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“Numbers Ninja needed!” When job ads are a real put off

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger
The Canadian Security  Intelligence Service ( CSIS ) recently sought to recruit intelligence officers. In these more transparent times such posts are advertised on their web site. What better way to make the post stand out and show that the service was not part of a stuffy Government bureaucracy than by making a reference to John Le Carre’s 1987 novel The Perfect Spy. The advert read ,”You could be the perfect spy”. Clever! Only trouble is it would appear that they had not read the book other wise they would have known that the title was a rather sarcastic reference to the fact the the spy in question was a double agent who lies to his family ,betrays his country and takes his own life!
It’s a cautionary tail about not trying to be too cleaver in the desire to make your advert hip. I have my own example of trying too hard when as a manager determined to demonstrate my equal opportunity credentials I ignored the advice of HR and went ahead with a job advert I had written as a “Rap”.
These ill judged efforts are in recognition that every job advert is an opportunity to shape the image of the organisation and say something about the manager you will be working for. You’re not just recruiting to a post you are taking the opportunity to create a buzz about the organisation, something exciting is happening hear.
This other agenda explains the tendency some organisations have of jazzing up their job titles so for example a call centre manager becomes a Chair of Chatting and a boring accountancy post becomes an exciting Number Ninja. Being creative with job titles is different to the other phenomena that has been around for a few years now which is job title inflation. This is where the same or almost identical job is given a new title prefixed with chief, head of or executive. The thinking is that a grander sounding title is more attractive to potential applicants. There is some research to back this up. Employees across a broad range of organisations were asked the simple question. Would you rather have a small pay rise or a new more important sounding job title? To many organisation surprise the majority opted for the second.
Having gone to all this trouble to make the job advert stand out, to creat the impression of a go head workplace where it might be fun to work with a boss who has a sense of humour why do so many organisations trot out such off putting job description? May be because it easier to use the standard JD or perhaps the task of reviewing all JD’s is just to daunting. But not only are they a dull read and too long they make it sound the you would have to be a superhero to manage everything that’s expected. They also wrongly give the impression that the successful candidate must be able to fulfil all the duties and responsibilities from day one. The only person who could do that is the one already doing the job.
Just when you were thinking well may be I could do this job you read the essential criteria! The candidate must have five years experience in this or a related field. Why five? Why specify a number?  You must have an MBA. More inclusive to state must demonstrate a commitment to own development.  The person appointed will have worked in a similar sized organisation. Is size that important? Better to require candidate to illustrate how their skills and experience would translate.The use of unnecessary and unjustifiable essential criteria rules out potentially very capable and interesting candidate who could bring something different to the post.
Whether your organisation is seeking to recruit a trustworthy spy or a number Ninja avoid the too clever advert, the Jazzy Job title, off putting JD and unnecessary essential criteria.

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