Tell-tale signs that you are wasting your time applying for an advertised job


It is a problem that is prevalent and something most job seekers face, without realising it, namely applying for a job, when it is a complete waste of their time. So in this article, I’m going to share the tell-tale signs of when you need to step back, investigate, reconsider, or not bother applying for a job. Why?

  1. Your sanity demands it (there is only so many job rejections you can take); and
  2. Job-hunting is time consuming enough, with each individual application taking anywhere from 40 minutes to 2 days if applying for a government job. So you need to stop wasting time on job applications that won’t result in any outcome – namely a job interview.
Tell-tale sign #1 Ageism

If specific language geared for young people is used in the job advertisement and you are hitting the 40 years mark, you should reconsider whether it is worth applying for the job.

Now not all job advertisers are being purposefully discriminatory against older job applicants. However, if they are using language such as ‘groovy culture’ ‘go-getter’ or ‘up and coming’ then they are probably not after a mature aged candidate and are purposefully discouraging older job seekers.

So do some research via LinkedIn, or on the company’s website to see what sort of person works there. You will be able to quickly determine whether it is a young culture, or a very diverse culture, (comprising of both younger and older staff) and then make a decision as to whether the job is worth applying for or not.

Tell-tale sign # 2 They list requirements that only insiders possess

This is quite common within the government sector, where you have a list of requirements and one or two of those requirements list skills and knowledge that you can only acquire if you worked at the specific Department/Agency. This is often the hidden code for they want insiders, or they have not thought through the consequences of listing these requirements (namely they are effectively penalising outsiders).

So I am sure you are asking why are they advertising, if they have an insider in mind?

Well there is a simple answer to that question – namely that by law, all public service sector jobs have to be advertised, regardless of whether there is a person acting in the position or not, of even if the job requires specific insider experience. What this means to you as a potential job candidate, is that you will be competing against another candidate, who already has experience in the position. This often results in this person being appointed to the position, as he or she can demonstrate experience, knowledge and success in the position, in particular against those requirements that only insiders can possess.

So to find out whether it is a waste of time applying for this job or not, touch base with the contact officer listed on the job advertisement and ask the following:

Is someone is acting in the role and how long they have been acting in the role?

While the merit-based process means that the contact officer won’t tell you that it is a ‘done deal’, by asking these two questions, you can determine whether it is worth your time competing against a candidate who already has valuable experience in the position.

Tell-tale sign # 3 It is a fake job advertisement

While it is against the law (it can constitute a civil or criminal offence) and job boards such as SEEK tell us they are working hard to remove such job advertisements, the truth is that hundreds of jobs advertised online, are merely ‘fishing expeditions’ by recruitment agencies, wanting to pad out their databases.

The tell-tale sign to look out for in a job advertisement is a complete absence of any information about the client or organisation, or the job in question. This is usually a sure sign that the ad is simply a ‘bait’ advertisement and you are wasting your time applying for a non-existent job.

If you suspect a fake or bait advertisement, ask the recruitment agency for a detailed job description. If a genuine job, they will have one on file. If they are not prepared to disclose these details, then we suggest you don’t submit your details.

Tell-tale sign # 4 You are massively overqualified or under-qualified for the position

Hiring staff is a very expensive process and if employers or recruiters stuff it up, it can also be a very costly mistake.

Since employers perceive hiring to be a risk, they have become pickier and pickier. This picky attitude is also resulting in employers getting very narrow and becoming overly choosy to the point, where some fine job candidates are being overlooked. Hence the occasional gripe you will find in places such as the Australian Financial Review, about the dearth of employee talent (which in some case (not all) is directly attributable to employers being more demanding in the exact blend of skills required (and not wanting to train staff).

HR and Recruiters are generally not after talent – they are after a perfect fit for a specific role.

What this means to you, is if you are massively overqualified, or under qualified, then when you apply for a job via a job board advertisement, it is highly likely that your application will be dumped. So unless you meet the bulk of their requirements within the job advertisement, don’t waste your time applying for the job.


By just doing a little bit of due-diligence and being super selective in the jobs you apply for, you will save hours during the job search, by ensuring you are only applying for jobs, where there is a good chance of success.

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