How to sell a job posting – NOT

how to sell a job listingLately I’ve been following job announcements. I’m curious about what positions are being advertised, how solicitors are phrasing the listing and also have been entertaining the idea of becoming a dependent after decades of playing the employer provider. Guaranteed weekly checks, paid vacation, forty-hour work weeks, health care coverage and unexpected expenses becoming someone else’s problem are appealing incentives. Of course, it would have to be a special job, but I figure the dividends from the learning experience, corporate camaraderie, new opportunities and a regular schedule could be considerable. Much of what I’m watching is focused on writing, marketing and sales, since that’s my area of expertise. The employees creating these missives use could use a lesson in how to sell – and write, and market and communicate intelligibly.

It’s baffling that plain English and common sense seem to be forgotten ideals. Here are my questions to the creators of these communiqués:

  1. Why do you make it so hard to understand what it is your company does? Do you get extra credit for crafting a message so cryptic the responder must go to Google to figure out what you do?
  2. Have you seen your company marketing material (I hope not)? Can you imagine the result if HR spoke to Marketing?
  3. Are you trying to screen out applicants who don’t speak tech-ese as a first language? How do your customers feel about that?
  4. What’s the job? Can you please form a simple sentence or two sans buzzwords stating skill and performance expectations?
  5. Do you think you’ll get better candidates taking ten sentences to express what could be better stated in ten words?
  6. Are six adjectives necessary to preface a candidate quality you’re seeking?
  7. How many applicants do you figure you’re screening out with terms like ‘motivated,’ ‘responsible,’ ‘dedicated,’ and ‘smart’? Who believes they’re shiftless, negligent, apathetic and dumb – or if they do, will admit this in an interview?
  8. Really, competent candidates with 5+ years’ related experience for $30K? This might be the magnet for those shiftless, negligent, apathetic and dumb applicants you’re trying to discount – good thing you supplied some keywords for them to throw back at you. Reminds me of the formula for As on term papers. Pity the person responsible for managing this hire.
  9. Why would I want to work for you? Doesn’t it makes sense to craft a job description that appeals to the best candidates by recognizing their objectives?
  10. Is it really necessary with spam filters today to supply a ‘name at dot com’ e-mail address?
  11. Where are you located? Silly, I know, but some people might want to know where they’re expected to land.

One thing I have noticed is government jobs (in the US) seem to pay much more than the standard fare. Seems backwards to me, but I’m starting to get why my taxes are so high. Of course, you won’t see job descriptions here – just a code for the pay scale. Of course, this approach is also telling – rank and benefits seem a much higher priority to ‘civil servants’ than doing a good job in the right position. It’s sad.

I couldn’t resist culling some excerpts:

“This position will require someone with initiative, energy and comfort with a high degree of dynamism, autonomy and responsibility.”


This was posted for a Communications Manager:

“Finally, this position entails some basic office management responsibilities. The regular tasks on that side of things include restocking office supplies when necessary, communicating with the janitorial worker who cleans the office every other week, answering the door buzzer, taking out the trash and recycling weekly, restocking bathroom supplies, replacing burnt-out light bulbs, coordinating equipment or building repairs if necessary, and otherwise keeping an eye on the office to ensure that it is in working order.”

Too much information! I bet whoever wrote this doesn’t get too many second dates.

Hiring people costs big bucks. Forget about the advertising expense, it’s the training and time robbed by an employee that’s not a good fit that kills you. Attracting the right people requires some savvy on how to sell. The good news is, small businesses can shine above the crowd of mostly lousy job announcement communicators with a bit of ingenuity.

Want some help crafting a job description that has the best candidates coming to you? Through January 2013, we’re running a special on copy for your job applicant promotion. Think about what you’ll spend in the search – then tally the price paid by hiring the wrong employee. Consider how much this $65 could save you in 2013 and beyond.

13 responses to “How to sell a job posting – NOT”

  1. This post took me back to my corporate days. Big words plus ambiguous requirements equals they already have someone in mind for the position or they’re trying to make a less-important job seem like top-level. Good humor to begin my day!

    • Ah – I guess I’m reading these postings wrong then, Peggy Lee. Thanks for the insight into corporate strategy. Tell me, though, where can I find these listings that don’t have big words and ambiguous requirements :-)?

  2. I agree with Peggy about the Corporates – often they have someone in mind and an ad is just going through the motions so they can show they did – at least over here back when I was working anyway!
    The problem then is, small businesses think they should advertise like that because that’s how it’s done…
    Ok, that’s a sweeping generalisation, but I see it with web copy, brochures, and ads. When asked why, I’m told they want to look professional!
    Thanks for the chuckle with my coffee 🙂

    • Having skirted the corporate world most of my life, I see I may be in for a bigger education than I had imagined. Actually, I’ve seen these types of listings put forth by government agencies, so am familiar with the tactic. I never realized they intentionally wrote bad copy, though. Agreed – this is not a good model for small businesses to follow. By the way, I really enjoyed your blog post today, Jan. Yours too Peggy – so open.

  3. I was a stay at home mom, one day out of boredom I crafted a resume based on my experience as a home tender. I phrased it all in business-ese, about my human resource management prowess and how well I co-ordinate meetings large and small. It was pretty impressive looking, so I sent it out to a couple Fortune 500 companies, again just for fun because I am weird.

    I got three interviews!

    • Diane – I hear you. I can’t even tell with some of these postings what they’re trying to say – and I’m usually good at translating incoherent copy. It makes one wonder if current employees actually know what the company does :-).

  4. Looking at the other side of the coin, I think we kind of lost it when a trash collector became a Sanitation Engineer. After spending a lifetime perfecting my skills as a Chef (you really never stop learning if cooking is your passion) I am slightly taken back when talking to a 21 or 22 year old and they tell me that their a Chef, and then proceed to to tell me that they work at McDonalds. What ever happened to being a cook first?

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