'Excellent Telephone Manor Required': How NOT to Write a Job Advert

Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Simpsons Movie

Sometimes, the thing that got to me the most about the job hunting process wasn't the existential dread of drifting purposelessly through life, or the employers who never called when they say they would, like fickle dates. It wasn't even the rigorous hoop-jumping I was subjected to each week to secure my paltry Jobseeker's handout. Nope. Sometimes, after a hard week's jobseeker grinding, the thing that really irked me was the desperately bad writing that pervades so many job adverts.

Because, while a full-time job that pays a living wage is about as elusive as a golden Wonka bar, it seems there will always be a place reserved in the executive workforce for that special breed of nitwit whose job you suspect you could do better while under the influence of heavy narcotics. Or, as Douglas Adams put it, 'Anyone who is capable of getting themselves into a position of power should on no account be allowed to do the job.'

Since employers are so rarely held accountable for their misdeeds, what
 follows is what every discerning jobseeker wants to point out, but won't ever get the chance to (because we need to eat, dammit). So, here's how not to write a job advert. Because, judging by the fact that these word crimes were compiled over just a handful of days, the average job poster is getting it wrong more often than not. Seriously. Some of you are really, really, ridiculously bad at this.

Don't proofread

Because, if in doubt, spell-check is a sophisticated, centuries-old technique for getting rid of those pesky red squiggly lines. No one will ever know...

Lettings Administrator job advert with spelling error

'A good telephone manor is essential and attention to detail is a must as our clients cannot make mistakes as there are lots of legal aspects to the job.'

*Eye twitches*

I wish I could say that this was an isolated occurrence...

Job search page of misspelled job adverts

That passive Jobcentre 'advisors', commission-chasing recruiters and incompetent employers should have the temerity to exist in the first place is bad enough. But when a job ad reads that a 'good telephone manor and attention to detail' are essential candidate skills, I can't help but feel affronted. Because anyone who thinks that a lordly estate has anything to do with telephones should not be in a position to arbitrate the course of my future. (Especially not on the grounds of inferior attention to detail.) 

Accounts payable and cash assistant job advert with spelling error

'As a person you must be contentious... You will also have a great eye for detail.' 

'Contentious'? Really? Because I'm pretty sure you meant 'conscientious', which is completely... No? Well, if you're sure...

Content strategist job advert with spelling errors

'This fantastic organisation is seeking a candidate who... can demonstrate 
flare and creativity in their writing!'

The flare of a distress signal? A single trouser leg from the 70s? An aggravated haemorrhoid? Baffling. (Note, too, the misspelled 'companies'. A plural does not a possessive make.)

Don't format, either

Unformatted junior copywriter job advert

Despite the eyesore that is this ad, I still managed to pick out the 'excellent salary [based on experience]' red flag. Because you can bet your sweet bippy that means you'll be offered the lowest value on the expected salary spectrum.

Mistake your ad for an infomercial

Salesy graduate trainee recruitment consultant job advert

'Would you be interested in joining one of the world’s fastest growing recruitment firms?
Do you want to specialise in the international Oil&Gas / Energy industry?
Would you enjoy being based in the heart of London’s West End?
Does a starting basic salary of £23,000 interest you?
How about receiving top training in form of an award winning training academy?
Maybe the long term option to relocate to one of their 4 world-wide offices? 

If the answer to all the above questions is yes, then you are probably perfect for this Graduate Trainee Recruitment Consultant opportunity so please read on.....

A tantalising ellipsis (so tantalising, in fact, that they added two extra points)! Well, I'm sold. All that's missing from this is a footnote reading 'order now and we'll send you a second WonderSpud* absolutely FREE! (*As seen on TV!!!)'

Zero-hour contract event steward job advert

'[Company who shall remain nameless] offers employees a zero hour contract which allows you to work around your commitments.'

Ah, the classic sales doublespeak. In case you were in any doubt, zero-hour contracts are graciously offered with your needs in mind. I'LL TAKE IT.

clichés to add 'character'

Outbound telesales agent job advert with cliches

'Have you got bags of charisma...? If you've got the gift of the gab and could sell ice to Eskimos, then we have a great telesales job for you! ...you will be expected to hit the ground running...'

Frighteningly, some of the worst offenders were all found in the same job advert, which was something of a cliché doubledecker sandwich. I'm not sure which part is the worst - the implication that you'll be expected to trick customers into buying useless stuff that they don't really want, the use of the archaic term 'Eskimo' or the inclusion of the notorious buzz-phrase 'hit the ground running' (which, as we all know, is code for 'don't expect training or development'). I'm also pretty sure 'vibrant office in Sunderland' is something of an oxymoron. Quite the feat, really. 

Other personal favourites from my journey into the bowels of internet job sites include 'A1 attention to detail'
, 'out-of-the-box thinking', 'self-starter' and 'dynamic environment'. I get it. Sometimes a cliche captures a concept more succinctly than normal language would. But anyone who uses 'A1' for anything other than the paper size needs to take a long, hard look at themselves.

Rely on templates

Customer service assistant job advert using template

'Key responsibilities: Insert Key Responsibilities here...', 'The ideal candidate will be able to demonstrate: A strong eye for detail and accuracy'

This... does not exactly inspire confidence. The standard interview question 'So, what exactly do you think the job entails?' could well be set up for the purposes of enabling the employer to fill in this section. I'm also not sure that the criterion 'Microsoft skills' demonstrates a 'clear and structured thinking style'.

Reception/hospitality assistant job advert using template

'There are exciting things happening in the legal sector in (insert City or area here)'

Be still my heart.

Use buzzwords/jargon to the point of incomprehension

Graduate trainee recruitment consultant job advert with jargon

'you will need the following:- Degree educated or of extremely dyamic degree calibre'

So dynamic, it would seem, that they forwent the 'n' completely. (This was taken from the latter part of the previous graduate trainee recruitment consultant position posting, which was rife with questionable life choices.)

Set impossibly high standards and rock-bottom salaries

Graduate online data researcher job advert with high standards

'Fresh graduates only... with demonstrated experience of B2B online research... and proven online market research skills... Required experience: Admin, Data Entry: 1 year'

So maybe not completely 'fresh', then. Maybe with just a smidgen of odour, like two-day-old jeans. It's also worth pointing out that the £7 salary is for the London area; while the UK national minimum wage is, as of writing, £6.70 an hour, in London, this is the equivalent of 'like a dollar an hour' anywhere else.

Napoleon Dynamite saying 'That's like a dollar an hour!'

Final thoughts 

I'm fortunate to be in a position now where I can consider my next step at leisure and pass over the shadier-sounding positions (funnily enough, I now work as an editor). Even so, window shopping for jobs makes me understand why people stick with uninspired office cubicle gigs for so long. In this graduate-saturated market, where employers can ask for everything from job candidates and offer next to nothing in return, it doesn't seem unreasonable to ask for a fairer exchange. Where employers who demand excellence strive to offer their candidates something different and worthwhile in return. In light of this, employers who:

  • Know the difference between 'manor' and 'manner' and 'flair' and 'flare'
  • Can demonstrate the ability to use paragraphs
  • Understand how creepy it is to phrase everything as a question
  • Have a passion for non-zero-hour contracts
  • Reserve the term 'A1' for the paper size 
  • Have proven experience of writing without the aid of templates
  • Can explain what is wrong with the following phrase: 'extremely dynamic degree calibre'
should send their prospective job ads to anyone that doesn't work in recruitment. Extra credit will be given to candidates who can provide a definition of 'entry-level position' in no more than 50 words. Thank you.


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