A friend e-mailed me to ask about a position at an institution in which he had some interest. He asked me to click on the link and see what I thought about his suitability for the posting. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the ad; it seemed to contradict itself in places and had other elements that just did not seem to make sense. I sent those observations to my friend, and he replied, “Whew! I thought I was the only one.”
At most colleges, ads are crafted in a dance that involves the department, the dean’s office, and the human-resources office. A weakness in any of the three can create problems with the clarity of an ad, so each office should work carefully to make sure that the ad reflects everyone’s needs.
It’s easy to pick out ads created without such a partnership. Sometimes the boilerplate details (institutional location, size, mission, facilities, etc.) overwhelm the actual description of the position, leaving prospective applicants scratching their heads as to specialty or other details. Sometimes the position’s details seem to float as if detached from the institutional context, making applicants wonder if the department really has permission to advertise.
The primary advice I give to folks on the job market is “Read the ad and apply for that position.” By the same token, the best advice I can offer to institutions and departments is to do the same: Read their own ad with a fresh set of eyes and encourage the best applicants to take the announcement seriously.
What errors, ambiguities, or omissions in job advertisements have frustrated you in the past?