why your job postings aren’t attracting the right candidates

No offense, but your job postings probably suck.

Statistically speaking, at least.

The weird reality is, the vast majority of job postings read like poorly-written internal processes manuals at the world’s most bureaucratic company. They do the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to do. Job postings should be marketing documents; they should attract people who will be excited about the work. In practice though, they’re too often deadly dull, dense, and semi-incomprehensible.

Over at Inc. today, I talk about how to stop writing crappy job postings and start writing ads that will attract the people you want to hire. You can read it here.

{ 236 comments… read them below }

  1. Dan*

    Thanks Alison!

    I had come across a job ad on an industry specific group that I belong to. It was trying to be hip, but instead, fell flat on its face. It was worse than the traditional BS that usually gets put out there. I googled “why do job ads have to suck so bad” and the first link was to an AAM post awhile back. I emailed AAM and told her that it would be good fodder for an INC column :)

    This ad was terrible. It spent two paragraphs trying to be hip, and I came away from it knowing they want a “director of operations” with ten years of experience. I have no idea what the company does (they don’t even link to themselves in the ad), what kind of projects they want me to work on, what kind of technical skills they’re looking for, nothing.

    1. LauraIsMyFakeName*

      re: trying to “be hip” in job ads – one of my biggest pet peeves are companies who do this and try to use current “slang” or choice phrases from another culture. Most of the time they aren’t used correctly and it just makes me cringe every single time. Plus I think they do it to try and score diversity points, which has the exact opposite effect on me anyway.

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      I love that Googling “why do job ads have to suck so bad” gets you to AAM.

      1. Merry and Bright*

        +1 I first found AAM by Googling “I hate recruitment agencies” so it’s probably a sign of AAM’s wide presence!

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      In this case I think it was intention and perhaps for a start up? They’re notorious for being vague so they can bait and switch you once on the job and pile on tons of extra responsibility

  2. hayling*

    This is so great. We recently hired a Content Manager who is writing great job descriptions that hit a lot of these points. A candidate mentioned last week how the description attracted her to the position.

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      Another perk of a well-written job ad that generates excitement is the inspiration that arises more easily to write a great cover letter that conveys that excitement in normal conversational language. It’s contagious IMO.

  3. Ali*

    Thank you for writing this! If I see a job posting or company website with so many big words and jargon to the point where I can barely understand the copy, I don’t even waste my time applying. I much prefer simplified versions of job postings that make me think “I could do this job” or “Oh wow I would love to work here!”

    1. Mabel*

      I completely agree! At first, when I saw the ads filled with business-speak and jargon, I thought I was just too behind the times to “get it,” but now I know that it’s not me, it’s them!

    2. esra*

      Those postings that are just endless grey blocks of text, you can’t help but have your eyes glaze over.

  4. danr*

    If you do write an excellent job ad, make sure that your application system lives up to the promise of the job ad. The excellent candidates that are attracted by the ad might leave and not look back if the application process is mind-numbing.

      1. Hermoine Granger*

        I’ve grown to actually like Taleo because it offers the ability to log-in and check the status of your application. I now dislike email because those applications seem to just disappear into the ether.

      2. Josh S*

        Taleo would not be so horrifically bad if it let you save a resume/info and have it auto-populate the relevant fields whenever you sign into a new employer’s site. But no.

        It would be passable if the interface for searching specific job listings wasn’t something from 2005. But no.

        As it currently stands, if I see a job application that requires going through Taleo, I refuse to apply. HR Managers out there, take note of what you are doing to your talent pool–the only people who apply are the ones who don’t have other options.

  5. Clever Name*

    Also, please think seriously about the experience level of the candidate that you wish to hire, and list an appropriate salary range. If you’re looking for a mid- to senior-level technical person who can lead projects and hit the ground running, don’t be surprised if the junior-level salary range you’ve posted fails to attract candidates with the type and amount of experience you desire.

    1. Steve G*

      Yup…yet another issue of employers not posting the salary. I’ve noticed Linkedin Premium guesstimates salaries, and I’ve also noticed that Monster + Indeed give you the option to sort by salary, even though the ads never contain it. I’m wondering if the employers post it on the back end, or if those sites also estimate it. Why leave something like that up to some internet algorithm?!

      1. esra*

        That LinkedIn guesstimate is a load of hooey. It’s not actually based on any input from the job poster.

    2. oldfashionedlovesong*

      If I see one more posting along the lines of:

      Senior Program Analyst; Masters required, PhD preferred; 5-8 years experience; multiple language fluency; 25-50% travel; based in a high-COL urban area– Pay: 40-50K

      …I will defenestrate myself. (This is likely to happen as soon as tomorrow, so I should probably lay my pilates mat outside my bedroom window tonight.)

          1. I'm a Little Teapot*

            Yes. Don’t try to tell job seekers your place with 1 week vacation a year has “great benefits” – you’re insulting them.

          2. requiredname*

            This is why i took idealist off my job search sites oh these many years ago. none of the ads in my field had realistic or reasonable salaries. who knows, maybe theyve gotten better.

            1. oldfashionedlovesong*

              Yes, I work in a public service field and I gave up on Idealist right quick during my post-grad school job search (which was last year, so sadly they’ve not gotten better!) Look, I want my job to have meaning and my life to be dedicated to good, but I’d also like to eat food other than rice and beans and not share a one-bedroom during my 20s.

        1. Anonymusketeer*

          Every time I see a job listing that mentions “great” or “generous” benefits, the benefits turn out to be pretty standard. Never great. Two weeks’ vacation, health insurance and 401(k)? I might take it, but it’s nothing to write home about. Plus “generous” sounds really gross. This is a business arrangement, not a gift.

          Call me when you offer flex time, free meals, a public transit discount, tuition assistance, tickets to the local minor league lacrosse team — something beyond the standard benefits I had already assumed you offered.

      1. K.*

        YES. You want someone with an MBA, 8-10 years’ experience, preferably bilingual, who works in a major city and you want to pay them $35K? GTFOH. I saw an ad like that yesterday and I was nodding along, ticking the boxes, and I actually said “WHAT?” out loud, by myself, when I got to the salary.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          Hahaha. I think I have seen that ad! I’ve actually seen it multiple times, with slightly different job titles, so I keep getting sucked in and thinking “this could be great for me!” until I get to the very last sentence when they give the salary. The first time I saw it, I was certain I had misread it.

          I’ve also noticed that they can’t seem to find anyone to take the job as it keeps getting re-advertised every month or so. Shocking!

        2. the gold digger*

          At least the job I took at the non-profit for $51K asked that I also have international experience in addition to everything else you listed.

          What? No, I am not still there. Because I found a job with better pay is why. Of course I kept looking. What did you expect for $51K?

        3. Betsy*

          Ha Ha Ha !

          I’ll rather keep sitting on my couch…rather than be “upside down” after expenses.

        1. SlickWilly*

          You mean, sure as Kilimanjaro rises above the Serengeti, you must be able to “bless the rains down in Africa”? Is that an ad for a new Toto band member?

    3. ro*

      Ohhh yeah. Wanting 3-5 years experience with a masters degree in IT and offering 30K in $major-city? Funny.

    4. I'm a Little Teapot*

      YES. Also, DO list a salary range, because some of us who’ve been burned (myself included) will assume no salary listed (or some BS phrase like “competitive salary”) means “below market, so we’re not listing salary for a reason.”

      I’ve seen job boards run by professional organizations that refuse to post any ad with no salary listed or a salary below their minimum standards, or that cordon them off in a separate area of the site from the good stuff. I admire this.

      1. Melissa*

        “Salary commensurate with experience.” Yeah, right. If it was so commensurate, why not just list it?

        Although I have noted that jobs that post salaries are much less common than jobs that don’t unfortunately. Sucks, because particularly if I’m going to relocate across the country, I don’t want to waste my time applying for opportunities that don’t pay well.

        1. ShellBell*

          We do this for job ads posted at my company. For some jobs, we probably could list salary (and should). For others it really IS commensurate with experience. We are and experience levels vary as does responsibility. If you have the experience to come in and function at a higher level, we will compensate you for that. If you are more junior or this is a stretch position (but you have a good personality/attitude), we will still consider you at a lower salary and try to help you grow into more responsibility.

          1. ro*

            But then wouldn’t a range still apply? You could list it as 50K-80K and say that the exact salary will be based on experience.

            1. ShellBell*

              I suppose that’s possible, but that range is wide enough to be pretty useless. It also gives unrealistic expectations for people who are going to fit in at the bottom of that. Again, I don’t make the rules in this case. I’m just giving an example where salary truly is commensurate with experience.

              1. ElCee*

                I don’t think it’s useless. 50K-80K does tell me something–not everything of course, but it gives a very general idea to the job seeker. Most federal positions, which have highly regulated rates of pay, list ranges that wide. The difference in, say, a GS-11 between steps 1 and 8 (or whatever the last step is) is almost $20K.

          2. YandO*

            That’s why salary ranges exist

            40k to 8ok DOE

            Experience desired 3 -8 years

            That makes sense to me.

            1. ShellBell*

              It just occurred to me why they don’t do this. I think this would allow the current employees to figure out how wide the salary ranges are among folks with the same title, but varying experience levels. I’m guessing the company doesn’t want this. I don’t know if I agree with that, but that is likely the reason.

              1. MapleHill*

                The two reasons you stated are right in my experience. Salary with one job title may vary largely between current employees because of experience levels, when they were hired and what was going on in the market. And/or the range may have widened now because of those same factors or because the manager is looking for someone with skills the current employees are lacking. But the current employees may not see that part of the search- then if they see that salary range posted, they’re upset and wondering why they aren’t making that much. You end up with inwardly annoyed or demotivated employees whether or not they speak up about it.

                And the other reason you mentioned is because some candidates will assume that because the job has a $50-80k range, they are getting short changed if they aren’t at the high end. Even if you state it’s “based on experience”, I’ve found people gloss over those parts and just see the number. Plus if you end up deciding to hire someone even less experience than anticipated because maybe they’re a great fit and you’re willing to train or something changed and want to pay them less due to inexperience, now they’re upset (internally) that they’re getting a below min offer. Yes, I know you would explain those things during the interview and offer stages, but people hear and read what they want to.

      2. AW*

        I’ve seen job boards run by professional organizations that refuse to post any ad with no salary listed or a salary below their minimum standards

        Note to self: Find some professional organization to join even though none have a chapter in your city.

  6. Allison*

    So much this! Job descriptions need to be brief, summarize the job’s main duties in a language real humans actually speak, and list the *important* requirements – a few must-haves and maybe one or two “nice to haves” – not laundry list of every single skill and personality trait the ideal candidate would have.

    I’d love to see job descriptions that follow Alison’s guidelines, it’s something I’d like to press for, but I’m not exactly old enough to be taken seriously at work. I’m only a few years out of college, and basically regarded as an itty baby bimbo who doesn’t know anything; most of my suggestions are dismissed or met with a dirty look.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      Not that you asked (and maybe I’m reading waaaay too much into your tone), but perhaps that means it’s time to look for another job? We’ve all heard “no man is a prophet in his own land,” and it sounds like what you’re experience at your work. So, look for the company/organization that is interested in having your ideas/enthusiasm/creativity!

      1. Allison*

        I didn’t ask. And I really don’t think that , at 26, I can expect to be taken seriously as an “expert” in any job just yet. Not when I’m working with people older and more experienced than I am. My boss respects me, it’s my older colleagues with senior titles who don’t see me as a competent professional. If I acted like I knew better than them, they’d be rightfully offended.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          Please accept my apologies for the unsolicited observation–I’m sorry to have offended you. I’m glad to hear that your boss respects you and your work.

        2. Melissa*

          Maybe not, though. Sometimes people are just so deep into the way things have been done that they can’t see inefficiencies or improvements that a newer person can see. And it’s possible that you are an expert in some area that they simply don’t know much about. I’ve worked at a workplace where most of my colleagues were older than me but genuinely appreciated my (reasonable) input on decisions and improvements.

          Of course you are free to not offer advice if you feel comfortable – not saying you should! – but I don’t think that your age should be any kind of marker about whether or not you should be taken seriously. It’s more about the meat of your ideas.

        3. Ineloquent*

          Allison, don’t let yourself be tricked into thinking that. I am a 27 year old professional who finished my BA late. I am an expert in the somewhat obscure field I work in. People who have worked for decades longer than I have come to me for advice, and I am well respected throughout my Fortune 500 company (by everyone who’s had reason to work with me, anyway). People who discriminate you based on your youth are wrong, period. Your skills and abilities are based on so much more than the year you happened to be born. If they don’t realize that, and if they don’t treat you with the respect that you deserve, find some other company that will. Don’t sell yourself short.

          1. Allison*

            They’re not discriminating based on my youth, it’s my relative lack of experience they’re concerned with. They’ve been doing what I do longer than I have, they’ve been around the industry longer than I have and they’ve been successful in it. So when there’s a difference of opinion, their opinions will naturally carry more weight.

            Any time I think there’s room for improvement, I generally run it by my boss first, that way she can back me up if my coworkers have an issue with my ideas.

        4. SJ McMahon*

          Sure, but there’s a lot of distance between not being taken seriously as an expert and being regarded as an “itty baby bimbo” by one’s colleagues.

          I’ve been at my current job for two months, but I’m sure that *no one* sees me as itty, baby, or bimbo-esque. I’m past 40, and I’m male. This doesn’t guarantee that people will see me as competent, but it does take things like “bimbo” off the table regardless of my behavior, appearance, experience, performance, or anything else. I think that kind of thing should be off the table for everybody, period. Because if it’s on the table, people aren’t being judged on their actual job performance.

          If you’re demonstrating competence, you’ve earned the right to be treated as such by your colleagues. That’s not the same as being treated as very experienced or very knowledgeable, IMO.

    2. Melissa*

      It would be great if they simply separated out the wish list from the requirements. I’ve seen a couple of corporations do that – “here is what you absolutely need to have, and here is what you get bonus points for having.”

      1. themmases*

        I’ve actually seen a version of that on some government jobs, of all places. The job requirements will be competencies that you wouldn’t be an epidemiologist (my field) if you didn’t have. An explanation of the job level based on degree and experience follows. The narrative description says what the practice area or project actually is, where experience in that specifically would obviously be better.

  7. Dawn*

    Man the example given in that article is *fab*!

    One of my biggest frustrations when I was job hunting it was definitely a struggle sometimes to tell if the company wanted an analyst that had coding experience or not. Oftentimes the description wouldn’t mention coding at all but in the “Skills” section they’d say they wanted someone with Java or Ruby or whatever and I’m like OK A) is this a coding job or an analyst job and B) how will I be using those skills because you didn’t mention them AT ALL in the job duties.

    1. Steve G*

      Very true. I am equally as baffled at financial analyst jobs that want C+ or HTML. I am comfortable in VBA and don’t really get how a job that is excel/VBA based is also going to really incorporate HTML. Maybe they are just trying to weed out candidates? If yes, it’s not a great way.

    2. Kelly O*

      That was an awesome job description. I read it and though “dang, I wish I lived in Chicago for that one.”

      What I really dislike is getting in an interview with a hiring manager and hearing “oh, you don’t have any experience in X? That’s really important to this role.” I did actually push back and say “the job description didn’t list X” and try to deflect, but I knew that interview was going nowhere, fast. (For the record, the next time I saw it on my Indeed list, it had been changed and reflected X, so I’m not sure what internally happened between my interview and then, but I’m certain the conversation was interesting.)

      1. Voluptuousfire*

        ^ Kelly O, do not get me started on that. Or on the flip side of that, a qualification is listed in the ad but it turns out that particular qual is a large part of the role but it’s not emphasized and is mandatory. How does just listing it make sense?

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        Not exactly the same story, but somewhat related: my most frustrating interview during my last job search was for a role in an industry I had no experience in. This is a pretty small, niche industry, served in the U.S. by this company and maybe one other. It would be more likely that people might have experience in a closely related industry than in their exact industry, but I also did not have that experience. However, I had experience doing essentially the same work in other industries, and the skills are all transferable. In the job description, they listed experience in X industry as a nice to have, but not a requirement.

        I actually had a phone interview with the hiring manager initially. During the phone interview, I learned they had been recruiting for this position for quite some time but had had trouble finding “qualified” candidates. While I was talking about my background, I stated in no uncertain terms that I did not have experience in X industry or the related industry, but had done similar work in a number of other companies and talked about some of my achievements and results. He seemed unconcerned, and decided to bring me in for a half day of interviews with several other people on the team and other department heads.

        I went in for the interviews, and pretty much all any of the people I met with talked about was how I did not have experience in their industry. No questions, just hand wringing that I didn’t have experience in their (tiny, very specific) industry. I tried to ask questions about what knowledge resources or other self-training I could do to get up to speed, but apparently it was a hopeless endeavor for anyone without industry experience to learn.

        I did not get the job. Evidently they were still searching for a “qualified” candidate 18 months later, as I was still seeing the job re-posted, although it still listed industry experience as a nice to have but not a requirement.

    3. Melissa*

      YES. In fact, “analyst” is probably the most openly abused word in the job-hunting sphere. I’m looking for research positions – like marketing research, consumer psychology, that kind of thing. Those jobs are often called “analyst,” but the job expectations are so wild, and about half of them want someone who can code (in a variety of languages) .

    4. AnonAnalyst*

      Ugh, yes, I feel you on this one. I kept running into this in my last job search. Now, I occasionally get contacted by recruiters through LinkedIn about those jobs that require coding skills despite the fact that I claim nowhere on my profile to have such skills or have used anything similar in past jobs. So…I still have no idea whether some of those jobs actually require them, or if those recruiters are just inept!

  8. MsM*

    As much as I hate the jargon-laden ads (B2B and B2C in particular need to die), I can see an argument for using them if the position and your office culture are not going to be a good fit for someone who can’t glance at that stuff in passing and know exactly what you mean. Admittedly, the “key relationships” and “applicable business areas” probably aren’t going to be things external candidates will know, but if the CRFs are industry standard and you need someone who can fill them out on Day 1, you may not be doing yourself any favors if you simplify.

    1. Mike C.*

      That’s silly – it takes 30 seconds to learn what B2B or B2C or similar terms mean. It’s not rocket science or neurosurgery.

      Also, this idea that an employer can have someone new “on the ground running on day 1” is an incredibly unreasonable expectation for employers to have. Everyone is going to need some time to acclimate to something new at the organization, whether it’s the functions of the job, the org structure, specific projects, relationships with other employees and so on. People are not replaceable cogs in a machine.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Right?!thats code for we have no training and just throw you in the deep end

      1. Kelly O*

        I agree with you on the second part.

        Now, if there is an extended onboarding process and you have time to read manuals, maybe have lunch with new colleagues, and get a feel for things before your official first day, maybe you can hit the ground walking at a pretty swift clip, but I don’t think many people can run the first day.

        Besides, there is always the whole thing of finding restrooms, meeting others in the office, getting the tour, and possibly even a few “get to know you” meetings in that first day, or days, or week or however long your company does it.

        Unless, you know, you go in for a “working interview” and find yourself hired before you know it. The onboarding for this job was weird, but I started in a different way than I ever have before.

    2. Dawn*

      begin derail:

      I will defend B2B and B2C because they’re super simple ways of saying “Hey the crap we make is sold directly to other businesses” and “hey the crap we make is sold directly to customers” because those two classifications have a world of difference between them (how things are sold, how support is set up, how customization the software is, etc etc etc).


      1. YandO*

        I really appreciate adds that specify B2B or B2C or SaaS industry/culture. It immediately lets me know what type of work/culture I would be entering.

        1. jag*

          There’s jargon that is clutter that could be shortened/clarified, like “solutions-oriented deliverables.”

          And there’s jargon that is clear shorthand. B2B and B2C are clear shorthand. I don’t see the problem with using them.

      2. Helka*

        Yeah, that’s a designation I find useful, because (at least in my experience) the same kind of job has a very different stress level and overall feel, depending whether you’re dealing with consumers or businesses.

        1. SLG*

          My experience is only in nonprofits and B2B, so I’m really curious: what do you see as the difference in stress levels & overall feel between B2B and B2C?

    3. MaryMary*

      Industry jargon bothers me less than company specific jargon. OldJob used to have job postings that directly lifted from our internal job descriptions, and they’d be full of OldJob-specific jargon: vague terminology (“complete activities within three days of receipt”), acronyms for other roles (“work closely with BAs and PAs”), internally developed software systems, etc. It’s a wonder we hired anyone.

      1. themmases*

        I agree, especially because often when I read a job ad it seems like the person who wrote it doesn’t even realize there is a difference. For instance, they use jargon specific to one piece of industry software that, yes, is popular but other similar programs are popular too. As an outsider it’s hard to know if this acronym is for a common concept that I should know if I’m qualified, a common concept whose equivalent I know in some other program, or just a garbage name that is only meaningful within their organization. And even then– did they say that deliberately, and being internal or knowing *this* software is a must-have?

        I’m early enough in my career I might apply to these jobs anyway, but it definitely puts me off a lot of them. Acronyms and jargon make the requirements sound more specific than they are. And for a lot of jobs, they make the requirements sound more specific than they *should be*, which just makes the person or people who wrote the ad sound dumb.

      2. Meg Murry*

        I was coming to say the same thing. Commonly used company acronyms in internal postings where you are basically looking for someone internal to do something similar to what they are doing now but for a different boss, maybe with a tiny step up in responsibility – OK, acronym and jargon away. But when you post the position to the outside world, you have to rewrite it and strip out the company specific acronyms – and if possible, explain in plain English instead of technical-ese.

        In my case at Oldcompany – it had been the kind of place that hired people straight out of college (or sometimes as interns while still in college) and people could/would work there for 30+ years and then retire – I was an outlier having come in from the same industry with some work experience. I think there were a decent number of managers that honestly didn’t know that the acronyms and jargon they used there were not standard across the whole industry – especially the ones that people pronounced as if they were words, I think a lot of people deeply entrenched forgot they were even acronyms. (Imagine internal acronym that could be pronounced like scuba or laser that have lost their acronym connotation).

        And then they wondered why they had such a hard time with external recruiting. Hmm

      3. abby*

        Our job postings ARE our internal job descriptions. Because of the nature of our work and our reputation, we don’t have trouble attracting candidates for certain positions. But we do have trouble with other, “less exciting” positions. I had suggested that we re-visit our job postings moving forward, as I strongly suspected our lack of quality (and, for some positions, any) applicants had everything to do with poorly-written and jargon-filled job postings that don’t excite anyone. This article and the following comments are super helpful.

      4. jag*

        Company specific jargon is idiotic to use. How can outsiders know what it means?

        Industry specific jargon might be entirely appropriate if you only think you can hire from within your industry (say, for a technical position). But if someone from a different industry might succeed in the role, it should be avoided.

  9. Joss*

    I would also add to make sure you’re accurate, for the love of god. When I worked in hiring, so much focus was given to what language would generate the most applicants without any sense of what would attract qualified applicants. I had far too many arguments where, “But that will make people not want to apply!” when it came to putting things like knowledge of a critical program as a part of the role in the posting.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Yes!! Or if you’re a candidate who’s called to an interview then you find out the main parts of the job will be wildly different from the ad and then you really want to say “why didn’t you list that in your ad so I wouldn’t have applied”.

      1. katamia*

        Ugh, yes. I applied earlier this year for a data entry job. Then the interview was all about my social media skills, and when they offered me the job the title was something like “marketing assistant.” In theory I’d actually be good at that sort of thing, but it really wasn’t what I was looking for.

      2. Hermoine Granger*

        +1 I understand that a company might not be able to fit everything about a position into an ad. However, it’s ridiculous to wait until the interview to reveal that the job description is mostly or completely inaccurate. That’s sort of like an applicant submitting a resume that includes skills / accomplishments that they don’t actually have or not to the degree stated.

        1. ro*

          Thanks to AAM, I now ask during the interview if there’s a revised job description or if the one from the posting is still accurate.

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Gah! Why would they even want unqualified people to apply? Aren’t piles of irrelevant resumes the bane of HR departments and managers everywhere, and wouldn’t it waste the employer’s time as well as applicants’ time to read applications from – let alone interview – people they’d never want to hire because they couldn’t do the job?

      1. Three Thousand*

        They might be a smaller company that doesn’t get many applicants for any job, and they might either be desperate to fill a job or enjoy the feeling of getting lots of applications and being in demand.

        1. Windchime*

          We are a large company that doesn’t get piles of resumes. The last external position that our department posted got two or three, and we ended up hiring someone (who turned out to be a disaster) through a recruiter. He’s gone now, so the manager has changed the job description and the posting, and is going to be posting it through more channels. I always here about “hundreds of applicants for one job” and wonder why we don’t get anywhere near that turnout.

    3. Melissa*

      Yes! It will! That’s what you want!!! If I need to know SUDAAN or Perl to do the job and I don’t, I don’t want to waste my time applying and you don’t want to waste your time reading my resume and potentially calling me for a phone screen!

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yes, this! Don’t list it as a requirement if it’s not – if it’d be nice if I know Python but not obligatory, either don’t list it or make it clear it’s an extra, so I don’t self-screen out. But if there is no way on earth you will hire me if I don’t already know Python, _list it as a requirement_.

        (Of course, I just landed a job where I didn’t have two of the “requirements” because “you can learn those”. Yes, yes I can. And why are they listed as requirements? lol)

        1. Melissa*

          That’s why I’ve taken the advice to apply for jobs where I know 60-75% of the requirements. I think someone once did a study in which women only applied for jobs for which they had 100% of the requirements, but men applied when they had about 60% of the requirements, reasoning that they could learn stuff on the job. So I started applying for a bunch of things where I had about 60-75% of the requirements and thought I could reasonably learn the rest.

        2. De(Germany)*

          “Of course, I just landed a job where I didn’t have two of the “requirements” because “you can learn those”. Yes, yes I can. And why are they listed as requirements?”

          Hmm, that’s pretty standard for software development job. For example, yes, python can be learned on the job. As can every other programming language. But you don’t want to attract people who need to learn all of those things and you’d prefer if they didn’t anyway, so you put them in as requirements.

      2. Anna the Accounting Student*

        Exactly. It saves time for everyone — on both ends of the listing — if you just say what the heck you want in the first place.

  10. Steve G*

    Amen!!! Here are some things I’d love to communicate to all companies during this painful job search, concerning this topic:

    1) Save the dramatic/odd job title for after hiring. Use generic titles on ads. Most people search thousands of listings by job title. If you call “Account Manager” a “Customer Wellness Liaison,” I am not going to find the ad.
    2) If you want entry level, say so. Don’t include a bunch of computer programs and requirements typical of someone with years of experience to weed out candidates, write what you really want. Or else you are going to be wasting a bunch of senior-level peoples’ time applying to a job that they do not know is entry level.
    3) Don’t exaggerate the computer skills you need as a means to weed out candidates. Why not test candidates instead? All you are doing is getting rid of modest employees who don’t self-rate their skills highly, but keeping the ninkapoops who think making a pivot table makes then “advanced in all MS applications”
    4) Be specific about your location. Don’t put “NYC” to make me research where you are, only to find out that you are in NJ.
    5) Don’t make your ad a bunch of personality characteristics. I’ve noticed that those ones get 100s of applicants on Linkedin premium, even if the technical requirements are strict. My theory is that people say “oh this is an employer that values a good personality, so hopefully my personality trumps my lack of technical skills.” For example, one analytical role in my industry (energy) has 250 applicants, even though it demands energy experience. All other energy ads have 20-30 applicants, but this one wastes a lot of space on things like being dependable, being able to communicate with people at all levels, blah blah blah. Like someone is actually going to think “gee I get nervous around VPs, I won’t apply?”!!!!

    1. Jubilance*

      Your point about titles is why I started doing job searches using keywords instead of titles. For example, instead of just searching “chemist” I started searching by key technologies & activities like “method development” or “FTIR”. I find tons of positions with weird titles that have nothing to do with the actual work being done.

    2. TheVet*

      4) Be specific about your location. Don’t put “NYC” to make me research where you are, only to find out that you are in NJ.

      I live in DC and THIS ^^^makes my teeth itch. I applied for jobs that were listed as in DC only to find out they were…not. Please stop listing your positions as in DC when you’re a 45-60+ minute drive away. Do not act irritated with me when I decline an interview upon learning that I’d be “commuting” to Woodbridge or Annapolis or pretty much anywhere outside of DC proper. Thanks.

      1. themmases*

        So much this. I live in Chicago, I’m enjoying the wonderful benefits of living in Chicago like not having to own a car to get to a bunch of great jobs in my industry, and your company is… Not in Chicago. Don’t lie to me!

          1. Katniss*

            YES! This is so frustrating, especially when using Craigslist. On there if I try and weed some of that out by searching “city of Chicago”, I’m then also not seeing listings in somewhere like Evanston where I AM willing to commute since I’m in the northern part of the city!

      2. Kelly O*

        Or in a large city, give me an idea of where you are in that city.

        That was another pet peeve in my last job search. It would say “Houston” but not give a ZIP code or anything. So I’d do some looking and find out it was two hours away on the other side of town, or not even really in Houston but in an outlying suburb (and why they listed Houston as the city I’ll never know.)

        It’s not that hard to say “Greenway Plaza” or “Greenspoint” or “Energy Corridor” or any other identifier that would make your general part of town simpler to find. And it would save a LOT of time.

        I also used to get frustrated with recruiting companies who would want me to drive two hours or more across town to meet with every blessed new recruiter to whom I was assigned. There was one in particular I finally had to get quite firm with, because although they said they placed all over town, and in my area, wanted me to come back three times in six months to have a ‘meet and greet’ with whichever new recruiter I’d been assigned to. I finally had to explain that I’m taking time off work to do this, and it finally stopped.

        1. Melissa*

          People do that a lot in the Atlanta area. The greater Atlanta area is a large collection of counties, most of them not in Atlanta proper, and it can take fully 2 hours to drive from one side of the area to the other. So some Atlanta-area companies will say “Atlanta” when really they’re in Duluth or Alpharetta or Conyers, all of which are about 15-20 minutes away from Atlanta. I feel like a lot of big, spread-out Southern cities do this.

          The weird thing about it is that most of the people in metro Atlanta don’t live in Atlanta proper, so why not just tell me where you really are? That might be a plus since I can avoid all of the traffic going into the city every morning.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Yep, where I live the ads often list the county, not the city, and it could take over an hour to drive from one end to the other, so that’s usua code for one of the less desirable towns within the county

        3. BeenThere*

          Yes, seriously! I would get excited by jobs then look up their office location in Houston and cry in despair. Why is everything with great benefits located outside of the loop?!

      3. Anna the Accounting Student*

        Agreed. If I lived in the lower three-fifths of Manhattan, it would be no big whoop to get to Yonkers or Stamford or Jersey City by mass transit. But I don’t live in Manhattan, and it takes me an hour to get to Penn Station and at least as long to get to Grand Central — much less get out of the city. Consequently, anyplace outside of the five boroughs is pretty much an automatic non-starter.

      4. Dan*

        You can get away with “DC” for the close in suburbs, like Arlington, and maybe eastern Fairfax, as well as some parts of Montgomery County in MD.

        1. TheVet*

          That’s not DC. That’s Arlington, eastern Fairfax, and MoCo. I look at it like this: if I lived in Arlington, eastern Fairfax, and MoCo would I be able to claim DC residency for a DC government job? No? Then, it’s not DC. Simple.

        2. VintageLydia USA*

          Basically anything inside the Beltway and/or Metro accessible I’d consider fair game to be called “DC”. Not VRE/MARC because those trains pretty much go one-way (into the city in the AM, out of in the PM.)

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I’ve actually seen #5, in the energy industry. Unfortunately, it wasn’t at the interview stage. It didn’t come up until a division president wanted to talk about some report formatting and this person flipped out like we were asking her to talk to George Clooney or something. I went to the meeting with her, so it wasn’t like we were hanging her out to dry. The person was a complete ball of nerves though, so I agree it is not normal.

      1. Steve G*

        But if an ad said “demonstrated ability to work with people at all levels within the organization,” she still would have applied:-)

    4. I'm a Little Teapot*

      ALLLLL the yeses to all of this. Especially #3 and #4. One of my biggest problems with the way people are hired in general is that it tends to select for egotists and get rid of modest people, and egotism does NOT equal competence (see “Dunning-Kruger effect”). Not to mention that modest people are usually a lot more pleasant to work with.

      Also, with #4, a lot of people in some cities don’t own cars and only commute by public transit. Finding out *after* you apply that the job is in a place you can’t even physically get to is infuriating. Maybe describing your job based in Sudbury or Foxborough or something as “Boston” is close enough as far as you’re concerned, but NOT for me!

    5. Melissa*

      Corollary to 2: If you want someone entry-level, be realistic about the skills that you would expect an entry-level person to have. Don’t ask for skills that only someone 3-5 years into the business would have, unless there’s some other way that they might have acquired those skills. Or put them in the clearly labeled “wish list”, not in the basic requirements.

      1. Nashira*

        I was idly browsing infosec jobs and nearly threw something when I noticed all the postings for “entry level” required a certification that requires 4-5 years of info sec experience to obtain. That’s not entry level!

        Now I know to look for “new graduate” spots but ugh seriously who writes the listings for Big Blue?

    6. Voluptuousfire*

      God yes. Or worse off, Long Islan or CT! . A 60 mile commute one way in the NYC tri-state area isn’t “local.”

          1. BeenThere*

            When I was interviewing for current job some of the staff said they worked in the New York office. I was intrigued I had no interest in relocating to the Stamford, CT office but the prospect of being able to move to a New York office at some point int the future was a rather exciting option. (SO works for a company that has offices in Houston, TX and NYC so I like to keep my options open). Anyway after I start it turns out that all these people that claimed to work in the New York office actually are in the Stamford and there is no office in NYC. Really? I understand they are close however that’s a whole other state!! Also one hell of a commute.

    7. Jill 2*

      Ha, that’s so funny, I DO get nervous around VPs and might give that one a pause if a job description stated it outright. That would mean to me it’s a large part of the job, and that it wouldn’t be a good fit because I’d be too anxious.

      But I’m probably a weirdo. :-)

  11. TheExchequer*

    Preach it, Allison!

    As a job seeker, these are the things I look for in a quality job ad:

    1. The name of the company. You wouldn’t think I’d have to write that down, but oh, you would be surprised.
    2. Location of the job, preferably with an exact address. If you don’t like getting resumes that don’t have a specific address, think about how much your potential job seekers would like to know where they’re going to be working. And if you’re close to mass transit or some local landmark (mall, park, etc), it’s nice to mention that.
    3. Salary range. The economy is improving to the point where I sometimes exercise the option to pass up job ads that don’t have it. And where I can pass up job ads that aren’t paying market rate.
    4. Tone of your job ad. There was one job ad I was pretty excited about applying to, until the last paragraph, which read something like: “If you don’t include your salary range or write negotiable, that means you’d be happy working for minimum wage.” No, that’s not what that means. It’s a pretty standard professional tactic. If you want people to put down their salary range, there are plenty of professional ways to convey that. The tone of that ad was so off-putting, I refused to apply.
    5. How onerous your application process is. If you have down on your job ad that you require a handwritten note to accompany my mailed in resume (Yes, that really happened! Last week!), you can expect to be the punchline to many jokes and not expect many applications.
    6. How much of my personal information you require upfront. Before you interview me: You do not need my SSN. You do not need my transcript. You do not need the home address of my references. Requiring any of those things is going to earn you the side-eye and I may not apply to you.
    7. An accurate and detailed explanation of the job. For some reason, a whole mess of companies conflate Admin Assistant/Customer Service type jobs (what I’m looking for) with Sales (which I am not very good at). I’d like a detailed explanation of exactly how much selling (especially cold selling) I’m going to be doing so I can self select out.
    8. An accurate and detailed explanation of the qualifications you require, with rarer requirements being first. I understand this can change during the process of seeking candidates, but at least try to have an accurate list. And put the things job seekers are unlikely to have first! I can’t tell you the number of job applications where I went down the list of all the qualifications I had, only to get stopped at the end by some requirement like Must speak Klingon fluently or Must be able to complete the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.
    9. Some sort of mission statement/what the company focuses on. This really helps to hone my cover letter and make it dazzling, so I know whether to emphasize my independent nature or my ability to work in a team.
    10. A contact name. This is more of a “nice to have” than a requirement, but it’s really nice when I can actually address my cover letter to somebody specific. (Craigslist, I’m looking at you).

    1. YandO*

      Totally agree with all of these!

      Comments for #10: I address my cover letters to “Westerosi Team” or “Westerosi Recruting Team” if they are large enough to have one. It has worked well for me.

    2. some1*

      #2: yes! Don’t say you are located in a certain city if you are really in some far-flung suburb.

      #7: I agree. I’m an admin and during my last job search sooo many ads for administrative/office assistants said nothing about reception duties, then when I go to the interview I found out it was a receptionist position. A lot of receptionists do higher-level admin duties as well as reception work, but if you are the receptionist in comes with much less freedom that somes admins don’t want to deal with.

      1. Ali*

        I don’t have a car right now, and I can’t stand when I see ads without the name of the company listed. I can only get to places within a certain area, and I need to know what employer it is so I can determine if it’s worth my time to apply. No company name, no application…

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yes! It also makes me think the company is a scam. I start thinking “…This is secretly Kirby Vacuums, right?”

          1. ro*

            They’ll take you to a retreat and make you cook them dinner and dance for their entertainment.

      2. Mimmy*

        Something similar happened to me years ago. The job was sold as being data entry with some phone work. On my first day, I discover I am the RECEPTIONIST! The job was in a less-than-nice area of town, and I often got walk-ins looking for work (it was a wholesale manufacturer). I remember getting a whole group of guys at once, and I was (to myself) “Heeeeeeeellllp!!!!” Most miserable 2.5 weeks of my life. Ever.


    3. Dawn*

      “6. How much of my personal information you require upfront. Before you interview me: You do not need my SSN. You do not need my transcript. You do not need the home address of my references. Requiring any of those things is going to earn you the side-eye and I may not apply to you.”

      When I was job hunting I set a limit for myself at the beginning that I refused to apply to any job that required me to submit my resume and then fill out an application that was just re-stating everything on my resume. Governmental jobs excepted because I know their hands are tied, but private sector? Hell to the no ain’t nobody got time for that!

      1. Sandy*

        I’ve been eyeing some UN jobs lately. I can’t bring myself to apply because they require EIGHT PAGES of background info, including a reference for every job you have ever held, just to access the system, THEN you need to apply the job itself with three more references you haven’t used before.

        1. oldfashionedlovesong*

          “A reference for every job… [and] three more references you haven’t used before” — I don’t think I even know that many people in a professional capacity. The third person would end up having to be my mother.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Oh yes, last time I was searching the longest applications I ran across were from hotel/resorts. So long I couldn’t get through them

      1. Kelly L.*

        It’s like dating ads. None of us want to meet assholes on OKCupid–but nobody is going to answer a personal ad that says “Don’t be an asshole. No drama. Don’t you even think about screwing me over. No jerks need apply.” It’s like a huge red flag that reads “Drama to be found here!”

            1. Windchime*

              I prefer quiet nights by the fireplace, myself. And I’m pleased to tell you that I’m equally as comfortable in jeans as in a little black dress!

              1. Mike C.*

                If I weren’t married I’d put that in my profile just to see what sort of reactions I’d get!

            2. esra*

              How about traveling?Are you passionate about travel? Do you long to just drop it all and… travel???

    4. Steve G*

      #5…yes!!!! I spent an hour doing one on Saturday that asked, among other items, birthdate/year, reason why you left every job, for references, started/ending rate of every job, and had lots of field for every job, including name/title/# of former boss…….only to be rejected at like 9:15 on Monday morning. I was more than qualified. S**** you! How long did you look at my application, like 2 seconds?

      9) That would be lovely as well, instead of reading your website for 15 minutes. sifting through jargon, why not just write “we sell and install smart meters to companies looking to monitor and lower their energy usage.”

    5. Kelly O*

      I think sometimes admin jobs are the worst at this, because it’s like some companies don’t even know what they want, or they want everything (bookkeeping, event planning, bi-or-tri-lingual, receptionist, file clerk, IT help desk, you name it) and they want to pay you $12/hour with a week of PTO (sick, vacation, etc.)

      I don’t know if the attitude is that this is a “service” job or something, but it’s frustrating beyond words. It makes me grateful for the bullets I’ve dodged over the years.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Ha, I’m and Admin that’s also a first level help desk. But my role was newly added when I joined and they flat out told me other responsibilities would be added and they’ve given me raises in conjunction with all I’ve taken on…but yea, admins can run the gamut

      2. _ism_*

        Why hello, that’s me, and I’m paid $8 an hour with 3 days of PTO for the whole year, but I only earn the PTO if I wasn’t ever sick at all.

    6. hayling*

      Agree with this except #10. Just write “Hello,” or “Dear Hiring Manager,” or whatever. Several people might actually read your cover letter, or the person who phone screens you might not be the hiring manager, or whatever. Don’t expend any more energy getting hung up on this.

    7. Stranger than fiction*

      I think the reason for #1 sometimes is that they are looking to fire and replace someone so need to keep the company anonymous

      1. Empress Zhark*

        In my experience it’s more likely to be external recruiters advertising the jobs – they don’t want to name the client for fear of candidates going directly to that company to apply, bypassing the recruiters and them losing their fee.

        But either way, it sucks.

    8. Chickaletta*

      7) An accurate and detailed explanation of the job.

      YES Please! You have no idea how many times I’ve walked into an interview posted for a graphic designer only to find out that what they really want is an admin/receptionist/salesperson/account rep who can occasionally design a flyer. I never accept those jobs, but I can only imagine that whoever they hire is outta there quick.

    9. Jax*

      #5 – I snail mailed in application, resume, cover letter, college transcripts and list of references like it was straight up 1982 for a PART-TIME ADMIN role at local community college. What I found most baffling? I had to pull the application OFF THEIR WEBSITE, print it, fill it out, and then mail it back in. The ad even stated “Incomplete application packets, emailed packets, or hand-delivered packets will be disregarded.”

      I applied thinking odds would be in my favor. How many people are willing to send all of that by mail? Stupid.

    10. _ism_*

      The ad for my job was placed in the local newspaper and on the temp agency’s site, only.

      Heading: Data Entry
      Ad text: Looking for Data Entry Person. Apply at (temp agency).

      The end.

      Guess what I don’t do very much of? Data entry. I do a hell of a lot else.

  12. Abby*

    I excitedly applied for a business dev coordinator position-worked on my resume & cover letter, submitted it to see a posting the next day for a business development analyst. I read the job description and they still reference a coordinator. Last night I saw that they posted the same job description for a marketing campaign coordinator. Again, referencing a business dev coordinator in the job description. At first I thought they were trying to diversify their pool of applicants, but seeing the same job with 3 different titles has decreased my interest and makes me think they really don’t know what they want or need…

    1. AnotherAlison*

      In defense of that company, that particular set of jobs seems to mean different things to different companies. Our business development coordinators are called proposal coordinators. Marketing campaign would be communications coordinator. BD analyst would be market analyst. When I had a “senior market analyst” title in a previous job, I would get lots of LinkedIn contacts from headhunters for positions that were night and day different from what I actually had experience in.

      1. Abby*

        I hear you, but at the same time I was a little turned off by them not updating anything other than the job title.

  13. Hermoine Granger*

    I kind of prefer the straight to the point ads that just list responsibilities and qualifications with a bit of info about what the company does. I don’t need anything fancy just tell me about the job.

    Given that companies stress that resumes need to be well organized for easy reading, it says a lot that some companies create postings that are an absolute mess. I’ve seen companies (some quite large with HR departments) post descriptions littered with typos, no details about qualifications, no explanation of the position’s responsibilities, blocks of text cut off, no info about how to apply, etc. How do you not notice that you’ve posted an ad with no qualifications and/or responsibilities?

    A personal pet peeve of mine is job descriptions consisting entirely of titanagraphs of text rather than bullet points.
    Job title, overview of position, responsibilities (bullet points), qualifications (bullet points), how to apply, and a bit of info about the company. That’s enough. Not several huge paragraphs and especially not if they’re primarily about how cool you are and that you’re looking for a ninja / rockstar.

    1. YandO*

      Just in the last week I’ve seen 4 or 5 ads that consisted of one very-very long paragraph with no text separation (not even bolded text). I did not even bother. I can’t comprehend info like that.

      1. Clever Name*

        I’m coming up with qualifictions now. Champion yodeler. Black belt in cat herding.

  14. ro*

    I’d add putting in the salary range. Right now, I guess at what the range might be based on things like qualifications, but guesswork isn’t great. It’s a waste of my time to apply to a job that would be a pay cut, and so, well, I’m not. The job posting is much more compelling if I know how much you’re going to pay.

    Also, can we get rid of asking for rock stars? I can’t play a guitar! :P

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Definitely put the salary range, especially if your organization is on a tight budget. No need to waste anyone’s time.

    2. Mike C.*

      If they’re looking for rock stars, there better be a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown ones picked out at the interview.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Whenever someone calls me rock star I say I’m really more of a country girl

  15. AndersonDarling*

    Today I read a job posting: “Shift is 4:00pm to 2:00pm Monday-Saturday”
    Really? A 22 hour shift? 132 hours a week? Could someone proofread, please?

  16. AGirlCalledFriday*

    This is why I don’t even bother reading the entire ad. I scroll to the “Qualifications” section to see how much of a match I am, I check the salary range if there is one, and then and only then do I check to see what the job is about…which takes about 5-10 min of really thinking about what their jargon actually means in the scope of the job presented. It’s such a waste of time.

    1. Mimmy*

      I should start doing that. I might read a job description that seems to have my name on it….until I see that I don’t have the right qualifications or that it requires a drivers’ license / travel throughout a particular service area. I can’t drive, so scratch that idea!!

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Oh, and if the position DOES require a driver license and/or one’s own vehicle, I would love for the listing to state that. Many people take it as a given that an employee will drive to work and be able to drive to other locations midday as necessary. If you don’t have a license, don’t have a car, can’t or won’t drive due to a number of reasons, better to know that up front. (And if the travel is truly occasional and can be managed with transit/taxi/car service or other reasonable accommodations, employers shouldn’t rule out non-drivers.)

        1. Mimmy*

          (And if the travel is truly occasional and can be managed with transit/taxi/car service or other reasonable accommodations, employers shouldn’t rule out non-drivers.)


        2. This*

          Or how about, “my car is over 20 years old, which is why I need money, so I can replace it (among other things).” I’m not interested in any driving jobs right now. However, some of the ads require a license, but don’t want you to drive. It makes things very confusing.

          Moral of the story: If the job requires driving, please say so in the ad!
          If you just want a license bc you want me to be of age, say something like that.
          Otherwise, I’m gonna self-select out.

  17. AndersonDarling*

    The worst are the ads with long drawn out company descriptions. The ones where there there are 5 paragraphs about the company then only 3 lines with the actual job description. And apparently, every organization is “a leader” in their industry.

  18. grasshopper*

    “Must have a sense of humour.” Everyone has a sense of humour and very few people don’t enjoy a good laugh. The question is whether or not people have the same sense of humour as you. Whenever I read that, all I think is that the last person in the position left because they didn’t like having their shoelaces tied together, slipping on banana peels or didn’t laugh at their co-workers’ knock-knock jokes . I know that they are trying to establish ‘fit’ with the company culture, but there are better ways to do it.

    1. Steve G*

      Haha, or didn’t like “yo mama jokes” :-). Or cheesy jokes, like “where does a gorilla sleep?” “on an apricot?” Get it? Ape-ri-Cot, it’s a fruit, and an ape-cot. Not laughing? You have no sense of humor:-)

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Hmmm. . .I don’t think this is a half-bad indicator of culture myself. I do, in fact, have a sense of humor (I lean towards dry sarcasm, maybe like Gilfoyle on Silicon Valley). But, I’m more serious than average and I know it. I would head for the hills if I saw an ad requiring a sense of humor. I interpret that these are people who are going to make jokes at my expense (maybe send me a bag of garbage) and wonder why I don’t laugh.

      1. ro*

        I translate it as “brogrammer culture” and run away. Remember the Nerf battles letter from a while back? That kind of thing.

        Unless I’m applying to a circus. Then I’ll take a required sense of humor. ;)

        1. Sarahnova*

          Yep, that one I pretty much read as “will laugh at our offensive jokes and not, like harsh our buzz by calling us RACIST, man”.

    3. OriginalYup*

      That one’s a straight up red flag IMO — it means “we have a disproportionate number of jerk employees who enjoying hazing and lack connection between their brain and mouth, be prepared to be harassed daily on a number of fronts.”

      It’s like real estate ads where “charming” means small, “quaint” means colonial-era plumbing, and “convenient” means next to the freeway. Caveat emptor.

    4. This*

      Oh, how I hate this. It seems to be increasingly common in the ads I’ve been browsing.
      +1 to everything you all said.

  19. MaryMary*

    Alison, I’d love to see a similar post on creating useful internal job descriptions. My organization struggles with it, and I think a lot of others do too. Sometimes the internal description is exactly the same as the job posting, or it’s full of fluff (“follows office dress code”), or it’s outdated or inaccurate.

  20. Stephanie*

    1. Please remove any references to ninjas, rockstars, or gurus unless the job actually involves advanced martial arts, platinum albums, or religious consultation.

    2. “Passion”, especially if the posting is at a giant multinational or a company aspiring to be a giant multinational. I could see the argument for a nonprofit type of role, but even the most idealistic will burn out on low pay (which “passion” seems to be code for). I can and do get interested (even excited) in potential jobs, but I work for money.

    1. ro*

      Passion also means very long hours (with no extra overtime, what, you aren’t PASSIONATE ABOUT THE CAUSE? DON’T TAKE MONEY AWAY FROM THE WHALES)

  21. Jana*

    I’ve seen countless job announcements like this. However, my biggest pet peeves are job announcements in which there are errors (including misspellings of the job title) or when the job titles make absolutely no sense, such as Administrative Assistant/Program Director.

    1. ro*

      I frankly wouldn’t be shocked at Admin Assistant/Program Director coming across my job alerts. I keep seeing ones that can be summed up as “we want an awesome super skilled DBA who knows every database system and a couple we just made up, will work nights and be on call… who also takes meeting minutes and handle all scheduling on the director’s calendar”.

    2. Mimmy*

      Some places, especially nonprofits with limited resources, will double-up on job duties. For example, at an agency I frequently volunteer with, one woman is both the Office Manager AND a Case Manager.

      1. Stef*

        Nothing wrong with taking on extra duties & everyone pitching in. I think the issue is that sometimes employers don’t seem to really understand what they want/need when they write these descriptions & what skill sets they can reasonably expect to get in one employee.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      My early twenties high school diploma niece has an entry level job and her title is Program Administrator but she’s basically sales support. At least she has an awesome title to put on her resume because this place is paying her about 1/8 of what someone with that title would really make

  22. AnonyMe*

    While I agree with this in theory, from a job applicant perspective, I actually wouldn’t be thrilled to see all companies take this advice. A company that instinctively words things as “the communications manager runs the show…” has a very different culture than a company that instinctively words things as “the communications manager is responsible for all etc.”. I appreciate that an ad is, in that way, a good beacon of the culture of the company, since that’s such an integral part to a new hire’s success. I’d hate to waste my time applying to a job based on the ad, or pass up a job that I would have been a good fit for, because the ad signals a very different culture that the company actually promotes.

  23. Mimmy*

    Great post Alison!! My number one pet peeve is the buzzwords: incumbent, deliverables, human capital…. the list goes on. Stop trying to be cool and just give it to me in English! My husband has told me before that many ads make a job seem more complex or advanced than it really is.

    Another thing I’ve seen recently are job ads that look like a super-long list of duties or qualifications, but in reality, are restating the same few things in different ways. What I’m seeing in 20 bullet points could probably be just as effectively stated in less than half of that!

    Suggestion to Alison: I’d someday love to see a post on understanding these job ads, even if it’s to solicit examples from readers.

    1. hayling*

      I agree that buzzwords are bad…but I wouldn’t consider “deliverable” a buzzword. “Incumbent” is an awkward term for “the person we hire” – I see that mostly in big companies with very formal job descriptions.

      1. Malissa*

        Incumbent means the person who currently holds the job to me. But the way you explain makes more sense out of some of the ads I’ve seen.

    2. Beancounter in Texas*

      Ditto. The phrase that makes me close any ad (no matter the attraction otherwise) is “fast-pace(d) office.” Perhaps it is overused to make the job sound exciting, but what comes to my mind is that they actually are super busy and should hire two employees for the job they have in mind, not one. If the pace of the office really is upbeat, perhaps “deadline driven” and “time sensitive tasks” is more appropriate.

      1. Once a Small Biz Manager/Design office principal*

        All design ads say this. What is says to me is that the office principals don’t manage time well . . . and you are expected to work 50+ hours a week . . .

      2. SevenSixOne*

        if the job posting says the job is “fast-paced” and that you’ll need to “hit the ground running”, that probably means “did you know this department has burned through five people in this role in the last year? You’re about to find out why!”

  24. Stephanie*

    My current employer has a large blue collar workforce (which probably greatly outnumbers the white collar workforce). It’s interesting seeing how the postings for the blue collar postings differ from the white collar postings. The blue collar job postings will be pretty straightforward and say things like “You should expect to bring home between $x and $Y in a week” or “You will be expected to lift up to 70 lbs, with most packages averaging between 20 and 40 lbs” or “You will be working in an industrial setting with limited climate control.”

    When you look at a white collar posting (like something at corporate or even a skilled job at one of the plants), this is when you get all the hallmarks of bad postings Alison’s mentioned, like jargon (“liaise with external stakeholders”), no salary or references to internal salary grades (“Salary grade: 10F”), and references to internal programs (“Supervise ODC reports.”).

    1. Jean*

      I’m awake with insomnia, thus reading-comprehension challenged, so I read your last sentence as “OCD reports.”
      (Smiles. Too tired to laugh.)

  25. I'm a Little Teapot*

    I actually just started a Tumblr for terrible job postings called theworstjob. I’m job hunting right now and it’s highly cathartic.

    1. Vanishing Girl*

      Oh, I’m going to have to follow you over there! There used to be a blog for the archival community called You Ought To Be Ashamed and I loved it. Eye-opening and funny (you know, laugh so you don’t cry). They haven’t posted in a long time, sadly.

    2. voluptuousfire*

      (Of course, we all know “entrepreneur” is French for “egomaniac.”)

      Oh this made my day and I’ve had a terrible day. thanks I’m a Little Teapot.

        1. Stephanie*

          Yeah, this made me cackle in an empty break room. $10/hour for a Chinese speaker with a bachelors degree?

  26. ShellBell*

    I’m job searching for the first time in about six years. I’ve noticed that titles and job descriptions seem (to me) to be at a much higher level than they really are. For example, I’m currently a mid-level manager. I have about 15 direct reports and I work with a great deal of autonomy when it comes to managing my project. I see so many jobs that have manager in the title, but you aren’t really a manager of anything. The job is an entry level receptionist and they’ve managed to massage the title into something very “fancy” that sounds like more than it is. Additionally, they seem to mention many responsibilities that the person might touch or be part of, but not take ownership over. They list in a way that makes it seem like that person in the role will have full autonomy over those tasks/processes and this makes it seem like a much higher level position. I see these positions, apply, indicate my desired salary range, get a call for a phone interview, and find out their top salary is sometimes 1/2 my current salary and less than 1/2 of what I indicated as my desired salary. I’m baffled by these. Why are the contacting me? Why is this happening? I’m getting better and deciphering the job descriptions, but the phenomenon baffles me.

    1. Steve G*

      OMG I kvetched about the same exact thing here the other day. WTF is going on with these ads? I am 12 years out of college and interviewed for what I thought was a mid-level job last week, only to be asked if I was OK doing an entry level job. No I’m not! The pay was $15K less than my last job (not a bad paying entry level job btw). Of course, as the candidate, I am the one at fault – not whoever wrote the ad asking for all of these qualities and experiences that take years of FT experience to develop – and not even to mention the fact that someone saw I finished school in 2003 and had “real” jobs for years with things like some P&L responsibility, presenting at public forums, VBA programming experience – and was still idiot enough to invite me for an entry level interview. My head is still spinning from the stupidity.

      1. Jean*

        I suspect that companies keep repeating the “entry level” mantra in hopes of convincing their applicants, or themselves, that retelling the same lie will eventually justify their desire to pay people at entry level.

      2. ShellBell*

        I know. I’m currently a manager of an entire project. I’ve planned and travelled to numerous international events, given presentations to groups of 150-200 at domestic and international conferences, and been published in journals in my field. I’m not ready to be CEO, but I’m not entry level.

  27. Mickey Q*

    My company put out a job listing for an assistant to the VP of sales & marketing who would be groomed to eventually take over the VP job but would start by doing admin work. They requested 2 years of experience. The only applicants were stay at home moms or recent grads. I tried to explain to them that sales and admin work are 2 different skill sets. To groom someone to take over as VP of sales you would need someone with considerable sales & marketing experience. That person would probably not be interested in starting off doing admin work and would need much more than 2 years of experience. It really scared me that people running a company knew so little about business. We didn’t find a candidate until we changed the position to marketing assistant. When they want to hire a VP they will have to advertise for a higher level person.

    1. themmases*

      I have noticed that in both my old job and my partner’s job– some hiring managers completely fail to imagine who would be interested in this job or what the path would be.

      My partner’s boss was always trying to hold out for entry-level candidates with an educational background that would have made them *very* unhappy with the job being offered, or work history that would have made this a lateral move at best. Then she wouldn’t want to help them move to other teams in a couple of years when they’d done their time in this essential but basically pathless job.

      My boss was just resistant to the idea that anyone doing my job could ever be anything but entry level no matter how long that person had been there or how much the program had grown. At the time I left, we had multiple NIH grants– something no one in my division had even dreamed of when I got there– and no plans for how to staff my office other than continuing to hire bright premeds taking a couple of gap years and hope they kept overlapping. The job description hadn’t been updated in so long it demanded proficiency in DOS!

      I see this stuff and think, who do they think would ever want this job in the first place, let alone give them 2-4 years of their life? Yet it’s apparently common, if the job ads I see are anything to go by.

  28. Amber Rose*

    “No experience/education required.”

    This is only ever true of fast food. If you require experience or a degree just frigging say so. It’s as bad as requiring a doctorate for a cashier position: it’s nonsense and annoying.

    Also post the ad for the job you need filled. Back in the day I used to apply for basic level management positions (fast food, grocery stores, that kinda thing) or office positions, only to get to the interview and be told they couldn’t hire me without direct experience in management or weren’t hiring for that position at all but they’d love to hire me as a part time grunt.

    I actually yelled at one guy who did that. I probably should have used nicer language than I did but I don’t regret it. Some bridges are worth burning, and I was so livid I was almost on fire anyway.

  29. Elizabeth*

    We’ve got a position posted right now which makes me cringe. The list of certifications, experience, education & duties that are included make up 3 different full-time jobs, and no one has all of it. Anyone who meets even part of it will probably be put off by the dozen or so typos and another dozen misspellings. Then the listed pay is for one step above entry level in our industry. And they wonder why the position has been open since late March.

  30. Jill*

    I’m an accountant/analyst with an MBA but after reading THAT job description, I totally want to apply for the job. Wow! Hiring managers, take note!!

  31. Lia*

    If you want my salary history, you darned well better be including the salary range IN the posting.

    In my field, I’d say about 85% of the postings do not include salary, although if you dig, you can usually find what the last person in the role made, or the salary grades (I work in public university administration, and salaries are public record). That does NOT mean though that they are willing to pay that to a new hire — if someone left after many years and started back in the day of annual increases — those days are sadly long gone — they are probably well above what they would be willing to pay a new hire.

    I was collecting some HR data awhile back from a peer institution and stumbled over their HR salary documentation, which said “although the salary range may be $xo $y at grade Z, to pay a new hire anything above the midpoint of the range requires CFO approval. New hires, with very limited exceptions, should never start above this midpoint”. So that means a posting advertised at 50-100K there in reality would never start at more than 75K.

  32. SevenSixOne*

    I see so many job postings that are clearly written by someone who has no idea what the role or department even is. One way to make postings suck less could be to have the manager write the posting, possibly with input from someone already in the role or a role like it.

  33. Mindy*

    I was just thinking about this this morning in relation to my recently restarted job perusal. In my field it drives me nuts when it is obvious that the person who wrote the position has NO idea what they are looking for by their requirements. And then they use this ignorance to “screen” applicants. The most common example: “Registered Dietitian Required. CDM (certified dietary manager) preferred. ” I can’t tell you how many times, as an RD, I have been screened out of a job application by HR because I don’t have a “required” CDM. I have trained CDMs. Since most of you probably aren’t familiar with the field, the equivalent in the legal field would be ” Licensed Attorney Required. Legal Secretary preferred.” What? You aren’t a legal secretary? Well all of our attorneys need to be a secretary. I also see a lot of job postings listing job duties that are a straight cut and past out of a website that gives information on the variety of things that dietitians do. Usually at least half of the listed “required job duties” wouldn’t apply to the listed job. I have yet to work in a nursing home where I was required to evaluate menus for a preschool or daycare center or give nutritional instruction to clients parents. Another pet peeve is desired qualifications that don’t match the experience with any degree of reasonableness. I have seen several postings recently that say minimum of one year experience (translation- we don’t want to pay anything) and then proceed to require one or more speciality certifications that require a minimum of 2 full years of experience each., not done concurrently. But my all time favorite was the job that listed as a requirement “Eligible for Registration with ACEND” This is the acronym for the accrediting organization that evaluates/certifies and approves programs and Universities to provide training to dietitians. Kind of like telling an attorney that he has to be accredited to be a law school to apply for their position as an attorney.

    You might say “Why would you want to work for an organization that doesn’t have a clue?” Because 75% of all job postings have one or more of these. They don’t know, don’t care and just want to fill a slot. I blame HR or recruiters that are lazy and don’t do their homework. I’m sure from reading the other comments that this is not restricted to my field. The frustration lies in being screened out by ignorance. Also note: we call ourselves dietitians NOT dieticians. We don’t care if it is in the dictionary.

  34. voluptuousfire*

    I think this was mentioned above, but the word “analyst” is thrown around with absolutely no meaning. I found an operation analyst role online and it turns out it was an office manager role. You wouldn’t be analyzing anything. Why not just call it what it is instead of the fancy title?

  35. Pineapple Incident*

    Speaking of well-written job postings, I just found one for a Research Assistant position in my field, and I am so excited by it that I applied on the spot! Inspired, I wrote myself a jazzy cover letter to match, and mentioned that the detail in job duties/requirements and description of the company in the ad itself drew me to it. It’s quite a bit further than I wanted to commute, but for a good enough opportunity I would crawl across a desert dragging myself by my fingernails. Do I sound desperate for a better job? I don’t hate my current position by any stretch, but finances are a problem and yeah, I’m a little desperate…

    Fingers crossed!

  36. Keith*

    Great little article and great comments by all. Everyone has probably at one time in their lives been upset or frustrated with job postings. Yup, same mutual feelings of reading a very long run on sentence or a difficult understanding of what the recruiter or manager is asking for.

    Miss Alison, I love career development and am working my way into the industry….slowly. But I love this topic. I recently found your blog and want to contribute in any way I can. I look forward to writing some more comments on other articles. As far as this one goes, I think there are good and horrible job postings out there. A decent search engine for FOOD jobs is Good food jobs.com because I think the layout is well done. Things are more clear.

    I think by creating more niche job posting search engines, things will become better, along with more attentive and caring hiring managers/ recruiters.


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