6 big mistakes to avoid when writing a job posting

Mistakes to avoid writing a job posting.

Sitting down to write a job posting can be intimidating, even for skilled writers. It’s hard to determine what you should and shouldn’t include in your ad. You want to cover your bases to get the right applicants, but simply listing the duties and qualification criteria aren’t the only things to consider.

The job posting is much more powerful than we give it credit for, especially for its ability to filter applicants. It offers the candidates a peek into the recruitment process and culture of your organization. If written poorly, the job posting can drive candidates away.

So how can you make sure that your job postings are both effective and representative of your role? We’ve summed up some of the biggest mistakes that companies make when writing a job posting.

Trendy job titles

We get it. You want to show your company is the “cool mom” by not having traditional titles for your roles. Titles aren’t necessarily important to many employees, but they can be when candidates rely on them to search openings in their field.

These titles aren’t doing you any favours when it comes to job seekers finding your open roles. Job postings with standard job titles and industry-specific keywords perform significantly better in search results. Using widely recognizable titles are a great way to optimize your posting.

Titles like “director of client happiness” and “sales ninja” don’t entice applicants to apply. They seem a bit silly, frankly, especially when a candidate is leaving your organization and needs to list “brand evangelist” as their last job in marketing.

When it comes to job titles, sticking to industry standard is best.

Cliché phrases

Another culprit in the modern job posting is over-use of corporate buzz words and clichés. In my experience, these terms are often used to hide the less-desirable duties in a role. The term “self-starter” often means that the role will lack clear leadership and direction. “Entrepreneurial spirit” many times translates to “100% commission-based.” These buzz words are not fooling your savviest of applicants. Be upfront about the responsibilities in the role that might be challenging for people, or save it to discuss in the interview.

Company-specific jargon

Believe it or not, hiring managers sometimes think it’s acceptable to put jargon in the job posting that no one outside of their own company would ever know or understand. Acronyms that describe internal processes, asking for experience in software that was specifically built for your company, or strange job titles that only matter to your company’s specific union agreement top the list of the worst offenders in this category.

While you may be hiring a “level 2 customer service clerk,” the level is irrelevant to a job seeker who is unfamiliar with how your company operates. Leave those distinctions for the offer letter, and simply list the associated duties for the role. You can explain to the candidate the differences in duties, pay grades, and reporting structure later.

Negative phrases

Some recruiters make job postings exclusive as opposed to inclusive. The point of a job ad is to attract talent, not to give them reasons why they shouldn’t apply. Avoid terms such as “If you do not possess …”, “Need not apply …”. Also, omit rigid experience timelines such as “Must have three years’ experience” in your postings.

Sometimes certain criteria are mandatory for success in the role. There are always more positive ways to say that someone should have the criteria you are looking for. Phrases such as “If this sounds like you … apply today!” or “You bring a minimum of 3 years’ proven success to the table, sound more optimistic.

The absolute worst that can happen is that an applicant applies who does not have the bare minimum experience … and you do not have to interview this person! Best case scenario is you receive an amazing resume of a person with an unconventional background, but can bring a fresh approach to the role.

Aggressive words

When hiring for roles that are best suited for a performance-driven candidate, selecting the right “power words” can be tricky. You want to convey the need for an A-gamer without sounding too aggressive or competitive. Avoid words such as “assertive,” “dominant,” or “fighting.” Opt for words such as “motivated,” “driven,” or “high-achieving.”

Aggressive words can sometimes appear to be covering up a cut-throat environment. Ambition is fantastic – but very few candidates will voluntarily apply to work in a pressure-cooker situation.

Writing in third person

The one thing that all great job postings have in common is the ability to get the applicant picturing themselves in the role. It’s what gets applicants excited to take the next step and apply. This is achieved by speaking directly to the candidate, as opposed to writing in the third person.

Phrases such as “The successful candidate will …” can easily be replaced with more inclusive verbiage such as “In this role, you will …”. A great employer brand successfully gets the candidates thinking about what it’s going to be like once they get hired – a great job posting should do the same.

Stop sending your applicants to your competitors. Use these helpful tips when writing your next posting, and give your candidates a positive experience from the start. Think of your job posting as an extension of advertising your company. A great posting can make all the difference in talent attraction!

Sonya Matheson is a recruitment and employer branding consultant with Workopolis. Specializing in candidate experience, she has been helping companies hire better for the last 15 years.

See also:

How Wattpad hires amazing talent

Meet Ian Macdonald, part of the mother-son duo behind Old Tomorrow beer

How Shopify finds and fosters talent


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