrong with the culture or the manager or the job itself, or because the job is different than advertised, or because they’re too quick to fire, or who knows what.

You can ask about it in an interview in a few ways. You can just ask what the turnover has been like in the role and the team in general, and how long the last few people stayed. (I like adding that last part because it makes them get specific.) Or you can say directly, “I’ve seen a lot of job postings from you over the past year and I wonder if that’s due to turnover, growth, or something else?”

Also, because you should never rely 100% on what a company tells you about itself (or what the manager you’re interviewing with tells you about themselves), you should check with other sources too. Use your network to try to find connections to people who have worked there, and see if you can get in touch with them to ask about what it’s really like to work there.

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