Don’t apply! 5 red flags to look out for when looking at job ads

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Searching for your dream job? The ideal combination of good salary and benefits, perfect working conditions, and exciting responsibilities can be hard to find, especially in these pandemic times. But we know it’s out there!

However, just like there are good opportunities, there are job ads that you should definitely ignore (or at least think twice before applying to). We listed them here so you can avoid them and use your energy for better opportunities:

  1. The offer is too good to be true

    Is the salary double or triple compared to industry standards? Does it offer many benefits like vacation packages or bonuses?

    High compensation and plenty of perks are red flags especially if the job requires little or no skills or qualifications. As they say, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” But if you’re still interested and want to take the risk, make sure to ask questions before submitting an application and be careful about sharing personal information. It’s never a good sign when they ask you for your SIN or bank account number right away.

  2. Check for the potential for discrimination

    Back in my home country, indicating the age range, gender, or civil status is common in job ads. It’s not unusual to come across something like: “Looking for a (job title). Male only, 22-28 years old.” The job title can range from warehouse jobs to client service positions.

    This is illegal in Canada. Here, individuals are protected against discrimination based on characteristics like ancestry, age, sex (including pregnancy), family status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical or mental disability in employment. Employers are prohibited from listing requirements related to these characteristics unless they can show that the requirement is connected to, or reasonably necessary for the safe and efficient performance of the job.

    If you see a job ad that is discriminatory, report it to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. For more information about protected characteristics, read: Human rights considerations in hiring.

  3. What’s the job?

    Have you come across posts that say “Big earning potential while working from home!” or “A fulfilling job that allows you to become your own boss!”? I’ve seen plenty of these on social media especially during the pandemic. These ads are so attractive because they promise flexibility with a potential for high earnings. The only problem is that they’ll never tell you what the business or job actually is. You would have to click on a link or attend a webinar.

    More often than not, these types of job ads are recruiting for pyramid schemes or multi-level marketing (MLM). This means that you’ll need to sell a product or service, or recruit people to sell them for you. You’ll also need to invest a considerable amount of money because you’ll need to buy the product to start. Don’t click on the link or attend the seminar if you’re not interested in selling or marketing.

  4. Application fees or enrollment in courses

    Be suspicious of any job ad that requires payment for any part of the hiring process. Recruitment is a company’s responsibility and if you think about it, you’re already investing your time and effort when you apply. It’s also a bad sign when an employer requires you to undergo training before being hired but you have to pay for the course and materials.

    This is a common scam. In this scheme, applicants end up with substandard training and no job. Employers can weasel their way out of their promise to hire you by saying that you didn’t do well in the training or your skills don’t meet their standards.

  5. No salary range

    With the push on pay equity and workers’ rights, companies are urged to provide salary information on the job ad. In Canada, Ontario has the Pay Transparency Act which requires employers to include a salary rate or range in publicly advertised job postings. You will notice that federal jobs follow this in their job ads as well.

    Many companies in other sectors committed to salary transparency have started this practice. Those who do not list salary ranges may be doing it to have more negotiating power with the applicant, or are hiding the rates from their current employees to prevent competition or unrest. This is why it can be a red flag.

    You can still consider a job opportunity that doesn’t mention the salary if you think that the job or company is worth it. Just make sure to do your research. Get an idea of the salary range on Glassdoor, Indeed or Payscale. You can also ask the salary range during the interview if you think the employer will not take it against you. If they do take it against you, well, there’s another red flag right there!

5 steps to avoiding scam or worthless job ads:

  1. Know your rights and know more about your field/profession – Do your due diligence and conduct market research to know and understand salary ranges, compensation, and benefits particularly in your industry. A good place to start is the Canada Job Bank. Explore occupations by location, check the prevailing salary, and know your job prospects.
  2. Search only on legitimate sites – Sites like Indeed and LinkedIn have policies that help vet job ads and minimize scams. However, it will be in your best interest to make it a habit to review jobs ads thoroughly and conduct research before applying even if it’s on a legitimate site.
  3. Research on the company – Make a quick Google search to know more about the company. Go to their website to check if the contact details match those that are in the job ad and verify if the job opening is in their Careers or Job Openings section. You can also cross-check company information by using LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and the Better Business Bureau.
  4. Don’t rush – Scammers prey on those who urgently need a job. They will use language like “Limited offer!” or “Act now” or “Click now!” Don’t fall for this scheme. Take your time and review the ad. Look the company up. Don’t click on any links as this can open you up to a phishing attack.
  5. Be aware of common scams – Download The Little Black Book of Scams 2nd Edition, or go to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website to learn about the common job scams in Canada so you don’t fall for any of them.

Sources: 14 recruitment fails: Don’t end up on this list of bad job ads, Workable Better Hiring; How do you know a job posting is a scam, Katie Hottinger, Media Bistro; Accessed January 10, 2022.

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