I’m always browsing job ads, but I apply to very few of them, usually because they are so poorly written that’s it’s difficult to understand exactly what they are looking for in a candidate. And I ask myself, “Why do I want to work for this company?”
Job ads are supposed to help you find qualified candidates for your open positions, but if they aren’t written clearly and succinctly, they may not bring the best-qualified prospects to your door. As Alison Green of AskaManager.com wrote in Inc. magazine recently, job ads are a form of marketing. And it’s up to you to market your job openings to attract – and keep — the best candidates.
Here are five problem areas I’ve noted in job ads and what they may say about your company:
Problem 1: The ad is too vague, too general or lacking adequate detail. They contain phrases like “communications manager oversees the operations of the communications department,” which really doesn’t say anything, and candidates are left wondering what is expected of them.
What this says about your company is that you didn’t take the time to think through your hiring needs before committing those ideas to paper. How will this person spend their day? Will they supervise anyone? When you don’t have a clear idea what this job is to begin with, it will be difficult to explain it to anyone else.
Problem 2. The ad is heavy on technical language or industry jargon. In fact, there is so much jargon that it is difficult to know what the new hire will be expected to do. You have to ask yourself if all this heavy language is covering up a job that is actually quite thin, and are you making the job sound bigger and more important than it really is? Or are you more concerned with making a certain impression on candidates than clearly communicating your hiring needs?
What this says about your company is that your workplace may be more formal and structured, even more than you intend. Appearance may matter more than substance. If this is not true for your workplace, then it’s time to reevaluate and rewrite your job postings so they accurately reflect your company.
Problem 3. The ad is too lengthy and wordy. If your ad is presented as one long paragraph that runs on and on, it can show a lack of focus and a certain carelessness in the way you present your company. Perhaps you were running on a deadline or had too much work to do that you didn’t take the time to format the ad cleanly.
What this says is that your company is operating from the hip, so to speak. It gives the impression of messy, disorganized thinking. People are busy and don’t have time to read the small, fine print in your ad, so it is helpful to break up the copy in smaller paragraphs and use bullet points for key responsibilities, which is much easier to read. Take the time to edit down the copy too so you focus on the most important elements of the job description.
Problem 4. Too much emphasis on perks like free pizza for lunch every Friday and a game room, and not enough information about how the new employee will spend their day at work. While the perks may attract candidates to your company, are they the right candidates for the position? Why do they want to work for you – for the perks you offer or for the opportunity to contribute to your organization? The truth is, you can offer free pizza every week, but good, quality employees may still leave your company because they don’t get along with their boss, don’t feel they are doing meaningful work or they found a better job offer elsewhere.
What this says about your company is that you want to create the impression of having a fun, sociable place to work. But focusing primarily on the perks sends one of several possible messages. Perhaps there isn’t enough substance to the job itself, or employees work long hours so you feel a need to “reimburse” them with free lunches. Focusing on the fun, sociable aspect of the company is important, but don’t gloss over the details of the job, leaving candidates to wonder what the job is really about.
Problem 5. The ad asks for a salary history. This is the 21st century, yet it is surprising that some companies still ask for a candidate’s salary history. You have to wonder what kind of work environment they have. Comparing salary history in today’s job market is difficult, if not impossible, because candidates may be coming from different locations or industries where salary levels are determined differently. Candidates may not have the same job title as the one they are applying for, so looking at what they made in previous jobs doesn’t give you a direct comparison. Asking for a salary history is not only obsolete, it is a wasteful, meaningless exercise.
What this says is that your company may be out of touch with current hiring trends. If you are not current with hiring practices, what other business practices are outdated at your company? You may need to rethink your hiring strategy and get yourself up to date on the newest recruiting tools.
For the record, here’s an example of a clearly written job description for an office manager/executive assistant. There is no doubt what this person will be doing. It is written in a friendly, conversational tone too.
When writing a posting for your next job opening, use your imagination and be creative. If you don’t have the desire or time to rewrite job descriptions, hire a professional writer to help you prepare something that will grab a candidate’s attention and make them want to work for your company.