Understanding Job Postings: How to Stay Safe on Handshake

Tawnya -

Here are some tips to consider as you contemplate a job opportunity:

  • Research the company and the recruiter. Check out the company website to see what you can learn about their culture and their business model. If they have a list of staff members, see if you can find the name of the recruiter listed on the job posting. The last section of this article expands on this research more in depth; scroll down to see it.

  • Familiarize yourself with common job scams. Forbes has a great article here. You can also Watch This Video from the Federal Trade Commission on job scams.

  • If something feels “too good to be true”, be suspicious. "Make $300 in a day from home". Large sums of money for minimal work is a common tactic that a scammer will use to lure students in and steal your information. If a job seems “too good to be true,” flag that employer so Handshake can investigate immediately and protect you from being potentially scammed. You can click here to learn how to flag an employer

  • NEVER accept and deposit a check before you start and do work. A common technique of Internet scammers is to ask you to cash a check at a bank, and then return some of that money to the employer while you get to keep some of the cash for yourself. This is a scam. No reputable employer will require you to pay for anything on your own, or cash a check on their behalf, before starting your job. If you receive an email asking you to do anything remotely like this, flag the employer immediately and contact your city’s Better Business Bureau.
  • Be wary of an employer who offers you a job before even speaking with you. Don’t accept a job you didn’t apply to and/or didn’t require an interview or gives you 1 day to accept. Any reputable employer normally requires an interview (and more) before hiring. Put your excitement on pause. Speak with a trusted person about your interaction with the company and documents you are asked to sign. Keep copies of all communication. If you have any questions or concerns, flag the employer and Handshake will investigate.

If you believe you have been contacted by, or have given your personal information information to a fraudulent employer, please review steps to take here. What To Do If You've Given Your Personal Information To A Fraudulent Employer.


Below are several additional expanded tips for staying safe. 


Review the job description

Oftentimes red flags can be identified just by looking a little closer at the job description. Here are some common themes to be on the lookout for when searching for jobs.

  • The business name is not easily identifiable and no clear business website is listed. Or, if there is a website, there is no substance to the content.
  • There are significant spelling and grammatical errors within the posting.
  • The employer requires you to pay money or a ‘membership fee’ in order to access opportunities.
  • The posting appears to be from a reputable, familiar company (often a Fortune 500). Yet, the email handle in the contact’s email address does not match the domain used by representatives of the company (this is typically easy to determine from the company’s website). Another way to validate is to check the open positions on the company’s website, by checking their careers/jobs page.
  • The posting neglects to mention the responsibilities of the job. Instead, the description focuses on the amount of money to be made.
  • The position indicates a “first-year compensation” that is in high excess to the average compensation for that position type. Or, the salary range listed is very wide (e.g., “employees can earn from $40K – $80K the first year!”).
  • The position is for any of the following: envelope-stuffers, home-based assembly jobs, or online surveys, clerical work at home, typing, shipping packages, and personal assistant/shopping duties. Often, for this type of opportunity, the employer never actually interviews you or wants to meet face-to-face.


Research the company

Always do your research before applying for a job to make sure that the opportunity is genuine and meets your needs. When you do research on a job or company, here are some additional tips to be aware of:

  • The position initially appears as a traditional job. Upon further research, it sounds more like an independent contractor opportunity.
  • Look at the company’s website. Does it have an index that tells you what the site is about; or does it contain information only about the job in which you are interested? Scammers often create quick, basic web pages that seem legitimate at first glance.
  • Watch for anonymity. If it is difficult to find an address, actual contact, company name, etc., this is cause to proceed with caution. Fraud postings are illegal, so scammers will try to keep themselves well hidden.
  • Do they have full LinkedIn pages with many and diverse connections?
  • When you Google the company name and the word “scam” (e.g., Acme Company Scam), the results show several scam reports concerning this company. Another source for scam reports is http://www.ripoffreport.com.
  • Conduct an internet search of the employer’s phone number, address, and/or email address. If it does not appear connected to an actual business organization, this is a red flag. You can use the Better Business Bureau, Hoovers and AT&T’s Anywho to verify organizations. You can also check WhoIs.net to see when the domain name was created. Proceed with caution if the domain name was created within the last few days.
  • Be cautious about which job posting websites you submit your resume and complete contact information.


Employer interaction red flags

Beyond the job description, the employer’s interactions with you can be a red flag. Here are some items to be on the lookout for:

  • The employer contacts you by phone, but the number is blocked or not available and there is no way to return the call.
  • The employer contacts you by email offering you a job you did not apply for or inviting you to apply for a job. 
  • The contact email address contains the domain @live.com or an @ that is not affiliated with the company. Example: @gmail, @yahoo, @hotmail, etc.
  • The address is a non-US address, not at the company’s address, or is a post office box.
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