If you’re in desperation mode—i.e., totally miserable in your current gig or job hunting for the fourth unemployed month in a row—it’s temping to apply for any link your mouse lands on.
But if you’re set on finding a career that you actually love (which you should be!), stop applying willy-nilly to every job listing you stumble upon, and start focusing on finding the positions that make you excited to ditch your pajamas for the power suit hiding in the back of your closet.
How do you find these gems? Well, first off, you have to learn how to filter out the job listings that just aren’t worth your time. If you’re not sure exactly what to avoid, here are four signs that you should close your browser window and continue your search elsewhere.
1. It Seems a Little Fishy
If you find a job listing that doesn’t mention a specific company name, legitimate website, or any contact information besides an encrypted email address—well, that’s a sign you’re looking on Craigslist. And that, my friend, is a red flag.
I’ll admit it—I was once the victim of a Craigslist job listing. I applied to an entry-level marketing position, despite not being able to find much information about the company through its listed website. No more than an hour later, I had received both an email and a phone call, requesting an interview for the very next day. A little confused by the instantaneous reply, I Googled the company and quickly found out it was a scam.
While it’s possible to land a legitimate job on Craigslist, a large number of job listings aren’t trustworthy—so it’s important to sniff out which aren’t worth your time. If you can’t research the company (i.e., the listing doesn’t include a website or even a company name) or you’re asked for personal information like a Social Security or driver’s license number—retreat. Even better: Re-focus your job search by targeting specific companies through their own websites.
2. You Don’t Meet the Qualifications—By a Long Shot
Beginning your job hunt with an ideal position in mind is a good start—as long as it’s within your range of skills and experience. You may want to apply for the senior-level management position that requires 10 years of experience, but if you only have three years under your belt, you won’t stand a chance next to more qualified candidates.
Of course, if you’re only short the required experience by a small margin, go for it. But if you are missing key skills or several years of experience, it’s best to spend your time either applying for a job that would be a stepping stone to your ideal position, or working to gain the skills that will help you meet those qualifications.
3. You’re Not Willing to Meet the Requirements
In my desperation to land a new job, I once applied for a position with a software company in Madison, Wisconsin. Did I want to relocate? Not really—and if I did, Madison certainly wasn’t on the top of my list. Regardless, I went through the process, flew to Madison (where it was 13 degrees below zero—first warning sign!) to interview, got a job offer—and promptly declined.
From the beginning, I knew I didn’t want to work or live there, but figured I had to take a chance since I applied and was offered an interview. But ultimately, it ended up being a waste of time, both for the company and for me.
So consider this: Regardless of how appealing the job seems, keep an eye out for other requirements. Will you have to relocate? (And would you have to pay for the move yourself?) Work nights and weekends? Commute farther than you’d like? Settle for a lower salary than you expected?
Sometimes, in the heat of the job-applying moment, you can convince yourself that that these types of requirements aren’t deal breakers, as long as you finally have a job. But imagine that the company offers you the job right now. Are you really willing to make that kind of sacrifice? If not, it’s time to move on.
4. You Have to Convince Yourself You Want the Job
After managing a cupcake shop for a year, I promised myself that my future career would absolutely not involve customer service. But, just a few months down the road (as I grew more desperate), I found myself applying to jobs that listed “provide customer service in person and over the phone” as part of the description. Somehow, I convinced myself that as long as all the other important factors (salary, benefits, fun co-workers) were there, I’d be OK with the role I once swore off. So against my initial objections, I took a customer service job, and—wouldn’t you know it?—a year down the road, I was telling myself (yet again) that I did not, under any circumstances, ever want to work in customer service again.
Of course, all jobs are going to require you to do things you don’t love (especially if you’re using a position as a stepping stone to something better), but my point is this: If you read a job description and have to convince yourself that only under the perfect circumstances could you potentially learn to tolerate the main responsibilities of the job—it’s not worth it.
I know how it feels to need a job. But I also know how it feels to be stuck in a job that you absolutely dread. So, take it from me: Don’t sell yourself short. Stop wasting time applying to these positions that aren’t going to result in a job you enjoy (or a job at all), and put your time and effort into finding a career you love.