Seven ways your online job ads are turning great candidates away


We all want to find fantastic staff.

But your busy day (or week, or year!) means you might be missing out on some of the best candidates by failing to do one thing:

Taking the time to write a killer job ad.

With online job-seekers on average spending less than one minute on each page, an appealing job ad is essential to first attract, and then keep, the attention of the best candidates.

We’ve previously explored one key element of a great online job ad – understanding your organisation’s “why”, and then communicating this in your job ad.

But once you’ve mastered the “why”, it’s time to make sure you’re not making one of these seven common mistakes:

1. Copying and pasting in the position description

A job ad is totally different to a position description. While a PD is aimed at describing the role – often including long lists of responsibilities or KPIs , a job ad is a marketing tool – it aims to excite and attract people to your organisation and role.

Pasting long, complex position description into the main body of your job ad is likely to turn off potential applicants, much less captivate or inspire them, as they struggle to get an understanding of what can be complex and detailed information – and assess whether or not the role is right for them.

Instead, the text in your job ad should be short-ish (we recommend around 300 words), readable and be used primarily as a way to whet the appetite of potential candidates about what it would be like to work in this role and in your organisation when it’s at it’s best!

2. Generic or vague job titles

You’re almost always going to be competing against other potential employers for your candidate’s attention. A generic or vague title can only make your job ad fade into the background amid many other similar roles.

Instead, having your job-title reflect how the role will make a difference in the world is a great way to encourage passionate candidates to continue reading.

For example: instead of simply titling a role “Case Worker” ­– which could mean any number of things – try being more specific, e.g. “Case Worker – New Migrants”.

Another common mistake in job titles is using acronyms. While they may mean a lot to you, an acronym might be unknown or confusing to a great potential candidate, so always spell them out.

3. Failing to reveal the “heart” of the job

On, you have just 200 characters to put together a captivating short description – the summary that candidates see before deciding whether or not to click through to view the full ad.

Don’t waste this opportunity. Get straight to the heart of the job by focussing on “why” a candidate should want the role, rather than what is involved in the job.

4. Making it all about you

Have you ever been bored at a party by someone who only wants to talk about themselves?

While it’s important to describe what your organisation does in your job ad, don’t bore your candidates by making the ad all about you.

If you want to inspire and engage the best applicants, you have to make it about them too – including who they are, and what they will be able to achieve in the role, and in your organisation more broadly.

Be clear about who you’re looking for too, specifying the skills, attributes and experience that you require.

5. Not attaching the position description

Don’t make job-seekers comb your website for the relevant position description – especially if it’s hidden at the bottom of a page that might take minutes of searching for them to find.

Make it easy for them by including the PD as an attachment to your online ad, so that all of the information the candidate needs is easy to find in the one place.

 6. Spelling spelling spelling!

When online dating website OKCupid tried to find out what made a successful interaction on their website ­– by analysing the messages of 500,000 of their users – they found that messages containing spelling or grammar mistakes were significantly less likely to get a response. We reckon the same is true for job ads.

Whether in dating or job-searching, the lesson here is that first impressions last. So make sure you double (or triple!) check your spelling and grammar before posting that job ad.

7. Unclear application instructions

Unclear application instructions will result in poor applications – or potentially none at all – and it’s astonishing how often important details are overlooked or left out completely!

Make sure your jobs ads AND position descriptions always include the following:

  1. Who to address the application to;
  2. Where to send the application;
  3. What should be included in the application; and
  4. When the application deadline is.

We’d love to hear what you think makes a great online job ad – let us know in the comments below!

This post is based on’s “Seven simple steps to sourcing super staff online”.

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