A well-crafted job posting will attract the right talent to your company. If you’re a smaller company, your open job postings are often the first piece of marketing that gets seen – so you’ll want to ensure it doesn’t inadvertently turn away great candidates. Here are my top three words and phrases to avoid using in your next job posting.

#1: Young

Let’s get real: “young” is usually a coded word for “cheap.” It implies that you’re hoping to find a candidate who hasn’t been in the game long enough to understand when they’re being taken advantage of, and thus undervalues the role within the marketplace.

Or perhaps you’re looking for a “young” candidate because your leadership team is equally young, and you’re concerned that an older candidate wouldn’t have the same respect for your leadership. That, as they say, is a you problem.

Ask yourself why you’re using the word “young” in your posting – what’s the real quality you’re screening for? Bottom line: if it feels ageist, it probably is.

#2: Thrives in a fast-paced environment

You might be seeking candidates who “thrive in a fast-paced environment.” Few companies aim for a slow-paced environment: we’re all here to grow our businesses, after all, and we’re not expecting our staff to sit on their laurels and watch the paint dry.

However, this overused phrase strongly signals: “we have no process and very little structure for mentorship, so you’re going to be on your own, working late nights to make up for our inefficiencies.”

Fix your process, then document it. Ensure your onboarding process includes process training for new hires. Check in with your staff on a regular basis to ensure your processes are built to maximize efficiency. Aim to work smarter, not harder.

#3: ____ years of experience

On the surface, this one doesn’t feel like a red flag. But why do we insist on “years of experience” qualifications for candidates? This data point tells us very little, if anything at all, about whether a candidate will succeed in a role.

I’ve managed super-achievers with 0 years of experience who could run circles around those with 20 or more years of experience, within just a few months of training; I’ve managed those with 20 years of experience who are starting over in entry-level positions, who brought a unique perspective that only could have come from someone who could draw on their depth of cross-disciplinary experience.

Don’t let your “years of experience” qualification turn off candidates on either end of the spectrum from applying – and conversely, don’t automatically toss out those candidates who don’t fit in with the qualification, if all other stars are aligned.

So, what should be included in a great job posting?

Your job posting should clearly outline:

  • Skills – anything they should already know that isn’t included in your employee training program
  • Responsibilities – what specifically this role will need to do
  • Expectations – what success looks like for the role; how they will be evaluated
  • Reporting structure – where does this role fit within the organization, who will they report to
  • Pay – salary, hourly rate, or project rate

With any job posting, there will always be people who apply even though they don’t meet your other criteria – but by following these guidelines, you won’t turn off those candidates who would excel at the role and be happy to take it on.


Author: Dena Gonzalez, Partner, COO, Area of Expertise

Photo credit: Tony Schnagl