A job posting carries a wealth of information for a job seeker. Unfortunately, most readers only focus on the concept that a position is open, it is in your area of expertise, and how to apply. The posting, however, can contain so much additional detail that goes beyond the basics. These subtle references can serve as a “red flag” or warning to you that this position may not be the best fit for you.

At this point you are probably wondering about what specifically we are referring to when we reference potential “red flags”. This is different than outright warnings, such as asking for personal information like your Social Security or for money to accept your application. You will notice that many of these terms or requests are commonly used in job postings and potentially may not be a concern, but it is at least something to contemplate.

• “Fast Paced Environment” – In today’s world, there aren’t many places or positions that are not “fast paced”. A company that feels the need to highlight that they are “fast paced” may be signaling to you a warning about how hard individuals really do work. This may become a work-life balance concern for you. 

• “Ability to Handle Stress” – Every position has some stress inherent in the role. If an employer feels the need to point this out in the job posting then the stress is probably above normal.

• “Good Sense of Humor” – You may see this term less than others on the list, but it should cause you to pause when you read it. What type of work environment would require a person to write in a job posting that a “good sense of humor” is needed? While it may be a signal that it is a fun and casual environment, it may also be a “red flag” that the company is unprofessional and their definition of “sense of humor” is someone who will not only tolerate it, but also participate.

• “Competitive Pay” – This is often a sign that the company is aware that their compensation is not as high compared to others that you may find in the market. In other words, we are in the “general range”, but perhaps on the lower side. If you were a “market leader” in compensation, then you would most likely note it, which is probably why you almost never see this term. So, this may not be a bad term, but probably means that you are leaving money “on the table” if you join this company.

• “Fax Your Resume” – Really! You are still using a fax? This should be a “red flag” that this is a company that is struggling to keep up with technology. A similar concern should be drawn if the company provides an address and requests that you mail a resume.

• Grammatical or Spelling Errors – Just like an employer will be concerned with any mistakes found on your Cover Letter or Resume, you should equally have an alarm go off if there are errors in the posting. This should be a “red flag” to you regarding the professionalism of the organization that you are considering.

• An Extended List of Job Qualifications – Some companies will write a long list of required qualifications in their job posting. This is often a “red flag” that the organization is not sure about what is needed in the role or wants to find a “unicorn” employee to do everything. Neither of these possibilities is particularly pleasant.

You can try to validate any conclusions being drawn by the language used in the job posting. You can reach out to your network to see if anyone has any information regarding your areas of concern. There are also websites available where current or former employees can leave feedback regarding the work environment and management of a company. I always recommend taking the information found on these websites with a “grain of salt” since rarely will someone participate with something positive to write, but it is an information point to review.

Much of what is written is subject to the interpretation of the reader. A job posting is no different than any other document, in that a critical reader may pick up on something that someone reading casually will not. In a job posting, there will often be a number of benign statements written that a reader will skim through or ignore altogether. A savvy job seeker, however, will pick up on these potential “red flags”, and determine how much weight should be placed on it.

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of RochesterJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein


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