Why HR Departments Shouldn’t Write Online Marketing Job Ads


Almost every day I come across an employment ad for a digital marketing or social media-related position clearly written by someone who has no idea what they’re talking about. A recent ad posted to Mashable by the Chicago office of a national nonprofit is a perfect example of this. I won’t name the organization here, though you can click through to find out who it is, but here’s a shortened version of what the ad said (emphasis added):

Director of Digital Strategy
Develop and execute an online outreach that will enable (this org) to reach its goals of building awareness, donors, and advocates…Serve as the organizational thought leader in the development of (this org’s) online communication strategy to increase (material) donations, financial donations and advocates…BA/BS in Communication, Marketing or Related field. Committed to organizational mission of ending hunger. 12+ years of progressive online media / digital marketing experience; including social media strategy and execution.

Whoa, there, big fella. How many years? Twelve? Or more? Really? Here’s why that requirement may shoot this organization’s candidate search in the foot:

  • The social-media space has existed in TOTAL for about six years, and in popular use for even less than that;
  • Total national digital marketing spends prior to 2002 accounted for less than 3% of overall marketing spends–meaning as recently as eight years ago, the majority of the marketing profession nationally had no experience with the online sphere, whatsoever;
  • According to the Pew Research Center, 59% of American adults weren’t even online in 1998, meaning most Americans didn’t even have email 12 years ago, much less the ability to be marketed to online.

Taken altogether, the implication is that the number of people who will have the years of experience required by this job ad is so small it’s almost ludicrous.

The ad was probably written by a well-meaning program or HR manager, pasting in “12 years+” as their organization’s standard experience requirement for director jobs of this level. However, because of that requirement, qualified candidates may end up rejected simply on the basis of them not having a mythical amount of experience that almost no one, anywhere, could possibly have.

And if they did, that means in 1998, unless they were working on fly-by-night banner ads, they likely worked for a top-flight, forward-thinking marketing firm or, frankly, AOL. And at this point in their careers, unless they’ve been recently laid off–which in this economy admittedly is always a possibility–I sincerely doubt a nonprofit could afford them.

The moral of the story for anyone responsible for releasing a nonprofit job ad into the wild is this: make sure you know exactly what’s in the ad before you publish it. If you’re not adequately familiar with the technology, terminology, or background of the job in question, have someone who is review your ad copy. And if you’re wondering why your digital-marketing or social-media candidate search is taking so long, it might be a good idea to run a reality check on your job ad.

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What do you think?