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The Perils of a Poorly Written Job Posting [A Guest Post by Marc Schaefer]

June 14, 2014 by Lady Unemployed

poorly written job posting


I find it infuriating when a job seeker, such as myself, spends a great deal of time and energy crafting a resume and cover letter to match a poorly written job posting that neglects to mention key skill requirements.   Back in March, I applied for a government position in the parks department in the city where I live.    It entailed overseeing events at park facilities, which was a line of work I had done for the last two seasons for a non-profit.   It was only a part-time position, but I thought it could be a good opportunity to land a full-time position down the road.   In addition to spending over 30 minutes filling out a new applicant profile on the job site, I uploaded a keyword-rich resume and a position-targeted T-letter.   I not only met, but exceeded all the listed experience requirements in the job posting.

Just after Memorial Day, I got a call from the event coordinator at the parks department (not surprisingly, the government moves very slowly).   He said he’d like to have me come in for an interview.   We agreed on a time and a date.   Then, I prepped for the interview.   Wrote down any and all responses to possible questions:  “Tell me about yourself,”   “Describe a time when you had to deal with a stressful situation,” and “Was there ever a time you disagreed with a company policy?” (a trick question HR people bring up to probe complacency).   With a fresh haircut, I entered the interview full of confidence.   It was a two-headed interview, with the event coordinator/potential boss and HR manager firing away questions at close-range.   The preparation proved valuable and I handed the inquiry well.

Then, the event coordinator asked if I had any experience using event-scheduling software in my previous job.   That was very odd.   Although the job posting required previous office administrative duties, which I had years of under my belt, there was no mention of any particular software skills.   In response, I mentioned I did have experience utilizing Microsoft Office applications for scheduling projects in the past and I am able to learn new skills in minimal time.    By the end of the interview, I thought I was in good shape.

Last Tuesday, I got a call from the event coordinator.   He said he appreciated me coming in for the interview, but…. as soon as I heard the word “but”, I knew I didn’t get the job.   So as a follow-up, I asked what was the key skill or experience that the ideal candidate had that I did not.   He said the candidate had the event scheduling software experience that they were seeking.   In addition, the software background they wanted (which would avoid any prolonged on-the-job training) involved a closed-sourced, proprietary software that many municipalities use.   In my head, I having a WTF reactionary moment, but the words never surfaced.    He did say that there may be something “in the future” and that he’ll keep me in mind if something does comes up.

It’s one thing to read a job posting and realize you don’t meet all the experience requirements.   Not getting a response if you’re underqualified is logical.    It’s entirely a different thing to find out you don’t meet the requirements after the interview is over.   It feels like you’ve wasted a good chunk of time, energy and emotion.

So to all the hiring mangers, HR personnel and recruiters out there, please, check your job posting requirements.   Twice.   We don’t want to waste your time and you shouldn’t waste ours.


  1. Vinny C says:

    This is so true. During my unemployed days I’ve never gotten as far as the interview for something like this but I have had a few calls go like, “We like your resume. Do you also know how to use (thing not listed in ad)? No? Okay. It doesn’t make any sense coming in to the interview then.”

    Seriously, WTF!?!

  2. Great article Marc. In instances like this one, I often think that – since it’s a government agency – they most likely already have picked someone “in-house” for the role, and so are only complying with HR legalities in interviewing outside candidates. I know, it’s a total waste of everyones’ time. To find out if this is the case, pre-interview – or even at an interview – my “job coach” has advised me to ask if there’s anyone shadowing for the role. It’s all so frustrating though, when you know you can deliver the goods. Best of luck to you in future roles. Wouldn’t it be great though, if we could cut through the rigmarole, and bribe such HR Mafiosi with Belgian chocolates.

  3. Thanks for the feedback!

    Postscript: I heard, unofficially from a city employee, that any job posting changes through NEOGOV (a widely-used government job application system) can take 30 days. A change to a job posting on craigslist takes 30 seconds! Insanity!

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