Monday, December 5 2022

There were 6 million unemployed people in the United States in March 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The labor market continues to balance out in their favour: in February, there were 11.3 million openings, according to BLS.

If you happens to be looking for a jobthere are plenty of positions to browse on sites like In effect, LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, career builder, FlexJobsand Freak. But while many employers are serious about talent hunting, some people use job boards for their own nefarious reasons.

“One, they’re here to get your information,” warns Gorick Ng, a Harvard career counselor and author of “The unspoken rules.” “Two, they’re here to get your money. Three, they are out to exploit you for free labor.”

Luckily, there are ways to spot real scam job postings. Here are five red flags to watch out for when looking for your next job.

1. A pay scale where “you can earn as much as you want”

Some scammers may try to lure you in by inventing a job with parameters that seem quite unbelievable, such as high pay for very little work. The list might say something like “you can earn as much as you want, unlimited,” says Toni Frana, career services manager at FlexJobs. Or they might say, “it’s free and easy to get started.”

A legitimate employer wouldn’t typically offer the best price for a simple job, and most employers include a long list of the duties involved in the role so job seekers know what they might be getting into.

If it sounds too good to be true, “it’s probably too good to be true,” Frana says.

2. “Grammatical errors, formatting inconsistencies and unprofessional language”

When hiring managers or recruiters put together a roster, they’re usually “very careful to make sure everything is proofread, grammatically correct, and spelled correctly,” Frana says. This is an opportunity for the company to make a first impression and it wants to attract quality candidates.

If “you see a lot of grammatical errors, formatting inconsistencies, and unprofessional language,” Ng says, “it’s probably not written by a professional.”

3. A Yahoo or Gmail hiring contact

Many companies give their employees a work email from which they can conduct business correspondence. The same goes for recruitment companies if they work on behalf of another company to find talent for a position.

“If the company contact is not a company domain, so if you see a Yahoo or Gmail,” said Ng, that should be a red flag. A hiring manager should not use their personal email address to find candidates.

4. A request for payment for hiring, start-up costs

“The purpose of a job is to get paid,” says Ng. “If the company asks you to pay it”, it’s probably not legit.

Some of the ways scammers trick applicants into paying include getting them to buy start-up materials from the company, paying for background checks, or simply asking for their credit card information, according to the FBI.

In 2020, 16,012 people reported being victims of employment scams, losing over $59 million, according to the organization’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

5. “Empty job offers” from recruiters

For staffing companies to start serving their clients, they need a pool of candidates from which to draw names immediately. While Ng wouldn’t exactly classify it as a scam, he says some recruiting companies will “post empty job ads” to attract candidates and start building a resume file.

These can be positions for jobs that were once open but are no longer open or for jobs that were never initially available. “From the job seeker’s perspective,” he says, applying for these jobs is “just a huge waste of time.”

Video by Courtney Stith

If a listing includes a line stating that the company displaying it is a recruiting company, start searching Google for it. On any legitimate business website, “you can see it’s been updated recently,” he says. “They have a team page or they have clear contact information. They have an About Us page.”

The absence of these details could mean that the recruiter is posting a bait resume or that the company does not exist at all.

If there’s even one red flag, “it’s probably not worth your time”

Whether the company itself advertises its vacancies or a recruitment company represents them, the first step before applying for a job should always be to search for the one that displays it.

Go to sites like Glassdoor or Blind and check company reviews, check social media to see what people have said about their work, and find people on LinkedIn who have been there who might shed some light.

“My rule of thumb is if there’s even one red flag,” Ng says, “it’s probably not worth it.”

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