Writing a good job advert: 4 things to avoid at all costs

17 Dec 2019

Writing a good job advert: 4 things to avoid at all costs

Writing a great job advert is no easy task. Job adverts are often littered with overused, ill-considered words and phrases, from confusing business jargon to language that enforces gender stereotypes. These words can often hinder applications as candidates can feel discouraged if they don't understand what the role requires or feel alienated by the language used. With that in mind, here's a rundown of what to avoid when writing a job advert.

Business jargon

Team synergy! Blue-sky thinking! Disruptive! Business terms like these might be popular but are often unnecessarily complicated ways to explain straightforward concepts. So, take a step back and write exactly what you mean: you’re not looking for someone to facilitate team synergy, you’re looking for someone to make your team more efficient; blue-sky thinking is thinking creatively; and being disruptive simply means being innovative.

Avoid overly vague, general words and phrases that make it hard for candidates to get an accurate sense of what you’re asking for. Most job seekers could reasonably describe themselves as a ‘self-starter’ – so why not say you’re looking for someone who is happy to work independently, or is comfortable showing initiative?

‘Excellent interpersonal and communication skills’ is another wishy washy, broad term that makes it hard for a candidate to give relevant examples. List specific requirements as such as public speaking or delivering presentations.

Want a candidate who will ‘think outside the box’? Then avoid tired, overused phrases like this! Be direct and say you’re looking for someone who thinks creatively. The same goes for a ‘can-do attitude’: who will admit otherwise in a job interview? Instead, say that you're looking for people who will actively seek new responsibilities.

Gender-coded terms

If asked, most employers and recruiters would say that they want to be as inclusive as possible in their job ads. Our society, however, has certain ideas of how men and women behave, and this is reflected in the language that we use (often without realising). This can make some job listings seem less appealing to people, especially woman.

Let’s start with the obvious. Are you looking for a salesman or a saleswoman? The answer is neither. All job titles should be strictly gender neutral to avoid putting off candidates (who may assume you're looking only for men or women if you use a gendered job title). Use purely descriptive titles – such as project manager, developer or account executive.

Avoid titles or terms more commonly associated with men, such as ‘rock star’, ‘guru’ and ‘ninja’: Not only are these terms overused but they can discourage female candidates from applying. Use more neutral, inclusive words – visionary rather than guru, skilled rather than ninja.

Many attributes are gender coded – such as ‘decisive’ and ‘driven', which are often seen as masculine traits. Use words such as ‘purposeful’ instead. Instead of ‘analyse’ and ‘determine’ opt for words such as ‘examine’ and 'establish’.

Internal terminology

If you describe a job as a ‘level 6 role’ or the company database as ‘The Knowledge Tree' in a job advert, how will anyone outside your business know what this means? Filling a job advert with internal terminology will baffle applicants and make the role seem less appealing.

The same applies for job titles. Overly complicated, technical job titles specific to your company won’t be searched for by potential candidates. And if they do come across the advert, they’re less likely to apply as they may not understand what the job title means. Simplicity is key: think ‘bin man’ rather than ‘waste management and disposal technician’.

Acronyms

Do you know your ATL from your SLA or your KPI? Your OTE from your PA? Job adverts often contain many acronyms but it’s wise to limit how many you include. As with business jargon, acronyms you may be familiar with in the office may not translate to the outside world. This is especially important when recruiting younger candidates or graduates, who as newcomers to the job market may not understand certain acronyms, making them hesitant about applying for roles. When in doubt, make it easy for candidates and explain everything in literal, accessible terms.

Avoid these four things and you’re well on your way to writing a great job advert.