The 5 most irritating and brand-destroying phrases recruiters say


Walk into any bookstore in the US and you will see that almost half of all the books stocked are dedicated to self-help and how-to books. From relationships, sex and stress management to diet, personal development and career management pretty much every area of our lives is catered for with a plethora of texts offering hope of how we can all better ourselves.

These books sell in their millions (I should know – I was an editor for the Job Hunting & Career Change for Dummies) because they market their message on the positive benefits to be gained rather than focusing on the negative elements that they will ‘help’ eradicate. This is exactly what recruitment businesses should be doing too.

Having sold recruitment advertising in the 1990’s and early 2000s before moving into PR for the recruitment sector more than a decade ago, I’ve seen literally thousands of recruitment agency adverts using the same old stock phrases that they think will position them as the agency-of-choice.

But their focus is more on shining the limelight of what makes them so much better than their competitors, rather than putting the end users (i.e. clients, candidates) at the centre of their focus.

To get your potential customers to change their behaviour and get on board, you need to focus your message on addressing the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) factors, whilst being mindful of making over-inflated promises you may not be able to keep.

So the next time you put pen to paper to craft the advert that you hope will seduce the clients and candidates that you really want to attract, make sure you avoid the following overused stock phrases that so many of your competitors are also using (and we thought you wanted to stand out from everyone else!):

1) AVOID: “We’re different”

INSTEAD: Are you really, really? What makes you unique, what can you offer a prospect that differs to what every other agency can provide? We worked with a great executive search firm who continued the relationship with both client and candidate for the first 18 months of that candidate’s assignment. Industry research shows that c.40% of executive hires are known to fail within 18 months.

So to ensure that their clients maximise the return on their recruitment investment, the agency measures and assesses the successful candidate’s ongoing performance to ensure the success of that hire for a year-and-a-half from the moment of appointment. That makes them different from other search firms operating in the same space and that is what they ‘sell’ in their messaging.

2) AVOID: “We’ve innovative, game-changing and revolutionary”

INSTEAD: Stop. Just STOP. These are perhaps the three most irritating and self-perpetuating adjectives used in advertising today. They are akin to that other irritant, With all due respect, which we all know means the opposite to what is said. Push aside any hyperbole and focus your messaging instead on what you can do for your clients.

Rather than stating that “Our revolutionary approach will secure the game-changing talent you need for your organisation”, say something that will actually resonate and have meaning to the HRM’s and HRD’s you are communicating with. Try saying instead that “We push the boundaries of quantified relationships by employing the latest methodologies that ensure we only secure the talent with the greatest potential for your organisation.” As my old PR lecturer used to say, tell them what you will do for them then tell them the result of what you will do.

3) AVOID: “We’re market leaders”

INSTEAD: Of course you are, and so is your biggest competitor, and their competitors and just about every other provider in your space. Unless you have the highest billings, greatest share of the market and highest profit margins you are NOT the market leader so get over yourself and be proud of where you are in the market and where you aspire to be.

That’s not to say you will never become the market leader, but don’t bullshit your customers – they know you are not the leader. What they want to know is how you will leverage your expertise and networks to help them secure the talent they need. Focus on the results you will deliver for them not your agency’s vision statement.

4) AVOID: “We deliver high quality service”

INSTEAD: Well, if you didn’t then quite frankly you shouldn’t be in business! Saying this sort of nonsense is akin to an IT Consultant stating on their CV that they work with computers – don’t state the obvious. Instead, focus on how the way you work provides tangible benefits for your clients. For example, if you’re a specialist IT recruiter talk about how your expertise in this sector provides you with access to a unique pool of specialist talent that has proven to be a rich source of successfully placed candidates for other clients you have represented.

5) AVOID: “Our finance/PR/engineering client offers unrivalled career opportunities”

INSTEAD: Greater than EY/Publicis/Arup – really? Wow that’s great, where do I sign up? You may love your client and want to do the best by them and you invariably happily pull out all the stops to attract applications for the role. But clients don’t give a hoot if their vacancies attracts hundreds of applications if only a few are of any real quality.

Manage the expectations of your candidates, extol the benefits of working with your client to them and don’t exaggerate who they are and what they do – they’ll find that out soon enough when it comes to interview.