5 Hidden Red Flags in Job Ads

Everyone knows you should be wary when you see “Competitive Salary” in a job ad. (Are they competing to pay you the lowest salary they can?) Aside from this, however, there are other concealed meanings that might slip by you if you don’t have a trained eye like ours.

1. Flexible Hours

The key theme that runs through all of these is implication vs reality. You’re led to assume something leans your way, when it really tips over to the other.

Here, ‘flexible’ implies that you aren’t held to a rigid structure — it’s totally fine to log on at 09:20 and clock out at 16:45 if your work’s done. It suggests freedom.

The reality is often wildly different. ‘Flexible’ means that while your stated hours are 9-5, you’re often expected to work into the evenings or clock on for an hour on a Saturday when there’s something to do. This might be fine with you, but consider if you can fit your work/life balance around it.

2. We’re a Family!

It sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Every day you go into work with people you feel so close to, it’s like you’ve known them your whole life. When someone’s family, you’d do anything for them. More so, you wouldn’t expect anything in return. Hell, if you did, you’d feel guilty!

And here we have our problem. A “family-oriented” workplace can mean you’ll be expected to perform additional labour, simply out of a love for your team. The thing is, that’s exploitation. Don’t fall for  it.

3. 23 Days’ Leave + Holidays

That’s kind, right? Giving you bank holidays and Christmas off, on top of your annual leave? Unfortunately, no. Familiarise yourself with the amount of statutory leave workplaces are legally required to provide their employees.

If you live here in the UK, your employer has to give you at least 28 days’ paid leave a year. Since they don’t have to give you bank holidays, they will often advertise the role as 23 days, plus bank holidays. In reality, this just means they’re dictating exactly when you take five of your days off.

These laws differ depending on the type of contract you’re on, so be sure to read up on what you’re owed.

4. Jargon

We’ll put it in simple words, ‘cos they won’t. If the company beefs up their job ad with a bunch of complex, unnecessary words, it’s because of one of two things. Either, they’re trying to gatekeep the role, excluding everyone except very “intellectual” people. This is a sign they’re elitist. Or, they’re struggling to make the role sound interesting. So, ‘calling’ becomes ‘liaising’, etc.

5. Benefits… to Them

A list of benefits should include subsidised gym memberships, social events, wellbeing support, birthdays off… you know, stuff for you.

A lot of the time, a job ad’s list of benefits will instead include things such as “an opportunity to work in a growing team”, “a new challenge” or “potential for progression”.

It’s not that these are bad things. It’s that they aren’t benefits if it involves benefiting the company by simply doing your job.

A lack of benefits signifies a lack of employee appreciation.


Job ads are exactly that: advertisements. They’re designed to make a job seem attractive. Therefore, everything that is good about the job will be in the ad. Anything that would be unattractive about the job will either be left out, or creatively worded. Pay attention, and you’ll be able to tell the exciting from the embellished. Keep an eye out.

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