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For those of you who have recently joined me, each year, on the last Friday in October, I review all the job ads appearing in the Australian Financial Review (AFR), This year, it was Friday 30 October. I do this with the purpose of categorising each ad into one of four quality ratings (see below). There is no science to this process, just my opinion of the effectiveness of each ad as I read it.  
The results for 2009 are as follows:  
Note: percentages used are with respect to each of the two broad categories (i.e. Recruitment Agency and Company), therefore each row adds up to 100%  
Here’s the comparison data from both 2008 and 2007:  
Here’s my bullet point summary of the above tables:  

  • The total quantity of job ads has continued to fall (99 in 2007, 46 in 2008 and 38 this year)
  • The most encouraging sign was that companies (as distinct from recruitment agencies) have really lifted their ad writing game over the past 3 years as the number of ads that I classified as ‘poor to awful’ has dropped from 53% in 2007 to only 15% this year
  • The recruitment agency market share in AFR advertising continues to decline and has now fallen into the minority for the first time (64% in 2007, 54% in 2008 and 47% this year).
  • Although there was certainly still some use of clichés again, the number of ‘fantastic’ or ‘exciting’ opportunities was much lower this year, but asking for a ‘proven track record’ was still popular (still waiting for an ad to request an ‘unproven track record’).
  • Mangling of the English language was also far less prevalent than in previous years, although it would be stretching it to say that the ad copy I read was sparkling and original.

The major crimes committed this year by the various ad writers were as follows:  

  • lack of metrics or data to provide meaningful context (yet again)
  • no location stated in the ad
  • a specific amount of ‘years of experience’ requested (surely we are beyond this sort of thing by now)
  • little or no attempt to describe the organisational culture
  • lack of salaries and benefits

Due to the total number of ads in the ‘poor to awful’ category dropping from 30% in 20076 to only 10% this year I had a much harder job plucking out some quotable lines from the 38 ads (which can I only be a good thing, of course) but here are a few:  

Most intriguing opening line  

‘Our client is recognised for being a catalyst for economic development’

Dubai Director, Legal Services (page 7)  

Best use of clichés in a short sentence  
‘We have an exciting, newly created opportunity for a highly commercial individual’  
Industry Development Manager (page 4)  
Best use of clichés in a long sentence

‘As our business embarks on this exciting period of change, fantastic opportunities exist for highly motivated and commercially focused professionals to become part of our success story’

A dynamic business with an exciting future (page 14)  

Embarrassing spelling mistake  

‘Professional qualifications are a given and your working style compliments an open and progressive business

Finance Manager – Asia Pacific (page 5)  

Most perplexing ad  

This ad devoted 109 words to describing the organisation and its culture and then allocated 0 words to describing the job’s accountabilities, responsibilities and challenges (although it did list a salary range). Weird.

Financial Analyst (page 8)  

Perhaps gaining the budget allocation to run a recruitment ad in the AFR, is much tougher these days and as a result the people responsible for the ad are much more vigilant about the quality of ad being run.


Whatever the reasons are, I am gratified to see the quality of recruitment advertising is improving in Australia’s premium job ad real estate.


There was one very different ad format, used twice (on consecutive pages) that I pondered about as to its effectiveness. It is very different and I don’t think they quite pulled it off but full marks to Hill Industries   (Adelaide Head Office) for their attempt to be different in advertising the roles General Manager Strategic Direction   and Company Secretary  .

Have a look here and leave a comment as to what you thought.

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