Poorly written job descriptions can hide a good job, but you're usually better off not trying to find out.

9 Job Listings Guaranteed To Leave You Rejected

Photo Credit: JD Hancock

If you apply to a job you don't qualify for and never get a response, that's on you.

But when companies complain that hiring takes too long, needs too much effort and is just too expensive, they aren't helping themselves or you by posting bad job ads that attract more candidates than they can handle.

Here are some of the things they're doing wrong.

Have you ever replied to an anonymous job listing? (no company name given)

Free bonus: Download a PDF version of this article to use as a handy reference.

9 signs of bad job listings

1) Vague

A good job description should clearly list requirements and how to apply, but things can get forgotten or just misunderstood by the people posting the ads.

For example, this can happen when non-technical people try to write a technical job listing.

2) Missing requirements

A typical bad job description example would be a high responsibility role (such as a manager or executive role) that only received a short job description.

3) Unreasonable requirements

I remember seeing a newspaper job ad in 1998 that called for 5 years of Java programming experience when Java itself had only existed for 3 years.

4) Too many requirements

Many companies associate a senior position with a wide breadth of experience but sometimes they go too far. A classic example- some job openings for programmers list so many tech skill requirements, you wonder if such a genius even exists.

5) Only requirements and nothing else

A job ad shouldn't read like the ingredients on a cereal box, it should clearly compel you to respond in a specific way.

A job ad shouldn't read like the ingredients on a cereal boxClick To Tweet

6) Candidates are asked to specify their salary requirements

A sure sign of a company with a very limited budget, such as a company close to bankruptcy.

Back in 2002, I interviewed for a project manager position at a Jerusalem tech company. I did specify my salary requirements, and they invited me to an interview only to later offer me less than half what I had specified, hoping that by then I would have fallen in love with the position to the point where I would be super-flexible. I refused, and they closed less than 6 months later.

7) No clear link between the hiring contact and the job opening

When a small company is growing, the hiring contact might not be from a human resources department or even the department trying to fill a position. The danger here is that the ad was written by someone who doesn't understand the company's needs.

8) No hiring contact or company mentioned

Who posts a job ad without mentioning who the ad is for?

Headhunters, hired by companies to fill positions in secret. This is actually how Amazon.com recruited me in Paris back in 1999 before they publicly launched in France. However, their job ad did have a hiring contact: a recruiter at the recruitment agency they used, so nothing too suspicious there.

But if the ad doesn't at least mention a recruiter, keep away.

9) Request for personal information

While job ads in the UAE can go as far as specifying a preferred nationality, ads elsewhere may be more subtle but just as problematic in implying that only certain groups of people are wanted. Don't set yourself up to be discriminated against.


10) Bait and switch

Some companies use their job listings as an appeal for business or affiliate partners instead of actually looking to hire you. Even worse are the people using job postings as part of an identity theft scam… (perhaps by requesting personal information)


bad data analyst job ad tweet


What to do when you recognize these signs

You can either:

Seek clarification

A poorly-written ad may expose unqualified hiring personnel but hide a good future boss. If the ad is otherwise appealing, contact the company or recruiter for extra details before applying. It's not important who wrote the ad, but it is important to understand the company's real needs and most importantly, whether you can fill them or not.

Ignore the ad

Unless you work in an industry sector that rarely has openings, it's never a good idea to apply to every job opening you can find, and that's before taking into account potential legal issues that can come up. The time and effort just aren't worth the headaches and frustration. Job search is hard enough as it is.

Question of the article

Of the worst job ads you've ever seen, which one was the most memorable and why? Tell us in the comments.

More on bad job descriptions

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Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Robin

    I find it a big problem with Accountants & Bookkeepers in Israel.. People don’t understand which is “Roeh Cheshbon” versus “Hanhalat Cheshbonot”.

    Two very different sets of skills, but so many of the jobs say Level 3 Accountant when they mean Level 3 Bookkeeper.

  2. Jacob Share

    That’s a good point Robin. A lot of people also don’t understand the difference between Marketing Manager and Marcom Manager.

  3. Jacob Share

    Thanks for the link, GL. Your ebook sounds like a good read, essential even for companies, recruiters or anyone likely to write wanted ads.

  4. Craig Sennett

    Hi there

    Muck of what you say is right with a few exceptions.

    “No clear link between the hiring contact and the job opening”

    In a small business they may not have an HR Department but in big business often HR departments can also not understand what they are recruiting for as they are often not technical. Its a bit much to assume what you have put and to make such a sweeping statement.

    Also “Candidates are asked to specify their salary requirements” In England this is common place and would never indicate that a company is going under.”

    How do you arrive at the thought they may be going bust by asking a candidate to state what they want at the early stage of the hiring process. Its actually good practice as if the applicant is unrealistic in what they want you can call an end to it there and not waste everyone’s time. It is not an indication of the company going under and to suggest so is lunacy. Its actually the sensible thing to do.

    These 2 are not really signs of a poorly written job listing. The rest yes but these 2 I would say no given the examples of each you list.

  5. Jacob Share

    Craig- thanks for your comment. Just to be clear – in most countries, it is common place to ask candidates to specify their salary requirements *during the interview process*, but not accompanying their response to the job ad.

    Regarding the other point, you are absolutely right regarding HR in big business, but imagine if you saw a job listing for a computer programmer and the contact was from the *accounting* department.

  6. Jacob Share

    Just updated and rewrote this post significantly for the first time in years…

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