How many times have you come across a job post or a freelance opportunity that either (a) seems too good to be true, or (b) so vaguely worded that it becomes a task itself to figure things out? In such cases, here are some of the areas one should assess carefully, before making a commitment.
1. The email address:
Email that is received from a company, but it seems to be a regular email account and not a company-registered domain. So instead of receiving email from contact(@)companyname(dot)com/org/edu etc., you have contact(dot)companyname(@)gmail/yahoo/rediff platforms. These are not necessarily fraudulent emails, but you still need to do your due diligence before entering into any agreement.
The part after the @ symbol in the email should ideally match the domain of the company's website. So if the email is from a .in or a .uk platform but the website is a .org, write to a listed email on that website to confirm if the address on the email that you received is indeed legitimate. Many MNCs do use localised email addresses. Of course, if the email address is visibly made up of gibberish, then run!
2. Contact info:
The job posting is without any contact info and with the instructions to send a direct message. This has become a common practice on social media and, again, it is not necessarily fraudulent. On LinkedIn, it is easier to see the poster’s profile and make a calculated assessment about the opportunity, but on other websites, such as Facebook, there is a greater chance that the person has a sparsely filled profile, has posted hardly once or twice ever, or has locked their profile so that you cannot view if they are a real person. Is the person directly affiliated with that company? Or an employee? Or just a middle person? Or are they simply using the company's name to collect your personal data?
3. Company info:
Another scenario is where the post includes a company name and a website address, but once you start looking into it, there is no contact information there either. Not a single name of any of the employees is mentioned anywhere, the company’s location information is also missing, and when you check for the company on social media, the only profiles available also don’t have verifiable information. Here again you find that one profile, but it does not mention the name of the person, but just of the company.
4. Incomplete job description:
This is also something one must consider carefully. Details are important, and more often than not, job posters simply write down '[profilename] required', without any other detail. Here I find that if the job poster is unwilling to share even the basics of the job or the gig on an open platform, and insists on keeping things on private messages, it puts me on alert mode.
5. Language of the job posting:
Not everyone has a perfect grip on language, but if the description reads like too many words from the thesaurus have been clubbed together, or it looks like a really bad translation job, you need to look deeper before sending out any relevant details. Look directly on the company's website, find a reliable person who can confirm whether or not this is legitimate.
6. Free samples:
Yes, the client needs to see that you can do the job. No, it is not okay for the client to ask for multiple new samples as assessments if you have provided them already available work samples or a portfolio. Some clients are willing to compensate for the samples, and that is great but extremely rare. Others are happy to send off a small, much reasonable assessment.
7. Scope of the work:
Gig workers often come across this. The work estimate, which the company/recruiter has posted, has some of the details that do not add up correctly. Once you make a thorough assessment of the work, the scope is much larger, the project will take longer, or the project has other dependencies that make it more complex than necessary. How many iterations does it actually require and is that something both parties can agree upon?
8. Meetings and calls:
If the person keeps scheduling calls and meetings at an inconvenient time, chances are that this will continue once the project starts. This can escalate to working over weekends, out-of-working-hours requests, and firefighting at every step where there is no urgency. Also, it is important to see that how many meetings before the start of a project are required, and how many are too many.
9. Detailed but vague job description:
This one is a different kind of anomaly. The job poster has got a whole essay written about the company culture, the qualifications they require from the applicants, and a rough salad toss of any and every responsibility they can think of. The role is mentioned as that of a supervisor, but the responsibilities include that of a much junior role. Or the role is for a writer, but the responsibilities include graphic design and marketing as well.
10. Location and time:
Is it a remote role, a freelance role, a hybrid role, or an on-site role. Does the job description say one thing in the starting paragraph, and another in the later paragraphs? Does the role require a fixed time schedule, or is it flexible? Does it require part-time commitment, or is it full-time. Clarity on these fronts is essential.
11. Contracts, rates, and miscellaneous:
Refusal to put things in writing, refusal to share budget/rate upon asking, vagueness/haggling over rates, too many skipped meetings and calls, infrequent or no response to emails, and asking for too many personal details beforehand — best to avoid such cases!
One of the clear scams that many people have reported is that the person 'recruiting' for the profile either insists on getting the bank details ('we want to onboard you immediately') or they show their keenness by sending a cheque with an advance payment. Never fall for those.
Research. Ask. Clarify everything. There are many instances where things fall into place once a discussion happens. Keep asking until all doubts are satisfied. Get everything in writing. For gig workers, contracts need not be officially signed legal documents, but unless things are confirmed at least on email, you cannot hold the other party responsible. Establish a rate and a payment plan. In most cases, both parties need to compromise somewhat. Everyone’s criteria of an acceptable job or gig is different, so it is essential to know what yours is. And finally, if it looks fishy and sounds fishy, then best to trust your gut.
Abha Agarwal is an accomplished creative editor, proofreader and editorial project manager based in Delhi, India. She has over 15 years experience in the industry, and is passionate about learning French. Check out Abha's website for more information: https://www.editsbyabha.com