What do you want to see in a job ad?

Given the current situation that many people are in, it’s unfortunate but fair to say that some people are going to be spending time exploring job advertisements. Beth started a great discussion earlier this year about What to put in a job description which is useful to read if you’re planning on writing up a spec.

I’m interested though in what are the 3 key things a job hunter looks for in a job spec? What makes you read a job spec and think “Oooh I have to apply to them”? Likewise, what makes you read a job spec and think “absolutely not a company I want to work for”?

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To be honest, the last several jobs I’ve had I haven’t seen a job spec (someone has given me a verbal description or I’ve approached people directly for jobs which weren’t there yet).

However, particularly in my contracting days I liked to keep an eye on job descriptions, and my interest was always peaked when I saw:-

  1. JD’s which talked about the culture, and what this person could add to it
  2. A friendly writing style - aggressive prose is super off putting
  3. Details of the specific team/role/project - Copy and paste jobs or corporate carbon copies where they have to be strict about exactly what to say gives a poor (but often realistic) impression about point no. 1.

It’s also great when companies have a lot to say - e.g. the CEO responding individually to each and every Glassdoor review. (Appropriate) Comedic tweets always a good sign too.

I hope the days of dry bulletpoint must-have lists are a thing of the past.


Thanks for the reply Beth!

I like bullet points so I can easily skim (paragraphs make that difficult for me) but agree that a list of dry bullet points is off putting. Nobody says you can’t summarise what you do in new ways :wink:

Reposting what I tweeted, but with more words…

  1. More money.
    Yes, this is first. Where I live, a lot of companies undervalue testers. So if I look at a job posting which indicates (or their glassdoor indicates) that I could be making half my current salary, then it isn’t worth the trouble of starting the process.
    Learned by:
    After a few lengthy and stressful interviewing processes, was given an offer of less than I would have made by applying for unemployment benifits.
  2. A product or service which has potential to make a positive impact.
    I want to make a difference, and one of my chosen tactics is to work in companies where the company wants to make a difference. This means that there are companies where I wouldn’t apply to based on the company description. It doesn’t mean the job is bad, but if I did it then I wouldn’t feel like I’m doing enough for other people.
    Learned by:
    Worked for a company which did quality work, but didn’t really help anyone (or solve a problem which needed solving) and felt ultimately empty.
  3. An indication of open-mindedness in regards to processes.
    I want to feel like I’m in control of my work, even if it isn’t strictly true. This means that job descriptions which have a detailed description of their processes (i.e. you will follow the test scripts is a common one) are a no go for me. Instead, I look for phrases like “You determine the process for …” which I found on a job posting today.

And not from twitter, the deal-breakers.
I will not apply if I see any of the following:

  1. A certification in the “must” section. Worse is “all of our testers are X certified” (see “open minded processes”)
  2. In the company culture portion, if there is one, any references to video games or sports. Worse is “play hard”.
  3. An unrealistic set of qualifications, even in other job postings from the same company. For example, I have seen postings with more than 30 “required” skills for junior testing roles. If I see that in a posting from the same company where I’m applying, if it’s my role or not, then I assume they either don’t know what they want or they haven’t considered what they really need. And I’m not about to explain it to them.

In no particular order

  1. Open to people how didn’t have time yet to get X years of experience, certain degree or know about everything needed for the job. Especially good if they are willing to pay/invest in you to get there. It can be really hard to get your first job otherwise.
  2. Making it easy for me with all the important info present (including name of contact person) and some facts in bullet points for easy reading. I don’t want to have to go looking for the basics. There is enough research I need to do after I’m interested.
  3. Variety in tasks and possibility to bring my ideas to the table

Although age discrimination is not legal in the UK, many companies either don’t know or don’t understand what this means. (And some do but carry on with it anyway.) This one’s hard to spot until you actually get in through the front door for interview, but there can be clues in some words which you don’t want to see in job adverts. “Dynamic”, “energetic” or “vibrant” are just three that set my alarm bells ringing.

The Civil Service used to teach senior managers a course on “Interpreting company accounts”, and on the third day would tell attendees that, after all the hard graft they’d put in on the course so far, the best indicators of whether a company was sound or dodgy were some clearer indicators, such as:

  • The company has a flagpole outside the office
  • The company has won the Queen’s Award for Industry or Exports
  • There is a water feature in reception
  • The annual report has a photograph in it of the Chairman getting out of a helicopter.

All these tend to be signs of a company not concentrating on the right things. It’s surprising how often these turned out to be reliable signals!


Let the team decide what to put in the job description/desc and be very specific about what the team needs. I have had to ask too many questions to HR or hiring manager which could really just be bullet points in the job description. You could save my and HR’s time by giving this info upfront.

Here are some of the things I expect in a job description.

1 - What kinds of testing will the job involve.
Ex. Web UI testing, REST API testing etc. UI testing is 100% manual for now & API testing is automated.

2 - Overview of the app/things I’d have to test on the job.
Ex. We have several new cool apps. But, you’ll be testing a legacy app. At a high level, this app basically lets you do such and such things.

3 - Mandatory skills vs. Nice to have skills.
Ex. Java & Selenium are mandatory, but nice to know SQL. Alt - Java preferred, but JS & Python ok. We can give you a month to learn Java on the job if you are good at JS. Ex. Must be aware of common data structures & big o, and testing techniques like equivalence partitioning, pairwise testing etc. Provided your job will actually/likely need all this.

4 - Salary range & other benefits (paid vacation, retirement, commuter pass, gym etc.).
Mention salary in the job or in the job application form. Alternately, ask candidates their expected salary after they are shortlisted, in case you want to hide how (low) much you pay your employees.

5 - Short overview of interview process.
Ex. Three stages - Hiring manager round is semi-tech (1 hour, phone), next round is multi people, deep interview (4 hours, video, coding exercise on tool-xyz dot com) and last round is with management (2 hours).

6 - Number of years of experience.
IMO, you need to have a minimum. But, keep it low enough so that you don’t filter out too many candidates. Note - there might be candidates with 6 years exp who actually have 2 years, repeated 3 times, i.e no growth after 2nd year on job. But, there might also be candidates with just 2 years of diverse & challenging exp.

7 - Remote working options.
Mention if you offer it or not. If yes, then how many days per week.

8 - Working with teams in different time zones.
How much and how often ? After a hard 8 hour work day, many people don’t want to spend 1 plus hours (paid or unpaid) to talk to offshore teams on a frequent basis. Such things show me how much you value work life VS just mentioning “work life balance” on your job ad.

Misc -

  • Mention if you have beer pong or bar in office.
    Please do it so that I can ignore you. I don’t mix drinking & politics with work. But, kudos to you if you can pull it off.

  • Please QA your job posting and application process itself.
    I have seen many job postings that are formatted poorly on popular job sites (ex. no paragraphs at all), or job links and company careers page that don’t work. Make your job application as simple as possible. Job applications can be frustrating when you have to enter the same info on several for several companies.

What to not put :
Obviously, no illegal stuff like asking marital status.

1 - No vague terms like “fast paced” work environment.
How fast are you really ? Do you release to prod every day, 2 weeks, 1 month ? No useless terms like “fun place” : You won’t call your self a bad place, would you ?

2 - Why do you want to work here ?
This question might be okay for some roles & in some companies. But, IMO it is generally useless. People often want a new job to earn a living, better pay, less commute etc. The reason for new job need not be fancy or high sounding.

3 - Why are you looking for a new job ?
How about not dying of hunger, new project, less commute etc.

I simply ignore the jobs which ask questions like 2, 3.


Found this blog post today which covers what the poster doesn’t want to see in a job ad :slight_smile: