Selecting the right job adverts

The thing about job hunting is that both parties have a level of power. And neither party should abuse that power.


The employer will ultimately decide whether or not to employ you. But if you don’t apply, they will never get the chance. And there are always other jobs for which you can apply. The difficulty comes if the alternatives are not hugely appealing.


As an applicant, you have seemingly no end of opportunities advertised or available via the right contacts. But you can’t apply for everything. And you will want to be selective.


This post is about how to save yourself the time and select, from the hundreds or more possibilities, which jobs you will select and focus your attention.


Who are you writing to?


Don’t be put off by those jobs advertised by agencies. The ones that say ‘My client is seeking …’ etc. And don’t expect them to tell you who the client company (employer) is until you are registered with them. They have good reason for not doing this, and if you don’t believe me, look at the people on LinkedIn who are happy to boast about their dishonesty when dealing with agencies.


Except in really unusual cases, there is a job to be filled at the end of this process. So the means of applying should be unimportant. If the employer has chosen to do it this way, you can’t change that. Of course, if there is anything else that puts you off then that’s different.


If the client has failed to provide the agency with meaningful detail or they have accepted a bland and uninspiring advert written on their behalf; that could be a legitimate red flag.


Clarity of the offering


If the advert is contradictory, misuses key industry terms or uses generic waffle such as ‘excellent progression opportunities’ and ‘industry leading solutions across multiple verticals’ then you are probably not applying to a high performing specialist.




The ones that say ‘must do things in a particular way, but you are responsible for success or failure’ are amongst the worst. This reflects a business owner who wants to delegate the responsibility but not the authority; and this is unfair. It also just won’t work.


Those that want you to perform miracles with few resources or little access to decision makers are also a frustrating waste of your time. Indicators of this include result areas not reflecting the seniority or function.




If they specify a number of years experience then they are not taking a sophisticated approach to their recruitment. Apart from this being probable discrimination, it shows an inflexibility and an inability to judge people as individuals and this would not be pleasant to work with.


Regardless of what the criterion is (experience at senior level, knowledge of an industry / product / function of business), I don’t see anything that can’t be learned in a couple of years by the best candidates.


Those people who specify 5 / 8 / 10 years really shouldn’t be anywhere near the recruitment activity of a modern business. Being the agent is no excuse either. If their client specifies this and the ‘consultant’ doesn’t effectively challenge them, they have no business calling themselves a consultant.


Vague claims


The words ‘competitive salary’ should ring alarm bells also. It means they are going to pay you as little as they can get away with. And they either don’t know or don’t care what the job is actually worth to them. And they don’t have a proper pay scale. Undeniably this means you could work alongside someone doing a job of similar (or even lower) worth who is being paid more than you.


You will be …


I see a lot of adverts that detail what applicants must have in terms of experience and skills and qualities. Fine (as long as they are relevant things). But if the advert stops there, and doesn’t provide a compelling reason to join them on their mission, this fails to inspire me.


If you can met the criteria and really need the experience (or the money) then you can use this as a stepping stone. But it is unlikely to be much else.


Here are several hoops for you … thanks


It’s unfortunate to say, but the teaching profession (at primary level) suffers greatly from this. And the accompanying lack of professional leadership. It’s fine to provide some form of assessment of the applicants’ suitability. But when dealing with demonstrably qualified professionals, you must do this in a manner that is not excessive.


I’ve witnessed many incidents with clients of mine which can only be described as the acquiring of multiple days worth of free work by false pretences.


If you are in a profession like this, what you really need to do is band together as professionals and just collectively refuse.


In sum


It’s actually not that hard to write an effective job advert. Just say where in the company the job is located, what the expected results are, what it involves, the level of responsibility and autonomy or otherwise, expected relationships and the required expertise, knowledge, experience, skills and abilities. Also why a suitable person should join you.


I suspect most people go wrong with job adverts because they haven’t asked these questions of themselves or others and so they are filling space on a document without any real direction.


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CV Writer and Interview Coach. Blogging about ways to improve your CV writing and job searching experience.