Job Descriptions: The Red Flags to Look For

Job Descriptions

If you’re on the job hunt, you can slowly become numb to all the job description jargon packed in the listings.

“Looking for a team player willing to give their all for the company.”

“Need someone who will adapt to our open, collaborative culture.”

“Want a candidate who thrives under pressure in a fast-paced work environment.”

“In search of someone willing to tackle any challenge thrown their way at a moment’s notice.”

Some of these have a description including such fluffy, vague language, it’s hard to understand what they’re even saying. When you’re going through job listings, there are a few phrases that you should treat as warning signs.

We’re going to go through some of the job description jargon that you should see as a red flag; if you find any of these in a job listing, either tread very carefully or run in the other direction.

We Need a Jack of All Trades

Translation: This job should really be 3 separate positions, but we only want to pay one overworked person.

It’s great to be a multi-talented person who can handle multiple duties and responsibilities. Having a variety of skills will definitely help you out in the job market.

However, if the position you’re applying for is expecting you to code the website, write all the copy, manage their four social media accounts, handle all press releases, plan events, write blogs, and take customer service calls, you can expect unpaid overtime and inevitable burnout.

You become an expert in your specific career niche for a reason; you want to do that job well. It makes sense for a position to have one person as the social media manager and the blog writer; they both require good copywriting skills.

However, asking someone to excel in graphic design and client acquisition does not, because they rely on completely different skill sets.

You can’t truly be performing at your best if you’re consistently expected to juggle too many different tasks. Not only will you be exploited and overworked, but you also won’t be able to excel at any task, because you’ll be too busy trying to do all of them poorly just to get them off your plate.

Find a job that respects your skillset and only asks you to fulfill sensical job requirements.

Needs 15 Years of Experience (in a Program Created 5 Years Ago)

Translation: We really have no idea what we’re looking for and will have no idea if you’re qualified or not based on your application.

Not only does arbitrary experience requirements show a complete lack of care and basic research, it also shows that they really know very little about the position they’re hiring you for; they clearly won’t know what qualified candidates will look like.

This sometimes happens when the human resource department is in charge of creating the job listing and they aren’t familiar with the position. This is certainly no excuse; if you don’t know anything about information technology and need to write a job description, talk to the people in that department so you actually know the skills required to complete the job.

If you’re posting a job, you should really put your best foot forward; it’s the only way to attract qualified candidates.

If they need you to code their website, they won’t know that your certificate in another coding language will be helpful for the position. If they don’t know much about the job, they won’t know what type of candidate they’re looking for. You can apply, but don’t be surprised if they don’t pick you simply because they don’t understand your qualifications.

Beware of joining this company at all; would you want to work for a business that’s disorganized and doesn’t make sure they know what they’re talking about when presenting themselves to the public?

We’re All Family Here

Translation: We actively try to break down the barriers between your work/life balance in an attempt to make you emotionally invest in the company so we can exploit you.

If a company tries to force an emotional connection between you and the business, it’s easier for them to ask you to stay overtime and not ask for raises. Creating an emotionally charged workplace can make the day-to-day working conditions quite messy and manipulative.

Doing your job for the money is not something you need to be ashamed of. You don’t need to emotionally invest in your company to excel in your position.

Don’t let them manipulate you into thinking that you need to do more than your job description. You don’t need to display a deep passion for filing claims to be a great insurance adjuster.

The thing about a family is that you’re all there for each other; it’s not one-sided.

There are cases when a company can truly feel like a family; this generally happens with really small businesses where you interact with the owner daily and there’s a small team.

If you work for a company that gives you extra paid time off when you sustain an injury, helps your family when you go through a crisis, or supports you when you’re feeling overworked from the physical demands of the job, you’re more likely to put in extra hours because you respect and value your boss/employee relationship.

Companies that expect you to do all the giving are not your family.

Pay Based on Previous Experience

Translation: We aren’t listing the compensation because we’re going to try and make it as low as possible.

When applying for new positions, your previous compensation is irrelevant. You’re looking for a new job because you want more opportunities and more responsibility, and that should come with more pay.

Many people look for new jobs because they’ve outgrown their position and the company can no longer afford them. Your previous job gave you experience, and you’re a better candidate than when you started that job. So why does the pay you received there matter in determining your salary at the new company?

Especially if you’re leaving an entry-level position, your new job title should not have your old salary attached to it.

Look for positions that say upfront what they’ll pay, or at the very least give a range. If they don’t mention their compensation package, you can safely assume it’s not an attractive or competitive rate.

A Job Description Is a Company’s Application to You

Think of a job description as a resume that a business hands to you. Evaluate it with the same scrutiny they will offer yours; did they take the time to research what a candidate really needs for that position? Did they bother to proofread?

Are they putting their best foot forward? Are they leaving many unanswered questions? You deserve to know the details of what you’re applying for: especially how much they’re willing to pay you. Don’t apply to jobs that simply are not worth your time.

Writing a job description of your own? Need some help putting your business’s best foot forward?

Whether you’re hiring a new administrative assistant or a new CFO, WBD can help! Join today to gain access to industry experts so you can learn how to attract the candidates your business deserves.

Published in Career, Featured Articles
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Author, Artist, Photographer.

Sarah Margaret is an artist who expresses her love for feminism, equality, and justice through a variety of mediums: photography, filmmaking, poetry, illustration, song, acting, and of course, writing.

She owns Still Poetry Photography, a company that showcases her passion for capturing poetic moments in time. Instead of poetry in motion, she captures visual poetry in fractions of a second, making cherished keepsakes of unforgettable moments.

She is the artist behind the Still Poetry Etsy shop, which houses her illustrations and bespoke, handmade items. She is the author of intricacies are just cracks in the wall, a narrative poetry anthology that follows a young woman discovering herself as she emerges from an abusive relationship.


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  1. Spot-on article! Especially the part about “Doing your job for the money is not something you need to be ashamed of. You don’t need to emotionally invest in your company to excel in your position.” AMEN! Unfortunately, so many job descriptions I see have many or all the elements you mentioned. In other words, there is a lot to weed through to get to a good solid job posting descriptions.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I really appreciate it.
      Unfortunately, you’re right; I’ve seen countless job listings with every single one of these. If you want to pursue a career that you want to get emotionally invested in, that’s amazing! But it’s just as valid to find a job that pays the bills and you can log off at the end of the day and enjoy your other passions. Not every passion needs to be monetized, and your identity doesn’t need to be wrapped up in your profession. We’re so much more than what we do for a living.