Write a Job Ad Like You Really Want a Good Developer And Not a Murderer

November 15, 2011

Reading job ads can be quite entertaining. The problem is that people write job ads as if they were wanted posters.

I responded to one yesterday for a startup that was wonderful even though I doubt I can get the position, just because it made me smile. I am waiting to talk with another recruiter based on a job ad that was direct, positive and interesting.

Yet most job ads you see make the company sound oppressive, evil, picky and likely to be a painful place work. Others include a laundry list of random technologies or duties (including the hilarious 'other duties as assigned'). Reading them is like seeing an ad for a restaurant that says "Bad Food, High Prices, Dirty Dishes and Surly Service". Would you eat in such a place? Yet most job ads are the same.

An advertisement is designed to entice you to do something or go somewhere. It's supposed to be a positive poke in your psyche and motivate you to seek out what is being sold. Why don't people write job ads like that? Maybe they should get marketing to write a job ad instead of a random manager or even worse someone who has no clue what the words even mean.

Some ads of course are not for jobs but simply to collect your resume and contact information, which I presume can be sold to other recruiters. Still, even ads for Viagra that come in spam messages are likely to be more successful if they at least act like real ads.

A random ad I got in email today:

Expecting at least 3-5 years experience developing applications on Java, JSP, Android SDK, C#, ASP.NET, Swing, C++, VC++, Perl, UML, VML, XML, HTML, Javascript, CSS, Ruby, CGI, and SOAP. Must have mobile application development experience.

Yes I am sure there are hundreds of people who have used all those technologies. I bet the Wizard of OZ is among them.

Some ads try to beat you over the head with words in ways I am sure even the most hard core marketing person wouldn't use. Best Job Ever!!!!!!!!! Great Company!!!!!! Amazing Opportunity!!!!!! Subtle.

I love the ads with useless statements like "Uses coding methods in specific programming languages to initiate or enhance program execution and functionality" or "familiar with code repositories". You are writing ads for programmers -- how about appealing to programmers and assuming a certain level of intelligence? If you write ads that sound moronic, all you will get for respondents is morons. You will be paying someone $100K or so to write software that might affect your profitability and customer appreciation and you look around for them by writing garbage.

People try to write in ads about how wonderful it is to work in the company and then kill it by making the company sound like Gitmo staffed by Nazi camp guards. Today it's easy using sites like glassdoor to check what other employees think of their company. It's a job ad, write it like an ad. If you want iOS programmers with some apps in the store, what more do you need to write? It's an ad, not a binding contract. It's an ad for your company, make it sound like you really want bright people to inquire and maybe consider working for you. It's not a wanted poster for the post office, WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE, PROGRAMMER.