SEEKING LEGITIMACY: How to Find the Perfect Job in a Sea of Spam

By Alexa Gold
Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 6.05.43 PMSeveral months ago, I started my job hunt. I knew I was receiving my Bachelor’s degree in May and was not on a graduate school track. I didn’t want to spend all of my days watching my bank account slowly dwindle down to zero. I yearned for a post-grad job and I wanted it immediately.

So, I made my list and checked it twice, and I’m not talking about who’s naughty or nice. I’m talking about my resume. As my job search began, countless postings seemed to be the perfect fit.  The listings stated “Must be proficient Microsoft Office Suite.” I thought to myself, “Gee, of course I am! I practically studied abroad in Office Land!” As I browsed through the postings, I began to imagine myself in a multitude of job roles, as well as a perfect fit for many types of office cultures. However, most of these fantasies were too good to be true.

Some jobs sound great on paper but are sketchier than one may realize. Many companies (particularly in marketing, where I was looking) want as many bodies as they can to go out and sell products. Employees are only rewarded through commission-based sales and are not salaried/paid an hourly wage. Sometimes, clawbacks come into play, meaning that the commission you make would be taken back from your check if a(n) owner/client doesn’t feel like you did a great job. Have no fear. Once you understand this concept, spotting these traps in job listings becomes much easier.

For me, after roughly 5 months of searching, I finally found an entry-level, paid position. As a recent hire, I’ve come to realize that there are many scams and postings that may not be a suitable fit for you. Here are some tips on how to identify legitimate job postings.

1)        KEY PHRASES The first tip is about wording in postings. If you spot phrasing like “LOOKING FOR RECENT GRADS!!” or “ENTRY-LEVEL—WILL TRAIN!!” in all CAPS, it is usually a sure sign for disaster. Instead, look for words such as “assistant,” “associate” or “junior” as starting positions. Companies that are looking for a position type are more formal and are searching for a candidate who is looking for upward mobility within their organization.

Another aspect of phrasing is to search companies that work in fields of your interests

For example: “public relations, marketing, events, social media, administrative.”

Instead of searching for a particular level within an organization, I searched terms based on my skill set. This is another way to eliminate traps that want to capture naïve graduates.

2)        SOCIAL MEDIA Make sure a company name is listed in the posting first. Once you see a company name, search for them online. If you find a great job posting, check the company’s social media accounts. Be sure to find all of their profiles and an official website. If you do not see a client basis, real people, or active postings, it’s probably not your best bet. You want to work for an active company that is aware of their web presence, has a client basis, and has dedicated staff members that you will soon be calling your teammates.

In addition to social media accounts, look for company reviews on search engines, as well. Sometimes, people will post about job listings that aren’t trustworthy. If you see “scam” or “ripoff” or even phrasing like “waste of time” associated with a company, it may not be the one for you. On the other hand, if people enjoyed where they worked, they will sometimes blog about their meaningful job experience. This is definitely a sign that this company is the real deal.

3)        CONTACT PERSONThis is a tip that can flex for different types of postings.  However, if you spot an email that says and uses a first name as your point of contact, it’s the best sign. Your resume goes straight to an HR or hiring manager’s inbox and shows that they are serious about filling a position. Sometimes or has the same effect. The worst possible scenario is one of those “fill-in-the-blank” boxes on a company website since these types of applications don’t usually have a point of contact. Therefore, it’s nearly impossible to follow up. In all cases, I recommend following up within a week or two of applying for any job when you can. This way, they know that you are serious.

If a company that seems like a good match starts making solicitation calls or calls that are desperately begging you to come in for an interview, don’t trust them. If something like this persists, they will also email you multiple times using subject lines like “Following up!,” “Attempt to Contact,” or  “Final Attempt to Contact!” Again, they are looking to gather as many people as possible for scams such as their “commission-based” sales team.

4)        DON’T UNDERESTIMATE YOUR ABILITIES Graduating college is a huge achievement. If you have worked any paid jobs/internships or unpaid internships, you have the most important thing under your belt: EXPERIENCE. Rev up your engine and toot your own horn (just a little bit) to show companies that you are irreplaceable. When looking at job postings after graduation, it’s easy to believe that you need more experience in your field. This could mean settling for an unpaid internship, even when you have loans to pay off. Sketchy job postings make you believe that you need to give a particular company free labor in order to “gain experience” and become successful within your industry. If you did that as a student, that’s fine. As a college grad, it’s time to get paid. Take time to reflect on your previous work and highlight what sets you apart from other candidates. Always put your best foot forward and let legitimate companies know that you are the right fit.

I hope these tips help you, job searcher. They took me months to learn. Like everything else, it’s all about trial and error.

Good luck with your search! With a little bit of effort, your hard work will lead you to the perfect job!

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