Buzzwords, Phrases and Other Red Flags to Watch Out for in a Future Employer

This week I participate in Surge from Association Success. It was a virtual summit of association industry professionals who came together to address emerging issues. I was honored to sit on a panel with two of my peers and friends as we discussed the topic of creating change without holding a title of power.

As the sessions were pre-recorded, speakers were able to actively engage listeners in a chat feature. It was a lively conversation and one attendee asked me to address this topic in a blog:

“What are the questions we should ask, buzzwords we should look for to see if an employer is a good fit?”

Before we get started in that list, it starts with the jobseeker. Before you apply, have a call with HR or sit down for an in-person interview, you need to get honest with yourself. Chances are you’ve had a lot of baggage from past situations that you may be carrying around with you.

This is your opportunity to repack your bag to your next destination.


Step 1: Make a List of Everything You Hated in Your Last Position

Step 2: Next to Each Item, Write the Positive or Opposite Form without Using the Words “No” “Not” or “Never”

Step 3: What Residual Emotional Baggage Are You Holding on to from Your Last Position? What Do You Need to Release It?


Another suggestion would be to do a Value Exercise to indicate which values are in alignment or out of alignment with your last positions. (Contact Me If You’re Interested)


Now to the Buzzwords…

Keep in mind that words alone will not give you the full picture, so it’s imperative that you do more homework and investigating.

Here are some words I see overused in job descriptions that usually indicate fluff:

1)      Open

2)      Collaborative

3)      Collegiate

4)      Dynamic

5)      Flexible

As in ABC Association fosters an open, collaborative, collegiate and dynamic organization and has flexible programs for its employees. Without specifics, these are bold claims. If your point of contact avoids or generalizes their response, this is a solid indicator that things may not be what they appear.


Your next step is to check If you’ve never heard of it, Glassdoor is a website and app that hosts millions of company reviews, CEO approval ratings, salary reports, interview reviews and questions, benefits reviews, office photos and more. Unlike other jobs sites, all of this information is entirely shared by those who know a company best — the employees.

Imagine Yelp for Employees. Keep in mind that along with employee reviews, a lot of organizations have put HR in charge of adding positive reviews to counter the not-so-nice reviews.

If you see a common theme appear within the last two months, ask about it. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut.


There are plenty of jobs out there and once you realize what you want and deserve, you will accept an offer in an organization that is in line with your talents, experience and values.