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7 Warning Signs in Job Descriptions

If you've ever browsed LinkedIn or Craigslist looking for a new employment opportunity, chances are you’ve come across a handful of job-listing clichés that seem to mean one thing, but may well be code for slightly different—and often less positive—duties, expectations, and company cultures. Beware of these common potential warning signs during your next job search.

Fast-Paced Environment

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This is probably the most common job description cliché. Recruiters might just toss it in to try and weed out the laziest of potential applicants, but it might also be a warning that the office is chaotic and super-high-pressure. And it’s a potential red flag that your employers won’t have time to mentor you.

Photo: Paul Bradbury

Duties May Vary

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Unless you’re looking to get the broadest possible experience from a job, you might want to steer clear of jobs that say duties may vary. This usually means the company needs someone to do a little bit—or a lot—of everything. Or they might not even know what they need someone to do—just that they need someone to do it. This may lead to you being overwhelmed and burnt out before you know it.

Photo: Paul Bradbury

Lots of Perks

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If a company is offering lots of perks, like free lunches, chair massages, or a pet-friendly environment, chances are they’re in place to make up for the fact you’re going to be working very long hours. Unless you’re comfortable with regular 12-hour (or longer!) days, you might want to look for a position without the perks. Eight dollars for lunch, every massage-less day is totally worth being home to walk the dog by 6 p.m.

Photo: Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury

Ability to Work Independently

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A job description seeking a candidate who has a strong ability to “work independently” might sound terrific at first. No boss breathing down your neck? Score! But, this phrase could be a warning that you might not get as much direction or mentoring as you might want, especially if you’re in the early years of your career.

Photo: Caiaimage/John Wildgoose

Must Have a Good Sense of Humor

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This may sound strange, but we’ve noticed it popping up in more and more job descriptions. While you may want to believe the company is looking for a candidate who is a big South Park fan, it could mean trouble. The phrase might indicate the company culture tends to be a little inappropriate, so they’re looking for people who can hang with that. It might also mean you’re going to be in a totally stressful, chaotic environment and they’re looking for someone who won’t fall to pieces because of it.

Photo: Hero Images

Ability to Adapt to Changes in Priorities

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If an employer spells out in the job description that you need to be able to adapt to changing priorities, be ready for your to-do list to be in flux constantly. And not in an “Okay, I’ll just start on X as soon as I finish Y” kind of way. No, this could mean your days will be more like, “OMG, I have a billion things to do right now and I have absolutely no idea what to work on or how I’m going to finish everything!”

Photo: Jamie Grill

Must Be a Self-Starter

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Beware the companies looking for “self-starters.” This might mean the employer doesn’t really know exactly what they need you to do or—even worse—they don’t have the time to explain it to you. You could find yourself sitting at a desk trying to figure out what the hell you’re supposed to be doing.

Photo: Hero Images

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