our blog gets recruiters thinking

Do we really take digital job adverts seriously these days, or have digital job ads led to the death of the quality candidate?

Technology has totally broken the ‘great’ advert. Yes, I probably remember this all wrong — perhaps the average job advert during my days in a recruitment firm was awful too, but at least we took it seriously. We took time over it, it looked pretty good, we got specialists involved, managers had a say in the content — and it got us decent talent.

Now, with the evolution (revolution?) of digital technology adding machine-gun-type processes to the recruitment workflow, the expression ‘ready, aim, fire’ has turned to ‘ready, fire, aim aim aim’.

Nearly every recruiter I work for aims to write the perfect ad. They tell me that this is a big gap in their recruitment process. If I had the recipe I’d give up my day job, sell the secret sauce and live off the royalties, but I don’t, so I’m just going to whinge.

It’s just too easy to post — post and pray, spray and pray, tweet and share… Whatever! Technology and the ‘fastest finger first’ mentality has evolved the job advert from a juicy, thick, interesting ‘so and so are hiring’ during a mooch over the Sunday papers to ‘when did the appointments section become a napkin?’, while I scroll through the endless, boring tweet-tweet-share-job updates on my smart phone.

Hold on, I am a technology freak — my job dictates that I sell the concept of tech to recruiters! But something’s got to give.

When was the last time that…

  1. you looked at your job ads?
  2. you researched what worked?
  3. you tried to apply for a role on your own website and got a handle on how difficult it is?

I see too many poorly written adverts — typos, a clear lack of understanding of the sector, advertised in the wrong places, lack of what you want to me to do, assumptions that I care enough to click 17 times to find out more info or how to apply.

If the objective is to get lots of poor quality candidates, then carry on… Somewhere along the line, volume applications and adverts have become a KPI [key performance indicator]: the more places a recruiter can hit with their content, the better. The result: a stack of pointless candidates who now need rejecting.

So what’s the future?

Sort this out, recruitment technology suppliers — and recruitment leaders. I suggest:

  1. Create a sharing platform that cleverly chooses (at the point of clicking) which platforms are the best according to the sector, geography, job type, salary — and helps the recruiter aim correctly. 
  2. Market, research and invent great advert templates, helping the mythical 360-degree recruiter build a decent advert that appeals to people who didn’t even know they were looking — the passives are waiting to be dazzled.
  3. Recruitment leaders — train your staff to pen great adverts and give these mythical 360-degree recruiters time to create them. Or admit that recruiters are not best placed to magically become digital marketers and find a specialist who gets the advert written, posted and applied to without the pain.
  4. We must not bow to the ‘easy to apply’ culture that social media has created, and create more adverts with opportunities for candidates to deselect themselves.

It’s only going one way: smart phones, apply via LinkedIn, Twitter lead generation cards, Facebook getting jiggy with professions — all creating an environment for candidates to not take the process seriously either. A hiring manager wanting their recruiters to give them more applications is only going to make it worse…

(Thanks Recruiter for publishing this article)

share Lisa Jones's blog


  1. I don't really see the problem.

    All agencies have to do is engage a decent copywriter and be a little bit selective about what job ads it gives to that copywriter.

    It's really not hard. It just requires some genuine insight/knowledge about the client (questions, pushback, etc..) and somebody who knows how to turn that information into compelling ad copy.

    There's your "secret sauce" right there.

    Mitch Sullivan
  2. It never ceases to amaze me how much of a lack of forethought goes into so many recruiter job ads these days. In my ad agency days I headed up a team of 4 that worked on a £1.5m recruitment advertising account for one of the largest recruiters in the world. We held quarterly sessions with candidates to analyse what worked and what didn't in terms of reviewing each ad that had been in the press during that quarter. We wrote each bit of copy on a bespoke basis and took care to target the right medium by using media research, and we would rather have died than send an ad out with just one error in it.

    Oh how times have changed. For a very small investment when set against the return a top notch candidate brings, many recruiters would benefit from employing someone like me to write their job ads, and yet the vast majority instead commit commercial suicide by allowing junior staff to fire out illiterate and grammatically inept content left, right and centre. What kind of impression do they hope to give about them as an organisation? After all, if your ad starts "Our client are looking..." or goes on to ask for "a good telephone manor" you have lost the decent people who are reading the ad there and then. You've also given them the idea that if you can't get the basics right, why on earth should they trust you with their career aspirations? Technology is great but it has destroyed the quality factor of many, many recruitment advertisements. Fortunately direct employers know better and invest in professional copywriting as they know it speaks volumes.


what do you think?