Genuine job or a scam? This guide will help you decide whether to apply for a position or not (infographic)

So it’s time to move onwards and upwards: you’re looking for a new job. Whether you’re searching for the next inspiring rung up the ladder or you just need something quickly to keep your financial head above water, it’s rarely easy to find and get an appropriate role.

And despite a prevalence of new job portals in the internet era, it’s hardly got any easier to find that job. Just a couple of decades ago, most of us would look for work on paper: in newspaper classifieds, industry journals, want-ads pinned up at the store, and even print-outs from the job machine at the local employment center. Today, the number and type of job outlets has multiplied exponentially. We have online agencies and recruitment websites, LinkedIn and other networking hubs, social media, and the ‘Work With Us?’ page of many a company’s website, to name but a few.

If the number of available jobs had risen at the same rate as the number of job websites, all would be grand. But while the type of job available these days may often be different from yesteryear, that doesn’t mean there are lots more available.

Unfortunately, the illusion that there are so many vacancies is caused by three things: the proliferation of job websites, the duplication of similar job ads across different platforms (and the fact that they’re often not removed once the job is taken), and another nefarious phenomenon: scam ads.

Scam jobs online

For every real job available online, there are estimated to be 60-70 scam jobs. Some are simple profit-making schemes - making money for the advertisers, not you! They include a premium phone number so when you call for information you make the business a few bucks straight out of your pocket. Of course there’s no job at the end of it.

Other scammers are after your information. We give a lot of personal data to employers, even before we get the job. They might ask your name, address, social security number, bank account details. When you desperately need some money in that bank account, it can be easy to act too hastily – but of course, scammers like this are planning to hijack your identity and, once again, relocate money from your pocket to theirs.

Still more scams involve actual jobs but are still bad news for the applicant. The job may be illegal, or require you to break the law; it may pay exploitative rates (even more so than legitimate employers!) or require you to put yourself in danger. Or you may put in a whole month of hard work only to find your employer has mysteriously disappeared come pay day.

Problems with legitimate jobs

Of course, these aren’t the only reasons not to apply for a job that seems appealing at first glance. Legit employers too must try to stand out above this mess of scam jobs and duplicate ads, and to do so they won’t always give you the full picture. You may be expected to work way longer hours than appearances suggest, take a low wage, or do work with which you’re not morally comfortable.

Or it may just be that applying for and taking on a particular perfectly good job will end up being a waste of your own time and energy. If you find it depressing, unchallenging, or meaningless, you could be searching for another job again in a few months – and all you have to show for it is a resume that makes it look like you can’t hold a job down for more than a few months! You might not fit the work culture, or you might be expected to travel more than you want or to work beyond regular hours. You can’t always tell from the advert whether this will be the case, which is why you can save yourself time in the long run by examining opportunities a little closer before you apply.

Things to look out for on job ads

There are lots of warning signs as to when a job might not be quite what it appears. Learning these in advance can prevent you taking a mis-step.

An employer whose business name is very similar to a well-known brand is reasonably likely to be a scammer. This technique is called piggybacking, and even a legitimate employer who uses it is probably not the most ethical of individuals! If there’s no business name at all, it certainly looks dodgy. You should always run the business name through an employer review site like Glassdoor before applying; a company without a name may be trying to avoid you doing this, if they even exist. You can still Google whatever details they do provide: if the company or individual only shows up in results for other job ads, you know they don’t do much except produce job ads – and rip people off.

Other signs of scammers are ads that include promises of ‘quick cash’ or pay levels that seem too good to be true. They usually are. Watch out for those premium (0900) numbers, too, and avoid having a job interview over online ‘chat’ – it’s an easy way for scammers to get data from you without being traced. And certainly don’t go along with anyone who asks you to pay a deposit of some type before you get started.

Legitimate but secretly exploitative employers often give themselves away with the language they use. A job that is ‘perfect for students or stay-at-home parents’ is probably offering super-low pay for the ‘convenience’ of working from home. If the ad mentions that you should be able to deal with high-stress levels, it’s likely that they under-employ to save money: you’ll be doing the work of two or more people but for the pay of just one. If they mention you need to be available outside working hours, you need to be very clear (and have it in writing) just what they’re allowed to demand of you before you take on the job.

Finally, when you’ve spotted a legit job that pays well and seems reliable, it’s still worth thinking hard about whether to cash your chips and take it – or hold out for something more appropriate. Do that Google or Social media search, and look out if the company has multiple negative reviews. One or two needn’t be a red flag, but lots of unhappy ex-employees is not a good sign. And don’t think just in terms of negative/positive. Look at the content of positive reviews: how do they make the company culture sound? Some places can be too hands-on, too competitive, or too easy-going or quiet, depending on your tastes.

If you don’t fit in, you won’t enjoy your time there, and you’re likely to be looking for a new job again before too long. So imagine yourself there after six months: how are you likely to feel? What are the possibilities? Are you excited about starting or does it already feel like a drag? We can’t always be super-picky about the offers we accept, but life is short and these things at least bear thinking through.

Finding a new job can be stressful, but ultimately if you’re smart about it and learn to respect yourself you can find your way to a better role – and keep yourself safe from scams. For a complete guide to assessing jobs for their true value, work through this new flowchart from

Should you apply for that job? (infographic)
Did you know that there are about 60 to 70 job scams for every one legitimate job posting online?   The consequences of falling prey to these types of schemes can range from wasting your valuable job-hunting time to having your money or identity stolen.   But sometimes it can be difficult to tell the great jobs from the scams.   Fortunately, there are some indicators that a trained eye can quickly spot:

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