Warning Signs About a Job Posting

I tend to look at local job postings on a semi-regular basis. Not because I’m looking to leave my current job usually but rather because I’m curious and like to see what trends are forming and to see how healthy the local job market is.

But by watching these listings I’ve definitely formed opinions about what I think are warnings signs to stay away from a particular company/post.

1. They say how great or HOT they are in a given area

I’ve seen both Nextag and now Next Internet using this tactic on Craigslist. If you’re so hot, why do you have to tell me about it? If you’re so hot, you’re going to get interest without having to ask for it just because you’re at the center of the known geek universe and word tends to travel pretty fast.

2. They post for the same job every few months

Unless it’s a large company that I know is in growth mode then either one of two things probably happened. One, it’s a really crappy place to work and every person they find leaves within a few months. Or two, they didn’t find anyone and decided to put it off for a few months. Most of the time it seems like it’s from one of those companies that’s probably just barely staying afloat. They aren’t going under but they’re not really growing either. I’ve worked for one one of the latter before and it’s not fun at all.

3. They have completely unrealistic expectations

This one is more obvious but I’ve learned that a company that has unreal job requirements either expects a superhero / rock star developer or they really haven’t defined the job they’re looking for. The exception to this if they say something to the effect that they know that no one has all of these things but they are looking for someone with a certain set of them. It’s still a little worrisome because it still kind of smells like they don’t know what they are looking for but it’s not a definitive red flag. The times that I’ve talked to companies that want the rock star it’s amazing that they generally are also companies that balk at paying at rock star levels. I’ve seen one on in the east bay that is always looking for consultants in the 5 year experience range with a number of technology requirements and actually posts a salary level of sub 60,000. In the Bay Area that just isn’t happening. Well, unless it’s not a full time job.

And that leads me to my last one for now…

4. They post salary levels that are just insanely low

This one is really obvious but it’s more an amazement thing on my part that a company is so out of touch that they think they’ll get anyone by listing a salary that is at least 20K below market for a given job. It’d be one thing if it was a startup offering huge stock grants and being up front about that but it’s another when it’s just some consulting firm that has been around for a while.

Overall, at least here in the bay area, the job market is doing pretty well so if you are talented it puts you in a pretty good place to be a lot pickier about the type of company and environment you decide to work in. You just have to be diligent about looking for the warning signs of a company that would not be a good fit or has internal issues that would drive you crazy.

What other red flags do you notice in job postings?  I’m sure there are a ton of them and these are just the ones that I thought of off the top of my head.

2 thoughts on “Warning Signs About a Job Posting

  1. Here are some general red-flags found within job postings. Not that they apply in all cases, but they are good points to probe during an interview:

    1) “Can manage expectations” means “We have managers with unreasonable expectations.”
    2) “Work in a fast-paced environment” means “We don’t know have much direction, but we we go really fast.”
    3) “Ad-hoc” anything means “Just do what we tell you (don’t worry about quality) because we have customers.”
    4) “Work with QA team” means “Our developers don’t test code, but we have people who do.”
    5) “Understands software process” means “Know how to read requirements and deal with project managers”
    6) “Agile methodology” means “We don’t have time for a software process, so we are agile.”
    7) “Can deal with diverse groups in a cross-functional environment” means “We are a political organization with lots of meetings.”

  2. Very good ones Shane. That reminded me of one I saw last week where they came right out and said “long unpredictable hours”. I guess one can say they’re honest at least.

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