9 Things you should never put in a job ad

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written on April 6, 2016

Why is it that, when we walk through the doors into a business setting, we encounter an alien language? We suddenly find ourselves fluent in gobbledygook, uttering words that we would never normally speak at home or among friends. Perhaps it all begins with that first enticement into the marketplace: the job ad.

Take this (sadly) typical example and then imagine what type of company culture exists here:

“A unique opportunity to work for a highly prestigious firm, you will be a key part of our client solutions team, joining the business at an exciting time of transition. You are highly motivated with a reputation as a thought-leader in brand alignment with experience in entrepreneurial settings. Your track-record for creativity and ‘out of the box’ solutions means you will thrive working in a fast-paced, results-oriented environment, where ideation rules supreme. You will have a passion for working collaboratively across disciplines and growing the intersections between them. Responsibilities include escalating feedback to senior level.”

The words we use in business are important. In the increasingly competitive world of recruitment, choosing the right words is only going to become more important.

Research suggests that when potential candidates read jargon such as ‘client-solutions and ‘results-oriented’ they don’t see it simply as shorthand. Productivity-driven language like this has an alienating effect on the reader.

And from a recruiter’s perspective, it makes potential candidates ‘highly motivated’ to find another employer who speaks to them in plain English.

Speaking plainly in a job ad

Writing a job ad using simple, meaningful words is a good place to start decluttering the language. Consider how we talk to each other in normal conversation and then write a job ad as if you were having a conversation with a person in front of you.

Going back to basics: A headline should either be the job title or the main purpose of the role.

And then, perhaps it’s easier to weed out the bad habits so that only the good ones remain. Here are some things to avoid:

  1. Extravagant and distracting layouts (what are you trying to hide about the job?)
  2. Font type either too fancy, too small or too large. Fonts favoured for their simplicity and elegance currently are Benton Sans or Salvo Sans fonts. Arial or Times are a second preference.
  3. Steer away from Capital Letters. They are harder to read and take longer to absorb.
  4. Don’t highlight words using italics.
  5. Loads of unnecessary technical detail about the job is not necessary.
  6. Make sure the emphasis is on the person more than the job.
  7. Less is more. Short sentences have impact. Keep overall word length down.
  8. Ensure the job sounds credible. A perfect sounding job will not attract perfect people, nor will it convince quality candidates that you are an authentic employer.
  9. Jeff Haden on Inc.com has come up with some useful words that are inclusive and motivating, such as ‘together’, ‘choose’, ‘because’ and ‘willing’. All this imply a collaborative and transparent culture. ‘Thank you’ also helps.

Finally, put yourself in the candidate’s shoes. Understand the information that they need to know and engage with them using language that will encourage them and inspire them to want to join your company.

9 Things you should never put in a job ad

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