An Open Letter to People Who Place Employment Ads

Dear People Who Place Employment Ads:

Can we talk? It’s about your job ads. They’re starting to get a little out of hand.

I get it. You want to make sure you’re receiving individualized responses from job candidates, rather than the same old, cookie cutter responses. You also want to be sure candidates are thoroughly reading the job ad to make sure they’re the right fit. You take these steps to make sure no one’s time is wasted, least of all not your own.

But you know what?

You ARE wasting people’s time, and you’re probably missing out on some qualified applicants in the process.

Job seekers are busy too. As a freelance writer who is always looking to add new clients, I can tell you that looking for work is a full-time job for many people. So when we have to stop to jump through hoops – some of them quite silly – it DOES waste our time. In fact, it makes us not want to apply to your job.

Now, it may not matter to you if people who don’t want to follow all your specific instructions don’t want to work with you. However, if you’re wondering why you’re not receiving the expected response to your employment ads, consider that it might have something to do with your ever so witty requirements.

Mind you, I can understand asking for a specific email subject line. This enables you to separate job applicants from the rest of your email to read at your convenience. But here’s something you need to understand, our time is money as well. If we’re looking for work, we’re not earning. Some job applications take upwards of an hour to fill out. An hour! For someone who is actively seeking work, all these unpaid hours add up.

Don’t be this guy:

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen ads requesting the following:

Song lyrics, movie titles, and book recommendations

In the past, I’ve been asked to include my favorite book, complete a series of song lyrics, or to give movie recommendations. Of course,  the purpose of this is to make sure applicants are reading the ad and not just scanning and submitting. But what if I don’t have a favorite book? What if I’m not a movie buff? What if  I don’t listen to music?

If I say I don’t have a favorite book, is it a deal breaker? Will you hold it against me if I don’t like the same music as you?

I’m as well-rounded as the next person, but now you have me wondering if I should even bother applying for the job because we don’t share the same leisure-time activities.

Specific images

When I’m in job applicant mode, I don’t want to stop and search for a picture of Fudgie the Whale to include in my job application. I know you believe you’re being clever and amusing, but it’s frustrating to have to stop what I’m doing to go on a scavenger hunt.

Abbreviated resumes and cover letters

Yes, I do have a stock cover letter. I change things up a bit for each application, but I, like every other job seeker, have a standard. Unlike cover letters, resumes aren’t easy to edit to serve each individual job’s needs. So when you ask us to send to send a cover letter that’s no more than three sentences long or to send a three paragraph resume, you’re asking us to remove important details that can help us to land a job.

I’m sorry you don’t like my two-page resume or five paragraph cover letter, but you know what? That’s how much experience I have. It’s already summarized.  My choices now are to edit my resume and remove valuable experience or send a two-page resume that someone doesn’t want to read.

Related Reading:  12 Things Not To Say During a Job Interview

And as much time as we take to tailor our cover letters and resumes to someone else’s liking, they’re probably only going to scan them for keywords anyway.

Tests and Essays

If I asked my gas station attendant to test fill my tank with gas, he’d ask me to leave. If I asked my plumber to test unclog my toilet, he wouldn’t even show up. If I asked my supermarket to fill up my cart with test groceries, they’d laugh in my face.

So tell me why I have to take a test for a job that isn’t even a sure thing.

Those resumes and cover letters that are such a burden to read? They detail our experience. In the case of creative people like writers and designers, we also include samples of our work. We also offer testimonials and references. Isn’t this enough to determine if we’re the person for the job? If a hiring agent can’t read my books or any of my published articles and determine if I’m a good writer, the problem isn’t with me.

I’ve seen applications with writing tests that take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours. This is unpaid time.

For a job we may not even get.

Interview questions disguised as job applications

I recently filled out a job application where all the questions were actual interview questions. I can see the benefit to this, as it saves time in the process. However, it takes hours to fill out this type of application. What saves time for the hiring agent, makes more work for the job applicant. Again, this is all unpaid and takes away from that which could pay us. Also, if it takes too long, we’ll probably stop mid-process and move on to the next job or client.

Ideas for your business

Something I’m seeing more often (especially in job ads for writers) are requests for ideas. For example, a job ad will state “Send me five specific ideas for blog posts for our business.” “Or send us seven pitches for marketing campaigns that can benefit our business.”

Think of all the free ideas these businesses are now receiving! And why am I going to share my best ideas with someone who isn’t yet paying me? Moreover, how can I give you ideas for your business without sitting down and learning as much as I can about you first?

Keep requests reasonable and relevant

No one is saying you shouldn’t ask for specifics, and it’s not unreasonable to expect applicants to read all job requirements before sending an application. But for the love of all that is good and pure, there’s no reason to have us send you our first born.

If you want to request specific information in order to prove candidates are reading applications, ask for information that’s relevant. For example, ask about awards and accolades or for achievements and accomplishments. There are ways.

You may feel that only the people who really want the job will apply if there are so many requirements, but that could work the other way too. You may have made the process so frustrating, long, or difficult, that only people who are desperate for work  – whether qualified or not – will apply.

Thanks for listening,



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