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Job Description Red Flags: If You See Any of These 5 Signs, Run

job description red flags

Overview

Job Description Red Flags: If You See Any of These 5 Signs, Run

The job description is where it begins and ends for most job seekers. Do you know which job description red flags to watch out for?

Smart job seekers will use the information to guide their job search and look for additional details elsewhere. Others use the job description as the sole means to position themselves for job candidacy. Many of them misunderstand and need more education about the application process.

A survey by Indeed in 2021 revealed that 65% of employers had to revise job descriptions after posting them. The survey of 250 employers is a small sample, but it could show that job descriptions are often unclear for job seekers. 

If the job description is too vague, job seekers should walk away. It’s an automatic red flag for most job seekers, but some will try to contact the recruiter to see if they can get a detailed job description. Most others are in a shopping state of mind, and few make a second effort because they value their time.

What Makes a Good Job Description?

One of the first steps in today’s job search is verifying an employer’s hiring. With today’s technology, scammers can create fake companies that closely resemble real ones. These fakes will often have misspellings and grammar errors. 

The best job descriptions include the following details:

  • Job title and responsibilities.
  • Specific qualifications and proficiency required (for some skills)
  • Company information.
  • How does the role contribute to the success of the company or department?
  • Preferred qualifications.
  • Compensation and benefits (23 states require salary range with job postings).
  • How to apply (most companies insist you fill out an application).
  • Location (in-office, remote, or hybrid).

Good postings should include career growth potential, values, and company culture. Listed or not, research what current and former employees say. Check social media and sites with company reviews like Glassdoor.

Recruiting Begins and Ends With Job Descriptions

The company that sets reasonable and detailed performance expectations in their job descriptions (with data and metrics), makes it easier to rule out and find the right candidate. However, a vague job description can ruin a company’s recruitment efforts if it’s similar to scammers’ tactics.

job description red flag

Scammers can create fake companies and plausible job descriptions. They leverage the lack of detail in real companies’ job posts to imitate their vagueness.

Most job seekers can quickly spot job description red flags, such as misspellings and generic descriptions. But job descriptions posted by companies can have other problems too:

  1. Job descriptions with unrealistic expectations and complicated language make it difficult to understand what the employer is looking for.
  2. Poorly defined responsibilities make it hard for job seekers to understand what the position entails. This makes it challenging to impress the employer.
  3. Even when state or local laws require it, job postings may lack or exaggerate salary information.
  4. Job descriptions may not include much information about the company. Job seekers need this information as an assurance of a company’s reputation and stability.
  5. Companies may not clearly specify the job location, whether it’s in-office, remote, or hybrid.

Is This Job Description Real?

One thing the job seeker should glean from a job description is what it takes to do the job successfully. 

Job seekers should examine the job description for skills and keywords that match their abilities. However, a generic job title may create more confusion about whether to apply. 

Potential candidates will compare their experience with a job description. They will look for companies that publish clear and detailed information and won’t bother to apply to confusing ones. 

Companies that reuse old job descriptions “just to get something out there” do themselves a disservice in finding the right talent. Especially if the job responsibilities have changed. The company looking for specific job skills must use language and communication to appeal to the candidate they want. If the descriptions they use are out of date, the applicant who keeps their skills updated will move on. 

job description red flags tips

For example, a job description title may say “Executive Assistant.” However, a description indicating they will help other employees who are not executives is misleading. It has the job seeker second-guessing the job description and will likely walk away. Don’t miss these job description red flags!

The Description Says I Need to Do What?

Some of the vaguest job descriptions, like “collaborate with other departments” and “assist with various tasks,” offer little insight into what the job entails. 

One reason for the vague statements is partly attributed to the addition of skills for the position instead of re-evaluating the position. These additional skills are unrelated to the job and inflate the description making the position and the company less desirable.

Other job description red flags include broad-stroke phrases such as “perform miscellaneous administrative tasks as asked,” which lends itself to the successful candidate getting the boss coffee. 

Other vague descriptions include:

  • “Fast-paced work environment.”
  • “Innovative enterprise.”
  • “Passionate about what we do.”
  • “Family environment.”
  • “Industry leader.”

No matter how stringent the requirement is, the job seeker can make a more informed decision on whether or not to apply if the description is detailed.

Could You Show Me the Money?

Most job seekers expect to see the salary range in the job postings. The best job description posts explicit compensation and benefits expectations. However, salary laws enacted in some states created complications leading to posting salary ranges such as $50,000 to $150,000.

The job seeker should decide what other information they can find out. If they get the job, they might be disappointed to find a low salary offered. Not only is this tactic a waste of time for the candidate but also for the company. The wrong candidates are likely to apply, especially if they didn’t research the job, responsibilities, and experience needed for the top end of the salary range. 

What Kind of Company Are You?

Here’s another way to spot job description red flags. Job descriptions should be more concise in providing a job seeker with information about the job. Long job postings are as confusing as those that are too short. 

Reading through lengthy descriptions, a job seeker may conclude that the company cares more about maintaining and publicizing its reputation rather than focusing on its employees. 

Today’s job seekers are interested in working for companies with shared values. They are looking for companies that champion causes they align with and want to work in an inclusive culture and a learning environment. 

If a job seeker has these as “must-haves” for their next workplace, they may conclude a company with long and vague job descriptions doesn’t share their values. 

Where’s My Office?

The world of work universally is battling with where people should work. The pandemic shutdown ushered in new possibilities of people being able to work from home.

Knowing that remote work is possible and viable, more people are looking for a job with remote, hybrid, or in-office options. Job seekers can research a company or ask the employer whether the team or company has those options. But they will wonder why a company isn’t forthcoming about how they work. 

red flags job descriptions

What are the industry standards for work? What are my peers doing in other companies? If you ask the employer directly, they should give you an honest answer. Anything less than a candid answer makes the company suspect of misleading candidates. 

Run From Job Description Red Flags

It’s OK for job seekers to run from a bad job description if their gut instinct tells them to. They have a right to feel happy, confident, and proud of the work they do for their employer. 

Most job seekers will need to do the additional work of investigating an employer, but first, they need to find the right ones. Avoiding vague job descriptions with obvious red flags is the first step.

Let Lensa help you find your next job and avoid those job description red flags Our smart job search wades through the job descriptions to match your skills and find your ideal fit.

Mark Dyson
Mark Dyson
Mark Anthony Dyson is a career writer, thinker, podcaster, and speaker in the careers and job search space. He has written for Glassdoor, Recruiter.com, Payscale, The Financial Diet, The Balance Careers, and more.

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