Why you need to be honest in job listings


HRM looks at the importance of authentic job ads and listings in attracting the right candidate.

In a recent job listing gaffe, Time Out New York posted the rationale for extra headcount on Indeed rather than the job ad itself. Expressing worry that stressed out staffer Melissa risked burnout if she didn’t receive much needed help, the “ad” offered candidates unlikely insight into an overstretched, underpaid resource pool.

Time Out’s faux pas highlights the issue of how much is too much information when it comes to job listings. While we can all agree that this was an unfortunate overshare, the opposite approach is also ineffective.

Vague listings that use schmoozy, upbeat language for mass appeal aren’t likely to attract the right applicants. In his book What if common sense was common business practice, Rex Conner says “fuzzy” communication in job listings such as “self starter”, “team player” and “three years’ experience” should be avoided at all costs. “Three years of experience doing what?” asks Conner. “This kind of communication is problematic because it can be interpreted differently by different people.” Along with fuzzy language, cringey buzzwords are also a no no. Think “guru”, “whizz” and “rockstar”.

While being direct is important, it doesn’t mean littering your listing with technical jargon either. Evidence shows that phrases like “KPIs,” “SLAs,” “compliance” and “procurement” alienate millennial candidates by making them feel unknowledgeable and inexperienced.

Finding the right candidate requires being open about the demands of the job and the skill level required. What some will find difficult in terms of workload and tasks, others will not. If they are not immediately upfront, employers should at least be transparent about the parameters of the position at the interview stage.

What about pay?

Another area employers should be transparent about is the salary range. 

How can you crow about your team, talk about the importance of talent or make any statements at all about your company’s appreciation for people, when you knowingly underpay anyone who doesn’t know what their skills are worth?” asks recruitment expert Liz Ryan in a piece for Forbes.

What does authentic language in a job ad look like?

If you’re tempted to use words like “team player,” it’s important to define what that means to your organisation. “List the skills you observe when someone is being a team player, for example” ‘Shows up to meeting on time’, ‘Volunteers for projects’ or ‘Reviews team member work’,” says Conner.

Rather than listing job duties that the employee will be trained to do, only include the prerequisites. Including both is likely to overwhelm candidates. Conner recommends “limiting the content to the three to four most essential duties and qualifications that summarise the role and desired experience.”

In terms of disclosing salary, Ryan thinks a range, even if it’s wide, is necessary. She says HR should be able to have the honest conversation with a candidate about why they aren’t getting the top salary advertised for a role because, while valued, they aren’t at that stage of their career yet.

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Nathalie Lynton - Shared and Halved Consulting
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Nathalie Lynton - Shared and Halved Consulting

Let’s also remember what an ad is. It’s marketing collateral. If you want to appeal to particular group use their language. Equally the average ad doesn’t actually get ‘read’ by candidates either.
When trying to throw the widest net if your talent pool is small, gendered language is also a serious consideration. When we hear that no women applied for the role, I wonder how gendered the ad copy was.
Evidence suggests that business can increase its diversity by simply applying neutral or inclusive language in ad copy.

Graeme Dick
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Graeme Dick

As Nathalie says, the ad is the marketing piece. There is a whole other story surrounding the interactions after the ad. Computerised selection processes, along with computer generated letters that all read the same, and the line at the bottom of the ad that says “….only successful applicants will be contacted” you could be forgiven for thinking we have become more like inhuman resources.

Like that television show “Undercover Boss” I think it would be an eye opener for organisations to have an undercover applicant.

More on HRM

Why you need to be honest in job listings


HRM looks at the importance of authentic job ads and listings in attracting the right candidate.

In a recent job listing gaffe, Time Out New York posted the rationale for extra headcount on Indeed rather than the job ad itself. Expressing worry that stressed out staffer Melissa risked burnout if she didn’t receive much needed help, the “ad” offered candidates unlikely insight into an overstretched, underpaid resource pool.

Time Out’s faux pas highlights the issue of how much is too much information when it comes to job listings. While we can all agree that this was an unfortunate overshare, the opposite approach is also ineffective.

Vague listings that use schmoozy, upbeat language for mass appeal aren’t likely to attract the right applicants. In his book What if common sense was common business practice, Rex Conner says “fuzzy” communication in job listings such as “self starter”, “team player” and “three years’ experience” should be avoided at all costs. “Three years of experience doing what?” asks Conner. “This kind of communication is problematic because it can be interpreted differently by different people.” Along with fuzzy language, cringey buzzwords are also a no no. Think “guru”, “whizz” and “rockstar”.

While being direct is important, it doesn’t mean littering your listing with technical jargon either. Evidence shows that phrases like “KPIs,” “SLAs,” “compliance” and “procurement” alienate millennial candidates by making them feel unknowledgeable and inexperienced.

Finding the right candidate requires being open about the demands of the job and the skill level required. What some will find difficult in terms of workload and tasks, others will not. If they are not immediately upfront, employers should at least be transparent about the parameters of the position at the interview stage.

What about pay?

Another area employers should be transparent about is the salary range. 

How can you crow about your team, talk about the importance of talent or make any statements at all about your company’s appreciation for people, when you knowingly underpay anyone who doesn’t know what their skills are worth?” asks recruitment expert Liz Ryan in a piece for Forbes.

What does authentic language in a job ad look like?

If you’re tempted to use words like “team player,” it’s important to define what that means to your organisation. “List the skills you observe when someone is being a team player, for example” ‘Shows up to meeting on time’, ‘Volunteers for projects’ or ‘Reviews team member work’,” says Conner.

Rather than listing job duties that the employee will be trained to do, only include the prerequisites. Including both is likely to overwhelm candidates. Conner recommends “limiting the content to the three to four most essential duties and qualifications that summarise the role and desired experience.”

In terms of disclosing salary, Ryan thinks a range, even if it’s wide, is necessary. She says HR should be able to have the honest conversation with a candidate about why they aren’t getting the top salary advertised for a role because, while valued, they aren’t at that stage of their career yet.

2
Leave a reply

avatar
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  Subscribe to receive comments  
Notify me of
Nathalie Lynton - Shared and Halved Consulting
Guest
Nathalie Lynton - Shared and Halved Consulting

Let’s also remember what an ad is. It’s marketing collateral. If you want to appeal to particular group use their language. Equally the average ad doesn’t actually get ‘read’ by candidates either.
When trying to throw the widest net if your talent pool is small, gendered language is also a serious consideration. When we hear that no women applied for the role, I wonder how gendered the ad copy was.
Evidence suggests that business can increase its diversity by simply applying neutral or inclusive language in ad copy.

Graeme Dick
Guest
Graeme Dick

As Nathalie says, the ad is the marketing piece. There is a whole other story surrounding the interactions after the ad. Computerised selection processes, along with computer generated letters that all read the same, and the line at the bottom of the ad that says “….only successful applicants will be contacted” you could be forgiven for thinking we have become more like inhuman resources.

Like that television show “Undercover Boss” I think it would be an eye opener for organisations to have an undercover applicant.

More on HRM