Subtle hints that a listed job isn't all it's cracked up to be

I have a new one for my list of “tells”, thanks to a glossy ad from a job recruiter that arrived in the mail today.

This one was coy about location*, mentioning that the opportunity was in a “bedroom community” of a certain major city.

A little fact-checking discloses that the major metro in question is located 147 miles away. You’d have to stock up on audiobooks and No-Doz for that daily commute.

The ad has a couple of my other faves. They mention how supposedly easy it is to get the hell out of town (“access to 5 major international airports within 1.5 to 3 hours”). I’ve seen others that actually listed the number of daily flights to other places. And the ad cites a low low cost of living, which is code for “economically depressed area”.

True, they didn’t use the tried and true “great place to raise a family”, which I always took to mean that the only thing to do in your off-hours was procreate.

*I enjoy the game of deciphering where a job actually is, which these days is far less challenging thanks to Google et al.

“[metro] area”. Sometimes they say [metro] and it turns out to be one hour away with no traffic; by the time they include “area” it’s in that bedroom community mentioned in the OP or further.

If the ad is for a country with UHC and lists “medical benefits” (usually accompanied by the ‘equal opportunity employer’ laundry list), HR is in the States and doesn’t really understand that there’s these things called “other countries” and they’ve got their own legal systems and social issues. Wow, you mean you’re going to do something that’s required by law? I should be impressed, I totally should!

Got a email today with a list of openings in HI. I’m in MA. Filter on the site was set for 25 miles…

“Now hiring for a variety of positions that you’re a perfect fit for!”

Like what? Oh, I’m supposed to come in, and we’ll see? No, thanks.

Several years ago, a mail-order pharmacy opened in my area, and I checked out their website. It was red flag city all over the place, mainly because the emphasis of all the job descriptions was HOW MUCH FUN they have working there, and for pharmacists, the description concluded with, “You don’t have to know how to play an accordion, but it wouldn’t hurt.”



I’m all for good employee morale, but c’mon. This isn’t Old Navy (ever noticed their nametags?).

Ah, corporate culture. Some people really go for it, others really don’t. I can see it both ways: A good job can be ruined if you’re around people who really annoy you or with whom you just don’t mesh, but it can be a way to cover for an incompetent management team which really doesn’t understand work-life balance. This is the classic “rockstar programmer” trap: If a company advertises that it wants a “rockstar programmer”, it usually wants a young White male* who has no life outside of programming yet (no serious relationships, certainly no wife and most definitely no kids) who is willing to sink massive amounts of time into a place where he’s allowed to play foosball and maybe drink some beer on the clock. The flip side is that the managers have no clue how to schedule programming jobs (because nobody really does) and there will sometimes be “death marches” of massive overtime on doomed projects just to get something out the door on an overly-optimistic schedule.

Programmers can’t be micromanaged, because you can’t be creative (and, yes, problem-solving is creative) with someone constantly demanding updates and pulling you away from your work to have meetings, but if someone looks like they’re aiming to replicate your home life at the office, it probably means they expect you to spend more time at the office than at home.

*(Not that I really expect anyone to challenge me on this, but the fact everyone who’s willing to put up with a job like this comes from this one very specific demographic is actually a topic of some concern, mostly because game companies are notorious for having death marches and, therefore, only hiring young White males as developers and designers, to the point people are getting concerned about what that does to the viewpoints implicit in video games, now that video games have become the third leg of the mass-media entertainment stool. Point being, I can give cites.)

Here in Canada, where private healthcare insurance is prohibited, I worked for a company headquartered in Tampa, Florida, USA. They gave us full major medical insurance, under Cigna. We couldn’t use it, of course, except for dental, vision, and prescriptions. (Canadian law prevents Canadians from using private insurance to cover procedures that they have under provincial health plans.) Still, I had many dental claims refused by the American insurer due to “pre-existing conditions.” Having braces at age 13 amounts to denying a claim for a checkup or a filling when I am 33? Screw it, I just paid the dentist, and was done with it. So much for “health insurance.” More like “health ripoff.”

Anyway. One day the company president came up to Toronto to see our office. We were maybe 20 Canadians in the only Canadian office of this company of about 1200 people, 1180 of whom were based in the US. “Why ain’t you all using my insurance?” the company president asked. “Why are you using that communistical-socialist shit?” At which point, our General Manager (a Canadian) said, “Sir, can we talk privately for a moment?” I guess our GM told him the facts of life up here, and that no matter how well his Cigna plan covered us, we weren’t allowed to use it.

Our Canadian branch of this American company closed down about a year later.

Occasionally you come across a job ad in England where they give BUPA (our largest private medical company) cover as a job perk. It’s not always an American run company.

I’m not looking for a job, but I am looking for a house. One week about a year ago I kept getting these new house alerts from a housing website, and the prices were way lower than typical for here. I was confused until I realized they’d gotten the town name right, but the state wrong. It’s too bad the other town is over 1000 miles away; I’ll never see a 3000sf, 4 bedroom, 6 bathroom house for 215k here unless it’s falling down. The funny thing is I’ve been getting correct listings for over a year when the site went crazy.

To be exact, the job mentioned in the OP is in South Bend, Indiana - which by no stretch of the imagination is a “bedroom community” of Indianapolis, which the ad alleges.

This is akin to describing New Haven, CT as a “bedroom community” of Boston, or Springfield IL as a “bedroom community” of Chicago.

I could see South Bend being called a bedroom community of Chicago, but Indianapolis? Nope. Not even close.

Yes but I’m not talking about ads offering additional medical insurance. The phrasing is different. I’m talking about exact phrasings such as “medical coverage from day one” or “benefits including medical coverage” where a local company would say “benefits including access to private medical insurance” and often list which company they offer it with. in Spain medical coverage from day one is required for any legal labor contract, even if they’re for one hour a week.

And the laundry list doesn’t just refer to a law which exists in a single country: in many countries, the attitude behind it (that it’s legal to discriminate, so long as the reason for it is not in the list) is itself illegal.

Also, the quality of life is much different in the two cities.

Ever tried to get someone from South Bend to describe their city without calling it “The [disgusting body part] of The World”?
(Hint: it’s not too far from Gary, Indiana… I’m imagining a job interviewee expecting a “bedroom community of Chicago”, and having to breathe petroleum by-products all day)

It’s been ages since I have had to look for a job. But one thing that would
always give me a bad impression was to interview at a place and notice
that there was almost no one over 30. This told me that the company
was not treating or paying their employees well enough to make them
want to stay for long.

Years ago, back before the internet became popular, there was an ad
that would appear just about every other week in the Los Angles Times.
This ad was vague about what the job was but would always have the words
“NASTY BOSS” at the top in large capital letters. I’ve always wondered what
the job was and working conditions were really like.

No need. It’s where Notre Dame is. Can’t get any worse.

If a job ad says “occasional overtime required,” it actually means “kiss your free time goodbye, 'cause you’re working 50-, 60-hour-plus work weeks.”

If it adds “flexible schedule,” get ready to have your hours changed at a moment’s notice, without regard for any consideration on your part (single working parent, sole caregiver, etc.).

If it adds “paid vacation,” don’t count on ever getting to take it. My last (former) employer scheduled me to come in and work in the middle of my manager-approved vacation, because even though my vacation was a Friday and Monday around a normally off weekend, with a Thanksgiving Thursday paid company holiday to boot, I still had to come in and work the weekend or forfeit both my paid company holiday and my paid vacation.

And this was after I had already made airline/hotel/rental car reservations.

Which is why they are now my former employers.

Finding out that a job has been open for a long time despite saturation in the field is another warning sign, one that I didn’t find out about until after I took one particular job.

I wonder who slipped that “NASTY BOSS” thing in the want ad, and if it was true.

“Must be detail oriented” = There is no admin. help here; we’d rather pay 150/hr employees to make copies. "Work hard/play hard atmosphere" = work 70 hours per week + the CEO has been single far too long "Able to hit the ground running" = HR is useless and this job has been open a dangerously long time "Get in on the ground floor" = we have very little to offer you but we tied this carrot to a fishing pole . . .
“work independently” + “CPSR experience required” = We’re not going to pass the next audit and we plan to throw you under the bus.

I’ve got a million of them.

When I’ve looked into jobs promising “competitive wages” I can only conclude that they’re competing with India.

From experience, any kind of stage-management that happens during the interview may be a warning sign; for example: “We’re about to bring in the CEO now to meet you. He’s the sort of guy who likes to ask very curt, nonspecific questions and get an immediate, accurate answer. Don’t worry - that’s just his style!”. Yeah… the fact that they need to prepare you to meet him means they all find him impossible themselves.