Hold That resume! 5 Red Flags in Online Job Listings

Photo: Rivard

Unemployment is at an all time high. Oddly enough so are online job listings. According to the The Conference Board, online job demand was up 106,500 in November and job demand has averaged an increase of 32,000 per month since an April 2009 low.

That doesn't mean every online job posting is a winner. Anyone can post jobs on Monster or Craigslist. The real jobs often get smothered by offers of awesome work, work-for-free opportunities, and even online scams.

How does a person weed out the contenders from the pretenders. Here are five red flags in job postings that should make you think long and hard before applying.


Companies are sticklers for perfect resumes and cover letters. Every job involves some form of checking and double checking and communication with clients and customers. Few companies can afford an employee making careless mistakes in even the most minor daily activities. They pore over resumes with a fine tooth comb. An error can cost an otherwise qualified candidate an interview.

A job listing says as much about the company as your cover letter and resume says about you. If a job listing has errors or looks extremely unprofessional (for example, using ALL CAPS or no capitalization at all), chances are it's not a real company.

A Familiar Pitch

Imagine the same sales pitch every time you walked into a car dealership. Would the same telemarketing voicemail convince you to take action after the 20th time you deleted it off your voicemail? The why do companies insist on posting the same exact job posting, month after month, year after year?

I've been a part of the workforce for almost ten years. In that time I've looked for several jobs. I've stayed loyal to a few sources for listings and leads. I'm not kidding when I say I've seen more than a few job postings that have been posted for the past ten years. Same company. Same position. Same exact listing all these years. Now as much as the workforce turns over, there is still a reason to keep the listing fresh. Be wary of job postings you've seen before.

Cool Talk

I'm sure you've seen these postings, written by a CEO or HR Manager looking to attract fresh new talent into the work bloodline. Can't fault them for that but they can leave the cool guy talk and buzz words for their company newsletter. "Looking for superstars who can think on a grand scale and is ready to take a shot of Espresso in their morning Joe and chokehold the company's Web 2.0 efforts" is the cool boss way of saying "We need someone to get the company involved in social media but it's going to take long days and nights because the place is filled with stubborn and resentful people who think it's a waste of time."

Another common practice of the hip workplace postings is listing all the cool bennies (that's benefits) of working in the office like "the office dog, half-day Fridays in the summer, and annual bonuses for exceptional work." Don't get me wrong, those are all selling points when deciding to take a job (unless you hate time off, money, and dogs), but those should be mentioned or noticed during an interview and not as reason to get people to apply.

Investment Salary

"While we can't afford to pay a competitive salary now, you will be compensated as the company grows."

Every company starts from nothing, but new ideas and companies are born every day. A small group of investors decides to take a monetary gamble on possibly the "next big thing." They are barely collecting a salary so how can they break the bank for a workforce?

This is fine if you happen to catch wind of the next Twitter. In the real world it just means they don't have a ton of money at the moment so they can't pay you top dollar, but if you stick around they will make it worth your time when they hit it big. That's if they hit it big and it's still not a guarantee they will fork over the cash. If you feel confident in the company and are willing to take the risk, then by all means take the gig. Just be sure to have it writing that should the company explode you get more money moving forward.

Click Link to Apply

You apply for a job that requested a resume and few hours later get a follow-up email requesting you follow a link to fill out additional information like name, address and social security number. No, no, and absolutely no. It's a phishing scam and should be avoided at all costs. No company needs your social security number until you're an employee. If a true company is interested, an actual person will reach out to you and request an interview or possibly more information.

Finding a job is a job. If you waste little time on the companies listed above your time will be better spent. What are some suspicious job listings you've come across?

Tagged: Career Building
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