Initial findings from jobs descriptions survey

257 people responded to my survey about what job seekers are looking for from job desscriptions/ads. There is a lot to dig into properly and I intend to do some follow up interviews – and then share a bunch of the raw data (maybe not the free text? Will have a think.)

Here are a few initial highlights / thoughts though –>

If/when you are job hunting where do you look for job ads?

LinkedIn was the most popular choice here which was a little bit of a surprise. None of the other job board type options came close but employers own jobs pages was a close second (with personal networks third but a little way back).

I do find LinkedIn a really good source for vacancies to feature in my newsletter but it definitely has flaws – a lot of other jobs boards featuring closed roles that link to their boards not the advertised roles is a personal bug bear. I know it is popular with recruitment teams but I wonder how many people prepare LinkedIn native job descriptions that makes the most of their format?

The importance of organisation jobs pages suggest that they need a LOT more focus and investment. They are consistently bad in my experience. Poor usability, accessibility and content is the norm.

If/when you search for jobs which search terms do you start with?

Almost 62% of people said they search for specific job titles…so I’vesaid it before and I’ll say it again..STOP MAKING UP JOB TITLES! Be consistent with what people call roles rather than trying to be clever or unique.

Do you include location in your search terms? /
How important is it to you to see more roles offered as ‘remote’ (1 least important to 5 most important)

Interestingly more than half of people still search by location but 60% people rate ‘remote’ working as one of the most important things. I guess as much as anything this reflects what a weird time we are living through!

Do you use salary as a filter (when available) in your searches? /
On a scale of 0 -10 (10 being most likely) how important is the availability of a salary band to your decision to consider applying for a role?

Seriously people – JUST ADD SALARIES. It is so important to people who are applying and you are limiting your potential candidates by refusing to. There is just so much evidence of the importance of doing this so the fact it was important to respondents here is no surprise.

What is the most important content for you in a job description?

This one made me smile. 60% of people selected ‘specific information about the role’. Only 4% chose ‘details about the employer’. Seems obvious and yet about 75% of job descriptions I encounter you have to scroll past 100s of (generic) words about the organisation before you get to the details on the job. It always annoys me and is clearly backwards and yet it is the norm.

What information is most useful to you in describing the role?

Lots to unpick in this one (it was free text) but something that shines through is people want practical descriptions of what they will do. Day in the life stuff, prefereably written in consultation by someone doing the job. They want to understand the objectives of the job not a generic list of skills.

What the person will be doing when they start – what challenges are up first. Where they think a person could add value to the wider team.

Day to day actual requirements to do the job

the actual activities you are expected to do

what the day to day job will be like

Overview of responsibilities, a bit of detail on day to day tasks or current initiatives, a bit of context about org or team (a link to the strategy for example).

I mean what they most want is salary details but after that..

If a role has a long list of ‘essential requirements’ what percentage match would you need to feel comfortable applying?

65% in the more than 75% category which seems reasonable – especially given some of the shopping lists of requirements out there – 43 people (16.7%) would need to match 100% to apply though! This really needs resolving one way or another – there are great candidates not applying. 4 people were in the less than 50% category, which is….interesting!

If you fit all or almost all of the ‘essentials’ but not many of the ‘desirables’, would you still feel encouraged to apply?

61.5% (158) were yes and 32.7% (84) folks were a maybe…honestly what I take from this is this classic split of essentials and desireables is pretty useless – ask for what you need and interview for value add.

If a role interests you do you do additional research into the organisation or team (i.e. seek out blogposts, talks, videos etc)?

84% of peope said yes and yet hardly any job ads I see proactively point to this kind of supporting material – or even include it in their campaigns. I’ve been encouraging it for years and this just confirms why it is important in making potential employers stand out. Make the time!

When you are job seeking what feels like reasonable investment of time per week?

Dumb question – regret asking it!

What is the most off putting thing you find with job descriptions?

Another free text question and another massive shout out regarding lack of salary details.

Beyond that a tendency towards jargon and vagueness was called out

Use of company jargon or empty phrases.

Generic phrase bingo (‘Fast-paced environment’ etc.)

Vague descriptions

Not actually telling me what the job is (titles can be variable)

Buzzword soup written by people who clearly do not understand the discipline.

very long jargon filled list of things

Tons of waffle, generic copy and paste text about an organisation

Management jargon and vagueness

We really need to start bringing in content designers to work with the people who actually do the roles (and their immediate managers probably) to get away from this. So many ads are written by people without a deep understanding of the role and without the context of their work so the vagueness and jargon is designed to cover this.

Is there any company or organisation you think does a good job with job ads and descriptions?

Citizens Advice Customer Journey team got some love. As did Snook, Monzo and the FT. There was a bit of a mixed reaction to Gov jobs generally – they seem to be Marmite. I wonder if they are a bit opaque to ‘outsiders’? There were a bunch of recommendations for smaller agencies that I will be taking a look at and this quote was really great –>

Shopify – purely because of this text: “If your experience is *this* close to what we’re looking for, please consider applying. Experience comes in many forms – skills are transferable, and passion goes a long way. We know that diversity makes for the best problem-solving and creative thinking, which is why we’re dedicated to adding new perspectives to the team and encourage everyone to apply.”


This is just a quick initial reaction – there is a lot more to pick through – especially in the free text sections but the main theme is that the majority of job descriptions are failing to meet user needs and that there is a real opportunity to do these things better.

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