“I need to apply for jobs, but I’m not sure if it’s safe. What if I get scammed?”
I’ve had a few clients come to me with concerns about how safe it is to apply for jobs online, especially on sites generated for job hunting such as Indeed. When Sarah asked me this question, I realized that not everyone knows the warning signs of getting scammed when applying for jobs.
Let’s face it — 2020 has been a terrible year. When the pandemic hit, it took its toll on the economy, and a record number of workers found themselves unemployed. Undoubtedly, an increase in people applying for jobs will lead to an increase in scams. And with a record 22 million people suddenly in the market for a new job, and 20% of people finding themselves faced with scams according to surveys, it’s no surprise that my clients are concerned.
A job scam is the last thing anyone wants to deal with, on top of unemployment amidst a global pandemic. You don’t want to be searching away, having to ask yourself, “Is it safe to apply for jobs on Indeed?” But the good news is there are ways to check for scams and protect yourself and your job prospects. And knowing the signs can improve your chances significantly — 15% of those faced with a scam have avoided it just by knowing what to look out for.
But what are the warning signs? I’ve compiled a list of 5 key things to look out for and do when job hunting online, to protect yourself from a job hunting scam.
- How The Job Is Described
It’s essential to determine the key phrases that make a job description suspicious. If you see words or phrases like “easy to earn,” “never-ending money-making,” and “make a million in just a few minutes,” that’s a sure sign not to reach out to the company or employer who offered the job. Very few jobs will advertise that they’re ‘get-rich-quick,’ and most employers will use more sophisticated and professional language. For example, look for a company that offers “remote work” rather than “work-from-home.” The more colloquial term of work-from-home might be what we use with our friends, but it’s rarely what a professional looking for employees will use.
- How Fast They’re Hiring
Some jobs might be hiring immediately, such as grocery stores or other industries hit hard by the pandemic, but even those companies take some time to process applications and choose their employees. Be wary of jobs that call for urgent or immediate hiring. Professional companies will need to take their time determining who is the best fit for the position; chances are, if a job description says they need you ASAP, take it as a red flag.
- If It All Seems Too Good To Be True
You might find yourself coming across a job description that reads like a dream. The salary, quick hiring turnaround, free snack bar at the office… It all seems, well, too good to be true. Usually, if it seems unreal, it most likely is. You’ve got to trust your gut on these things. Scammers will absolutely try to entice you with impossible success stories and other remarkable aspects of the job they’re advertising. Take it all with a grain of salt until you can verify the information.
- What They Ask From You
Here’s a situation to consider: you’ve found a great job, everything seems to check out, and you’re getting further along in the interview process, until someone asks you for money to process your application.
It’s key to remember that a legitimate company will never ask you to pay for anything during the interview process. They also won’t ask for any other personal information such as your bank account number, social security number, or your ID. If the job is above board, they will only request tax documentation after you’ve been officially hired and brought on to their team.
- The Way They Communicate
A company aiming to scam an applicant might use informal applications to communicate with their target, such as social media platforms. These are easy-access platforms that anyone can use, and conduct a scam through.
The only social media platform a legitimate company will reach out through is LinkedIn, and even then the communication will move to a more professional setting, such as a phone or video call. These jobs will never use a personal email, or reach out through any informal channels, so keep an eye out for where you’re accessing these job applications.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to trusting your gut. If something feels off, even a little, it’s worth the effort to take a step back from the application process and do your due diligence. Take some time to investigate the company. Look on Glassdoor for reviews, check if they have a LinkedIn page or other online presence, and confirm to the best of your ability that what you’re dealing with is a legitimate company. A good thing to remember: if the ‘employer’ refuses a video call, you probably want to run in the opposite direction.
And if you do find out you’re being scammed, you can report it to official channels such as the Federal Trade Commision to prevent the scam from spreading to those who don’t know what red flags to look out for. We’re all in this crazy time together, so looking out for one another is the least we can do.