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THE QUESTION

I recently came across a job application that included this statement: “This job description is not intended to be an exhaustive list of responsibilities. The job holder may be required to complete any other reasonable duties in order to achieve business objectives.” Are companies allowed to do this? Should I be concerned about their company culture? I’m worried that this would allow them to dump any and all tasks onto my lap in the future.

THE FIRST ANSWER

Susanna Quail, partner, Allevato Quail & Roy, Vancouver

Companies are allowed to include a statement like this in a job posting. If you apply for and accept the job with this in the job description, your employer will be able to assign you other “reasonable” duties, as long as those duties are related to their business objectives. Whether duties are reasonable or not will be context-specific, depending on the nature of the role and the business.

I share your concern that this is a red flag about company culture. It so happens that I once turned down a job offer (before I was a lawyer) for exactly this reason. If you do apply, you may want to ask about this in the interview, perhaps by asking what kinds of other duties they anticipate assigning, or whether this is something they’ve done in the past with other roles.

Keep in mind that if you are offered the job, you can attempt to negotiate a change to the job description before deciding whether to accept the position. The prospective employer’s response to a proposed change will give you good information about how seriously to take this red flag. It could just be standard language they use without having any real intention to assign tasks beyond the job description, or it could signal something much more worrisome about their expectations and level of organization.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Jermaine Murray, talent recruiter and career coach, JupiterHR, Toronto

I wouldn’t be overly concerned with this type of phrasing. A lot of times, it’s just a way of saying that there will be work involved that may not have been conceived yet that would fall under your jurisdiction. The most important thing to do in this scenario is to do research on the company. Start by going to websites that review employer experiences like Glassdoor, Levels fyi, Team Blind and Fishbowl. Look at the salaries, reviews and threads people have made about their experiences. It can be with a particular company or even a role/industry. I love the forums and communities of these websites — the anonymity allows you to really get to know what it’s like to work there from the perspective of someone disgruntled. However, be advised that you should take disparaging reviews with a grain of salt because hurt feelings can skew a perspective.

Make sure you’re asking critical questions during the interviews. For example: How does the company support their employees during unprecedented times? How did you navigate COVID-19? Do you have Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for marginalized employees? What’s your stance on remote work? These are a few starter questions to get a proper idea of what the work culture is like as well as the type of work you would be doing in this role.

Make sure you also ask questions about the context surrounding the role like: “Why is this position open?” or “What’s the biggest impact this position would have on the company?” to ascertain what the workload and expectations are that might not readily appear on the job description. Any responses that sound like they’re superficial or avoidant are major red flags.

Companies with good cultures are honest about their shortcomings while detailing how they plan to address them. That will give you much more insight into what the company is really about and will give you the ability to make a more informed decision.

Have a question for our experts? Send an email to NineToFive@globeandmail.com with ‘Nine to Five’ in the subject line. Emails without the correct subject line may not be answered.

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