How to Write a Terrible Job Posting in 5 Easy Steps

According to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of this writing, there were over 6 million job openings in the U.S. in September 2017. It’s the highest number ever recorded. And somehow you need quality job seekers to choose your opening over everyone else’s. It’s an uphill battle, to say the least.

To have a shot at all, you need to write the best job posting possible to entice top candidates to your company. But before you do that, you first need to understand where things can go terribly, terribly wrong.

Here are five ways to write a really bad job posting, and some tips for writing job postings that work.

1) Make the Job Title Something Really Weird

Relevant stat: 73 percent of all job searches start on Google (Source: CareerBuilder).

Companies love to give their job positions oddball titles. Project managers aren’t project managers, they’re “Change Catalysts.” You’re not looking for a VP of marketing, you’re looking for a “Conversation Architect.” (Those are both real job titles, by the way).

Even we’re guilty of this one. When I applied to Software Advice back in 2014, I actually applied for the position of … wait for it … “Content Savant.”

Source: Wayback Machine. We changed the title to “Content Writer,” if you’re curious.

Attention-grabbing, right? The only problem is no one is going to search for “content savant” on Google, a job board or even our company’s careers page. We missed out on a lot of potential applicants by trying to be cute.

It can be tempting to dress up job titles to help your job posting stick out on a crowded webpage. Don’t do it. Find out what the most common title is for a given position and stick with it.

 EXTRA TIP:  If you’re not sure what the most common title for a job is, sign up for a free Google AdWords account and use their Keyword Planner tool. You can enter different titles to see how many monthly Google searches each one averages in order to reach the widest audience possible with your job posting.

2) Include Tired Clichés and Biased Language

Relevant stat: Job postings with gender-neutral wording get 42 percent more responses than those that don’t (Source: ZipRecruiter).

There are a number of little decisions when writing a job posting that can quickly minimize its effectiveness.

Take clichés, for example. When you say you’re looking for a “rock star coder,” are you looking for a diva guitarist that doesn’t play by the rules, or simply a programmer who is efficient and organized? Do you demand someone who’s “detail-oriented”? Cool, so does every other company. Avoid these overused phrases that really don’t mean anything at all and specifically articulate your needs.

“What? You said you were looking for a growth hacker.”

Subtle word choices can impact who responds to your posting. Research has shown men gravitate to terms like “rockstar” and “superior,” while women respond more to “collaborate” and “nurture.” Older workers will be deterred by words like “fresh” or “up-and-coming.”

To ensure you’re not alienating your desired audience, consider using a job description tool like Textio or Gender Decoder. These tools will automatically highlight suggestions for better language in your job postings.

 EXTRA TIP:  Is your qualifications list too long? As Sheryl Sandberg noted in her bestseller “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” an internal HP report found that men will apply for a job when they only meet 60 percent of the qualifications, but women will only apply if they meet all of them. If it’s really not that important that a worker be an advanced Excel user, remove it.

3) Withhold the Information People Care About Most

Relevant stat: The most important information candidates say they want to know about a job initially is the salary range, an overview of the company and who would be a good fit for the position (Source: LinkedIn).

A lot of the stress that comes from writing a job posting stems from the need to convey a lot of important information in a tiny amount of space. Naturally, you want to use that space to focus on what you’re expecting from applicants for the position—what the day-to-day of the job entails and what skills and experience will get someone hired.

But if you withhold the information applicants expect from you in a posting, they’ll go elsewhere.

That means you should talk about the enticing benefits and perks your company offers. You should give people some sense of a timeline for the interview and hiring process. And it means you have to address the giant green elephant in the room:

Pictured: every job seeker ever.

Yes, you need to give job seekers a salary range.

I get why you don’t want to—you worry about losing leverage in negotiations, or you may have to reveal you’re offering below-market pay because of compensation budgets. But if a job seeker is going to turn down the job because of compensation anyway, it’s better that they do it now instead of later, when you’ve already invested time and energy recruiting them.

 EXTRA TIP:  There are a ton of resources out there to help employers calculate the right salary for a role. O*NET OnLine is a free online database managed by the U.S. Department of Labor which details hundreds of jobs. PayScale and Glassdoor are also good destinations to get a sense of what competitors are offering.

4) Format the Entire Job Posting as a Wall of Text

Relevant stat: 51 percent of job seekers would be more attracted to a company that had job postings with visual elements than to a company that didn’t (Source: Software Advice).

The internet doesn’t make it easy to grab a job seeker’s attention. Not only is your job posting competing with the millions of other job postings; you’re also competing with the dozens of digital distractions that can send valuable candidates astray: email, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc.

It’s not enough that your job posting inform job seekers about the position; it also has to entertain and persuade.

And one surefire way to not do those last two things is to make your job posting look like a thesis paper. A wall of text is not only intimidating, it’s boring. Even I know I need to throw in an interesting visual element from time to time in this article to keep you engaged.

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What? Where did this puppy gif come from?

Whether it’s a video highlighting the position, a picture showing off your friendly office and staff or even just a colored box to highlight an interesting fact about your company, adding visual flair to a job posting is an easy way to increase the likelihood that someone applies to the position.

 EXTRA TIP:  If you know nothing about web design and your IT team is tied up in other projects, consider investing in an applicant tracking system with a career page builder. These platforms make it easy to drag-and-drop different elements to make your careers page, and your job postings, pop.

5) Only Give Job Seekers the Option to Apply

Relevant stat: The average conversion rate for job postings is 8.6 percent, meaning 91.4 percent of people that see a posting don’t apply (Source: Jobvite).

There are many legitimate reasons why a job seeker won’t apply for your opening right away. They could be a passive candidate that just wants to see what’s out there right now. Or maybe they were milliseconds away from smashing that “Apply” button before the newborn started crying, and they’ll just have to do this later.

That’s OK! What’s not OK is only giving job seekers two options with your job posting: apply or take a hike. It’s a surefire way to ensure you never see a promising candidate again.

Your posting should give job seekers other, more intermediary options to stay on your company’s radar, like:

Save the posting to a personal user account so they can easily come back to it later

Sign up for an email newsletter to stay up-to-date on company news or job openings

Contact a recruiter directly to learn more information about the opening

Submit a general application to the company so you can consider them for other positions

If a job seeker doesn’t apply to your posting immediately, these alternatives give you the chance the nurture them to apply down the road.

 EXTRA TIP:  It can take a long time for a top-tier prospect to go from hearing about your company for the first time to applying for a position, so be patient. Keep track of the status of these candidates in your recruiting system, and don’t be afraid to reach out from time to time to ask how the job search is going. You never know when you’ll catch them at the right moment.

Writing a Job Posting is Like Online Dating

You could be an A+ catch in real life and still get nowhere fast in the online dating world because of your F- Tinder profile. The same goes in recruiting: Offering a dream job means nothing if you fail to impress with your job posting.

Following the advice in this article will guarantee at least an above-average job posting. To take it to the next level, look at postings from buzzworthy employers like Apple and Tesla for inspiration. You could even look at postings from your competitors to see the strategies they’re using to woo workers.

Finally, job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn offer a number of resources with advice on how to get your job postings seen on their sites. Listen to what they have to say.

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