should you apply to a job if the ad is horribly written?

A reader writes:

I had a friendly argument with a writer friend and we’d love your take.

Is it worth applying to job ads that are train wrecks or have grammar mistakes? Specifically, we’re talking about ads for writers or in communications. If I see some obvious mistakes or the writing is really poor, I pass. My reasoning is that the company doesn’t know better or care enough — so I definitely don’t want to work there. He says it doesn’t matter because the ad could be written by an HR drone and not mean anything. What are your thoughts?

I’d say the answer is somewhere in the middle.

It’s true that ads are often written by HR, not the hiring managers, and they’re often pulled from horrible boilerplate language that doesn’t at all reflect the manager you’d be working for. Your friend is right about that, and so unless the ad is so atrocious that it’s truly beyond the bounds of anything you can imagine a well-run company allowing to be published, I wouldn’t let it stop you from applying.

That said, I wouldn’t entirely ignore it either — because it does say something about the company. So I’d apply if you’d otherwise be interested in the job, but keep your eyes wide open for signs of (a) lack of concern about things that matter to you, like valuing clear writing, and (b) an overly bureaucratic culture that gives HR too much voice in things that the hiring department should control.

In other words, take it as a piece of information about the company, but not the whole story.

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