Top 12 Mistakes Firms Make in Sales Job Postings

Here are the dirty dozen, the top 12 common mistakes we see companies making when they develop their sales job postings or ads.

Dirty Dozen Mistakes in Sales Job Postings

Mistake #1: Spouting vague clichés about the job

Visit any job board and you will see many ads chock-full of vague phrases that everyone uses. What company doesn’t want a flexible, self-starter, a salesperson with strong communications skills, who can “think outside the box”? If you use the same vague phrases in your job description as everyone else, you sound, well, like everyone else.

Make your job description real. Rather than writing, you want candidates with “excellent communications skills”; describe specific needs for your sales people. For example, you might write, “Our successful salespeople must be able to give dazzling 30-minute presentations to C-suite level executives at prospective client sites.”

Forbes magazine in an article on business jargon also takes a stand against the phrase, “core competency”. As the article explains, what company wants just competent people (a.k.a. mediocre talent)? Don’t you want candidates with specific strengths?

List the strengths your candidates need, which is hopefully much more than people who are merely competent.

Mistake #2: Using an unconventional job title

Some businesses consider it trendy to give salespeople an edgy job title such as “chief growth hacker.” Managers may think a catchy job title helps them “build their brand.” What is wrong with that? You might ask. Well, two things come to mind.

First, on job boards, people will search on standard job titles and many candidates are actively looking at job boards. If you do not describe your job in a conventional way, you will miss many potential candidates. Here’s a link to a list of conventional sales job titles.

Secondly, if you hire a salesperson and his or her title is “chief growth hacker” will your customers know what that means.  Remember, if the title is nonsensical, people can take it many different ways. Would the CIO even want to talk to someone with “hacker” in his or her title?

Mistake #3: Trying to appeal to everyone

You should not try to appeal to everyone in your ad. You want to attract only candidates with the right stuff for your team.

In our last post, we talked about sales DNA and sales culture.

For example, if your sales organization is highly decentralized, don’t look for salespeople who need structure to thrive. On the flip side, if your company requires everyone to follow established processes, don’t seek out Mavericks, who prefer to wing it.

Also, in your sales job postings, talk about the general vibe of working for your company. Talk about your company’s values learning opportunities, benefits and other details that set you apart. Stuck on what to say? Visit glassdoor.com, highlight the positive, and address the negative element of your corp. culture. Remember most savvy applicants will check you out, so don’t just ignore consistent negative comments.

For example, if you get reviewers on glassdoor.com dinging your company as having a demanding workload, speak to that. You might say, “Yes, our salespeople work hard, but the benefits are phenomenal and when our sales team meets quota, the trips are amazing.”

Mistake #4: Writing a job description that’s too long or too short

Make sure your sales job postings explains the true nature of your job and doesn’t just list your company’s standard corporate job description.

Only include the skills you really need not a laundry list of requirements. Define the types of candidates most likely to succeed in your position. Sales assessments are great for this. Use your top 3 and bottom 3 sales performers to determine the traits you need.

If you need help creating these benchmark traits for applicants, contact us. We have tools you can use to assess your current top performers to define the characteristics you need in new applicants.

You also want to hit the “Goldilocks” length by making it just about right. ERE Recruiting reports on a study on the word count of online job posting vs. click-to-apply responses.

This study looked at 400,000 job seekers and their responses to job postings of different lengths. The sweet spot to encourage clicks seems to be greater than 2,000 characters (about 250 words) and less than 10,000 characters (about 2,000 words).

You can use these figures as a guide. Pay more attention to the quality of the message than the quantity. Place your strongest points at the top of a long post to encourage the click-to-apply. If you write your best message at the end of a 3,000-word post, most readers won’t see it.

In future posts, we will provide examples of poor and great sales job postings.

Mistake #5: Avoiding any mention of salary and benefits

As an employer, you may be reluctant to list the salary of a job opening. Some hiring managers believe that not listing a salary gives them the upper hand in negotiations. Others don’t want their staff to know how much the pay sales people.

The “hide the sales salary from other staff” is a subject for a whole other discussion on the role of sales in corporate culture. We’ll address that topic at a future date.

The challenge from a job seeker’s perspective is the time involved in the process. Candidates do not want to spend hours completing online applications only to discover the job’s salary is unacceptably low. Many potential job candidates will likely skip job listings that fail to list a salary range.

Zip Recruiter suggests four options for listing salaries in job descriptions. Link to:

You can list:

  • A lower salary to attract only applicants that are really interested in the job
  • The highest possible amount (with the phrase, up to) to capture a wider range of applicants
  • A range to get a little leeway in making a final offer
  • No salary, which gives you the most negotiating power, but does not attract as many applicants

Mistake #6: Overloading the post with keywords at the expense of your message

To get maximum exposure for a job posting, you must make if “findable”. This means you need to consider search engine optimization (SEO) tactics. A top success factor in SEO is selecting the correct keyword phrases. When you select the ideal keywords, you increase the likelihood that your postings will perform well on the job boards.

Include the keywords most relevant to your sales job opening. Think like a job seeker. What keywords do sales job seekers use when they search for your type of sales job? Make the keywords in your sales job postings as specific as possible. For example, don’t use a generic term like “sales associate” if you sell IT services. In this case, you might use the keyword “IT services sales associate.”

You can create a list of ideal keywords by using online tools such Google’s Keyword Planner. Your team can also have a keyword brainstorming session.

Other ways to make your job posting specific and relevant is to include:

  • Geographic keywords (Financial Sales Executive to lead Denver Office)
  • Company, brand or product terms related to the job
  • Industry terms (does your industry use specific phrases, such as EMR or BI)
  • Alternative job titles (review your keyword research and see if folks search using other phrases)

Just make sure that you write your final job description for human readers. Do not overstuff it with keywords to appeal to the search engines at the expense of your message.

If you need SEO advice for writing your job description, contact us.

Mistake #7: Creating a too-tight or too-long deadline for response

Make sure you give applicants adequate time to respond to a posting. If you need to have all applicants submit responses by Sept 1, don’t start your online postings on August 30. Your postings must have time to gain traction. Just don’t go to the extreme. You do want to create a sense of urgency. If your job opening will close on Sept 1, don’t start promoting it in July.

Mistake #8: Publishing a posting with many errors

Check and double-check your sales job postings. Make very sure the important information (emails, phone numbers, and website links are correct). Have your best typo-tiger comb through the job posting to spot grammatical errors.

Mistake #9: Not developing a plan to promote your sales job opening

Don’t think, “If I build it, they will come.” You will need to develop a plan to promote your postings through many channels, not just job boards. You should post to a variety social media channels, Twitter, LinkedIn, and of course, your own career page. Even some trade groups, will publish job openings.

Ask key employees to tap their social network. Your staff can share your job openings through their LinkedIn updates, Twitter Feeds and Facebook profiles. We will publish a future post on how to promote your sales job openings.

Mistake #10: Not describing your candidate selection process

Don’t leave applicants in the dark. Outline you hiring process and the length of time it typically takes for you to make a selection. If all applicants must take a test prior to an interview, tell them. At each step, describe the next step. If applicants don’t make the cut at a stage in the process, send them a thank you note for applying and let them know you will not consider them for this opening.

Mistake #11: Not considering the mobile audience

Face it, if you are advertising for new sales people, especially millennials, they will review your job postings on their cell phone. Some may even want to apply for the job on their phone. Make sure your website, or any third-party recruiting platform you use, is ready for viewing on a mobile device. Not sure? Whip out your own cell phone and test the website’s ease-of-use on your phone.

Mistake #12: Not being real about the job or your company

You need to be honest about your company’s position in the marketplace. You must also be real about the opportunity, circumstances, and environment of the open job.

If you are not “top tier company”, don’t say that in the ad. For example, if you sell data science platforms and Gartner does not identify you as being among the leaders, don’t say you are the market leader. Applicants will easily check your positioning on places like Gartner’s Magic Quadrant report to see how your company ranks in the market.

In a similar vein, be honest about the job. If your job is really an entry-level sales position, don’t call it a sales management job.  If you expect applicants to make cold calls 30% of the time, do not say applicants must make some cold calls. You should spell out the true requirement.

As a real world example, we did a project for a large national remodeling chain a few years ago.  The company was advertising job openings for trade people to do installations. In reality, the company did not want trade people; they wanted sales/design people.  They expected these individuals to make cold calls, take measurements, make design recommendations and sell the final job.

In a future post related to conducting a phone interview, we will give more detail on how to explain the job truthfully.

We can help you write successful sales job postings

Need help writing your job posting? If yes, please contact us. We can review your postings and make suggestions for improvement.

Posted in Sales Talent