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Ask Lawrence: Why does the same job ad keep reappearing?

26 Sep 11:00 by Lawrence Akers

Lawrence Akers Job Ads

If you’re on the job hunt, you’ll often have that experience of deja vu with looking at job boards. While there will be a spattering of new jobs most days, you’ll also see those other job ads that appear to be all too familiar. No doubt, you may recognise them and knowingly think, ‘oh, it’s that job again!’  

In many cases, while you may not be able to put your finger on exactly why it is, it may create a feeling for you that you should be cautious with that job. In some cases, you may be right.  It's the expectation that is attached with it... in much the same way you expect to see 'Can't Stop The Music' every New Years Eve on Channel 9, not every expectation is a good one. This week, I want to take a quick look at some of the reasons why those job adskeep reappearing time and time again.

Business is growing

The reason you would most hope for is that the business is growing and that they continue to have more and more needs. They’re doing great work, winning more clients, and the needs internally are increasing. Instead of burning their team out, they’re bringing on more people so that they can meet the demand. These are often the ones that, during the interview, give a real sense of how they invest in ensuring they keep their team happy and supported. These are the ones that will often highlight the culture of the business when they’re explaining to you who they are and this can often radiate from the environment when you look around. I’ve gone out to a client to take a brief and, within the space of that one hour, I’ve wished I had the skills to work for that company because the way they presented it and what they do to keep their team in place just sounds amazing. These are the ones you want to go for!

High turnover

Another reason might be because the business has a high turnover. This isn’t a great sign and often is symptomatic that there are bigger issues at play. In a nutshell, they could be;

  • The existing team are being burned out from unrealistic work expectations, tight deadlines and lack of support with additional resources. We’re talking long hours, late nights, little to no thanks and a raised eyebrow if you dare try to leave your desk at the ‘finish time’ your contract states.
  • The culture is verging on toxic through poor management and/or an owner who gets too involved and drives everyone crazy. We could write an entire article based on this point alone however it comes down to communication, ability to manage stress and the ability to empower and trust your team without the need of micromanagement. For more on this one, you should check out Michael Gerber’s excellent book, ‘The E-Myth’.
  • Lack of recognition and encouragement within the role; you feel like you’re just a drone in the business and lacking a sense of purpose and drive. A lack of transparency can also build an ‘us vs them’ mentality with some people.
  • No investment in new technology so people are working with outdated systems and processes. Again, there is the feeling that they’re not being given the tools to do their job effectively and they’re being punished for the lack of productivity. It’s a modern world where technology plays a vital part but if management are just watching the dollar signs and not showing support, it could drive people on.
  • Poor on boarding; did you know that 86% of people of new hires decide to stay or leave within the first six months and how you induct them in that initial period is going to play enormously to this.

Can’t find the ‘right person’

The company may be finding it hard to find the right person for the position. This could be down to a particular skill set (such as a piece of software that is out of date or a niche skill) or wanting to cram too much into the role (wanting too many skills and wanting them to be good at all of them). They might be paying too little for the level of candidate that they want, or might be insisting that they must have everything on their 'wish list' which is extensive, eclectic and niche.

When the GFC hit back in 2008, we saw many companies lose staff. Shortly afterwards, I began to notice the emergence of what I called the ‘Frankenbrief’. This was a job description that had been pieced together from a handful of other job descriptions with the parts that they would ideally like but, as they could only hire one person, they would attempt to find this one person that could do it all - or in recruitment circles, what we affectionately call ‘a unicorn’.  

The other side of this is clients who are a bit vague about what they actually want. This can often be another reason why people leave jobs early on because the role becomes nothing like what they were told it would be when they went in to interview. Over the years, I’ve had many clients begin a process saying we want A only to find a few weeks and several candidate presentations later that they now want B. Again, this lack of planning reflects what day to day life might be like within this company and why they’ve struggled to find ‘the one’.

Can I share with you that, often in these situations, we’ve presented candidates to them that we know can do the job and then had to chase and chase and chase the client because they’ve been unsure and procrastinated, only to end up losing the candidate because they didn’t get their act together in time. Again, what do you think this says about the time management of that organisation?

Going to multiple agencies

This is a big one; many companies will think it is a wise thing to approach every recruitment agency on the planet and give them their job. This means every agency will be advertising it, so you can seemingly see the same position description on every job board rebadged with a different recruitment logo. This means that most recruitment agencies are tapping into the very same pool as each other, battling to find the right candidate and then rushing to present to the client in a corporate version of ‘the Hunger Games’.

It’s a terrible way to do business and certainly as far removed from the concept of building strong partnerships as you could imagine. It increases the margin for error all round and actually works against the best needs of the client, although that is a whole other article topic in itself.  

Filling the talent pool

Yes, recruitment agencies are going to put up general ads to find people who wish to freelance. In most cases, the ad will clearly state that it is an ad for those interested in freelance opportunities. 

In the past, I’ve had some people speak with me to say that they find these ads upsetting; they’ve registered with us so why do we need to continue building that list of talent. One of the main reasons, and this is true of the design industry, is that when it gets busy, everyone gets busy. I’ve had people laugh and say, ‘you’ve called just as I’ve taken on another job’ and that is to be expected when you think about it logically - we are, after all, working with the same industry sector. 

Additionally, and being honest here, the search will always continue because there is so many diverse and niche skills in the industry that often the next ten applicants will be completely unique in each of their own ways.

Ask questions and explore

If you notice an ad keeps reappearing, ask around and find out what is going on. If it is through a recruitment agency and you have a good relationship with your consultant, ask for the ‘no holes barred’ reality of why the ad keeps coming back. 

If it is through another company and you apply, ask questions in your interview to understand why the role exists, what kind of turn over does the business have, what opportunities are there to move up in the business, how would people describe the culture there. Now, realistically, of course they’re going to sugar coat it if it isn’t glowing but then we also have some clients who are going to give away more than what they might realise. 

It’s always going to be a risk vs reward situation when you go for a new job however a little bit of exploration and investigation can help you to decide if that is the right opportunity for you.