Job Descriptions Can Make Companies Look Bad

And keep great applicants from applying

Kati Pierce
Dec 16, 2019 · 6 min read
Photo by Matt Artz from Unsplash

I’ve been around the corporate block a time or two. I’ve been job searching many times. I’ve also been on the recruiting and HR end of things.

Job descriptions are the bane of a job searcher’s existence. Trying to decide if applying to the job is worth our time. In the same way, the recruiters and HR folks try to determine an applicant’s worth via a couple of resume pages and supplemental questions.

A bad job description can not only make or break a hiring campaign but it can also make a company look unattractive to potential employees.


Unfortunately, in this day and age money matters to job seekers. Help wanted ads without salaries are often ignored for that very reason. Those looking for a new role need to know that the pay will be enough and that it won’t just be a waste of time to apply, interview, and get an offer only to find out the pay is less than what they can live on.

I once went through the process of applying and several interviews only to find out the pay was half of what I was currently making at the time. I took time off to interview with three different people who had no idea what the pay was, only to decline due to low pay in the end.

Career Consultant, Liz Ryan put it best with:

PUT THE SALARY RANGE IN THE JOB AD (no matter how cool you think your company is). It’s insulting to candidates to leave out that vital piece of information.

A final note on salaries. It’s not a game for the applicant. I’ve seen job ads where it was almost like a sort of Russian Roulette for the applicant.

Send us your required salary. If it doesn’t fall in what we’re willing to pay, your application will be rejected.

This was from an actual job description. The best people for this role are not going to apply because of this requirement. Not to mention, many job seekers are willing to negotiate salary for more paid time off or other perks.

In one online forum I read a post from a hiring manager who claimed in his help wanted ads, he put a salary much much lower than what was actually offered in the end. He reasoned that he didn’t want someone applying who only cared about money. They just want to work there for the sake of working there.

Last I checked, the majority of employed people are working because they need money. That’s the trade-off. Until another type of barter system is put in place, we need money in order to survive.

Salaries are not a tool to play games with job searchers.

Long Descriptions

Photo by Patrick Tomasso from Unsplash

If you are describing your own company in a job ad and it takes most of the page, please stop. It makes hiring companies look like a place that puts more emphasis on themselves rather than who they want to hire.

Job searchers usually just skip or skim it anyway if it is too long. The job ad should be mostly about the job and the person a company wants to hire.

On the other side of the coin, if the job description is too long and too detailed, again you will likely lose out on the best applicant for the job.

See, anyone who puts so much detail in a job description shows they don’t trust their employees. They are already micromanaging in the help wanted ad.

A job ad should be a high-level description of what the position entails. Not every single detail of every single task the role requires. Save those nuggets for interviews and training. Trust that applicants can synthesize the finite details from your broader description.

Sounding Like a Dictator

Must be able to type at least 120 WPM

Must remain polite at all times.

Must run reports quarterly without fail.

If an applicant reads must, must, must and phrases like “without fail,” it appears as though they are reading a job description for a militant group. Or a company ran like one.

A simple heading of Job Requirements or Role Responsibilities with a listing of each will suffice and come across less Drill Sergeant.

Rather than “Must type 120 WPM”, people would be more apt to apply to a job that says “Able to type 120 WPM,” as it’s a much friendlier tone and less offensive.

Job descriptions are more attractive to the best applicants when they are friendly and casual tone. Not only does this give applicants a good feeling about your company’s culture, but it also makes them more apt to apply.

Suspiciously Specific Items

Screenshot by Author from Reddit

While often hilarious, suspiciously specific items in a job description can go either way with applicants.

If you can’t stay off Facebook this isn’t the role for you.

If you need more than an hour for lunch, don’t apply.

If you don’t have reliable transportation to and from work every day, move on.

You’re not cynical or inflexible.

If you take more than 10 minutes to use the restroom, you are not a good fit.

While these are things an employer wants and has obviously run into in the past, dirty laundry doesn’t need to be aired in a help wanted ad.

It’s okay to be a bit witty or tongue-in-cheek in an ad, as it shows friendliness and a fun working environment. But in instances like those above, it just looks like sour grapes.

And it relays that management at the company doesn’t trust employees because of something a bad past employee did. That’s not creating a good image of the company to attract the best candidates for the position.

Requiring a Video

These are very impersonal and give an opportunity for unconscious age, race, or gender bias. Especially those who are older and applying.

The same goes for creating a Google phone number and having people leave a three-minute message about themselves. Videos and voicemails will give no better information that the cover letter and resume can. And again, these tactics open the hiring company for bias decision-making.

What Job Searchers Want to See

Benefits. Insurance, things that make your company a great place to work, etc.

What the employer is looking for. Essential required skills, experience, and education.

Required skills.

Nice to have skills.

Any specifics needed on resume or application. Not making sure the word “cookie” is in the cover letter somewhere so we know you read this. That shows lack of trust.

Photo by John Dancy from Unsplash

Remember, job searchers and hiring managers are two sides of the same coin. Hiring managers want the best of the best candidates to choose from. Job seekers want the best of the best company to work for.

The best candidates will put a lot of time and thought into their resumes and cover letters to make themselves stand out among the other applicants. Companies need to be sure they are to doing the same.

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Kati Pierce

Written by

Boy Mom, Relationship, Travel, Work, and Humorist Writer | Entrepreneur |

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