Photo by Bram Naus ( on Unsplash.
Photo by Bram Naus ( on Unsplash.

Do you think about hiring when you think about being a manager? What comes to mind? Do you first think about crafting job postings? I am going out on a limb and guessing the answer is “no.” It is underrated and underappreciated and it is hard. No one ever taught me how to create a job posting! In this article, I share a few thoughts on that important first impression you make on your applicant by taking a “what not to do” approach. As a bonus, I also coin a new term: “bureaucroware”. Warning! Opinions ahead!

No matter how often we remind ourselves that the job posting is the first impression we are going to make on an applicant, we still foul it up because there is so little accessible information on how to do it well. Most of it is limited to blog posts like this (always of dubious value) and occasional academic studies that a hiring manager is never going to see. While taking a “what not to do” approach is not my favorite way, my April post is already late (I am publishing this on April 31st1) so I am going with getting it done over getting it done well.

Without further ado - the top foul ups in my book are bad organization, lousy writing, bad qualifications lead to lack of clarity. Lack of clarity leaves applicants confused and risks them skipping your posting. Beyond that “meat”, pay attention to the salary range and the actual application process so that the kind of applicant you want is making their way into your inbox.

Bad Organization

Bad organization leaves an applicant confused. They don’t know what is a description of the job, what is a hard and fast qualification, and what to expect from the organization. Confused applicant do not apply. While there are many formats you use make sure you have the following:

  1. An introduction - A paragraph or two that introduces the role, why you are looking to fill it, and tells the applicant about your organization.
  2. Responsibilities - A list of the work the person will be performing and how success will be judged.
  3. Qualifications - A list of the skills and experience you expect the applicant will bring.
  4. Expectations for Location, Working Hours, Travel - Is it remote? Full time in office? How often can you expect to travel?
  5. Salary Range - This is legally required in some jurisdictions.
  6. Other benefits - helpful, but focus on the benefits that matter for landing the applicant. Leave out the company picnic and the foosball tables.

Most job postings have those sections. The mistakes come in confusing what goes in what section. When you are discussing responsibilities, do not mix in qualifications. Be clear on what you expect the person to be doing vs. the background you expect them to already have.

Lousy Writing

Lousy writing is going to attract lousy applicants. Who will apply for the job when you care so little for the people you are hiring that you do not even bother to have a second person read your job posting before making it public?

Lousy writing takes many forms. It can be using over the top statements like “work hard/play hard” or “we want code ninjas” and even “fast-paced” that will turn away applicants who have children or are from underrepresented groups. Advertising for all rock stars will turn away the steady, reliable workers who want both a fulfilling job and fulfilling life. Do not be the company that people scroll past because they think you want to work them 80 hours a week or that sounds like it is asking for entry level workers to be geniuses.

Lousy writing can be using too many buzzwords or jargon. You will sound either bureaucratic or clueless. Do not use internal company terms in your job posting unless you explain them. It is simple: qualified applicants will think they are unqualified because they do not know that is an internal term! Expand all your acronyms, explain niche jargon, and be clear (see Acronym Soup). Remember — jargon does not make us smarter. I firmly believe it shrinks our brains and impedes communication.

Lousy writing can also be, well, lousy writing. Astutely avoid adverbs. Limit the audacious adjectives. Reduce the amount you use commas to split and rearrange a sentence to at most once per paragraph. Turn “Because we need more people, we are hiring” into “We are hiring because we need more people.” Putting the action (“we are hiring”) before the rationale (“we need more people”) makes it easier to read. I find putting the action first also helps me avoid run-on sentences by keeping me focused on the point I am making.

Bad Qualifications (and Responsibilities)

No, I don’t mean the applicant’s qualifications being bad, I mean the qualifications listed on the job posting being poorly thought out.

Do not list too many qualifications. Only list the things that are important and remember that skills can be learned. Does it matter if an applicant has worked in your chosen process methodology before? If you can teach them the process, then you can leave that out of the qualifications section! If it is important that the applicant knows they will be working with this process, then include it in the parts where you describe the job, not the qualifications list.

Listing too many qualifications is often a sign of “clone” hiring. Clone hiring happens when you conclude “Pat has too much on their plate, we need to get them some help” and proceed to write down every skill you think Pat has. By expecting to clone Pat, you limit the pool of applicants to people who are exact matches for Pat. Do you need that? Probably not. You also lose the perspective that someone with a somewhat different skill set will bring. Even when you are not clone hiring, you can fall in the trap of making the one-in-a-while duty sound too important. If someone is going to work 99% of the time on the new system built in C# and might work on the old Java system once in a blue moon, do you really need to list Java as a required skill? Maybe you have no one who knows Java now and so you do, but otherwise leave it off the posting.

Do not list optional qualifications. applicants will be confused and recruiters will not know what to do with them. “5 years of X and, optionally, 3 years of Y” will be heard as “If an applicant has 10 years of X and none of Y, they’re less suited to the role than someone with 5 of X and 5 of Y.” I tried for years to tell recruiters “I’m only listing this because I want to know about it if the applicant has it.” I learned that if the applicant has a skill, they’re going to list it on their resume anyway and I can ask them in the interview.

Make sure your qualifications make sense. I remember seeing a job posting for a Java developer in 2000 that said the applicant had to have 5+ years experience in Java. Java’s first beta release was in 1995! There were not many people outside of Sun Microsystems that could claim 5+ years of experience.

More nonsense — what does “fully remote with travel required twice a month to the home office” even mean? That sounds like hybrid to me!

Everything I said about bad qualifications also applies when you are listing the responsibilities of a posting. Pat might make the coffee every morning and be on the new office location search committee, but neither is a job responsibility of a senior software developer. Those are other things Pat that Pat happens to do because Pat is Pat, not because Pat is a senior software developer.

No or Silly Salary Range

Laws are becoming more and more common in the US that require the salary range to be listed. Keep your salary ranges tight. No one will know what kind of person you are looking for if the top of your range is 500% that of the bottom and yet advertise a specific job level like “Senior Product Manager” or “Software Developer III.”

To be clear, I support being transparent and up front about salaries. I also know it comes with downsides and one of those is not at all obvious: good candidates may not apply because the range is too high.

What did I just say? The range is too high? Yes, it happens. The good candidate may be underpaid at their current position and not know it. If they see a range substantially higher than they are looking for, then they may think the role is too big for them. Good old impostor syndrome! Employing active recruiters who are doing their own hunting helps you avoid impostor syndrome. Do not rely on a applicant stumbling across your job posting!

Skipping the Edit

There will be something that needs to be cleaned up no matter how good you are as a writer. Yes, you need this job filled. Like many things, rushing will create a worse result. Slow down and make sure that job description makes sense.

When you are done writing your job posting, save it and forget it for a day or two. Then try to put yourself in the mindset of an applicant and reread it. Ask yourself whether the things that are important to you will stand out to the applicant. Ask yourself if you would want to apply to this company yourself. Now go fix the problems.

Now send it to two other people in your organization who are recruiters who you know can give you honest feedback. Err on the side of accepting any of your reader’s suggestions. If you think they missed a point you were making that an applicant needs to know, then make sure you clarify it in the job posting.

Senseless Application Processes

After you create your job posting, you need to put it somewhere. There are a lot of companies still using ancient Applicant Tracking Systems with lousy user interfaces that turn applying for the job into an ordeal. Is this really the first interaction you want a applicant to have with your organization? Is an applicant who is trying to find a new job before the leave their old one going to put their time into your bureaucroware2 when they could be applying for 5-10 other jobs in the same time?

To be clear: There is no reason to ever ask an applicant to upload a resume in word or pdf format and then turn around and ask them to fill out a 40 part web form that contains all the information they just uploaded. Just stop that nonsense. I am going to bet your recruiters hate it just as much as your applicants do.

The arguments you will hear in favor of these sorts of systems swirl around the idea of it keeping things consistent to make it (allegedly) more efficient. Please give me a break. I want to know what sets the applicant apart. Stripping their CV down to “just the facts” removes the human element that is sometimes crucial. One recent applicant for a role where 1/2 or more my questions in an interview will be asking them about the principles they apply to making judgement calls included a section in their resume that described the principles they apply in making judgement calls. We did not tip our hand in that job description, this was a part of their normal resume. Guess who got an interview?

To be clear, I am not opposed to Applicant Tracking Systems in general. You need something to manage the workflow and, shockingly enough, software can do a good job of managing workflow. It the clunky, outdated systems that solve one problem by creating an even worse problem that I am talking about.


If you have a long career in management, you will manage a bunch of people all at once. Most people you are hiring won’t have bunches of jobs all at once. You need to make a good decision, they need to make a great decision because their cost of getting it wrong is much, much higher than yours.

Remember that hiring is a marketing campaign. You want to attract good people, so make sure you have a good job posting that will catch their eye. Everything through your hiring process should keep in mind that good applicants will have the opportunity for another job elsewhere. Once you make that contact, sell, sell, sell the applicant on your organization.

Next time I will continue on this theme of becoming a manager. How many posts do I have on the topic? I don’t know!

  1. Ok, you got me. It’s May 1st. 

  2. As far as I can tell, I am inventing the term “bureaucroware” right here, right now. Definition - needlessly complex software that makes the organization using it look like a mindless bureaucracy.