Red flags in job ads that should make you run the other way 🚩

by Feb 28, 2022

Have you ever read a job ad and it just seems… off?

The job search process can be stressful and disheartening, especially if you’re creating application after application and receiving nothing but rejections or the silent treatment. But that doesn’t mean you should apply for a job that looks sketchy, it’s just not worth it!

So, how can you protect yourself from applying for a job that seems toxic, vague, or even plain illegal? It’s all about awareness.

Read on to learn more about the red flags you should be looking out for in job ads.


Lack of communication around salary

Talking about money is awkward. Many of us were raised to think that conversations surrounding salaries are crass and even rude, so it’s no surprise that we find it difficult to communicate about money in a way that feels natural. We might even avoid it completely!

But that doesn’t mean that money isn’t important. In fact, according to experts, it’s the most important part of a job ad.

If there’s a lack of communication around salary in a job ad – for example if the salary isn’t listed or if the job has commission-based pay – that might be a sign to avoid it.

Not listing pay can mean that the organisation is trying to hold onto their negotiating power, which is not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re comfortable doing your own research into the pay-grades of your industry, and following it up by negotiating your salary in the interviewing and recruitment process, then you might be totally fine! The problem only arises if you find it super awkward to discuss salaries with a potential employer, or if you sense they’re trying to low-ball you.

In the same way, a commission-based pay is completely fine, as long as you’re receiving it on top of a regular salary. Anything else and your sense of security can go completely out the window!

Salary isn’t the be all and end all, but if the communication around it is lacking at the job ad stage, it’s likely this will continue into your employment as well.



We bet that writing job applications isn’t your favourite thing in the world, and the same can be said for those writing job ads! As a result, the writers of position descriptions sometimes have the tendency to fall back on poorly defined buzzwords and clichés.

Buzzwords shouldn’t automatically turn you off an ad, but if there’s any confusion around what the position actually is or what you’ll be expected to do, you’ll be forced to do extra digging and ask questions, and it may be a sign that the recruiters themselves aren’t even 100% sure.

So, what are some of these terms and descriptions, and why should you be worried about them?

The job ad contains vague terms.

  • What does looking for a ‘unicorn’ or ‘wizard’ even mean? Job ads should be clear about what they’re looking for in terms of hard and soft skills. If you see terms like this, or other umbrella words like ‘dynamic’ that don’t really tell you much, it’s probably not worth the hassle of applying.

 The responsibilities and roles are ‘based on experience’.

  • You should not be expected to know everything the second you walk into a new job. If a job ad is unclear on the responsibilities of applicants, it could mean that the recruiters aren’t entirely sure what they want you to do, you’ll be expected to undertake a huge amount of training, or you’ll waste your time interviewing for a position that you’re not suited for.

The work environment is ‘fast-paced’.

  • Again this is a red flag because it’s not precise. Does this mean you’ll be expected to do work with little to no notice? That you need to make decisions quickly? That 70-hour work weeks are the norm? All of these are massive red flags. Don’t burn yourself out to keep your boss warm.


Poorly defined boundaries

If there’s one thing you take from this blog, let it be this: if you see the words ‘we’re a family’ in a job advertisement, turn and run the other way.

Look, there are definitely workplaces out there that embrace the same attributes you’d want in a family, like respect and care. What sets work apart from family is plain and simple: work is work.

When employers say their organisation runs like a family, we take it as a red flag because it can suggest that the workplace is lacking in boundaries.

Employees may be expected to show loyalty at a level beyond their paygrade, or be guilted into putting more energy than they should into their employment. There’s also a higher chance of cliques and favouritism in the hierarchy of the office, which can lead to a really toxic environment.  


The role was posted a long time ago or is constantly reposted

This doesn’t have to be a red flag. In areas like hospitality and retail, it’s not unusual to have a high turnover of staff, or to be constantly on the lookout for more employees during busy periods.

The reason this might cause concern is the why. Why is the position being constantly filled then vacated? Why hasn’t the employer found someone to fill the job in so long?

You may be just the person this job was waiting for, or there could be something a little more suss going on. It’s always a good idea to pause to think about applying for a job that was posted ages ago or is constantly reposted, but don’t let it be a hard and fast deal-breaker.


The ad asks you to provide sensitive information

Unless you’ve been hired and issued a contract, do not provide sensitive information to a potential employer. Beyond background checks, which they should handle internally, there is no reason a job would need your personal information before hiring you.

This includes things like:

  • bank details
  • official forms of ID (driver’s licence, passport, etc.)
  • medical conditions and history
  • personal information like your gender identity, sexual orientation, religious affiliations, marital status, etc.


Be safe and smart when you’re perusing job ads by looking out for these red flags.

If you have questions about a specific job, we’re here to help! Find out more about our career services, both online and in person, here.


Featured image courtesy of Pexels

Lily Cameron

Lily Cameron

Communications Assistant

Lily Cameron is a writer and editor based in Sydney. She is a UTS Communications (Creative Writing) graduate, and current Communications Assistant at UTS Careers. She is passionate about telling stories, both hers and others’, and the way digital and social media is changing the literary landscape. Her writing has appeared in Voiceworks, The Brag, and elsewhere.