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Radhika Panjwani is a former journalist from Toronto and a blogger.

In 2019, Sweta Regmi landed a managerial job with a Canadian bank, only to find her delight in her new role to be short-lived.

Turned out that “manager” was a misnomer. As a “manager in-training,” Ms. Regmi was not part of any department’s headcount; rather, she was shuffled from branch to branch in the guise of training.

“I was hired because of my previous experience as a coach and leader,” she said. “I took a pay cut and moved to a small city because the job seemed exciting. But my real role was that of a backup teller.”

She now serves up that experience as a cautionary tale. As the founder and CEO of Teachndo, a career consultancy firm she founded in 2019, she tells her clients to be vigilant and look out for some obvious red flags in job descriptions.

“I now coach my clients to ask [prospective employers] to provide details of their 30-, 60- and 90-day onboarding plans,” Ms. Regmi said. “When you ask those questions, you will receive a lot of clarity on what the expectations are. And watch out for specific words, including ones that say ‘manager-in-training,’ because in my case, what they meant was, ‘You’ve got to be stellar as a teller.’”

She also cautions jobseekers to be wary of job postings that mention earning potential as opposed to the real salary or ones that want a “rock star,” “unicorn” or “ninja” candidate to (uncomplainingly) shoulder the duties of three people. And beware of employers seeking “dynamic,” “tech-savvy” and “energetic” candidates, as these words are covert signs of the company’s bias against older workers, Ms. Regmi warns.

‘We’re like a family’

In a blog post titledWhy your business isn’t a family,” Rohma Abbas, a former content marketing manager at recruiting software company Workable, says companies that refer to themselves as families likely blur the lines between work and home life and intrude on their employees’ time with their real families.

“Companies that consider themselves families may unwittingly foster an ‘us vs. them’ mentality [because] you’re either in the family or you’re not,” Ms. Abbas writes. “And this can get ugly in the workplace through discrimination and bias [only hiring people who think and look like the team], groupthink [employees only say what they think the ‘family’ wants to hear] and bad judgement [organizations that function like families might be more willing to forgive and forget offences that can seriously compromise the entire business (e.g., financial fraud, harassment).

Five other red flags, and solutions to combat them, according to Ms. Regmi:

Job descriptions that are either vague or extremely detailed (four pages long)

Solution: During the interview, ask the manager to spell out, among other things, the key performance indicators (KPIs) for the job; their coaching strategies; and an example of a rock star on their team. Get clarity on the role and expectations.

Job interview assignments

This is when an employer requires candidates to write a detailed business, marketing or communications plan specific to the company.

Solution: Mention politely that you have other commitments and ask for something that will require you to put in a couple of hours of work, as opposed to days. Or tell them you could send them examples of similar work you have done.

Too many interviews or hoops to jump through

Two or three interviews are reasonable for executive-level jobs.

Solution: Walk away from anyone who puts you through the wringer with six or seven rounds.

The same job posting appears routinely

Solution: Pass on this one. This is the reddest of red flags, telling you either the manager is toxic or the culture is.

Interviewer is late, rude or doesn’t respect the interviewee

Solution: This is another one you should pass on.


What I’m reading around the web

In this article/podcast in World Economic Forum, Wipro CEO Thierry Delaporte talks about his experiences starting as a remote CEO and not being able to meet his team in-person. Mr. Delaporte discusses the communication strategies he developed to make change happen and build trust.

Deep fake technology sounds ominous, doesn’t it? But this article in Zdnet.com says deep fake technology can be put to good use, too, such as preserving film history. Case in point: The Beatles: Get Back (airing on Disney+). The original audio and video files from 1969 were of poor quality. So director Peter Jackson fed the grainy, unsaturated vintage film to a computer algorithm, and it came alive. For the audio, his team developed a machine learning system.

Marketers, make note. More Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 are using TikTok than Instagram, according to an article on cnbc.com. The story references survey findings published by Forrester. “We heard from Gen Z youth that they find TikTok to be funnier and more positive versus other social media platforms,” said Mike Proulx, an analyst at Forrester. In 2021, 63 per cent of Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 used TikTok on a weekly basis, compared with 57 per cent for Instagram.

More from the section

I’m not eligible for my 10-year service award because of my maternity leave. How do I broach my concerns with HR? In this week’s NinetoFive advice column, a reader asks how to express to HR that she thinks discounting time spent on maternity leaves is discriminatory.

Why Canadians want to skip the virtual holiday party this year Canadian workers have a message for employers that are considering hosting a virtual holiday party this year: Please don’t. According to a recent study conducted by professional recruitment firm Robert Half Canada, 43 per cent of employees want to celebrate the holidays with their colleagues in person; only 8 per cent are interested in gathering virtually.

Beware of the passion principle Years ago, people chose jobs for security and money. Today, we are told to follow our hearts. But, as assistant professor of sociology Erin Cech writes in her book The Trouble with Passion, this isn’t always the best approach.

Leadership Lab is a series where executives, experts and writers share their views and advice about the world of work. You can find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.

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