How to Spot Fake Job Ads

Sifting through potential job listings can be an overwhelming process. It can be hard enough to find jobs that you qualify for or offer the benefits and pay you are seeking. The last thing you want to deal with during the search is a phony job ad, but unfortunately there are always scammers around looking to capitalize on your desire for employment. There are several varieties of scams that can vary from wasting your time to potentially emptying your bank account. Knowing how to spot a legitimate job ad from a fraudulent one can save you a lot of stress.

A legitimate job ad should have a clear job description. Be wary of ads that use vague terms such as “manager” or “representative”, but don’t specify what you would be managing or what type of representative they are seeking. Also be cautious of an offer to hire without experience for jobs that are clearly higher ranking jobs such as “district manager” or “financial officer.” These are red flags for multi- level marketing opportunities. While these are not exactly scams, they tend to misrepresent themselves as legitimate salary or hourly paid positions when they are solely commission pay.

Other non-traditional job “opportunities” include the work from home and money transfer representatives. These can be particularly troublesome as they are most likely phishing for personal information. Social security numbers, birthdates and even bank account information is highly valuable to scammers. Never offer personal information beyond your resume to anyone online or over the telephone.

Sometimes recruiters post jobs to troll for resumes. They may be collecting resumes to try to win a company’s business. Job recruiters on the whole can be a valuable asset in a tough job market, but you want to work with one that already has the company’s business.  If your resume gets picked up by one of these recruiters, don’t waste your time if they don’t have companies readily available for interviews.

As difficult as it is to believe, some people are desperate for ideas for their own resume and use fake ads to collect other resumes. While it may seem complimentary that someone would appreciate your resume enough to try to pass it off as their own, you always want to minimize sending any personal information to sources that aren’t ethically bound to keep your information confidential.  Your resume can include your address, email and phone number. Any of this can be exploited if it makes it into the wrong hands.

Most of the above scenarios can be avoided by asking yourself a few questions when looking through job ads. Is the ad specific or vague as to what the job entails? What company is it or what is it that they do if no name is listed? Is the only contact email a free account such as Gmail or Hotmail? Is the listing only posted on one free site such as Craigslist?

Of course, there can be exceptions to these rules.  Occasionally a company may post a job confidentially and use a temporary address.  The reason is usually because they are conducting a confidential job search where for one reason or another, they are not ready to let their internal employees know of the opening.  This is rare, but it can happen.  Craigslist does contain plenty of legitimate jobs, but read the descriptions carefully.

The best rule to follow is the old adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”  Guaranteed commissions, excessive salaries for minimal work or training or any other dream job scenarios are suspect.  Who wouldn’t love to work from home 5 hours a week and make 100K a year? The chance of that happening out of a job ad is highly unlikely. A vague ad that doesn’t specify what you are being hired for is rarely legitimate. Trust your instincts.

If you post your resume on a site like Monster, be wary of the responses you receive. The same rules apply to responses reaching your inbox. “Opportunities” not specific to your resume or jobs you are applying for should not be trusted. A legitimate employer will be in contact with you and provide job and company details if they are interested in scheduling an interview. An easy tipoff is the lack of contact information beyond an email. While email is a common and acceptable form of communicating in the business world, it’s not normal that an employee of a legitimate company doesn’t have a signature with full contact information.

The internet can be a great resource. Not sure about a company? Google can help you determine whether they are legitimate or if other job seekers have run into a similar trap.  Your time is valuable and you could be investing energy into actual job opportunities rather than fake ads. Keep your guard up, use your best judgment and you will avoid most of the typical pitfalls scammers use as bait.

You can find even more great job search tips in How to Get Hired: The insider's guide to today's job search. This eBook is available exclusively on the Amazon Kindle