Where are recruiters going wrong?

WrongAs you may know, I spend a lot of time travelling up and down the country with Mitch Sullivan, training recruiters how to write better job ads. As I’m a generalist copywriter, you might be wondering what I can teach them, and whether the lessons are applicable to you too.

Quite naturally, recruiters often think the way to write ads is the way that every other recruiter writes them. However, if you want to stand out, you need to be different.

Innocent Drinks is often held up as a paragon of virtue when it comes to tone of voice in their copy. The copy is ‘on brand’ on their website, newsletter, blog, packaging and even their vans. Yet, surprisingly, their job ads read much the same as everyone else’s.

Like many companies, their careers page shows the first few lines as a teaser with a ‘read more’ link to the rest of the ad. The trouble is that most of the opening teasers are top-down – written from the company’s point of view, not the reader’s:

  • “We’re going through an exciting period of growth…”
  • “To help us achieve this we’re looking for…”
  • “We’re passionate about…”
  • “We’ve come a long way from selling smoothies in West London in 1999…”
  • “2017 was a great year for us, there was [sic] loads of great new products, we expanded into new regions and the business grew really well..”

The opening of any ad is the most important bit, as it determines whether or not people will read on. Not only does the Innocent approach fail to differentiate one job from another at a glance, but the copy fails the ‘who cares’ test, as it’s all about the company, not what’s in it for the reader.

Having assessed hundreds of ads, I notice that in-house and agency recruiters tend to repeat the same mistakes. And they don’t just apply to job ads.

Here are some of the most common copy mistakes so you can avoid them:

Using lazy clichés

  • Excellent communication skills…
  • Proactive and motivated self-starter…
  • Proven track record…
  • Fantastic opportunity…
  • As part of continued growth…
  • Take the next step in your career…
  • Market leading compensation and benefits package…

To fix this problem, avoid lazy clichés. If you find yourself using an expression you’ve frequently read elsewhere, change it.

Stating the obvious

  • An opportunity has arisen…
  • Able to manage workload and deadlines…
  • Ability to prioritise time and manage a workload effectively…
  • Support the overall business requirements…
  • Ability to work as part of a team as well as individually…
  • Visit the client and candidate as and when appropriate…
  • Build on successes whilst focusing on driving down errors…

To fix this, delete unnecessary words and phrases that really mean ‘This is a job ad’, or ‘Do your job’.

Writing from the wrong point of view

  • We offer…
  • We are currently looking for…
  • I want to tell you about…
  • We’re committed to our people…
  • We’d be delighted to hear from you if…

To fix this, write ‘bottom-up’ using the words you and your (candidate viewpoint), not ‘top-down’ using the words I, us, we and our (company/client viewpoint).

Using passive/indirect language

  • The ideal candidate will be…
  • This role requires…
  • The post holder will be expected to…

To fix this, imagine you’re talking to your reader in a pub or coffee shop. Write as you speak.

Using Victorian business-speak

  • The ability to facilitate consensus building…
  • Would be advantageous…
  • Awareness of relevant legislation, regulatory framework and knowledge…
  • The firm also provide support by way of an administration team…
  • Will possess the interpersonal skills necessary to interface with customer teams…

To fix this, use modern-day language.

Using weasel words

  • Working with a global leading company…
  • One of the UK’s most prestigious firms…
  • Our client, a dynamic market leader…

To fix this, give evidence. Quote numbers. If you make a claim, prove it.

Careless mitsakes

  • Mission critical KPI’s
  • CV’s
  • Focussed

To fix this, double-check your punctuation, spelling and grammar.

About the course >


P.S. I sometimes write web copy and blog posts for recruiters, but I don’t write job ads. If that’s what you need, Mitch can recommend several copywriters who do.

3 Responses to Where are recruiters going wrong?

  1. Bob March 28, 2018 at 9:01 pm #

    Oh, the irony. I was just searching for some examples and stumbled upon this gem, which relates nicely to the Hells (sic) Angel thread. The name of the town has been changed to protect the guilty:

    This company is based in North-Xxxxxxxxx and is a leading provider of software to the education industry, it’s products help clients around the world to measure quality and performance of examinations and assessments.

    Just a shame that none of their teaching products actually taught them the difference between it’s and its.

  2. Jackie March 29, 2018 at 6:33 am #

    Neither do they know when to split one long sentence into two short ones.

  3. Alan Potts April 26, 2018 at 8:24 am #

    Well said. Nice post. Thanks for sharing.

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