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The Red Flags in Job Descriptions That Mean You Should Stay Away

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.

The Red Flags in Job Descriptions That Mean You Should Stay Away

If someone has put up a job posting, they generally balance selling the company as an employer and phrasing things to weed out clearly unqualified candidates. However, there are terms and conditions that should be seen as warnings to potential job applicants.

What phrases in a job description are red flags warning you to stay away? What red flags should you look for in a job description?

Most of us work a series of jobs before we can retire. However, we don't want to work in difficult or unsuitable positions.

Most of us work a series of jobs before we can retire. However, we don't want to work in difficult or unsuitable positions.

Red Flags in Job Postings

  • Just mail us your resume to a post office box.

This usually means they have identified an internal candidate want to go with a foreign via holder but have to go through the motions of a publicly available job. Either way, don’t bother applying. The only exception is if it is a job on a ranch or with a low tech non profit. Maybe. Requests for faxed resumes are almost as bad as being told to mail it.

  • We want all your personally identifiable information like copy of your driver’s license with the initial application.

They’re preying on desperate job seekers for identity theft scams. And no legitimate job posting or initial response is going to demand bank account numbers or any other financial information.

  • Lots of emotional descriptors like fun, exciting and profitable … but very little on what you would actually do

Even jobs at indoor trampoline parks that use these words tell you about the environment and job requirements. Will you be working the cash register, cleaning up messes, or expected to do both? If they can’t tell you, you may be asked to do all of this and you’re not allowed to say no.

  • You can work totally from home, earn lots of money, just give us $X

Scam. They’re selling you a system where you either post the same sort of ad yourself or buy over-priced junk to sell online or to friends. At least your friend pushing their MLM feels an obligation to mentor you.

  • Must be able to work nights and weekends … and the day

This is a major red flag. I’ve worked at places that had day shifts, evening shifts and night shifts. I’ve been in businesses that had 4–3 and 4–4 work day schedules. However, the job postings told you this. You know you were applying for an 8 PM to 8 AM shift to earn 50% more per hour. You knew when you signed up how many weekends a month you’ll end up working. And you can skip those jobs if you need a basic 8–5 schedule or want a 5 PM to 10 PM job so you can work split shifts with a spouse.

The red flag is when they suggest you could be required to work any time. For example, you are expected to come in at 8 or 9, but they think you can be pressured into working late at night on the same day. Did you work 6 days this week? Well, we can make you work weekends, too, so come in on Sunday.

  • Salary up to (insert insane number here)

Unless you’re working in industrial, software or medical sales, don’t expect to have any chance of earning half a million dollars. Anyone who puts that in a job posting is attracting the greedy type … who may earn nothing at all on commission.

The better choice is a job where the base salary pays the rent, and you receive a lesser commission on sales.

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  • Work with a reputable mentor/advisor! But don’t say who …

Scam. Rip-off. I understand that legitimate companies may go through recruiters who then put “Company Confidential” on the posting. Legitimate recruiting firms, though, then talk about their own business after identifying themselves. A posting that says we swear you’ll work with someone good but won’t even say who … is part of an MLM or a more active scam such as “cash out your 401K, invest in my real estate, and I swear we’ll make money”.

  • They warn about the stress, but it isn’t clearly stressful.

A med-tech in an ambulance or ER nurse is in a stressful job. It is also part of said job. If the job description seems mundane but they’re saying you are in a high-stress position, stay away. If they demand agility, flexibility, able to do anything, or an insane list of requirements … it will be stressful, and you shouldn’t seriously consider it unless there is literally nothing else.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Tamara Wilhite


Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on June 28, 2019:

Superb and right on the mark, Tamara. Good advice to help people avoid major problems down the road.

Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on June 20, 2019:

Carolyn Fields I agree that Matrix Management creates a lot of issues. Rarely do organizations clearly define lines of authority and who does what. Then the person has unclear or conflicting orders and no clear authority to go to for solutions or resources.

Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on June 20, 2019:

Excellent advice. Especially about sending money to a prospective employer. People need to be aware of that scam.

I have one to add to your list: anything that mentions "matrix management" - as in reporting to more than one boss. It's a horrible arrangement, and should be avoided.

Thank you for posting.

Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on June 19, 2019:

Thank you RTalloni

RTalloni on June 19, 2019:

Such good tips for job searches in this day and time!

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