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A talent leader asked me when she should use adverbs in writing job descriptions. It turns out using too many adverbs in your job descriptions reduces your apply rate (more on that below).

Reminder on the definition of adverbs: adverbs are intensifier words that give greater definition to an adjective, verb or other adverb.  Most adverbs end in “ly” such as highly and preferably but about 32% of adverbs do not end in “ly”, such as not, well and also.

A lot is written about using adverbs in writing resumes (see 6 Words That Might Get Your Resume Tossed in the Trash (Lily Zhang for The Muse) or Adverbs are killing your resume (and cover letter) (Consulting Recruiter Bobby Cordell)). But there are few articles on using adverbs in writing job descriptions.

Let me share what I know:

This job ad for Data Scientist (below) is chock full of adverbs (the underlined words).

Ongig’s Text Analyzer software shows that 6.83% of the words in the job ad below are adverbs. Text Analyzer gives the job a low Adverb Score (3.64/100) because many of the adverbs do not add value to the ad.

Why are adverbs bad in writing?

Adverbs are often bad to use in writing because many adverbs are superfluous.You could delete many of them and the meaning is still the same. And you tighten up your ad copy at the same time.

Ongig’s Text Analyzer finds that job descriptions that are too long (in overall length or sentence/word length) receive a lower apply rate than job ads written with tighter, simpler copy.

Remember, the busiest candidates want the job description written in Plain English (see Why I Write My Job Postings at the 8th Grade Reading Level (or Lower!). So tightening up your job ad copy helps readability.

Look at the examples in the job description above.  If you deleted most of the adverbs, it wouldn’t change the meaning.

Examples:

  • We are currently hiring a Data Scientist – tip: delete “currently” and you have the same meaning
  • Experience with SAS is highly preferred – tip: delete “highly” and you have the same meaning
  • Resolve analytics issues in a timely manner – tip: replace “in a timely manner” with “fast” (you save 3 words!)

…but many adverbs (about 36%) don’t end in “ly”, such as these common ones in the job ad above:

  • The Data Scientist is quite possibly the most vital role in our organization – tip: delete “quite” and you don’t change the meaning
  • …and you also love to manage people” – tip: delete “also” and you don’t change the meaning
  • Partner closely with Risk Analysts… – tip: delete “closely” and you don’t change the meaning
  • “We do not discriminate against…”) – tip: you’re better off writing in the affirmative: “we embrace candidates from every walk of life”

What are some of the top adverb culprits in poor writing?

Here’s a list of adverbs used in writing job descriptions, according to Ongig Text Analyzer. It’s the 50 most common adverbs we found from about 70,000 job descriptions. We found 743 adverbs in all but that seemed too long a list to include here. 🙂

A List of 50 of the Most Common Adverbs Used in Job Descriptions

1 not
2 well
3 also
4 effectively
5 highly
6 first
7 closely
8 together
9 timely
10 now
11 quickly
12 always
13 here
14 so
15 independently
16 currently
17 only
18 properly
19 directly
20 back
21 close
22 successfully
23 then
24 early
25 very
26 actively
27 preferably
28 overtime
29 consistently
30 clearly
31 again
32 just
33 expressly
34 continuously
35 professionally
36 creatively
37 constantly
38 ahead
39 analytically
40 correctly
41 accurately
42 approximately
43 globally
44 fully
45 regularly
46 efficiently
47 personally
48 inside
49 continually
50 especially

 

When to use adverbs in writing?

Remember, not all of the adverbs are bad. Some adverbs are specific and descriptive and great to use.

Examples:

“this job pays hourly” or

“create new strategic plans annually“.

Or an adverb might help you spice up a sentence such as:

“you can quickly move up the ranks of the sales team if you reach your goals.”

It’s ok to use adverbs in writing job descriptions. Just make sure they add more value than they are worth. If the adverb does not add value, kill it.

When it comes to a job ad, every word counts!

Why I wrote this?

Ongig’s Text Analyzer software helps you transform your job descriptions. It does this through optimizing your text and removing unconscious bias. Please click the Request Demo button if you’d like to learn more.

by in Writing Job Descriptions