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

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

 

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