Red Flags to Watch Out For in Job Postings

If a successful job search is one of your resolutions for 2020, then you’re far from alone! We have talked a lot over 2019 (and in previous years) about conducting good job searches, interview skills, and resume writing, but there is still an area where many job seekers fall apart and that’s not reading the job post carefully. It’s all too easy for people, particularly those who are staring down the barrel of an empty bank account, to simply go for any job post after reading the title and perhaps the salary and leaving it at that. But this is a dangerous practice. Without fully reading and understanding the post, not only will be nearly impossible to write a resume and interview that will cater properly to the job, but you may also waste time on jobs that range from unsuitable to downright scammy. What is some common job post red flags you should watch out for?

The Job Post is Too Vague… Or Too Demanding

A common complaint we hear at CVTC is that the job post has almost nothing on it and thus it’s very hard to cater a resume to it. We have all seen these, particularly online, where job posts are often written to be three lines or less! Obviously, this does not give nearly enough information to the job seeker to understand what is required. However, there is another problematic aspect to this. If the job post is too vague, it may indicate that the manager doesn’t understand what the job actually entails, meaning that not only do you not know if you have the skills and knowledge for the job, you don’t even know if you’ll like it! On the farther end of the spectrum, it can also indicate that the work environment is chaotic, and many people don’t understand their roles, leading to problems with people not doing the work properly. The most common issue though is simply that the one writing the post doesn’t understand the job.

A vague job post can also indicate a scam, especially if the qualifications can apply to just about anything (legal age, having internet access, for example). So called ‘work from home’ job posts are often scams and you can tell because they basically just ask for you to be alive which isn’t really good enough for a well-paying job!

On the other side of the coin, you’ll see job posts that have way too many qualifications and needs from the employer. This can also indicate that the writer of the post doesn’t really understand the job and so is just stating anything and everything that could possibly have to do with working at the role (or any role in the business!) For would-be employees, so many qualifications will turn them right off and even if they are hired, they may quickly find themselves let go or fired because they couldn’t meet the over the top expectations.

The Language Matters

How a job post is written is important, even though we often overlook that in favor of what is written. Look out for phrases such as:
• Pay is up to or Make Up To…. (usually a six-digit amount): This means that at best, you’ll be working on commission and at worst, it could be a scam or a multilevel marketing scheme. Either way, you likely won’t be making six digits, you’ll be making maybe four or five. Always ask for the base amount when you are inquiring further about a job like this. On a similar thread: Be Your Own Boss, Work From Home, or #BossMom.
• Earning potential with a huge range (like $20,000 to $200,000): This also means you’ll be working on commission and you’ll probably be making the lower end, not the higher end.
• Must be extremely hardworking/able to handle high levels of stress: This means you must be very very very unreasonably even hardworking and able to deal with a lot of stress. Sure, this may describe you to a ‘t’; however, if the post is focusing more on how hard the job is rather than how rewarding it is, you can expect that you’ll spend a lot of time and energy at work and not as much anywhere else. If you’re ok with this, go right ahead. If not, move on.

• Fax your resume to… : Who faxes anymore? There is a slight chance the company is just testing your ability to follow instructions, but there are better ways to do this!
• “Company confidential”: This means the post was done in secret. Why is this so? It’s not a horrible red flag, but it does make it hard to do research and you may get drawn into drama you didn’t intend.
• “We expect…” Yes, you’ll see this and that’s great; however, if the entire post is what’s expected of you and nothing of what you can expect from the company, then it’s likely a bad company culture that won’t offer you room for development and growth. You want to see things like salaries (not numbers, but something like competitive), benefits, the company’s mission and values, and any other perks as well as what’s expected of employees.
• Oxymoron job titles: “Novice Master”, “Office Admin/Translator”, “Customer Service Rep/IT expert”. Usually this means the business wants to have someone who can do two jobs in one and only get paid for one (usually the lesser). The business can also be looking for someone who is highly skilled who will work for entry level pay. Yikes! Similarly, we have the expectation of credentials (often post secondary degrees) for jobs that really shouldn’t require them. This is done to filter out applicants so the manager has less to go through or because the manager doesn’t understand the job and just slaps that on, even when it makes no sense. (Like, how can you have five years of experience something that came on the market two years ago?)
• Long unpaid internships or training periods. Legally, you’re supposed to get paid for your work unless you’re going through an educational program that includes a practicum or work experience and even then, they aren’t unreasonably long, and you get credit for them towards your certificate, diploma or degree. (Plus, networking connections). But if it’s simply for a job and you’re stuck in unpaid training for a long period of time, run. Either the business just wants free labor, or the company has a very high turnover rate and they want to see if you’ll stick around through the worst, they do to you.

This is hardly an exhaustive list, it’s just some common ones. Trust your gut when it comes to reading job posts and if something feels off, then don’t apply.

The Job Post Just Keeps Coming Back

Like the bad old penny that just keeps coming back, is there a recurring job post that is there all the time? It could be a bad sign. Some positions do have high turnover, such as retail and hospitality, but other positions really shouldn’t keep coming up over and over again. This can be a sign that the company is struggling to keep people on which is usually an indication of poor company culture or poor management (or both). The recurring job post can also mean that whoever is doing the hiring isn’t doing a very good job of matching applicants to job, resulting in constant poor fits and changes in the team which can be stressful to everyone already at the job and make it less likely they will be willing to trust and work with yet another new face.

We know that conducting a job search is stressful and it’s even more stressful when you’re staring at a dwindling bank account and growing pile of bills. But it’s important to take the time to ensure that you’re applying for jobs that not only will pay the bills but that you will also stick with for a while so that you can grow, learn more skills, and of course, make more money over the long run! Take the extra bit of time to carefully read the posts so that you’re only applying for jobs that are legitimate, supportive, and won’t trap you in positions where you will be worse off than before. Good luck!


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