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by Rob Porter | January 26, 2023


If you’ve ever used a job search engine such as Indeed or Monster, you may have come across some strange or otherwise perplexing job postings. These can often be amusing due to unfortunate spelling errors or odd language syntax, but there might be more to it than just a few silly mistakes. Today we’re going to talk about job search scams, and how you can easily identify them. Let’s get started.

They Contacted You

In certain rare cases, an employer will locate and reach out to a candidate on their own. This is sometimes referred to as “headhunting,” and is usually reserved for extremely sought after, high-level candidates. In other words, you would know if you were being actively tracked down by employers, so then what’s up with all those surprise job offers you keep getting? Unfortunately, they could be a scam.

You might have noticed that once you signed up for any number of job search engines like Indeed that you’ve been getting a bunch of emails from companies you didn’t apply to. Always take caution with emails that say things like “I saw your resume online” or “I’ve got a job offer for you,” as they could be phishing emails that are trying to steal information, money, or even your identity.

The Pay is Unusually High

Perhaps you’ve come across some of these job postings; the kind that appear like a cool oasis hidden deep within the dangerously hot and treacherous desert—only, you realize it was a mirage all along! Yes friends, extremely high pay could be an indication that a job posting is either fake, or some kind of scam.

Let’s say you’re applying for an entry level job as a customer service representative and the job posting is offering $100,000.00 as starting pay. In this case, it’s safe to say something is amiss. When conducting a job search, take some time to research the average pay in your area for the job you are applying for. This way you can easily identify job postings that are appropriate for your level of experience, as well as ones that could be phony.

The Job Description Seems Off

Once in a while, you might come across a posting that has weird requirements or a strange job description. A major red flag to watch out for is when a job posting doesn’t provide any information about the necessary education requirements, or doesn’t mention how many years of experience are needed or which relevant skills are required. Also, be weary of job postings that provide very broad requirements such as “must have internet access” or “must be 18.”

Legitimate job postings will always be very clear about what they’re looking for in a candidate. Typically, this will include the required level of education along with the preferred area of study, how many years of experience the candidate should have, and a list of skills that are necessary for the position. Sometimes, a job posting will even state that a candidate should be well-versed in any number of computer programs, or might require a candidate to live nearby. A good rule of thumb is the more specific a job posting is, the more likely it is to be real.

Egregious Spelling and Grammatical Errors

If you’re looking at a job posting with numerous spelling and grammatical errors, and poor or unusual syntax, then it’s got all the hallmarks of a scam. These villains are too concerned with what they can trick you out of or steal from you to put the time into crafting a believable job post—shame on them.

It’s reasonable to expect that a real job posting could have a few little errors here or there, so use your gut. If the post is very specific and has a certain air of authenticity to it, but has a simple mistake such as a missing comma or the famous “your/you’re” error, you could chalk it up to a busy hiring manager who hasn’t properly edited the listing. The bottom line is always read job postings carefully. If things look a bit more than messy and you’ve got a bad feeling, then trust your instincts.

Money or Confidential Information is Involved

This is a major, major red flag to watch out for. Let’s say you’re in the process of applying for a job and during a follow up conversation, the alleged hiring manager asks you to provide your banking information, a credit card number, or any other personal information such as your birthdate or your social security number. Sometimes you might be asked to fill out a credit report online, or purchase a computer program. If any of this happens, abort the mission immediately!

Real companies will never ask you to provide your banking information during the application process. They also won’t require you to spend your own money on computer programs, and they certainly won’t flat out ask you for money. Keep in mind that with this entry, you won’t see the obvious signs of the scam until you receive a follow up email, as most often the scammers are at least clever enough to not ask for money in the actual job posting. If you’re always cognizant of the other telltale signs on this list, you might avoid this scenario all together.

The Company or Contact Doesn’t Exist

This might one seem really obvious but if you’re locked into a serious job search frenzy, it could be easy to overlook. Before applying to any job, always do some research into the company. Not only will the information gathered help you with your cover letter, but doing so might also shed light on an obvious scam.

First and foremost, if the company doesn’t show up in any searches, it’s probably fake. If you’re also unable to confirm whether the contact person is real, it’s a good indication that the entire job posting is fraudulent. Of course, there will be times where the company is real but the contact person is either no longer with the company, or is a new hire and thus not much information about them can be found.

When it comes to identifying fake job postings, you should most often be looking for a combination of the entries on this list. Usually a scam should be fairly obvious to spot, but always remember to trust your gut as it’s probably trying to tell you something. With that, good luck on your safe and secure job search!