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What to Look Out for with Vague Job Descriptions and How to Respond to Them

Have you ever encountered a job description that was so vague it left you feeling frustrated?

Maybe it listed an unrealistic job skill, such as a 4-year proficiency with an app that was just created only a year ago. Or, maybe the job posting only details a few expectations so it leaves you uncertain how to respond to the ad. Although you might not think it’s a bad sign, here are the red flags of a vague job description and what to do when you encounter one.

Unfocused employer.

If a company isn’t organized enough to write a job posting about a position that needs to be filled, what else are they disorganized about? It could be that the hiring manager and the department needing help aren’t communicating well either. Regardless of the reason, it can be a sign of things to come. Do a little research online to see if you can find if this is a pattern for the company. How do their other job descriptions read? What kind of media are they putting out there?

Jobs that will not have definable goals.

Even if you find the company is not that disorganized, they may still just not have a handle on what they want from their new hire. That means you may get into a job and be assigned unexpected duties. This could turn out good or bad for you depending on what you’re asked to do and how much you enjoy (or don’t enjoy) the responsibilities. Regardless, it is an indicator that the employer isn’t even sure what they want from their new hire yet and will adjust it based on the candidate they hire.

The job posting could be a scam.

Bottom line, if it’s not a well-known company that listed the job posting, the job may not even be legit. Scammers tend to get a lot of responses to their ads by making the requirements simple and easy to fill. So, if you find a job with a perfect title for you but only requires you to have internet access and transportation, it might help to be a little suspicious. Dig a little deeper by researching the company or even trying to find their number and giving them a call.

Once you’ve found a vague job description to take a chance on, here are a few strategies when applying.

Narrow in on the most important skills needed and respond to those responsibilities.

Even the most simplistic job descriptions will likely have a few skills they require. Don’t miss addressing any of these desired traits. Call attention to each one in your resume and cover letter if possible. Compare what you’ve done in your past and show how it can fulfill what this new employer needs. If you don’t have direct experience, relate something back. For example, perhaps you’ve only ever worked in accounting but had to call your customers on a regular basis to the extent that you can relate this to having customer service skills.

Talk about what you have in common.

If there isn’t much to tell you about the company in the job description, see what you can research about the company. Once you have an idea of an organization’s values and mission statements, compare what you have in common. When you find overlaps, highlight these things in your cover letter. Maybe you’ve participated in a similar charity or some other non-profit you can share with the employer to spark their interest that you might be a great candidate for their company.

Contact them for more information if needed.

If you find a job description that really interests you but you just aren’t getting much from it to go on, try reaching out directly to the company. You can first try through their general email, and if that doesn’t work, give the company an old-fashioned telephone call. Explain that you are really interested in a position you found online but would love to know if there’s any more information available about the position so you can tailor your response. Steer away from general questions though and instead, ask something more specific because this will show the company how much you’re really interested.

So, should you just give up on a job description if it is general and vague?

The short answer is no. There could be a legitimate reason the job was listed with very little detail. But, protect yourself. Do as much research as you can to avoid any possible scams. Find as much as you can in common to ignite the interest of the company to call you in for an interview. If the job description is so vague that other people pass it up, this takes out some of your competition and gives you a better shot at landing the job.


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