Why is the standard of job advert writing so poor?

Before you shoot me down in flames, the standard of general job advert writing is poor. If they were Television adverts it’d be like the Walkers adverts without the crisps or an alcohol advert without the beer. Too many adverts written by recruiters miss the point. And they don’t just miss the point a little either. They miss the point completely.

Some Typical Examples of Amateurish Adverts

The Copy and Paste Job Advert

This is where a recruiter who either doesn’t know anything about the job they are recruiting for and/or just doesn’t care will copy from the job spec of a client and paste it on to their job advert. Seriously? If you are a client and you found out that a recruiter who you’d asked to get you people was using this tactic, what would you think? This kind of stuff is what gives our industry not just a bad name, but an unprofessional name. It’s plain lazy.

The Bullet Point to death Job Advert

This is where the main bulk of the advert is made up of bullet points. The first, let’s be fair, 3 or 4 sentences tend to be relevant, but you’ll then find generic nonsense like the really useful “Excellent Communicator” or the equally important “Team Player”. Wow, never seen those before…

It’s just poor. And most of them are just copied and pasted or generally stuffed in there to pad things out. It says that they don’t really know much about the job and have all the creative imagination of a Millwall fan.

The Buzzword Warrior Job Advert

Think of the terms “passionate”, “highly motivated” and “self-starter”. Who on earth is going to be passionate about being an HGV driver who’s had 10 years’ experience? Sure, they might like being an HGV driver but are they really going to be passionate about it? How about a highly motivated part time accounts clerk? I mean come on, what is this nonsense? Think about what you’re writing. A nine-year-old could be more original than this.

The Obvious but Oblivious Job Advert

This is the advert that states the obvious but is written by someone who clearly doesn’t know their market too well. For example, “Position for a Chartered Structural Surveyor with 10+ years experience of Skycraper design who wants £35,000”. The advert is clear of who they want but lacks any real chance of attracting someone. If you had that level of experience, you’d want a fair bit more than £35,000.

How About Some Examples of More Experienced Recruiters Who Still Cannot write Adverts?

The All Features But Not Much Else Advert

This is the advert that starts along the lines of “calling all” or “attention…” or even “Are you a…”. I’m not against how these adverts start. Some would disagree but the issue I have is that they are often an anti-climax.

They go on to say who they are looking for which happens to be someone experienced at doing the job already and then leave it at that. So many adverts do this. Why though would someone who can already do the job of ABC want to take another job doing exactly the same thing? Money, Location, Remote Working or maybe better Hours? If the job is paying more money than any other advert, it may be worth going with this route as that is the big selling point. But if the job pays a mid-range salary and is in a generic area with tons of other firms doing the same thing around there what makes it stand out?

It just seems to be written with minimal common sense. An advert should be a sales pitch of the job, not a statement of fact. And yet I see tons of these same types of recruiters p*ss and whine that people don’t apply to job adverts anymore and adverts are soooo yesterday. I’d take a look at your adverts and think about why people aren’t applying if I were you before complaining.

The Product Market Match Advert

This may be a well-structured advert. It could be clear on what the role is doing to an advanced level. The recruiter who has written it may know the market well. However, it’s an “I want someone who knows the product already, comes from the same market and is therefore a match straight away” type of advert. In a tight marketplace like technical recruitment unless it’s paying more than anybody else what’s the selling point?

The problem here though is often that the recruiter hasn’t been able to open the clients wish list up. You tend to find a similar advert placed by the client themselves on another job board from 8 weeks previously. Common sense should tell the recruiter that if the client had no success using this tactic, what difference will using the same tactic again have? It’s just a shot in the dark method.

What makes for a good job advert?

Before you start throwing your money in attending a course on how to write a good job advert it’s fairly simple when you use the right framework.

Why would the person you want to attract be looking for a new job?

This is simple sales. Supply and Demand. You wouldn’t travel down to the supermarket and put a pound in the trolley and enter the store if you didn’t have the intention of buying some shopping, would you? You’d be looking to get something in the shop, and you’d know or you’d believe that this particular shop of choice stocked what you’d need. That’s the same context when considering why a candidate would apply for a particular job. The candidate would know or believe that this job had what they were looking for. For example, if they wanted more money and this offered it. If they wanted training on XYZ, then this offered it. Perhaps they’d want a different shift etc.

Identifying not just what you want, but who

A huge oversight in most consultants’ adverts is that they compose their advert based solely on what they want and not who. And then they spout off about “people buy from people”. If you want to attract the person you need to know what type of person they are. Think FBI profiling, but on the more basic level. An experienced consultant in a particular market knows the kind of people who do certain types of jobs and make a career of it. They typically have certain traits in what they like and dislike. These people will communicate in a certain manner and particular benefits will be more appealing to them. Read up on Mazlow and Herzberg if you want more detail but do bare in mind not to get too over complicated in those theories. The key message here is to know your target person.

Knowing what you are selling and communicating it right

The initial section of your advert is your shop window. It’s what sparks the interest. But like the poster with the tasty food in the café window, it’s not what fills their belly’s.

You need to answer a few questions. What’s the job actually doing? Fixing some machines or programming some computers won’t cut it. How can you sell to an engineer or a programmer with 10 years experience anything with basic information? Unless you sound like you know what you are selling, they’re unlikely to engage or take you seriously. Wonder why you have a lot of no-shows for interview? Most people are nice and polite so if you say I’ve got you an interview they’ll go with the compliant approach when they have no plans on attending. And much of the time it’s because they aren’t sold on what the job is because you’ve given them less information than the government in a pre-Brexit vote!

Clarify what the job is actually doing with a degree of secondary depth. Why are they doing this particular job? Where does it fit within the greater context? You need to get a full rounded picture and understanding of what the role is, why it exists and build a picture of why someone would want it? You also need to understand why it’s come about, how long they’ve been looking etc.


How many people call themselves a Recruitment Consultant, but don’t actually consult? Too many in my opinion. If a client has a job that they can’t fill and they ask you to work to the same spec that hasn’t worked so far and you agree to do that, you’re unlikely to get too far. You need to open up the angles, find solutions to the problems that are barriers to you finding them a candidate. That’s what consulting is about.

Who’s the company and why would someone want to work there?

If you are a recently redundant Quality Engineer at one manufacturer and you are looking to work as a Quality Engineer for another manufacturer both environments and cultures could be very different. In simple terms, if you attended a rough as houses state school like me and then went to Eton you are still a student, are still in education and will still learn the same subjects. But the whole feel of the place and the people will be worlds apart.

It is therefore important to understand the feel and environment. What are the people like? How’s the hiring manager to work for? Is it intense and fast paced or relaxed and slow? Why do the current people work and stay there? What appealed to them?

You may need to be clever in your questions and read between the lines here and there, but once you understand this you can gauge whether the candidates you speak to would like the place or not. And as such can sell the company in your advert to attract and appeal to someone who would like that environment.

Bullet point only what you need to

What does the client actually need the candidate to know or to have skills, experience of or qualifications in? Bullet point these only. The whole advert shouldn’t include any information, words or phrases to puff things out. It should be focused and constructed to appeal to and sell to the type of person you want who has the minimum skills required for the client to see them for interview.

If you get this right, the quality of the candidates will increase, the volume of nonsense or irrelevant candidates will decrease, and you may even get call ins for candidates clambering to get an interview. You know you’ve sold the advert well when the people you want to attract are calling you out of the blue to get an interview.

The Value of Adverts are overlooked

Many recruitment companies operate by having a LinkedIn Talent Pool in a niche market. The problem is the value of an advert is seen as yesterdays tactic. But really they just haven’t been taught how to write adverts and are missing a skillset which can dramatically increase the candidate pool.

There is so much noise on Linkedin, where passive candidate recruitment is king, about how passive candidate attraction is the way forward. So much so that people forget the enormous active candidate market out there. Top recruiters are able to work effectively on both fronts. Don’t let your ego limit your billings inadvertently.

Sum Up

The truth is that most recruiters who have entered the market in recent times are taught specialist areas. And in truth some can be very good in that specialist area. Over time they’ll need to adapt, and by being only taught certain specialisms, key skillsets like professional advert writing are skills that are disregarded. It’s hard to write good adverts. That’s why people make a ton of money from holding advert writing seminars. If you’re working for an agency and a manager say’s advert writing isn’t important it’s generally either because that they don’t want you developing your skills or that they are cr** at writing adverts as they weren’t taught properly themselves.

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External Links: https://www.coburgbanks.co.uk/blog/attracting-staff/write-great-job-adverts-and-attract-world-class-staff-a-10-point-checklist/



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