5 common mistakes recruiters make when posting a job online

By Kate Warren 16 September 2016

A job advertisement is your marketing pitch to potential candidates, and with thousands of jobs advertised on any given day, it is easy to get lost in the pack. Photo by: The Next Web / CC BY-SA

Posting job vacancies on your organization's website and other online job boards are de rigueur in recruitment. You take the job description, add in your standard header and footer, and copy and paste it onto various job boards (or let an automated service do it for you).

Often the first step in finding a new hire, posting a job is perhaps seen as the most basic of recruitment functions, often delegated to junior staff or even interns. But, you may be doing it all wrong.

Competition for top talent is fierce. A job advertisement is your marketing pitch to potential candidates, and with thousands of jobs advertised on any given day, it is easy to get lost in the pack. Just as we advise job applicants to market themselves to stand out from the crowd, recruiters, too, must think like marketers when enticing the best professionals to apply.

Here are five common mistakes to avoid make when posting a job online.

1.    Confusing a job ad with a job description

Let's tackle this one first: job descriptions are not job advertisements. You've all read them, long lists of specific tasks and responsibilities, filled with acronyms and internal jargon. Sometimes it is a direct copy and paste from a statement of work or request for proposal. Just as you are likely to spend mere moments scanning a resume, job applicants are also only skimming through the many job postings available. If you can't make a case for why they should be excited about your job early and succinctly, they will move on.

What you can do is distil the essential elements of the job description into a short, compelling ad that focuses on what this job will do and the core requirements necessary. This does take an extra step, especially when recruiting for more technical positions or proposals. But your internal marketing or communications team may be able to help get you started. Once you develop a basic formula for how you want your job ads to read, it can be a lot easier to produce them later.

2.    Using an overly technical or vague position title

While an RFP may call for a senior technical advisor II to be included in your bid, that is not likely to mean much to someone scanning hundreds of job postings. If the job title alone does not quickly convey what core skill or function the role needs, consider revising it for job advertising purposes only. For example, say child protection technical advisor or health systems strengthening advisor instead.

Being more precise in the position title also has the added benefit of cutting down on unqualified candidates who apply to every job they see without reading the full requirements. Additionally, it can help with keyword searches. Many job seekers use keywords to search for jobs or set up automated alerts. Including common phrases in the job title will help your job show up higher in the results.

However, sometimes job titles can be too specific. If you fill it with technical jargon, you could be turning off otherwise qualified candidates who may not see themselves as a fit.

You can also try one approach first, and if you aren’t getting the applications you desire, try to either make the title more specific or more general and see if you get a different response.

3.    Not filling out all of the fields in the job form

Most online job boards, including Devex, have various fields available to complete when posting a job. Common ones are location, job level or contract type. Some sections may be required, but even when they are optional, you should do your best to complete as many as applicable.

In addition to using keywords, job seekers also use available filters to narrow down the jobs posted and find those that best match their areas of interest. Many also set up automated notifications — for example, a job alert for all entry-level positions in Kenya. If you want your Nairobi-based program assistant job to show up in this alert, you need to make sure to complete those fields in the job form.

4.    Using insider acronyms or jargon

This is common for positions in international development, a sector infamous for its overuse of acronyms and buzzwords. You may know very well that GHNG means the global health and nutrition group at your organization, but did you know that before you joined?

When using an acronym, be sure to spell it out, at least initially. Even if you think a term is common enough that any job applicant worth your attention should know it, there can be cultural differences in how people refer to organizations, concepts or technical areas.

Additionally, spelling out acronyms and using more plain, descriptive language can help job applicants more quickly find you through keyword searches. For example, if you are looking for an M&E specialist, make sure it also says "monitoring and evaluation" somewhere in your job description for those using the spelled out search term.

(Note: To help with this, the Devex search algorithm will show applicants jobs with synonyms to the words they entered. However, exact phrase matches will typically show up higher in the results).

5.    Focusing on a list of tasks vs. what you can achieve

Standard advice to job seekers is to avoid putting a list of job duties on their CV but instead include examples of their accomplishments. The same goes for job advertisements.

A list of tasks can be boring and doesn't tell the reader what they will be able to achieve in the job and your organization. Focus on what one can do in the position and the impact it can make. Not only is this more compelling to motivated job applicants, but it can also lead to better applications. Candidates are more likely to focus on how they can help your organization achieve those goals in their CV and cover letter when they have a better understanding of what kind of impact they could have on the job.

Recruiters, what advice do you have for attracting more applicants to your online jobs? For job seekers, what advice do you have to recruiters on how they post their positions? Please leave your comments below.

About the author

Warren kate 1
Kate Warren@DevexCareers

Kate Warren is the senior director and editor of careers and recruiting content at Devex. With more than a decade of international development recruitment experience working with international NGOs, consulting firms and donor agencies, she has a finger on the pulse of hiring trends across the industry and insider knowledge on what it takes to break in.


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