Um, That Employer Did What?!?

Every job search has its quirks, highs and lows; for most, it's nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. But if something you experience leaves you scratching your head (or questioning your sanity), here's how to decide if it's normal -- or real cause for alarm:

Hooray, this job posting looks perfect! Oh no, they haven't called you back in two weeks! Congratulations, another employer offered you an interview! Rats, the questions made no sense! . . . Wait, did they just say you have to tell them what salary you expect?

Every job search has its ups and downs. But when a "down" sends you plummeting further than you expected, you may wonder whether it's normal, or whether it's a major red flag. Here's how to tell whether you're just experiencing another drop on the rollercoaster -- or plummeting toward doom:

Job Descriptions: Bad Writing vs. No Writing

Vague, poorly written job descriptions are, unfortunately, common sights on the job search. Often, they're written by staff who don't have direct contact with the position, so they aren't sure what's supposed to happen. Apply if the job seems like a good fit, but be prepared to ask during the interview exactly what you should expect from a typical day or week.

No job description at all? Back away. Either the employer has no idea what they want you to do, or they know the job is so miserable that no one wants to apply. Neither one indicates a good career move.

Waiting to Hear: Checking Your Watch vs. Checking In

Increasingly, employers are relying on automated systems to manage applications. A form email after you submit an application, or a week or two waiting for a reply, is frustrating, but it's normal. Checking in briefly on the status of your application can be a solid, proactive choice.

If you only hear from the employer when you check in, however, watch out. Companies that don't communicate with you when you apply may continue this behavior when you're hired -- to the detriment of your work and career.

Interviewing: Multiple Interviews vs. One Interview Repeated Multiple Times

Multiple interviews can be nerve-wracking, but they also provide an outstanding chance for you to learn about the company from various perspectives, have all your questions answered, and determine whether this company is a good fit for your career. Interviews with different people, asking different questions, are hard work, but they're common and even helpful.

It's time to walk, however, when you're called in more than once to interview with the same person, asking the same questions. Giving the same interview more than once wastes your time and the company's. It's a red flag indicating you'll face wasted time on the job as well.

Anxiety: Not Knowing Where You Stand vs. Not Knowing What to Think

Even when you work with a recruiter, you'll experience times in which there's simply no news. Your recruiter will build a case for you, but you'll both wait for the hiring manager to decide whether or not to ask you in for an interview. During this time, not knowing where you stand is common.

What's not common: Hearing from your recruiter (or worse, from someone at the company) that you're the number-one choice, only to learn later you didn't even make the first round of interviews. This suggests a lack of communication either within the company or between the company and their recruiter. Talk to your recruiter about the problem to see if you can find a way to improve communication moving forward.