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The most common mistakes in job texts

The market is picking up, and it’s evident from the job ad situation: just shy of half a million job vacancies are floating around the internet. But of these, it’s your vacancy that matters. That vacancy needs to catch the eye and grab the full attention of potential new employees. Publicising your vacancy on the right recruitment channel will help achieve this, as will a well written job ad. But what makes a good job ad? Well for starters, it’s one that doesn’t contain the 10 common mistakes below.

1. Vagueness
Changing jobs isn’t something that’s taken lightly. It’s a big decision. Bigger than buying a new laptop or car. Yet when it comes to ‘selling’ these jobs, things can be very vague. How vague? 53% of job seekers (source: Unique) indicated that they found it difficult to determine whether or not they and the job were a potential match off the back of the job ad.

Avoid this mistake by writing clearly, making choices and telling them what it’s really all about.

2. Secrecy around salary
If you were to take a random sample of job ads from any given job board, you can bet that, under the ‘Employee benefits’ header, you’ll find something along the lines of: competitive salary, salary reflective of experience. And that’s if you’re lucky, because many a job ad shares not a single word or figure regarding the salary. This common mistake is an extension of mistake number 1: vagueness.

Don’t be so secretive. Be clear. Remember that salary is a great pre-selection factor, and that failure to state the salary irritates 39% of job seekers.

If you were shopping for a new laptop or car, you’d want to know how much it costs, right?

3. Lumping the target group together
The average employer or intermediary simply lumps the target group together, regardless of whether they’re recruiting for a doctor, account manager or catering staff. They use the same tone of voice for everyone: young or old, from Groningen or Maastricht, university graduate or executive. They also assume that everyone will be happy working at the company for that generic salary. But does it really work like this? Are the motives and draws identical for a professor, account manager and cashier? Do they all speak the same language?

You can easily avoid this pitfall by taking a moment to consider who you are writing the vacancy for. Imagine interviewing your target group. If you were interviewing a doctor, would you use the same tone of voice, choice of words and persuasive arguments with them as you would in an interview with catering staff?

Job text warning: quality cost time

4. Publicising a job ad super quick
The vacancy needs filling ‘yesterday’, so it’s a quick copy & paste job on a previous job ad, or time to dust off an old job description, and you’re recruiting…

More haste, less speed. 

Take the time to create a good job ad text. After all, which would you rather: 3 good responses or 50 average ones?

5. Clichés
Driven, creative, proactive, motivated, professional and enthusiastic: 9 out of 10 job ads contain a cliché. If it isn’t a current buzzword, then it’s cheesy lines such as ‘work hard, play hard’, ‘no-nonsense environment’ and ‘Friday afternoon drinks’. They are over-used as fillers, because ‘everyone always puts that’.

To avoid falling into this trap, with each cliché, ask yourself if that word is really relevant. If the answer is no, press delete. If the answer is yes, explain in the text why that cliché is relevant.

6. Many demands, few promises
“Are you an experienced developer comfortable working with C#, ASP.Net, MVC and SCRUM? Are you proactive? Do you live in The Hague area and do you have a vocational degree? If so, this is the job for you.”

This is just the opening sentence of a random developers job ad I found online. And just in case you didn’t know, finding a (good, available) developer is like finding a needle in a haystack. But if I were a developer, when reading the above text, I’d be asking myself: what’s in it for me?

My advice: sell the job, and show them the price tag later. So begin with your sales arguments and emphasise why someone should respond to your ad. List the requirements of the role after that.

7. Strange job titles
The expression ‘well begun is half done’ rings very true for a job ad. I come across all kinds of strange job titles on a regular basis: missed opportunities all around. They’re either funny, or else everyone in the firm knows just what that job title entails.

Of course, an entertaining job title does win attention. But the chances of your target group recognising themselves in that job title are very slim. Yet another mistake that falls under the ‘vagueness’ category. While it’s possible to use an ‘internal’ job title to recruit externally, it’s worth considering whether or not the ‘outside world’ will know what you are referring to.

If you want your target group to recognise themselves in a job title, ask yourself what’s at the top of your ideal candidate’s CV or LinkedIn profile.


Example job text newspaper

8. Utopia
A dream come true: a job ad that elicits an endless influx of applications. You can make that dream a reality if you follow the example of many an employer or intermediary and describe utopia: ‘working at company X is A-MA-ZING. There are no rules, anything goes and freedom and happiness prevail. There’s just one thing: your supposed utopia comes crashing back down to earth with a bang as soon as the candidate joins the company. Soon enough, the new employee will walk out of the door, and you can begin your recruitment search over again.

It’s important to be honest in job ads. Don’t make it out to be rosier than it is, and don’t be afraid of showing imperfections. This will grow trust and attract the right target group. It’s true what they say: honesty is the best policy.

9. Misspellings and typos
When you read as many job ads as I do, you come to anticipate many spelling and typing mistakes. Such as the manager that often gets called ‘manger’. Letters sometimes get left behind. Not to mention the struggle with hyphens. As for CVs, it’s CV in capitals. So not C.V. or c.v. nor cv.

If you want to help reduce the 31% of job seekers who get annoyed by spelling and linguistic errors, having a colleague check your text and / or using a spell check is a good start. Better still: use an editor.

10. Nowhere to apply
Okay, maybe this mistake doesn’t belong in the most common mistakes list…. as only 1% of companies don’t offer a means of applying. Still, 1% is far too much, and in my opinion this mistake deserves a place in the top ten. Especially if you consider that with 3% of companies, the ‘apply’ button is ‘difficult’ to locate (source: Digitaal Werven). If this is the case, you could be doing everything brilliantly: the right recruitment channel and a great ad, but you won’t receive any responses.

Complete your job ad with an ‘apply’ button that applicants simply can’t ignore. A button that spurs them into action and invites them to ‘click’.

Advise bureau for job texts

This article was offered to you by Nicol Tadema, owner of VoorTekst. VoorTekst is the copywriting agency for job market communications. Advice, training and copywriting. For and with employers, intermediaries and job marketeers. For online and offline job market communications. For internal and external communications. For authenticity and results. With pleasure.

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