May 5, 2015

Six flags to look for in a job description

In today's post, I wanted to talk about an interesting article from Workopolis on the red flags to look out for in job descriptions. In the article, they identify six warning signs you should pay attention to and consider before submitting your application.

Now you might say to yourself, "Well, I'm just looking for a retail job so I have nothing to worry about!". While it's true that many retail and fast food jobs aren't advertised - or if they are, the job ad is quite basic - it's still worth knowing how to spot these red flags, especially if you're looking for a summer job on various job search websites. After all, who wants to spend countless hours applying for a job that in the end, isn't the right fit?

Below, you'll find the six flags identified by Workopolis along with an explanation as to why each should be a warning sign that you should not apply.

Multiple/ironic job titles: If the title sounds like two jobs ('Receptionist/Order Processor') or is intentionally ironic (e.g. 'Junior IT Guru'), then the organization is looking to cut costs. Either they want someone who will do both jobs or they are looking for an experienced professional who will work at a lower salary. Either way, it's all about cost cutting and you could find yourself overworked and underpaid.

Credential creep: In my opinion, this has become an epidemic that many job ads suffer from. Take a look at the requirements - if it's as long as the job description itself or if it lists multiple degrees and skills that don't relate to the job, be warned. The organization might not actually understand the role or the type of applicant they are looking for. With that being said, if you think it's the right job for you, then definitely apply and hope for the best - but be warned you might find yourself in a job with little structure and oversight.

Salary isn't mentioned - but they mention earning potential: This is very common with certain types of jobs (telemarketing, fundraising, sales, in-store demonstrations, etc.). There's a good chance you won't earn the salary they mention - I can't tell you how many telemarketing jobs I applied for as a university student that promised I would earning at least $1000/week. In many ways, the focus on earning potential meant to lure you into a job with a high turnover rate and before you know it, you've signed up, dropped hundreds of dollars on a starter kit that's worthless, and are stuck in a job with little support and structure.

Unpaid work/training: Given the ongoing issues surrounding the nature of unpaid internships, this is a definite red flag. Simply put, organizations that engage in this type of behaviour - and are upfront about it in a job ad - are not great places to work. And if you're a student, remember that unpaid work and training time - unless it's directly related to your studies - can have implications (e.g. student loan eligibility).

The organization name isn't mentioned: This is a major red-flag. If the job is connected to a recruiter, they might be just trying to collect resumes to build their database. And if the job isn't connected to a recruiter, you could run into a myriad of problems (e.g. replacing someone who doesn't know they are about to be let go, sending your resume and personal information to identity thieves, etc.). But here's a small caveat - sometimes, you'll find job ads on sites like Craigslist and Kijiji and the organizations are legit, but they fail to mention who they are. Sometimes this happens with CNE jobs and in this case, I suggest sending an email enquiry about the status of the job and if you get a response, then you can decide if it's worth pursuing.

The posting comes back repeatedly: I can understand if the position is reposted once to broaden the pool of applicants or multiple times if it's for a high-turnover industry like retail. But if neither scenario apply, don't bother applying. There's likely internal problems and you'll leave after a few weeks.

Although the article is geared towards experienced professionals, it's still worth reading the entire article - if anything, it'll give you a sense of the kinds of things to watch out for, regardless of whether you're still in school and applying for a part-time job at a coffee shop or have graduated and are pursuing a career path in the corporate world.