How to Spot a Red Flag in a Job Application

Welcome to our Job Ad Decoding Guide!

Are you tired of feeling lost and confused when reading job ads?

Do you struggle to understand what employers are looking for?

Or do you keep finding toxic work environments that leave you feeling drained and unhappy?


If so, you're in the right place!

In this guide, we'll unlock the hidden secrets of job ads and help you master the art of decoding them. You'll learn how to separate real opportunities from letdowns, understand the accurate expectations of employers, and find your dream job with confidence. 

With the boom in online job postings, it's crucial to watch out for those companies that may try to exploit your eagerness for their benefit. So let me give you a hand!

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"Must handle stress"

This a common phrase you might see in job ads, but what does it really mean? Mostly it's a phrase often used by employers to indicate that the job may require dealing with high-pressure situations or challenging circumstances. Usually, it can suggest that the team is made of “self-starters” and “doers.” You’ve collected a deep bench of people who give 110% and live for a challenge. There’s an entire segment of work culture that subscribes to the “hustle and grind” way of life—but it’s not for everyone. Is it really necessary to achieve your goals?


"Fast-paced environment"

Another example similar to the previous case is a job description that includes the phrase "Fast-paced environment." This term often signifies a dynamic and thrilling workplace, particularly in start-up companies where teams are encouraged to be agile and innovative. It suggests that there will always be new challenges to tackle and opportunities for growth.

However, it's important not to overlook another possible interpretation - an organisation using this phrase may actually have insufficient staff, leading to excessive workloads for employees.

"Just like a family"

This is what we call a major warning sign. My advice would be to run the other way and don't ever look back. When employers describe their workplace as "just like a family," it may sound appealing at first. However, this phrase often indicates a blurring of boundaries between personal and professional life. It can mean that your work-life balance may be compromised, and you might be expected to put in long hours or be available outside of regular working hours without proper compensation, and anyway, think about your family, would you really want to work with them day in, day out.. neither do I!

"Sense of humour"

If you come across the term in a job ad, it's understandable to wonder why that would be important. It might imply that employees are expected to tolerate an inappropriate and offensive sense of humour prevalent within the company, which can lead to harassment issues.

In addition to vague phrases that may or may not suggest a negative work environment, certain terms can also indicate a lack of inclusivity regarding gender, race, or socioeconomic status. Words or pronouns that favour one gender should raise concerns. Studies have shown that words like 'aggressive,' 'competitive,' 'independent,' and 'self-sufficient' in job ads tend to attract more male applicants and subconsciously discourage women from applying.

Similarly, phrases like "native English speaker" or "top-degree required" can imply other biases. Coded language refers to terminology that may not explicitly discriminate but still associates specific groups with particular behaviours or characteristics.


Plus, job seekers these days are no fools. They do their research! Thanks to sites like Glassdoor and good old social media, they can easily find out what kind of workplace culture they'd be getting into before even applying. Gone are the days when companies could hide behind closed doors - now everyone knows your business!

If a job advertisement raises concerns for a candidate, they have the option to choose not to apply. What job seekers value has evolved. There is now a stronger focus on finding a company with an inclusive, trustworthy, and equitable environment. Job seekers are more certain about their preferences than ever before.