Despite slow economic growth, the UK’s jobs market is still thriving: with candidates having record numbers of vacancies to choose from.

This candidate-driven market, however, isn’t such great news if you’re a recruiter. With so many job vacancies, candidates are being savvier than ever when it comes to making their next career moves. As a result, choosing a new job can be a long and arduous process for them. This means when you post your job vacancy online, it must really stand out, and make an instant good impression that encourages them to learn more your job opportunity.

What are the red flags in your job adverts that could be driving away candidates? Let's find out! Cezanne HR

But, if you’re a business that regularly struggles to attract the right candidates, or whose job listings barely get any responses, you may be making some critical (yet common) mistakes…

Simple mistakes in your job adverts can be red flags to candidates

When you put your job listing out into the big wide world, it’s more than just a description of the job and core duties. Think of it like a teaser trailer to a blockbuster movie: you want to pique the audience’s interest, highlight all the best bits, and ultimately leave them wanting more!

Unfortunately, putting together a winning job advert is something of a fine art. After all, it needs to cover the basics, stand out in a crowded marketplace, and – perhaps most importantly – attract the right people for your business. Done well, it’ll act as a beacon to the best and brightest. Get it wrong though, and you’ll actively be damaging your candidate attraction strategies.

So, if your recruitment processes have been falling at the first hurdle, or you’re having trouble bringing in the calibre of people you need, what are the red flags in your job adverts that could be turning candidates away?

  • Your job advert descriptions are too wordy or too complex

Think back to the film trailer analogy mentioned earlier on. Ideally, your job listings should leave candidates hungry for more; plus, they’ll also need to stand out against the hundreds of other job vacancies competing for potentially the same pool of talent.

With that in mind, keep your vacancy descriptions as simple and memorable as possible. Focus on how candidates will be welcomed into your organisation and how their role works within the business. If you do need to include a lot of information, consider using bullet points, rather than long, lengthy paragraphs.

  • You’re listing benefits that are not really benefits at all

Benefits of a job should be exactly that: rewards that set your business and role apart from your competitors. So, why is it still the case that many pre-requisites for a ‘decent’ job are listed as benefits? For example:

  • Mandatory annual leave entitlements – If you’re advertising for a full-time position, 28 days of paid holiday a year is a mandatory entitlement – not to mention essential for a healthy work-life balance. With that in mind, does it really make sense to list it as a benefit or perk of working for the business?
  • Working environments – A great working environment is absolutely crucial to successful positive company cultures: yet, shouldn’t a pleasant work environment be a given for everyone, rather than just a perk of the job?
  • Career progression and further opportunities – Helping your employees fulfil their career ambitions and advance up the career ladder should be a given for any company with a great culture. Having it listed as a perk or benefit of the job gives out the wrong idea about the culture of your business.

When listing the benefits of working for your company, think about what adds real value to the employment experience and makes a tangible difference to your candidate’s quality of life.

  • You’re placing too much emphasis on education

Of course, having relevant qualifications or experience (especially in more specialist professions) are good indications that your candidate can do the job. However, if you’re placing too much emphasis on qualifications or experiences for a role that doesn’t necessarily require them, you may be missing out on talented candidates.

That’s because years spent in education and experiences are considered to be the least predictive indicators of how someone will perform in a new role. Instead, they’re just helping recruiters identify the type of candidates they think is required to do the job.

Now, there will obviously be educational qualifications that may include the precise skills you’re wanting a candidate to have. But, if your job descriptions just include a blanket ‘must be educated to X standard’, you may also end up attracting skills which aren’t the right fit for job – which can be just as bad as not getting anyone in the first place!

It’s something of a balancing act to get right, but getting it right is deceptively simple: list and test for the skills you actually need a candidate to have to do the job, rather than including a nondescript, fanciful wish list of qualifications or experiences you think will attract the best and brightest.

  • Your job adverts use too many buzzwords or jargon

Did you know there’s research to show that there are certain buzzwords and phrases that can frighten off jobseekers? If you’re regularly using words such as ‘guru’, ‘competitive’ or ‘challenge’, you may be giving candidates a negative impression of the role, and your business.

It’s also the case that when reading through a job vacancy, candidates will pay close attention to descriptions you use. This is where you should consider how your job descriptions will be interpreted, and whether or not they could be setting unrealistic expectations.

For example, if you’re regularly using a phrase such as ‘ideal candidate should be able to hit the ground running’, it could be interpreted as code for ‘must take a lot of work on immediately without proper training’. Or, if you’re wanting a candidate who can ‘wear lots of hats’, it could be inferred that you’re looking for one person to do the job of multiple other people.

  • You’re not acknowledging new ways of working

Candidates now expect a degree of flexible, remote or hybrid working – particularly if the job supports it. As our company culture survey discovered, it’s clear the demand for a more flexible approach to when and where people work isn’t a fad that’s going to disappear. So, organisations must acknowledge this fact when looking to attract new candidates.

If your business can support remote, hybrid or flexible working, but instead asks candidates to be working full-time in an office or shared workspace, you may find your roles increasingly difficult to fill.

  • You’re not highlighting the culture of your business, or what it’s really like to work at your organisation

In our report into company culture, a huge 75% of people we surveyed said they would research a company’s culture before applying for a job. With that in mind, include an authentic description of what your company culture really is, what it stands for, and what your organisation’s goals and ambitions are.

When you clearly state the culture of your business, it’s more likely you’ll attract candidates with similar mindsets, goals and career ambitions. Plus, they’ll also be given a more realistic expectation of what life is like working for your company – rather than just marketing spiel.

  • ‘Competitive salary’

Lastly, and perhaps a little contentiously, research by LinkedIn found that 61% of candidates consider salary to be the most important part of the job advert’s description. And, if we consider that one of the main reasons people choose to look for a new job is a better annual salary, it’s perhaps surprising so few job vacancies include an indication of salary!

Of course, there are several valid reasons why you may choose not to publish compensation details (avoiding internal competition, resentment and external competition being just a few). But, if you’ve been struggling to get applicants to your vacancies, consider that there’s an increasing body of research showing that companies who are forthcoming about their wages can attract better, more diverse talent: using salary transparency an actionable way of creating a more equitable workplace.

Paul Bauer author image

Paul Bauer

Paul Bauer is the Head of Content at Cezanne HR. Based in the Utopia of Milton Keynes (his words, not ours!) he’s worked within the employee benefits, engagement and HR sectors for over four years. He's also earned multiple industry awards for his work - including a coveted Roses Creative Award.