Superlatives – my absolutely very worst pet hate ever

superlativesExceptional, outstanding, superb, unique.….and other similar superlatives are words that I come across every day when reading job adverts.

Reading these types of adverts is a bit like receiving that email from Nigeria advising you that you someone wants to send you a million dollars in return for your bank details. When I see an advert that describes the job with a long list of superlatives it makes me think that the opportunity is not nearly as good as the recruiter is making out. If something sounds too good to be true it has a tendency to make you instantly suspicious.

When you consider that candidates, especially passive ones, commonly make ‘instant’ decisions on whether an advert is worth following up, it is crucial to sound credible. There is nothing wrong with a positive spin , after all making a job sound as attractive as possible is the very point of the exercise. But it is better to do that by presenting the facts and not just with a bunch of superlatives that don’t actually tell you anything about the job.

Compare these extracts from 2 job adverts:

“Unique opportunity with a superb commission structure, fantastic company and exceptional career development”

“Team leader role with a global market leader, $150k+OTE and structured career path leading to management opportunities in 3 years”

The educated job hunter in the professional market (which is more or less every job hunter these days) will rarely be won over with adverts like the first. The passive candidate, will only be interested in the facts and how they compare to their present role. In my own experience of job hunting, if the facts and figures are not being advertised then I am not going to bother applying. The job will almost certainly not be as attractive as it is made out or it in fact does not exist in the first place (and yes, the non recruitment world does realise that advertising fake jobs to fish for candidates happens).

The same principles apply when a recruiter is putting together a profile for a candidate to present to a client. If your candidate is worthy of sending to a client then highlight the reasons why and focus on the facts: “An excellent communicator with a mature attitude and friendly nature, this candidate is a rare find in this market”. This description could just as easily apply to my dear grandmother (God bless her) as it could to anyone.

As a challenge, the next time that you write a job advert or candidate profile try not including any superlatives, or even strongly phrased positive descriptions. In fact, try and just keep to the facts. I guarantee that your applicants will be of a far better quality and clients more receptive.

PS – Before anyone puts my name into Google and emails me back all the horrid examples of when I have used superlatives, I admit guilt but am in rehab to overcome my terrible addiction.

Luke Collard


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