Superlatives.....absolutely my very worst pet hate ever.

Exceptional, 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 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:

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

2. “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 to be, 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).

Forgetting the fake job advert, the reason for the over use of superlatives is either because a proper job spec has not been taken or simply laziness.

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 right a job advert or candidate profile try not include 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 recovering from my one time addiction

Views: 329

Comment by Valentino Martinez on July 4, 2011 at 10:28am

Agreed.  False advertising is to be avoided.


If "superlatives" are lacking in the candidates you market and the jobs opening you represent--then certainly don't allude to them.  However, if they do happen to exist and you manage to find them--then beat that drum and trumpet the call for all to hear a sound so in-sync and fitting... that it demands attention.


If you don't aspire to finding superlatives in people, places and things it could become habit forming.

Comment by Luke Collard on July 4, 2011 at 7:13pm
Thanks Valentino - I agree that not aspiring to find superlatives is a dangerous habit, especially for a recruiter. Unfortunately the world is so full of superlatives that they have somewhat lost their value. So I was advocating a more down-to-earth approach to representing the good points about a job / person. The facts, commuinicated properly should do the trick., and if you cannot find the facts then don't bother. Thanks again for your comment. 


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