Bullets: Are they really necessary in job postings?

I know at least half of you clicked on this title out of curiosity and the other half clicked fully prepared to leave me a nasty comment. I get it. Bullets are the way we’ve always done things. That’s how we can best communicate the bottom line and what we have to have.

I understand. I have always been a bullet believer. Bullet addict, even. Honestly, for a long time, I didn’t really consider that a job posting could even skip the bulleted lists. Then I started my free job post rewrite. 

With a lot of requests already in the queue, I’m teaching my team to write them, too. Their first attempts were consistently… stale. Same old, same old.

So, I asked each of them to think of someone as they write. To translate words like “helpful” into actions you recognize in real life (for example, holding doors or helping a friend move). To tap into a narrative, not just a list.

One of them said something that has been ringing in my ears ever since:

“It’s hard to undo the bad job postings I’m used to.”

Which made me think.

Why can’t we break the job posting rules? Are they even rules? Says who?

Are we all just blindly following bad behaviors and busted job posting templates?

Tell me. When was the last time some list rattled off by a hiring manager 100% accurately reflected only what we really need to do the job?

More importantly, when was the last time a bulleted list made anyone feel anything besides overwhelmed? It surely doesn’t make people feel qualified. In fact, those lists are more likely to make people jump ship than apply. Sometimes unnecessarily.

It’s probably happening a lot more than you think.

Consider this. You have one chance to make an impression. One chance to click with a candidate who would be great for your company. You spend a lot of money on making a conversion happen at this very moment.

Then, it fails because you’re never going to make an impression with rambling task-oriented bullets. I promise you that.

So of course, then my mind starts wandering: how long is the ideal post? Instead of looking at job data initially, I looked at data from something we consume a lot more often: social media posts. Based on this data, we’re looking at 200 words max to get people to act.

That leaves zero room for lame bullets.

Then, we A/B tested with a few jobs and the results blew my mind. For roles that followed the conditions below, we saw up to a 67% increase in qualified applications.  Hires are being made right now for jobs we wrote two weeks ago.

Without bullets. 

No joke. You can see this example and read that job post for an Associate Consultant here.

Bullets are useful in job postings (sometimes)

I’m not saying never use bullets. Put down the pitchforks.

I’m saying that they’re not mandatory for every job posting. We need to think of our candidate and write for them instead of following some clearly broken formula we learned while reading job postings on Monster.com in the 90’s.

Bullets are best when…

  1. There’s a mandatory unique skill or training they 100% must have
  2. There are big KPIs on the line. Spell it out. “After year one, we will measure your success based on the following…”
  3. Nuances that make people quit during week three. If people are like “aw, hell no” regularly about any part of the job (I know it happens #trenchhr), you have to tell them upfront in no unclear terms why it sucks and why you have to do it anyway.

Otherwise, skip it and make that job posting short and sweet. Focus on keeping the right person’s attention long enough to give them an elevator pitch. That’s the length of most people’s attention spans, anyway.

So, can we ban bullets now?*

Even better, let me prove it. If you made it this far in the post, you care about trying new things. I’ll rewrite your job ad (for free) and show you my style.

*I want to ban those and auto-correct on my iPad that corrected “bullets” to “buckets” every single time as I wrote this post. The machines are out to drive us crazy, clearly.


Job Postings Online Strategy and Job Boards Recruitment Marketing Advice

Katrina Kibben View All →

Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.

Katrina has written for Monster.com, HR.com, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.

1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. A lot of Assumptions written in this post (like that people are somehow attached to Bullets and would bring out the pitchforks they are so committed!)

    What is misses is that the failure in Job Descriptions is less about the writing (I know, that’s what you’re selling or at least giving away at first) and much, much more about the operational process of identifying a hiring need, articulating its Business Case to gain Headcount approval, and fitting into whatever processes required by your organization (e.g. HR driven or just supported?). Add to that you have ‘Hiring Managers’ who are busy with their BAU, totally untrained and unsure where to start and you realize the poor JD is nothing but just one symptom of a broken process.

    Does your service address that?
    Do Companies even recognize they need that and would they pay?
    How much time, effort and money would it take for someone to come in and train an organization and it’s people to be able to effectively recruit? My guess is a lot of time, effort and money. More perhaps than most companies would invest it.

    Good luck with this age old challenge of an admittedly ‘aging’ industry!

    Who knows. Maybe there is an audience who wants to be taught how to write JD’s more effectively. From my experience those who have the true knowledge of the resource needed; hiring managers don’t, and HR don’t have that knowledge unless they seek out and are capable of extracting that from Hiring Managers. Most HR staff in recruitment roles are very process, admin type people.

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