Candidate Attraction: Red Flags Turning Your Applicants Away

Applying for jobs can be a long and arduous process for job seekers, so when stumbling across an advert for a role requiring ‘lots of hats’, in a ‘fast paced’ working environment, with a ‘competitive salary’, many of your candidates are likely to deselect themselves before even applying. But what’s wrong with these buzz words?

After approaching team members across Amberjack, currently in the early stages of their career, we collated a list of immediate red flags to be avoiding in your candidate attraction strategies for apprentices, graduates, and interns (and green flags you should be aiming for). 

We dive into how these red flags might be harming your recruitment.

Red Flags

The following list of things to avoid has been collated from Early Careers team members across departments. 

From Sales and Marketing, to Resourcing Services, Attraction, and IT, these red flags came up time and time again.

‘Competitive Salary’

This is a classic. You’ve probably heard about this one before, and no doubt you’ll continue to hear about it for as long as you work in the recruitment space.

You might want to signal that your pay is on par with the rest of your industry, but when a candidate sees ‘Competitive Salary’, you might as well be saying ‘not enough’. 

By not disclosing the salary, or at least the salary range, on offer, you’re letting your potential candidates know that you don’t want to share exactly how much they would earn and imply that it’s not actually ‘competitive’ at all.

No Explicit Statement of Hours

When discussing red flags with team members in their Early Careers from around the office, the topic constantly returned to workload.

Your candidates want to know how much they are expected to work – explicitly state the hours that are expected of them. 

Even if the answer is a lot, knowing the working hours allows candidates to make informed decisions and does wonders for your reputation from their perspective. 

When you include the hours a job requires, you’re putting everything out in the open. It is clear you’re not trying to sneak anything by them, and so, they’re more likely to apply.

In a similar vein, if your job description details that you need someone ‘flexible’, applicants get the idea that they might be taken advantage of or asked to work at inconvenient times.

Ridiculous Experience Requirements

If you’ve been on the internet for a while, then you’ve probably seen this one before… Experience requirements for entry level jobs is a hot topic for both Gen Z and Gen A (your current pipeline, and upcoming candidates).

It’s important to consider whether or not the vacancies you’re trying to fill actually require the experience you’re searching for. 

If they don’t, or if a new joiner can learn on the job, then it might be time to drop the requirements! If they do, then perhaps you need to reconsider whether or not the job is actually entry level.

When a candidate sees an ‘entry level’ job requiring experience, they assume that means it’s an entry level salary for a non-entry level role.  

Buzz Words That Should Buzz Off

When gathering ideas of red flags from team members here at Amberjack, discussion quickly turned to listing off the words and phrases which give your Early Talent pipeline the ick. 


An expression of discomfort or disgust. Often used to describe an instant turn off.

To name only a few, ‘hit the ground running’, ‘high pressure environment’, ‘lots of hats’, and ‘we’re a family’, carry a lot of implications for the audience you’re trying to attract.

Candidates nowadays are standing up against unrealistic expectations, and know that ‘hit the ground running’ is code for ‘take a lot on immediately without proper training’, or that looking for someone who can ‘wear lots of hats’ actually means you’re looking for one person to do the job of three people.

The Job Listing

Now we move on to exploring your job listing specifically, and dive into the ‘dont’s’ you should be avoiding!

First things first – the job title. Does it make sense? Is it overly complicated? Candidates want to be able to identify what they’d be doing from the job role itself. 

Ambiguity and unnecessary words when attracting candidates can result in an unclear role. Opt for clarity, keep it simple.

Next – the description. You want to stand out among hundreds of other job listings competing for the same pool of talent, so don’t blend into the background! 

Long, wordy paragraphs are likely to turn your potential candidates away before they even apply, so keep it brief, and use bullet points! Bullet points will be your saviour.

Finally – the content. Your audience wants to see a listing that isn’t all about you and the company. 

While of course it is necessary to mention what you do and get across your brand, candidates want to know how they will fit into the organisation and how their role works within the business; this is where your focus should be. 

When you are trying to attract talent, another big no-no for content is using your ‘diverse workforce’ as a stamp of approval. 

If you talk about diversity and your values in your listing, but then a candidate cannot see the same emphasis on your social media or on your website, they know that something is up. Consistency is key.

(P.S. something which also came up was the length of time your listing has been active. It was suggested that if a candidate can see that your listing has been active for a while, they assume you’re having trouble filling the role, and start questioning why that might be…)


If you’ve managed to get candidates applying for your role, then well done! You’ve conquered the first hurdle! However, opportunities for more red flags are just around the corner.

One of our team members described how after applying for a job prior to Amberjack, the company in question got back to him at 9:30pm the same evening, for an interview at 9:30am the next morning… 

Not only does this appear, to be frank, extremely desperate, but it also highlights a possible lack of respect for the candidate’s time. Not only are you contacting them way out of working hours, but you’re also leaving them with little time to prepare.

Just remember that even though a candidate has applied, you’re still in persuasion mode until they’ve signed a contract!

Green Flags

So, we’ve shared what not to do – the things that mean you’re likely to lose candidates at the first hurdles. But how about what you can do to encourage applications and attract the right candidates? 

Amberjack’s Early Talent also discussed the immediate green flags they have come across on the job search – things that help an organisation stand out and make candidates more likely to apply instead.


Let’s face it, this one probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but coming across as authentic is attractive to your potential candidates.

They want to see the real people at your organisation, so put them front and centre. 

Try to avoid stock photography and show a realistic expectation of your teams and the workplace new joiners will be entering.

The need for authenticity is important even when the realities of a job are less attractive. If the role isn’t glamorous, involves lots of admin tasks or not-so-fun requirements, be honest! 

Being transparent, even with the ‘negative’ aspects of a role is more likely to make candidates apply.

They want to know what to clearly expect, and by saying it you show that you value their time and energy and aren’t kidding yourselves into believing the role is more than it actually is.


This is an easily achievable goal; be clear.

What are the shift patterns likely to be? What benefits does your company offer? What is the salary? Are the requirements, responsibilities, and any other details clear? Do they make sense?

Providing easy to understand and plain information on the facets involved in the role is attractive to your audience.


Your potential applicants want to be able to easily apply for your job and find out more information.

If someone is on the job search, it’s likely that they’re also applying for other jobs, so if your application process involves unnecessary steps, or finding information is difficult, candidates are likely to simply walk away – there’s more on offer elsewhere. In a competitive market, making it easy to apply to your roles is key.

Specifically, there were a couple of things which were mentioned when it comes to the very beginning of the application process, the first of which is Cover Letters.

While necessary for some roles, it was clear straight away from discussion around the office that cover letters are a huge turn off. 

Being able to easily send in your CV, or undergo an application form and questionnaire for example, is a much-preferred option. 

In fact, it was raised that organisations who require cover letters come across as thinking that they are ‘special’ or above everyone else.

Additionally, having a good user experience, especially on your website, and an easy way to navigate around, came up as a huge green flag. 

People want to be able to discover more about your company, the vacancy, and why they should apply, don’t make it more difficult for them!

Branding and Values

Your branding and values are important. 

This might come as a bit of a surprise considering an earlier red flag was ‘don’t talk too much about yourself’, but there are more ways to show off you and your business then with lengthy descriptions.

Good branding shows off your organisation while reducing the need for words. 

Accurate and friendly photos which show an engaged team imply your workforce is a ‘family’ without you having to say it. 

Clear bullet points showing your benefits and values demonstrate your offering without the waffle which usually signifies a certain amount of over-exaggerating.

Social Media

And finally, we arrive at the end of the list. We’re finishing this off with a rather important part of attracting candidates which many businesses fail to adequately consider: Social Media.

Your fresh talent wants to see your socials. Linking to your LinkedIn, Twitter, and/or Instagram provides another route for applicants to find out more about you and explore. 

Social Media allows for a look into your business and helps you come across as more human, as well as providing an additional route for contacting you if required.

People want to see the personal touch that Social Media amplifies, so use it!

Getting Started

Overall, though the list of red and green flags might be long, and the amount of things that turn off your candidates overwhelming, it also means there is a lot you can be doing to work on your attraction.

Amberjack are continually exploring this area and have recently hosted events specifically around Attraction and the encouraging of Social Mobility in your applicants. 

You can explore this further with us via the webinar recordings, and paper requests, below!

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