5 Job Offer Red Flags That Tell You This is Probably a Scam

Don't get tangled up in cold call scams.
Don't get tangled up in cold call scams. Photo by Matt Reinbold via Flickr
A lot of Texans are looking for work right now, and because it’s the end of the year very few companies are hiring. If you’re one of the people whose unemployment has run out while we wait for the next round of stimulus, you might be grasping at any decent sounding job. Unscrupulous employers from shady sales companies are counting on that and flood listings with misleading job descriptions hoping to rope the desperate into cold call sales gigs.

The worst part of this is the crushed hopes. There’s nothing quite like showing up all bright eyed, bushy tailed, and ready to trade part of your life to the capitalist machine for bread only to find it’s all bullshit. In an effort to keep people from wasting their time and precious resources of hope, here are five of the red flags to look for.

5. They Get in Touch With You Immediately

We all want to be such a desirable candidate that human resources scrambles for the phone to call us in, but let’s be real. Texas has 8 percent unemployment right now. Every job has its pick of employees and there’s no reason for them to rush since they can take their time selecting the perfect one and then maybe weasel down the compensation if they want to.

Unless you are a very niche talent in a small market, there is virtually no reason any company will send you an invitation to interview within an hour of you applying. You may get an automatic response or further instructions, but nothing asking you to come in as soon as you can. This goes double it the recruiter texts instead of calling you. That means they are either using bots or are relying on sheer numbers hoping to get a hit.

4. Beware the Following Buzzwords

“No sales necessary” means there will definitely be sales. “Work from home! We will train!” means that the skills on your resume are inconsequential because they plan to craft you into their perfect sales drone. “Be your own boss” means this is a pyramid scheme and you should back away slowly and cover your genitals with both hands. The same is true for “enterprising self-starter” and “make your own hours.” Never work anyplace that refers to itself as a “rock and roll atmosphere” because that means you are not getting paid a regular salary (so it’s not technically a lie).

“Be your own boss” means this is a pyramid scheme and you should back away slowly and cover your genitals with both hands.

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Here are some titles to beware of: Marketing assistant, communications assistant, social media assistant, promotional marketer, and anything involving the word “survey.” Also be wary of IT specialist, especially if the listing doesn't seem to require many IT skills. That last one is more often used to drag people into customer service jobs with premiums on upselling rather than cold calls, but it’s still definitely not bloody IT.

3. They Have Unlikely (Or Hidden) Compensation Goals

Any salary that sounds too good to be true probably is, and sleazy companies love to dangle big paychecks to frustrated workers. The first way they do this is offering sums like $1,000 a week, usually with the modifying “up to.” Most real jobs do not pay like that, and people making those income claims are referring to commissions.

Slightly less sinister is when they won’t tell you at all what the pay is. Unfortunately, some legitimate jobs also do this because once you’ve put in the effort of showing up and going through the interview process, they want to use the sunk cost fallacy against you to lowball your salary. It’s underhanded, but not actually a scam. Still, it’s a practice that scams also do so approach anyone pulling this move with caution.

2. The Company Has No Online Presence

The very first thing you should do when a company expresses interest in you is Google it. If the only result that comes up is the original job listing, that is a very bad sign. Yes, they might be a new company without much of an online presence, but if they haven’t even set up a basic Facebook page it implies they are trying to avoid notice. It’s very unlikely in 2020 that a legit business has gone through all the trouble of setting up their organization to pay for office staff and somehow neglected to at least put up a placeholder website.

1. The Location is in a Bad Part of Town

This is obviously a relative judgment and hard to be sure of anyway in Houston where zoning is treated as dismissively as beans in chili. Also, there are some young entrepreneurs who launch startups in cheap office space in economically depressed areas for the savings and the thrill. You can’t necessarily judge a job by its address.

That said, you can often judge it by the building. As a general rule, you should always do a test drive to the location before the interview just to get a sense of the distance, traffic, parking, and how hard it is to find. Doing this on weekends is particularly helpful since sometimes you can look in the windows and get a feel for the place. You can also just walk in and say you like to scope jobs out ahead of time. A real company will likely be impressed by that. A scam one will probably think you ask too many questions. Times are hard, but you only make them harder throwing in your lot with people who aren’t on the up and up.

Good luck out there.
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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner