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Who Cares What the Job Ad Says?

By May 16, 20136 Comments

Most of you won’t read every word on this blog post.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of you do much more than skim-read over the content here, casting your well-trained CV-reading eyes at speed from section to section looking for the key bits of interest that might be worth lingering over a little longer.  Although in the case of this blog, I know it’s more the tid-bits of salacious gossip, rumour and general recruitment scuttlebutt that you crave, rather than the impressive employer list, work history, or technical qualifications of a CV.

But despite receiving more than a few suggestions that I pass comment on certain recently liquidated recruitment businesses, that’s not happening.  Not this week anyway.

What I’m getting at is that all of our reading habits have changed significantly over recent years.  Where once upon a time, sitting in fuggy train carriages swaying towards work, people might have read a newspaper from cover to cover, that simply does not happen anymore.  So bombarded are we by information and digital content, so desperate are we to consume as much as possible, as quickly as possible, so we can do so many other things in our busy lives, that the art of skim reading has become a universal necessity rather than a unique skill.

And the exact same thing has happened to jobseeker behaviour over recent years too.

Let me put this in some context.  My week began at a breakfast forum hosted by SEEK to discuss industry trends and announce upcoming product launches and whatnot.  While discussing what SEEK could do better to get more relevant candidates applying for jobs, ie. ones that at least even barely match the requirements of the job advertised, an increasingly loud and overwrought voice piped up.  The voice belonged to a hugely experienced recruitment business owner who has been training up wide-eyed junior recruiters for many years now.  The claim made (in increasingly forceful tones to a room full of other hugely experienced recruitment leaders) was that it’s simply a matter of training up young recruiters to write proper job ads that clearly enunciate the exact requirements of successful candidates.  If the recruiter receives a totally inappropriate application then it must be the fault of the recruiter who wrote the ad, not the confused jobseeker.

What complete codswallop.

You see, the way we consume information these days has made its’ way into jobseeker behaviour too.  In an effort to speed up, automate, multi-task, and be more efficient, jobseekers these days don’t read ads properly, if at all.  So it doesn’t actually matter what you write in them, right?  They will still pop up a keyword from the ad, taken out of context but not understood by the machines, but trust blindly in the machines anyway and spam off a CV in the vague hope if might be slightly relevant to the person the recruiter is seeking.

Here’s an example:  I popped an ad up yesterday that contains the words:

…to pen an individual job ad for each role would mean I’d have no time left to reply to any of you (and us recruiters get a bad enough rap for that as it is, but you’ll hear back from us even if you’re not a recruiter and are in fact an IT professional or procurement manager who hasn’t read this ad properly).

Guess what?  Yep, six applications (and counting) from people ranging from IT helpdesk to administrators and payroll clerks.  Not one from an actual recruiter… (well none that I’d let on about anyway!)

One of our clients recently admitted to us that they have given up taking the time to write a perfectly-crafted job ad these days as their investigations revealed that it makes no difference to the quality of response.

So, does it really matter anymore what we actually write in our job ads?  Might as well have some fun with them, I say.

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • I was at the same Forum and was embarrassed that this “hugely experienced” recruiter was spouting such drivel. It just made the industry look bad.
    However your second point about the content being irrelevant because nobody reads it… don’t agree. There will always be the try-hards who will apply to any job, normally they turn up on TV saying that they job market is tough/prejudiced/unfair because they have applied to 200 jobs and haven’t got an interview, you know the story.
    The use of different wording does make a difference. Not stupid stuff like, “looking for a rock star”.. but clever, well crafted language. Guess what, it attracts clever people.
    Isn’t that what we are trying to do?

  • Prefer says:

    People trying their luck might also have been caused by the approach towards candidates in general. If candidates don’t get the feedback they need I could see them considering applying for a job like Lotto’s Big Wednesday. They just take a guess, who knows they might be lucky. From their point of view there is an automated “system” behind all of this that churns out default responses. Why not give it a try?

    Sure a lot of people don’t read and a lot of people don’t write well either. But I think it is not anyone’s specific fault. I believe that if you adjust your message to the way people read and address that with the right kind of copy you will be able to get the results you need and the waste that naturally goes with it. Treat today’s waste as tomorrows resource and you will be surprised about what it does with your employer brand.

  • Amrita says:

    Irrelevant applications from advt = recruiter’s fault?! No Way! We’ve all seen the “serial appliers” who are indiscriminate about why and where they apply. However, that one relevant application from that one candidate who read through your advt with interest and tailored their CL / CV is worth the effort, I think. Advts are a component of the recruiting cycle, why skimp on it? For the skip-readers, the intelligent ones at least, the piece will still make perfect sense.

  • PalmerstonNorthPersonnel says:

    Maybe I’m a purest but from time to time I am in awe of adverts that articulately/enthusiastically describe a great role that communicate the benefits of the company and the role, and actually encourage well suited applicants to apply. THEY ARE FAR TOO RARE!

    Unfortunately I see far too many adverts written by recruiters that clearly show they have not taken time to understand the client, their actual needs and publish an advert that encourages the target market to apply (advert/ opportunity to apply).

    Unsuitable applicants will always apply (bless them for having a go) – why should we lower our standards and paraphrase JD’s or produce advertising piffle?

    In our market our clients read the adverts too and they certainly would not engage in recruiters who do not represent them well. P-E-R-H-A-P-S we need to continue/start again with professional compelling advertising for their sake?

    I think it does matter – I’m a professional recruiter and happy to show it!

  • James says:

    We who cares about the response and talking of having fun – here’s one of mine

    ” Hello Jonathan (insert name here)

    From your CV you appear to be an intelligent and well experienced man. Yet you send me your resume from xxxxxx, giving me no indication of why you would like to work in New Zealand.

    A recruiter spends a lot of time looking at CVs and covering letters every day and will always give priority to those who take care in presenting themselves in the form of a well written CV and a covering letter explaining why they are looking to move, their salary expectations, the skills and experience they have that are relevant to the role they apply for, and, if overseas , what they have done about immigration procedures.

    In short, a recruiter will help those who help them.

    I suggest you spend some time working on your approach to job applications – there Is a load of information on the web if you merely search “applying for a job”

    And if you had spent as much time reading my advertisement as I have in reading your resume and replying you would have realised that your skills do not match in any way what we are looking for.