How to Scare Away Job Applicants

by Business Centric Technology (BCT) on September 23, 2022 in Ask a Recruiter, Business Trends, Dallas IT Recruiting, Uncategorized


According to a recent Wall Street Journal article by Ray Smith, more applicants are turning away from jobs with tell-tale descriptions. So, although there is no good way to say abandon all hope ye who enter here, certain phrases are guilty of false advertising. Here are a few highlights that hopefully advise your strategy for writing job descriptions.

‘Fast-Paced’ Environment

It sounds like you’ll be killing it, right? Think again. “Usually fast-paced sounds like that would be fun like you’re going to make lots of progress on projects,” Ms. Phillips, 34, said. “But, I think in practice, it just means that there’s no work-life balance.” As workers grow more vocal about finding fulfilling jobs that they can mostly perform from 9 to 5—a practice called” quiet quitting” or “anti-hustle”—many job seekers are scrutinizing job postings for commonly used phrases they view as red flags for potential overwork….Among friends and in Twitter chatter and Reddit forums online, workers trade opinions, thoughts and warning signs about job postings. Some say that “we’re like a family” can read as code for being subject to verbal abuse, and descriptions touting perks like free meals and on-site entertainment can signal bosses will expect employees to be in the office long after the sun goes down.”

‘Must Handle Stress Well’

Even in the face of the current hiring market, employers are still dragging out the classics from a hustle-culture as dead as Disco. Smith continues, “Younger workers have different expectations of work and life balance than their older peers, says Amit Kramer, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who studies the relationship between work, family and health. Many young professionals are at a stage of life where they are willing to give up higher pay for more control over their time, he adds…The top phrases that turn off job seekers include “must handle stress well,” “willing to wear many hats,” “responsibilities may include those outside the job description,” “we’re one big happy family,” ‘” applicants should be humble” and “looking for self-starters.” That’s according to a recent survey by payroll processor Paychex Inc., which asked 800 U.S. adults who had looked for a new job in the past year which phrases were likely to dissuade them from applying…In reviews of employers by workers posting on Glassdoor, the terms “self-starter” and “hustle” came up in more negative comments than positive ones, according to a Glassdoor analysis.”

Nothing But The Hits

When a company says they’re like family, ask if they mean Addams, Manson, or Corleone. According to Smith, “Language in job postings likening the company environment to family also raises suspicions among some… “Families can be very dysfunctional,” said Ujjaini Moulik, a communications specialist in her 40s in Princeton, N.J., referring to listings she’s seen while job hunting. “What it means is maybe no boundaries and no free time or life outside of ‘the family.”

‘Work-Hard, Play-Hard’ = Hard Pass

Smith concludes, “Another potential red flag, according to some: “Work hard, play hard.” “The implication there is that if you do one, you get to do the other, and that’s not always the case,” said Bob Umberhandt, a 44-year-old pediatric orthopedic surgeon in Portland, Ore., who trains medical residents and helps them find permanent roles. The catchphrase implies there’s a boss who isn’t going to take their well-being too seriously, he adds… “I tell them ‘work hard, play hard’ and things along those lines are things you should probably look out for. The amount of playing hard that physicians-in-training do at the end of 80 hours a week is very limited,” he says.”

An adage says, ‘it’s not what you say but how you say it.’ Both are true. Perhaps the heart of the matter is not the phrases in the job description but what culture people are being asked to thrive in. No fish can swim in a toxic lake. Why would we expect professionals to thrive in a toxic, hostile, stressful, or unrewarding work environment? Will the day come when a recruiter can advertise low-stress positions for low pay? Probably not. But there is likely more to red flag phrases than syntax.

Trent Lyons is a Technical Recruitment Lead at Business Centric Technology. If you are interested in learning more about how to get the best IT talent in the Dallas metroplex, contact Trent, who specializes in recruiting IT talent in Dallas, Ft. Worth, and North Texas. If you are looking for a rewarding career, contact us today.