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This article was originally published in InSight Issue 7 on 7 November 2007   

Flying back from Sydney last Friday, I was reading the Australian Financial Review (AFR). Friday’s AFR is the number 1 ‘old media’ outlet for executive recruitment advertising in Australia. The news stories were fairly mundane so I spent the flight reading the recruitment ads.


I would have got more inspiration reading the in-flight safety procedures. What a boring, mediocre bunch of ads they were, and that’s just the ads written by the recruitment agencies – the direct client ads were even worse!   

Back in my office I decided I would do a more thorough analysis of the ads to see whether it was just my tired end-of-the-week view or whether the ads were really that bad. I read through every one of the 99 ads and compiled a very basic rating system.   

Now, this is no academic study (and I didn’t have much time) so I didn’t create a tightly defined set of criteria to carefully measure each ad.


The criteria I was assessing each ad against was simple. It was based on the principle that with advertising in the press, versus a job board, you only have one shot at attracting the attention of top talent, there’s no second chance or opportunity to ‘refresh the ad’ in the newspaper!


Top talent aren’t attracted by average ads; top talent are attracted by engaging ads that talk the language of benefits   (what the candidate wants to buy ie challenge and opportunity) rather than the language of features   (what the company wants to sell ie duties and responsibilities).   

I also considered the use of branding, available space, spelling, grammar, prose, ad title/heading and finally, the compelling nature of the overall ad – is it likely that a top candidate will be inspired to pick up the phone or send an email after reading the ad?   

Given that these 99 ads represent something between $1/2 million and $3/4 million of recruitment advertising expenditure you would hope that each organisation spending that amount of money would ensure their ad provided the biggest bang for their buck.


Sadly, you’d be wrong.   

This is the outcome of my assessment of those 99 ads:   

Ad Source  
Very Good  
to Good  
Poor to Awful  
Recruitment Agency  
12 (19%)
40 (63%)
11 (18%)
1 (3%)
16 (44%)
19 (53%) 


I assessed almost 1/3rd of the ads as poor to awful. To protect the guilty I’ve resisted the temptation to identify the company or recruitment agency who wrote the ad so instead, I’ve listed the ad title and the page number the ad appeared on (to prove these are extracts from real ads that actually appeared in print).   

Next week, in Part 2 of “Why are recruitment ads so average?”   I will discuss the AFR ads that were the best of the bunch and deconstruct the essential components of an effective recruitment advertisement.


Here are my award “winners”:     

Most clichés in one sentence    
“An enthusiastic personality, strong interpersonal and communication skills, business acumen and a proactive approach are essential, as is an enjoyment of responsibility and willingness to be a team player”  
Senior IT Counsel (page 14)       

Most pompous opening sentence    
“We have been retained by a very successful private group to recruit a superior calibre individual who will assume responsibility for the management accounting and financial reporting, review and monitoring of the group’s marine, music and property interest”  
Divisional Financial Controller (page 22)      

Most uninspiring opening sentence    
“Join this highly regarded, established niche funds manager and drive increased market share within major dealer groups”  
Group Dealer Development Manager (page 25)       

Most number of ‘ands’ in a sentence (and runner up in Longest Sentence)    
“We are seeking a professional keen to use their skills in interpreting the legal and technical genre, who enjoys working with concepts & requirements that may be complex and interconnected and is able to create effective compliance advice”  
Risk & Compliance Manager (page 29)      

Longest sentence (41 words)    
“Project and people management are a second nature, complimenting (sic) your business acumen utilised in a previous frontline management role in an operations/risk management environment where you undertook systems reviews and tactically implemented a vision for risk mitigation and OH&S improvement”  
Manager Group Property Risk & Compliance (page 75)       

Most competencies sought in one sentence (14)    
“To succeed in this role you must not only possess excellent interpersonal, communication, technical and negotiation skills but also enjoy responsibility and autonomy, be a team player, ambitious, determined and reliable, decisive, commercial, practical and be solution focused”  
Legal Counsel (page 15)       

Mangled language   (Hard to split these 3 crackers)  
“As a result we are constantly looking for people with potential to add to our strength. Should you join us, we will meet your commitment to high performance with recognition and opportunity throughout your career journey”  
Group Health & Environment Manager (page 27)       

“Solutions based thinking and your ability to apply your legal expertise to partner with the business, will assist you to grasp commercial aspects and tackle a variety of roles”  
In house Counsel (page 59)       

“Qantas encourages effective change management through teamwork and leadership influencing”  
Manager Group Property Risk & Compliance (page 75)  


Stay tuned for Part 2 in next week’s InSight for a deconstruction of the essential components of an effective recruitment advertisement.

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Dan Nuroo

It does amaze me how many people forget that an job ad, is still an ad. A sales document if you will targetted at getting people interested in what you are selling. Maybe the difference to when HR people or Hiring Managers write ads versus a Recruiter? No focus the simpliest of concepts.. “What’s in it for me?”

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