9 Reasons Your Job Ad Stinks

By Jenn Steele - Jan. 21, 2014
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Your Job Ad Stinks How often have you applied for a job that you didn’t really want?

Our guess is never, unless you’ve been under hard times. Job seekers, particularly the high quality candidates, don’t apply for jobs they don’t want. We know, we know – duh.

However, judging by the quality of some of the job advertisements seen on the internet today, some recruiters and hiring managers believe people like applying for meaningless, rote-activity positions with companies who will never appreciate their hard work and can’t correctly spell ‘sails team’. In the race for the top candidates, a great job ad can mean the difference between finding who you are looking for and… not.

Awful job ads are not only a complete waste of money, they can also be damaging to your employer brand. Do you write job ads that make job seekers blink in disgust and click on to the next screen? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. To help you sniff out your own bad habits, here are 9 ways to really make your job ads stink:

1. Vague job title

40% of job seekers say they regularly see job titles that make no sense. Ask someone outside of the organization what they think the job title means. Perhaps your organization uses words to distinguish between ranks (executive, associate, junior, senior, head, lead, direct) or vague titles (consultant, manager, agent, officer, representative, analyst). These words are used in many job titles and need clarification in order to attract the candidate with the right skill. Using a vague job title will also lower your rank in search engines, which means many potential candidates won’t even begin to look at your advertisement.

2. Meaningless superlatives

You know when you meet someone and they’re just a little bit too excited when offering you a bite of their delicious, fresh tuna sandwich? Their enthusiasm makes a red flag go up. Nothing can be that good. Job ads can create this same reaction in job seekers by overusing meaningless superlatives like ‘fantastic!’, ‘super friendly!’ and ‘cool!’. Write an interesting job description for an exciting job, and you won’t have to tell folks the job is awesome – it’ll be obvious.

3. Focus only on ‘check the box’ skills.

Particularly for technical jobs, listing experience like “HTML, CSS, Java Script” will weed out all the candidates who don’t have that knowledge. However, once you’re down to about 50 applicants, most of them only just able to tick the box on your minimum requirements. Think bigger. What makes your ideal candidate stand out from the rest? What do you love about your best employee? Show how you envision them using their skills, like this great example that came out a few months back from San Francisco based design studio, Mule:

Good job ad

4. Sound like an ass

We’re all for setting high standards, but possibly the job advertisement isn’t the place to communicate your expectation that someone will perform effectively in a demanding work environment and show resiliency to stress. Funnily enough, it makes people worry about being in a demanding work environment and balancing stress. Phrases like “Will be held accountable for the technical accuracy of their own work” also are a turnoff. These statements are true for most workplaces and stating it in a job ad makes the work environment look pedantic and brutal.

Rephrase high expectations in an excellence mind frame with plenty of purpose. Phrases like ‘Takes pride in work.’ or ‘Enjoys pushing the limits’ are inspiring and challenging rather than just making you sound like an ass.

5. Clog it with meaningless phrases

According to a Monster survey, over half of all job seekers are turned off from applying for a job by jargon in the job advertisement. If you have used any of these phrases lately, think again.

  • ‘Self-motivated’,
  • ‘Dynamic’,
  • ‘Thrive in a fast-paced environment’,
  • ‘Team-player’,
  • ‘Customer-focused’,
  • ‘Hit the ground running’

It suggests you don’t really know what you’re looking for and that the company lacks creativity and individual identity. Consider the brand of your company. Communicate that brand with the language you choose. No more clichés!

6. Bury real responsibilities in corporate jargon

In an effort to be inspirational, many job advertisements are just plain vague. The role ‘is a key part of our client solutions team’ or ‘works closely with senior management on strategic decisions.’ Describe exactly what the job is in the first two sentences, or you’ll frustrate seekers and have people apply who don’t really understand what you need.

7. Waste the first sentence

Here’s a typical example found by Doris and Bertie:

Senior Solutions Designer, City of London – London City and West End, London

My client is currently recruiting for a Senior Solutions Designer. This is a senior position in the Solution Design team, working closely with external clients and all internal teams. Key requirements: Key to this role is the ability to…

“My client is currently recruiting for a Senior Solutions Designer.” Uh, no kidding! We got that from the fact that the advertisement is for a Senior Solutions Designer by a recruitment agency. First impressions count. The first sentence of a job advertisement often shows up in the search engine results snippet, making a stupid first sentence even stupider looking. Every single one of those characters counts. Make your first sentence about the candidate or your awesome job. Something that makes job searchers say, ‘yes! That’s what I want.’

8. Grammar and spelling mistakes.

Particularly if you have listed ‘good attention to detail’ as one of your requirements. Always, always, always get two people to read the job advertisement before you post it.

9 List blindingly obvious ‘minimum expectations’

Many ads list minimum expectations at the end of their advertisements to try and filter out the excess applications. Requirements like a UK visa to work and minimum 5 years experience unfortunately don’t prevent the desperate and unqualified from applying. They do often prevent the perfect candidate with technically only 3 years experience who would happily relocate from applying.

If you are ready to create stand-out job advertisements that attract kick-ass candidates, avoid these job advertisement faux pas and write for your perfect person. If you wouldn’t apply for a job with the ad you just wrote, it’s a darn good sign that it’s time to rewrite it!

Image courtesy of Sira Hanchana.


Jenn Steele

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