'No Karens' | Firm takes gamble with 'brutally honest' job ad, and it may have paid off

Firm takes gamble with 'brutally honest' job ad, and it may have paid off

A “brutally honest” job advert featuring a huge list of criteria of who SHOULDN’T apply has hit headlines, attracting a mix of reactions including high praise from an HR manager, and putting a spotlight on the importance of striking the right tone in a job posting.

Shorties, a dessert shop based in Cwmbran, South Wales, recently took to social media in their search for a new Assistant Manager to take on responsibilities including supervising shifts, supporting the store manager and the business by driving performance and exceeding targets, and delivering “a fantastic experience every time” for customers.

All very reasonable expectations for an assistant manager position, but it was the long list of criteria the shop WASN’T looking for which gained more attention - receiving more than 1,400 comment, 2,000 shares, and hitting national headlines.

And while many of the responses attacked the post, many more including an HR manager leapt to the defence of the business and its owner Phillip Shortman for being “brutally honest”.

The expletive-laden ad appealed to anyone who “wants a f****** job” but warned any “Karens or Darrens”, “Debbie Downers” or “wet wipes” not to apply.

“We need someone that can hit the ground running, and not have to be told again and again, and still f*** s*** up, we’ve wasted so much time and money, we just want someone who has a work ethic to succeed, commitment and accountability!” the ad read.

“Is it too much to ask that someone is fully committed, wanting to kick a*** and help us grow our brand, who takes things on board and works with us and not against us, if that sounds like you-then get in touch, we want our potential superstar who will come to an interview looking casually presentable and on time and not look like they’ve been dragged through a hedge with the motivation of a sloth.”

Candidates were also told that their 30-35 hour work week would include evening shifts, meaning they would be “missing Emmerdale” if they were to get the job.

The ad wrapped up by telling anyone who found the advert offensive to “move on as there’s not a place here for you nor do I care about your opinion.”

In a statement released after the advert went viral, the business owner insisted that the brash tone of the post did not reflect how the company treats its workers.

Shortman wrote on the Shorties Facebook page: “We can’t please everyone, we’ve done the ‘being professional’ and we lost 20-30% custom, the way we run our socials is not exactly how the shop is run, we do not abuse staff or mistreat them, but we are a business and here to make money and eventually turn a profit.”

‘Absolutely brilliant’

While there were many negative responses to the job ad, with one online commenter calling the owner “deluded”, lots of people praised the job advert for its no-nonsense approach.

“As an HR Manager I have always wanted to write something like this - absolutely brilliant”, said Colette Tombs.

Jessica Hatchett described the post as the "best job advert I’ve seen in ages”, while Max Fox wrote: “Absolutely love this. Brutal honesty but clearly a welcome, time and support for the right person.”

Terri Marx said: "I bloody love this!!! I own a hospitality business & 100% agree with every word. This has honestly just made my day."

Many more also commented that they would definitely have applied for the job if they didn't live so far away from the Welsh town.

Many also highlighted the fact that, despite the in-your-face approach of the job advert, the successful applicant would be stepping into a managerial role, and was in line for pay up to 30-45% above minimum wage.

Job ad goes viral for all the wrong reasons

There may have been much praise for the Shorties job advert, but more often than not, job posts like this attract unwanted reactions.

In September 2021, football club AFC Fylde sparked anger after a posting a job advert which told job candidates not to apply if they were looking for “a work-life balance” or "have to pick the kids up from school".

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Unsurprising requirements for the club’s General Manager vacancy included a need to be skilled in aspects of running a football club and having a “proactive approach”, but there was also a warning that candidates should not apply “if you are looking for ‘a work-life balance’ or have to pick the kids up from school twice a week at 3.30”.

The non-league team’s post, which was later taken down, continued: "This is a hands-on role’ and requires hands-on leadership from the front so ‘delegators’ and ‘office dwellers’ please don't apply”.

But the ad’s apparent intention of appealing to no-nonsense hard workers fell flat, instead receiving a backlash on social media, with some of the club’s own supporters expressing their disappointment and anger. The ad has even prompted the chief executive of Citizens Advice Blackpool (CAB) to speak out against it, branding it “discriminatory”.

How to avoid bias in job ads

While very similar in nature, the AFC Fylde and the Shorties job adverts generated very different responses. Both, however, shine a light on the importance of wording of job adverts appropriately, and best practices when seeking to recruit new talent.

Andrew Hunter, Co-Founder of job search engine Adzuna, previously told HR Grapevine that a lot of the time, a job advert is the first impression that prospective talent will have of a company.

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“This is where jobseekers are trying to understand if they will be a good ‘fit’ for the role,” he explained.

“As such, it is important that employers and recruiters get job adverts right the first time around.”

Tips for writing a job advert

With writing and circulating a well-articulated job advert being a crucial factor in attracting top talent, how can HR and recruitment leaders do this well?

To help, HR Grapevine has collated a list of five top tips below:

  1. Shout about any perks and benefits of working for the firm as soon as possible, as this will be key to attracting new talent and boosting the number of applications received.

  2. Get rid of any corporate jargon and make the job advert as easy and as digestible as possible.

  3. Refer to people as ‘you’ as this can help prospective candidates to envision themselves in the role.

  4. Don’t assume that candidates know everything about the company so include information about the organisation, the products or services it offers, why staff work for the company and what makes them stand out from competitors.

  5. Before publishing, make sure you double check the content of the advert to make sure it accurately reflects the job and doesn’t have any typos. It may sound like a simple tip, but this can be a common and easily avoidable step that hinders the process.

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Comments (3)

  • Richard
    Thu, 21 Jul 2022 1:30pm BST
    Can we please stop this trend of bullying people named Karen, or Darren, or any other name. It is unsophisticated aggression against innocent people who happen to have a certain name and it is discriminatory.
  • Richard
    Wed, 20 Jul 2022 3:52pm BST
    Can folk please stop using people's names as forms of abuse? I find this odd trend appalling. Would you call someone a 'Mohammad' or a 'Huang', or a 'Pedro' in an abusive way? It is unacceptable whatever someone's name and you can't tar everyone with the same brush if you happen to dislike one person's behaviour. This is a modern form of bullying and I hope HR Grapevine can take a lead in trying to stop this kind of public abuse. I feel sorry for people called Karen or Darren. No one's name should be used as an means to abuse others.
  • Richard
    Mon, 18 Jul 2022 5:27pm BST
    Please can we stop this detestable trend for singling people out for negative attacks when they happen to have certain names? Karen's? Darren's? Really?? If people think this is funny - is it OK to use other names in a similarly negative way - how about Mohammad, or Raj, or Huang, or Pedro, etc, etc? I would hope a professional publication / organisation such as HR Grapevine could lead the way towards reducing the abuse of people on the grounds of their names, or ethnicity, or gender, or any other human attribute. By all means call people out for bad behaviour and wrong deeds - but please don't tarnish other people who happen to share some attributes with said offenders. Thank you. Lets have no more attacks on innocent people who happen to be called 'Karen' or 'Darren' or 'Mohammad' etc, etc. Thank you.

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