Red Flag Job Listing Words and Phrases

Photo by Ron Lach 

A job search can be emotionally, physically and mentally draining. Interviewing and waiting for a response is incredibly stressful. But getting to that point is equally taxing. Not only do you have to wade through thousands of listings to find the positions that match your criteria, you also have to watch out for the scams and sketchy employers that post on job boards. Many job listings contain suspicious language and phrases that should give a job seeker pause. If you see any of the phrases below, think twice before sending in your resume.

Unlimited Earning Potential

When a listing promises unlimited earning potential, it’s usually either a sales job or multi-level marketing recruitment tactic. While there is nothing inherently wrong with sales, many jobs are mostly or entirely commission-based. Therefore, if you can’t make any sales, you won’t earn any money. And since certain industries may be saturated with salespeople, it can be very difficult for newcomers to compete. Sales can be very lucrative, but for every salesperson that earns six figures there are many more that quit due to lack of opportunities. Average employee turnover for sales (35%) is higher than the average for all other industries (13%).

Your Own Business

Owning your own business may be a dream but it’s not a good sign if a potential “employer” puts it in their job listing. This is almost always a pyramid scheme or multi-level marketing company. We’ve discussed the problems with MLMs before, the main one being that most distributors don’t make money. In fact, a large percentage actually lose money.

Work From Home

There are many legitimate work-from-home jobs. However, there are still many work-from-home scams that you should be aware of. If someone wants you to pay money upfront for materials, it’s a scam. You should not have to pay a potential employer in order to obtain a job. A real work from home position will be clear about responsibilities, desired qualifications and will want to meet with you virtually or in person to discuss the nature of the role.

NOT A Pyramid Scheme

If a listing has to say it’s not a pyramid scheme, it’s likely an MLM or a straight up scam. This is one situation where you shouldn’t even give the job listing consideration.

Wear Multiple Hats

Many jobs require employees to fulfill different roles, particularly in small businesses. This phrase alone shouldn’t scare you away from applying, but you need to seek clarity on what the potential employer expects. Although you may be willing to take on many responsibilities, you don’t want to be blind-sided with duties that don’t align with your skills or personality. In addition, you should ask specific questions during the interview process to ensure that you will have the time and resources to do your job effectively. If you’re pulled in too many directions, you may become overwhelmed and experience burnout.

Work Hard, Play Hard

A job with this phrase usually just expects employees to work to the point of exhaustion. They may throw in some “fun” features in the office but the goal is to keep workers from leaving. Startups often use this phrase because they can’t afford a lot of workers so they need a few very hard working employees. Although larger companies, especially in the tech industry, expect employees to basically live at work. However, some people thrive in these environment and don’t mind working in such a position to build their skills and make valuable connections.

Must Be Flexible/Willing to Work Any Shift

In industries such as healthcare, employees understand that working odd hours and being on call is a normal part of the job. But if an employer wants you to be available all of the time, it’s a sign that they’re understaffed and/or poor at scheduling. Although you may be willing to work varying schedules or extra shifts, many employers will take advantage of that and never give you a break.


Do these phrases mean the job is definitely bad? No. But should you be wary of job listings with these phrases? Probably. If you want to learn more about avoiding job scams, read our post about job scam red flags.