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On the last Friday in October each year, for the past four years, I have reviewed all the job ads appearing in the Australian Financial Review (AFR). 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 as to the effectiveness of each ad as I read it. For further analysis, I identify each ad as being placed by a recruitment agency or by a direct employer.


The results of my 2010 review are as follows:



Note  : Percentages used are with respect to each of the two broad categories (ie. Recruitment Agency and Direct Employer), therefore each   row in both the above, and below, tables   add up to 100%


Here’s the comparison data from the three previous years:




Here’s my summary of the above tables:

  • The total quantity   of job ads was almost exactly the same as last year (37 v 38) as was the split of ads between agency (18 v 18) and direct-employer (19 v 20)
  • Direct employers reversed last year’s improvement at the bottom end of the quality rating scale as the percentage of ads I classified as ‘poor to awful’ went back up  to its 2008 levels (32%) after dropping to only 15% last year.  
  • The recruitment agency market share   in AFR advertising appears to have levelled off after two years of worrying declines (from 64% in 2007 to 54% in 2008 and 47% in both 2009 and 2010).

The major problem areas within the poor or average ads were almost a carbon copy of the past three years:

  • lack of metrics or data to provide meaningful context
  • no location stated in the ad
  • a specific amount of ‘years of experience’ requested
  • little or no attempt to describe the organisational culture
  • lack of salaries and benefits

Here are my various ‘awards’ for 2010: (my comments are in blue)


Most easily-misinterpreted opening line  

‘Our client has evolved over a number of years and is today recognised as one of the leaders in its field.’

Financial Controller (page 2)  

(Our client was a chimpanzee originally.)



Most words used in an opening paragraph to say nothing useful  

‘Your new career opportunity is with a leading multinational, ASX listed manufacturing business. With a management team focused on superior performance and growth through sound strategic decisions, this company has a commitment to recruiting talent, and providing an exciting and diverse environment for personal growth and development.’

Finance Manager (page 4)  

(As distinct from a management team focused on poor performance and no growth through unsound strategic decisions and a commitment to losing talent and providing a boring and narrow environment for personal contraction and retardation.)



Most embarrassing spelling mistake  

‘A high level of technical expertise is vital, combined with a flare for communicating persuasively with prospective investors and the broader investment market regarding all aspects of the mineral resource evaluation cycle.

Investor Relations Manager (page 17)  

(Do you have to bring your own flares or do they provide them?)



Most bland opening paragraph (a tie between two of the professional services ‘Big 4′)  

‘Experience the difference with KPMG, one of the world’s most respected and trusted professional services firm. We offer rewarding careers for outstanding professionals in our open and friendly culture.

Tax Managers & Senior Managers (page 9)  


‘You like to achieve and you also like a challenge. Continuing your career with us will provide you with the opportunity to work with some of the world’s leading organisations, helping them perform better in a rapidly changing environment.’

Achieving your potential? Risk Advisory (page 13)  

(No matter how hard those accountants try to convince us they are nothing like their stereotype, we are never going to buy it when they continue to write ad copy like this.)



The closest I got to awarding ‘outstanding’ to any of the ads was this direct employer effort on page 11 from International SOS  , who were advertising for a Senior Commercial Contracts Manager. The four things (combined) that took the ad backwards from an ‘outstanding’ rating were: 

  • the ad’s only bullet point was ‘exciting opportunity due to significant growth’
  • no location listed
  • no salary listed (or even some rough guide)
  • very small font size

What I liked about this ad was an excellent use of metrics   in the first two paragraphs to create organisational context   and excellent descriptors to create role context   (ad writers – please take note).


Recruitment advertising isn’t rocket science. It’s an easy skill to learn yet most people who write recruitment ads still appear to be content to pump out content that is, shall we say, workmanlike, rather than inspired.


If you are spending five to eight grand of your money or your client’s money on advertising, I would expect better, but there’s very little sign of that happening.


Things have improved since 2007, but not by much.

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Esther McLaren

Great post Ross. I always enjoy reading your annual job ad wrap!

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