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I Looked at 100+ Job Descriptions - Here’s Why Most Suck

4 min read.

Author:

Lois Payne Lois Payne

Date:

Category:

Employer Branding

“For young people, the job search has never been so miserable” declared a recent Financial Times headline and, as a young person - I think they’re on to something.

At twenty-four, I’m fresh enough from uni to remember the eye-watering tedium of trawling the job boards, the struggle to find a role that doesn’t sound like a 9-5 equivalent of sticking pins in your eyes, the ghostings, the “not knowings”, the cool and impersonal rejections.

I’ve also watched friends – bright, qualified friends; some with master’s degrees – go through the same confidence-shredding process.

Gone are the days of handing in an honest CV that actually gets read – naah, we’ve got keywords to contend with, filtering systems to satisfy, hundreds of other applicants to outshine.

Of course some do alright, those that are lucky enough to “know someone that knows someone.”

The rest of us are doomed to wander the cold, unforgiving wilderness of the job boards - the Indeeds, LinkedIns and Glassdoors of this world - reading post after post, praying we’ll see an “entry” role that doesn’t require two years of experience, or a list of requirements longer than the online queue for Glastonbury tickets, a shadow of our former selves. And that’s before we get to the interview stage.

Now, bung some barely monitored AI into the mix and you effectively throw a can of petrol on the already blazing dumpster fire that is the job search.

You may have heard, for instance, that tip about copying the entire job description and pasting it into your CV, changing the font colour to white so you can weasel past the technology sifting for keywords. Yeah…

You see, for young talent the job search was never a fair fight. It’s no longer about the degree you slaved for, the years spent building a skill-set or whether you’re a good fit for the role. It’s about finding loopholes, finessing the system. It’s how well you (or ChatGPT) can play the game.

And that’s a dispiriting realisation.

How to fix it

If you want to make the process more pleasant for young people, there is something simple and obvious you can do.

(And it’s something few employers pay attention to.)

You can make sure your job descriptions, the ones they’ll be sifting through for days, weeks, even months on end, don’t utterly suck.

Seriously. It will have a huge impact on the morale of your candidates. It’s the difference between them being excited to apply or clicking the red x to go and nurse another stress migraine.

By putting conscious effort into making your job posts encouraging and enjoyable, you’ll be in the minority, which is an easy way to stand out from your competitors.

In writing this post, I looked at over 100 current job descriptions, looking for the common traits that make job seekers wail with despair.

Here are the dominant characteristics of job descriptions that suck (and how to fix them.)

The characteristics of Poor Job Descriptions

They’re intimidating

There’s a sentiment in most job postings that the applicant must come as a fully-fledged, perfectly packaged worker with all the bells and whistles. I don’t know when it started, but it needs to stop.

When faced with a laundry list of prerequisites, the average internal monologue goes, “How could I ever measure up? I’d be so out of my depth.”

You could have the most qualified candidate browsing, but if your requirements list is too intense, you’ll light up their imposter syndrome like a Christmas tree.

Research shows this is particularly true of women, who are less likely to apply to jobs unless they fit all of the requirements.

The fix:

It’s as simple as shifting your tone.

In my experience, young people are encouraged by descriptions that emphasise room for growth within a role. Let us know we won’t be expected to know everything, and that there will be training.

Example: While experience is preferred, we understand that everyone starts somewhere. If you're eager to learn and grow in a fast-paced environment, we encourage you to apply. Full training and support will be provided to help you succeed in this role.

They’re badly formatted

Formatting is much more crucial in influencing whether your post gets read than most recruiters and hiring managers realise.

If I see a post with large blocks of text, I tut and scroll right past. When looking through dozens of job posts in one sitting, people simply don’t have the patience or the stamina to wade through essays.

Oh, and that huge first paragraph on the history of the company? Yeah, that’s not helping. Save it for the website.

The fix:

Make the content scannable first and readable second.

Use bullet points and…

- Break up text with subheadings

- Use plenty of whitespace

- Keep your sections brief

- If appropriate for the tone of your company, use emojis for a splash of colour 🎨

Don’t be afraid to ditch the preamble and dive in with the content talent care about.

They’re impersonal

There’s no obligation to make job descriptions duller than dishwater.

If you claim to be doing exciting things as a company, why is your copy sending me into a coma?

The fix:

A little bit of enthusiasm goes a long way. As does switching out boring, traditional sub headers like “the role” and “responsibilities” for more creative “what you’ll be doing” and “what you’ll bring.”

Small, creative tweaks like this are attention-grabbing. They prevent the company from seeming soulless and help talent to visualise themselves in the role – which is ideal.

They’re silent on culture

A job is not a casual thing to buy into. It’s not a low stakes decision. It’s where we’re going to be spending eight hours a day, five days a week for the foreseeable future.

And yet, many job descriptions arrogantly assume young people are happy to go in blind, with no sense of what working for the company would look like.

The fix:

Tell us what the dynamic is like. What are your values? How do you celebrate your wins and handle your losses? How do people socialise within or outside of work?

Letting applicants know what their key challenges will be, as well as what kind of attitude they’ll need to thrive in your environment, sets them up to make an informed decision.

We don’t want to waste our time any more than you do – so give it to us straight.

Here’s the reality

If a job post has:

- Great formatting

- Enthusiasm

- Clarity and transparency

- Realistic expectations

...I will read it.

If a job post sucks though, I will still read it.

I’ll also share it with my friends so we can collectively seethe over employer expectations “these days,” and pray the person who wrote it gets their sandwich nicked by a seagull.

So, before you add another paragraph, another formality, another bullet point to your bloated list of demands, spare a thought for the weary young folks who will read them - they’ve probably been through enough.

Want help assessing the quality of your job descriptions? Try the Job Page Grader tool. 

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