Red Flags to Look for in Job Posts, According to Experts

Monday, May 30, 2022

Job posts can tell you a lot about what you're in for, both good and bad.

If you know what red flags to look for in a job ad, you may be able to spare yourself the trouble of dealing with a bad job or employer and experiencing new-hire's remorse.

Here are the red flags experts say to watch for in job posts, and what they may signal about a potential employer or position.

Omitting information about pay

One of the most important aspects when considering a job is compensation.

"When people ask me if they should include salary in a job post, I ask them, "Have you ever taken a job without knowing how much money you would make first?'" said Katrina Kibben, a job post consultant and founder of Three Ears Media. "It's just basic human choice. We would never accept a job without knowing how much money we'd get in it. We cannot make a decision without that core information."

So when a company dances around the subject or makes no mention of it at all, it's worth noting.

"Look for vague compensation language," said Keirsten Greggs, a talent acquisition consultant, career coach, and founder of TRAP Recruiter. "They should be able to give you a range."

In practice, this means watching for phrases like "competitive salary" and "commensurate with experience" but also pay ranges that are too broad.

Going overboard with must-haves

Meanwhile, listing too much can be a problem in other areas, particularly the requirements and qualifications section of a job post.

"Laundry lists are a huge red flag," said Greggs. "It signals that they don't really know what they're looking for. When the lists are very long, it signals that they just threw everything out there to see what they can pull back and that there's a possibility the job is not graded correctly."

Greggs added that this can mean the employer doesn't know what they want or expect from someone in the role, which could make for poorly defined expectations for someone taking the job.

Possible signs of burnout culture or a lack of support

Some particular phrases in job descriptions can also hint there may be headaches down the road with the employer or role.

Saying your company has a "work hard, play hard" attitude, for example, can often be "an indication of a burnout culture," said Greggs.

Pointing out a "fast-paced environment" can also signal burnout ahead or that the employer is "going to put too much on your plate," said Kibben. "It's usually also a hint that someone else couldn't keep up and, rather than adjusting the workload, they blamed it on the person," they added.

By saying the company wants a "self-starter," an employer may unwittingly communicate to applicants that it might be too hands-off, said Greggs. "That could mean there's no training and development available," she said. "It could be an indication that the group doesn't support you, and it could be an indication that they don't know what your job is."

Going beyond the job post

Of course, these phrases and qualities aren't always indicative of issues. In many cases, "job descriptions just aren't written well," said Greggs.

"Be on the lookout for red flags, but don't necessarily count yourself out or count the employer out based off of one thing," she added. "People should be looking for authenticity and looking beyond the job description the same way that I encourage employers and other recruiters to look beyond the résumé."

Besides the job post, do your research on the company and role elsewhere to make a more informed decision on what to do next.

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