Job seekers are notoriously eager to believe things. They’re not necessarily gullible or naïve, but they often want to think optimistically about every “opportunity” that crosses their path. Sometimes, they’re just so desperate to find a job, that they ignore critical job search red flags—clear indicators that a role isn’t what it appears to be. As a result, they can be easily tricked, scammed and taken advantage of.
When you ignore job search red flags, you can end up with major disruptions in your life and your career. You could find yourself in a very, very bad situation which could have been prevented if you were only a little more skeptical during your job search.
Here are 5 job search red flags to watch out for. If (and when) you see them, run fast and far! These are tell-tale signs that something isn’t quite right, and you don’t want to stick around long enough to figure out what that is.
1. If it sounds too good to be true…
If a job sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Some unscrupulous organizations will post jobs that have very creative, exciting sounding titles for roles that are nothing more than commission-based sales jobs. Others will make grandiose promises that never pan out in the real world. They’ll offer exorbitant salaries or incredible paths for growth or unbelievable perks…but you’ll always find there’s a catch. If a job sounds completely out-of-sync with the others you’re seeing, something is up.
2. If they can’t clearly explain the role…
If a job description is vague and full of generic language, you can rest assured it’s not worth your time. Even legitimate organizations may occasionally start the hiring process before they have a fully fleshed out job description—but that’s not good for you, the job seeker. In such situations, the prospective employer is often on a fishing expedition. They’re casting a net out to see what kind of candidates they can find. But, without a clear role defined, they end up wasting a lot of people’s time.
The prospective employer may even try to convince you that you’ll be able to help define the job, but be cautious. This is a very difficult position to be in. When you don’t know what you’re supposed to do or how your performance will be judged, your role is questionable. It can be very easy for them to decide you’re not really needed after all.
3. If they pull a “bait and switch” …
If you apply for one job and then find yourself interviewed for another, you’ve just had a bait and switch. This happens when an organization uses one job posting to get resumes in the door, but then tells the candidate, “Sorry, that role is actually filled…but we have another job you’d be perfect for!”
There’s a reason they didn’t publicize the actual job in the posting—it’s probably not something you (or anyone else) would want. They’re hoping to pull a fast one and exploit the desperation of job seekers by getting you invested in something, disappointing you, and then offering you a consolation prize. Don’t be fooled. Tell them you’re not interested and move along.
4. If they want your private information RIGHT NOW…
Job seekers can be especially vulnerable to phishing scams, where criminals attempt to fraudulently obtain your personal and financial information via email. If you receive a message regarding a “job” that requires you to urgently send your social security number or bank account information, for example, do not respond or click on any link in it. Delete the message immediately.
Any legitimate organization will only ask for personal information like this once you’ve been hired—which means, you’ve been through an interview process. If you’re told you’ve been “hired” because someone saw your resume on CareerBuilder, it’s not legitimate.
5. If they want you to pay for an “opportunity” …
Any opportunity that comes with a price tag is not worth your investment. If you have to pay for job listings, or pay to get an interview, keep moving.
I won’t go so far as to say that these things are not legitimate opportunities. They could be. You might truly be able to pay and get access to exclusive job listings. You might be able to pay someone (like a headhunter) to open doors at certain organizations. But, in my opinion, most of the time it’s just not worth it.
Why spend money when there are so many FREE opportunities? Job search tools are widely available online and your professional network can likely open a ton of doors for you. Make sure you tap those resources first before you even consider paying for access to opportunities.