5 Red Flags to Look Out for in Job Descriptions, According to a Recruiter

Photo: Getty Images/Dmitry Marchenko / EyeEm

Job hunting is, well, a job in and of itself. From the moment you submit your application to your first day on the job, a lot goes into the process—asking the hiring manager the right questions and following up on a job application without seeming desperate, for instance. For this reason, if you're going to invest your time and energy in pursuing a job and going through the entire process, it's vital to ensure the role and company are an excellent fit for you and your personal and professional goals from the get-go. And one way to do this is by identifying job description red flags early in the search process.

Experts In This Article
  • Maddy Nguey, Maddy Nguey is the co-founder and CEO of Talentdrop, a marketplace that matches employee candidates with a company's needs.

Thankfully, beyond just the basics of the position, the job description can reveal a lot about the role and the company—the good and the bad—before you've even had any interaction. Ahead, Maddy Nguyen, a former tech recruiter for Facebook, Snapchat, and Uber, and CEO of Talentdrop, a marketplace that matches employee candidates with a company's needs, shares a handful of job description red flags to look out for. . 

5 job description red flags not to overlook

1. Job title and duties don't match

If the advertised job title and description of duties don't seem aligned, the role may not end up being what you'd hope for in the long run. For example, Nguyen says that a company may use title inflation to make a junior-level role sound more senior in order to snag talent. In this case, that may lead to feeling unsatisfied in the position because you're not growing or being challenged. 

And vice versa: If the job title is more junior than the outlined duties, Nguyen notes that this may mean the company is trying to take advantage of candidates by hiring senior-level talent for lesser titles and pay. 

2. There are too many requirements

Another big red flag: You have to tick a lot of boxes to even qualify for the position. "This can indicate that the company doesn't really know what it's looking for in this person or how to assess for it, which means you'll be set up for failure before you've even started the interview process," Nguyen says. "This can also mean they're cramming too many jobs into one role, intentionally or not. Even if you do get and start the job, this scenario won't tee you up for great on-the-job success since expectations will be unrealistic from the start."

3. Missing practical information

Lack of transparency and necessary details should also raise a red flag in your job search, as that's not a great characteristic in a potential employer. "A company that's good at hiring and managing talent will acknowledge and address the things that talent cares about," Nguyen says. "These are basic things, like where the job is based, how much it pays, who the direct report is, what level it is, what type of employment it is (full time, part-time, contractor, etc.), and so forth." Furthermore, she adds, the job listing should make it very clear what action steps candidates should take to apply if they're interested and what they can expect during the interview process. 

4. Focuses on a laundry list of tasks

While as an employee, there will undoubtedly be many tasks for you to do, the job description shouldn't focus solely on a to-do list that doesn't leave room for creativity and growth potential. "It also gives off the impression of the hiring team viewing this person as someone to dump their problems onto versus showing that they truly need someone to perform in this role to take some company initiative to the next level, which is much more engaging-sounding work," Nguyen says. "As an employee, you want to be seen as a person, not a number or cog in the machine, so take note of the responsibilities and make sure they align with your own expectations for the role."

Instead, Nguyen recommends looking out for job descriptions that include two main criteria: things that need to get done and what the business purpose of those duties are, and what experiences, growth, or skills the candidate will gain from the job.

5. There are too many hoops to jump through

Even if you're a big fan of the company you're applying to work for and believe in their mission, at the end of the day, employment is transactional, and there should be an equal exchange of value. "A welcoming company culture is one that understands that an agreement for employment is made when both sides mutually benefit," Nguyen says. "In other words, they get something out of your work for them, and you get something out of working for them." 

So, if the job description details too many hoops candidates need to jump through to impress them, Nguyen notes that that is often an indicator of what it's like to work for that company. Hoops can look like too many rounds of interviews or overly cumbersome, time-consuming, and unpaid test projects as part of the interview process. "Like any relationship, if it sounds too one-sided, you probably won't want to work there for long anyway, if you even pass the interview bar," Nguyen says. 

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