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With unemployment at near record lows, candidates are more likely to dismiss job postings that include terms and phrases that rub them the wrong way.

According to a recent Ipsos survey conducted by Randstad Canada, one third of job seekers are wary of postings that use the term “duties may vary.” Furthermore, roughly a quarter are on the lookout for terms like “must be willing to take on leadership responsibilities,” “we are a family,” and “industry specific experience is a must.”

According to the survey, eight in 10 job seekers are turned off by a job posting that uses terminology they consider to be a red flag, as these terms reveal something unappealing about the employer or the role – at least to those who are reading between the lines.

“Not knowing what they’re going to be responsible for, accountable for, that could deter a candidate from wanting to apply,” said Nick Montesano, the executive vice-president of central region for Randstad Canada. “They view the ambiguity in some of the phrases and that unknown as really not as attractive as clearly communicating what they’ll be responsible for, accountable for, what the culture is in the organization.”

According to the survey, candidates are more likely to apply to open positions when employers provide a salary range, work location, schedule, benefits, a short but specific list of job duties and an accurate description of the company culture.

“Organizations aren’t necessarily in touch with their cultures, so what you see in a job posting is 20 per cent truth and 80 per cent aspiration; it needs to be 98 or 99 per cent truth of what it will feel like working for [the company],” said Mr. Montesano. “Nobody wants to get catfished … people want to know a couple months in that what they signed up for or agreed to do is the reality of what they’re actually doing.”

Mr. Montesano added that in a candidate’s market, job seekers are less likely to pursue opportunities that use terms that leave them with more questions than answers.

“The biggest retention issue I see in corporate [clients] is job descriptions that do not match the job, because the people doing the job aren’t helping to write the description,” said Miriam Groom, an industrial therapist, career coach and chief executive officer of Mindful Career, which provides career counselling.

Ms. Groom said that while some misalignment between job descriptions and realities can be expected, she believes that gap widened as the talent marketplace tightened. “A lot of times they’re being vague on purpose in order to cast the widest net,” she said.

Ms. Groom said one of the biggest red flags candidates should be on the lookout for is requests for those who can “hit the ground running.” “What that means is we’re going to give you little training, and you need to start the job right away,” she said. Another is descriptions of an “intense,” “dynamic” or “fast-paced” work environment, which might suggest candidates should expect high levels of work-related stress or minimal work-life balance.

Another red flag for those seeking sales roles specifically, according to Ms. Groom, are calls for candidates who are “entrepreneurial” or can “wear a lot of hats.”

“If you’re in sales and they’re asking for an ‘entrepreneurial’ person, they’re asking you to literally knock on doors to go find sales, which is really hard and a lot of people don’t want to do that,” she said. “It means they want you to do a lot of everything.”

Job postings that say candidates may be required to work “occasional evenings and weekends” could also suggest an expectation that they be available 24/7, Ms. Groom warned, or that the successful candidate will be required to cover evening and weekend shifts on short notice.

While these red flags shouldn’t necessarily constitute deal-breakers, she believes candidates should ensure they ask about them in interviews and avoid accepting any offers prior to receiving a satisfactory response. For employers, meanwhile, Sangeetha Dikshit – a career adviser for George Brown College in Toronto – recommends getting as specific as possible when describing responsibilities on job postings.

“Just as employers prefer looking at metrics on a resume, a lot of job seekers love to see that [on a job posting],” she said. For example, “project management is 10 per cent per day, data entry is 3 per cent, maybe coaching is 15 per cent per day.”

As for common red flags candidates need to be aware of, Ms. Dikshit warns that when job postings list salary, vacation and other benefits as “competitive” without including specifics, they’re probably at or below industry standards. She also recommends avoiding jobs that use vague terms like “self-starter,” “duties may vary,” as well as those that are “hiring immediately.”

Furthermore, with the Canadian government planning to ease labour market constraints with skilled immigrants, Ms. Dikshit strongly advises against language that discourages newcomer applicants.

“As an immigrant myself, the words ‘Canadian experience’ is quite a demotivator for many immigrants with amazing talent and skills that they bring into the country,” she said. “They should instead focus more on the specific skillsets that people bring.”

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