Work Hard Play Hard = Bro Culture || 20 Job-Search Red Flags

Stacy Garrels.
4 min readMar 1, 2023
Thanks bnilsen at Stealing Bread for Lego I.T. Guy

In the throes of job-hunting, a lot of the listings on LinkedIn and Indeed are beginning to sound alike. I’m waxing nostalgic for my single days of Internet dating. I’d read profile after profile with everyone saying, “I love my family, friends, and long walks on the beach.” Different dating candidates, same milquetoast blech.

The job profile equivalent is: “We’re looking for a motivated self-starter who can work independently and collaboratively, has a keen idea for detail, and is willing to go above and beyond to get the job done.”

This particular universal header sounds similarly bland, but reading between the lines, you’ll find it’s fraught with a number of red flags.

In job-speak code, the employer want someone motivated enough to exchange their capital for money, who will continue to labor when backs are turned, has a pink collar, and will pick up the boss’ lunch directly instead of just using Uber Eats.

Because in job seeking just like mate seeking, there are code words and requirements to distill — and red flags to look for.

To help you in your quest — or bring some levity to the soul-sucking misery that defines looking for a new job — here’s a helpful guide of the 20 most common red-flag buzzwords and cliches you’ll find on LinkedIn and Indeed.

I gathered the list by asking Chat AI what the most common job requirements were, then cross-referenced those results against the roughly 100 job ads I’ve seen for mid to senior level digital marketers before finally running those filtered results through my highly scientific bullshit barometer.

20 Common Job Description Cliches and What They Really Mean

1. Work hard, play hard

It’s a total bro culture here.

2. Must be able to hit the ground running

You’re going to be months behind on day 1.

3. “Competitive” salary and benefits

We pay as little as possible, probably the minimum required to be on market parity with the 15th percentile.

4. Flexible Schedule

See you this weekend.

(We work around the clock, but the interviewer will brag up the time they made their nephew’s graduation in Oklahoma.)

5. Dynamic, fast-paced environment

This is an under-staffed and overworked office where we have no time to train you.

6. We are family

You are expected to attend lots of unpaid work events disguised as social functions.

This also commonly signifies a lack of professional boundaries.

7. Excellent interpersonal skills

Don’t be whiny.

Also, the neurodiverse will not thrive here.

8. Self-starter

(Other interchangeable language includes “self-motivated” or “entrepreneurial.”)

We have unrealistic expectations. We want you to just “figure it out” without any substantive direction.

9. Team player

We need someone to do unpleasant and possibly unrelated work like cleaning out the fridge or cleaning up someone else’s mess.

10. Other duties as needed

See “Team player.”

11. Diverse range of experience

You will need to do the work of three people.

12. Leadership skills

You’ll need to be a manager of people without the official job title or pay.

13. On site gym and other amenities

You will never leave the office.

14. Hybrid schedule

We want you in-office as often as possible but still need for our job description to be competitive.

We’re just waiting out this work-from-home fad.

15. Casual work environment

Enjoy looking at Larry’s yellow fungus toes in plastic flip-flops. Or sharing yours.

16. We have an immediate need for…

Someone just quit, no one was cross-trained, and we are short-staffed.

17. Must have thick skin

Lots of big egos with unfiltered opinions about “dumbasses,” people of color, human sexuality, and professional sports. Often concurrent with bro culture.

18. Fast-growing company

We’re a Silicon start-up with enough Series A funding to pay you for at least a couple of months. You’ll be our fifth hire.

19. Rockstar

We love buzzwords. Also, see bullet number one (work hard, play hard).

20. Handles ambiguity well

Unstable company with high turnover and unrealistic shareholder demands.

Of course, it’s always possible that a perfectly desirable and ethical company uses one or two of these red-flag cliches. No one likes writing job postings; the team is writing what they think a job description should sound like. (When in reality, they should sound like my witty cover letters.)

Reading the classified ads already feels defeating. Seeing these red flags waving ‘hi’ is just another kicker.

And I will admit it: I may be a nutcase because I find the job search process oddly satisfying, and at moments even comical. (I love writing funny cover letters.) There’s something hilarious and liberating about shopping for the job ad that best aligns with your life. It’s fun figuring out which company I want to be in a relationship with, and guessing how long it will last before it all goes bust.



Stacy Garrels.

“Confident in my ability to outshine mediocre people everywhere who have jobs they are not even qualified for.” Humor. Sarcasm. Ballsy copy. Meandering essays.