The Right Way to Attract the Wrong People

by Jobbatical September 20, 2016

7 Secrets to Crafting a Killer Job Ad

Qualifications are no guarantee of landing a good job, as this piece on STEM degree holders makes clear. So why knock yourself out crafting a detailed job ad, when even an ideal degree isn’t a measure of suitability for employment? Compost this old tried-and-false method.

Instead, follow these seven steps to write the kind of job description that will have purple squirrels scurrying to your door:

Be purposefully vague

The nature of startups is change, and anyone applying to work for one ought to be aware that vagaries are normal, as founders figure out what, exactly, they plan to produce and market. All you need to do is upload an appealing listing to a well-known startup job site and wait for the resumes to roll in. Hires who complain they got scammed should have applied with an entrenched company — one that was relevant when flip phones were state of the art.

Skip the company background

As noted, startup culture is constantly shifting, so rather than struggling to describe your nascent company, just emphasize that you’re a well-funded pre-unicorn. Talk about the founders’ background and experience, and your vision of what you want to build. Anyone fortunate enough to be admitted to your inner circle should be grateful for the rarefied opportunity. Besides, you don’t want to risk sharing proprietary information without an NDA!

Request the best

Your ideal candidate is out there, and an ad that’s long on clever wordplay and presumes the moon might be the perfect lure. This job description for an event manager, specifying a jack-of-all-trades, is one of the most creative we’ve seen. The job artfully depicts long hours, no equity and low salary, with abundant learning opportunities for which the candidate will surely be grateful. Who could ask for more?

Be brutally honest

We’re explained the importance of not lying in your job description. Candidates want to know what challenges they’ll face on the job. Here is how one company advertised for a Senior Digital Producer: “You’ll be working with the best in the business, managing a bunch of lazy egotistic creatives and developers, alongside clients who are constantly annoyed. You’ll be working with ridiculously small budgets, for large projects.” Such straight-up truth telling lets the candidate know this is a founder/manager he can trust.

Expect a unicorn

Even if STEM degrees are no guarantee of jobs, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek someone with the appropriate technical background. The right developer for your team needs to know Python, PHP, Ruby on Rails, Java, C++ and Cobol, for starters. Though headhunters may bemoan never finding the “perfect fit”, they’re just venting. Human capital management begins with the right resources. Recruiters, keep your eye out for that horn.

Omit compensation

It’s well known that a candidate who focuses on money out of the gate is a red flag. Research shows “soft skills” such as a friendly personality and good communication are in high demand — more so than team building or business planning. So leave the money conversation for late in the game, or never. If the candidate really wants to work with your team, this won’t be a factor.

Don’t settle

As one popular LinkedIn poster who landed her dream job by not settling for mediocre points out, happy employees hold to high standards and hold out for the perfect position — and you should do the same. She quotes legendary musician Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys: “Beware the lollipop of mediocrity: lick it once and you’ll suck forever.” Your purple squirrel is hidden amid the forest of flameouts.

Ta-da! Now you’ve got the magic formula for finding that one-in-a million hire, every time.

Originally published at on September 20, 2016.

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