Words matter: Job ad red flags for job seekers

Survey reveals top phrases that turn off Canadian candidates

Words matter: Job ad red flags for job seekers

Finding the perfect candidate is an ongoing struggle for employers.

But according to a new study, how a job posting is constructed is critical in attracting potential employees to those positions and filling roles within a company.

Randstad Canada recently surveyed 1,500 job seekers to understand better what sparks their interest in an employment ad. They discovered that there were common words or terms that were red flags for applicants.

One in three job seekers (32%) were turned off by the phrase “Duties may vary”; 26% of respondents lost interest when a posting said, “Must be willing to take on leadership responsibilities”; 25% saw the words “We are family” to be off-putting, with the same amount seeing “industry-specific experience is a must” as a red flag.

Most job seekers surveyed (eight of 10) were discouraged from applying because of that kind of terminology.

Nick Montesano, executive vice president of Randstad Canada for the central region, explains why many HR workers often use the same words or phrases in various job postings.

“I really think that they’re busy folks, and sometimes they don’t necessarily go back and revisit how the job’s evolved and recraft the job description to then subsequently change the job posting — it’s just easier to use that terminology that’s more broad-based.”

A more transparent job posting would help, he says.

“We need to be comfortable modernizing what our job postings look like; we’re in a society where words matter and word choice matters.”

Montesano goes on to explain why applicants would prefer the duties of a job to be more specific.

“People want to know not only the tasks that they’re going to be asked to do; I think they want to know ‘What’s the positive impact of those tasks?’”

While 22,000 new jobs were created last month, the rate of unemployment remained the same, according to the latest report from Stats Canada.

What’s wanted in a job ad

Over half of those surveyed (51%) said they are less likely to apply for a vacancy which does not mention a salary range, finds Randstad.

For Montesano, people currently employed with plenty of experience want full disclosure about what a job pays before deciding if they’re interested in applying.

“Somebody that’s in a position of strength when searching for a job, that already has a job, they’re going to want to see transparency.”

It’s no secret, according to Montesano, that having a good salary has been high on people’s priority list, particularly over the past 24 months with so many out of work for a long due to COVID.

Close to half of those who took part in the survey (47%) are interested in knowing the workplace location, while 42% wanted to know about the company/culture.

Despite the ubiquity of remote and hybrid work routines these days, job candidates prefer making a great first impression with an employer via a visit to the workplace, according to a new survey.

Flexibility important for newer Canadians

For immigrants who have recently come to Canada (less than 14 years ago), flexibility and the ability to work from home were big factors, finds the Randstad survey.

“It saves you money on commuting, so there’s cost savings and not having to commute to work, not having to buy lunches, there’s some financial advantages to that,” says Montesano, citing also the anxiety that’s created with having to get up at a certain time.

Having good flexibility in a job was a critical element for immigrants in applying for employment, with 59% of those who came to Canada within the last 14 years saying if a posting states that the working schedule is flexible, they are more likely to put in an application.

Meanwhile, 42% of immigrants who came to Canada over 15 years ago saw flexibility as a potential make or break when applying.

In closing, Montesano said that many jobs have duties which have changed and might need a few tweaks as a way to appeal more to job seekers.

“I do think it’s advantageous to put a little more thought into the messaging that we’re sending out there.”

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