4 common mistakes when organizations advertise a job

If you don’t have a social strategy for your job ad titles, it may be a good time to get one. It does not need to be complicated. Your first objective should be to make the job title tweetable and sharable. In this article, we discuss 4 common mistakes.

Recently, we reached out to 300 job-seekers to find out what they look for in a job post. We asked what they needed to make an informed decision about whether an organization and job are of interest. We then asked organizations the same questions but focused on what they believe.

The results showed a clear gap between what applicants are looking for and what organizations provide. We will return to this survey in other articles, but for now, we will focus on the four most common mistakes organizations make when posting a job advertisement.

1. Confusing a job ad with a job description

Ask yourself: do you feel that the job ad you’re about to post is appealing? If so, you can jump to number 2 on this list. Otherwise, continue reading. Too many organizations use job descriptions as job advertisements. We have all seen them - a long list of specific tasks, competencies, and responsibilities, blended with impossible acronyms. If you as a hiring manager can't make a case for why someone should be excited about your job early and succinctly, chances are they will move on - just as we do when a resume doesn’t catch our attention. Studies also show that when the job advertisement is too long, applicants tend to apply before having read it all through. This is probably one reason why organizations feel they don’t get suitable applicants.

Here’s the solution. Identify the essential components of the job description and gather them into a short, compelling ad. Focus on what the job is about and highlight the core requirements. Time is precious, I know. However, depending on the organization, one single recruitment could easily be a million-dollar investment. In that financial context, failing to invest 15 to 20 minutes in text editing is a sign of poor prioritization. In some organizations, there are rules about how the job advertisement should look. Often it is saying that the whole job description must be provided to the applicant. If that is the case in your organization, try to make a compelling job advertisement first, and then include a link to the complete job description.

2. Failure to state a clear job title

Too often, I see a project ID and/or a bunch of impossible-to-understand acronyms in the title. While “project id 23547899” may be understood in your office, it is not common knowledge among the sourcing pool. Adding stuff like this to the job title just adds more confusion to the recruitment. 

If the job title alone does not quickly convey what core skill or function the role needs, change how it reads. Also, many online job boards make jobs searchable based on words in the title. The clearer your title is, the more optimized it is for search engines. A good title gives the talent an immediate understanding of what the job is about. Recruitment Specialist, for example.

Being precise in the title has the added benefit that fewer unqualified candidates will submit an application. You know those applicants  - the ones who apply to every job they see without fully reading the requirements. If your title is precise, you will weed out many of them.

3. Failure to use understandable language

Too often organizations use insider acronyms or jargon when describing the work. It is common for positions in international development to see job advertisements that are so technical that many potential applicants don’t understand them. There is a tendency to overuse acronyms and buzzwords. If you work with Afghanistan you may know what LOTFA is. However, if you are not associated with Afghanistan this acronym makes no sense.

If you must use an acronym, spell it out. Even if you believe an abbreviation is common enough that any job applicant worth your attention should know it, remember that you recruit in a diverse cultural, global context where even abbreviations can have different meanings among your target group.

BTW: LOTFA stands for Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan.

4. Last but not least, failure to explain what the talent is applying for

This comes back to the acronym ad jargon tips, but goes into the common understanding that everyone should know that different organizations use different contracts with completely different entitlements, status and duration.

Few people outside the UN know what an IC, SSA, SC, LICA, IICA. ICS-11, SB7, GH, P2, P6, or D2 refers to. I have been to several interviews where the panel says, I don’t think this person understands she is applying for a three months consultancy contract. Well, she probably doesn’t and there is very little in the job post to help her understand what she is applying for.

Why not simply add a disclaimer at the top of each job advertisement explaining the contract abbreviations?

This is an International Consultancy (IC). As a consultant, you are not a staff member of the (Organization XX) and can have no expectation of continuation after completed consultancy. The contract duration is 200 days.