Do Shock Value Ads Really Have Value In Job Postings? by @HRTMExec

A recent job posting appeared on Craigslist in San Diego. It has caused a deep discussion among HR professionals who are attempting to make sense of the nameless tech company’s tactics. The ad, which is titled “Two ******* Great Developers,” uses crude wording and expletives to seek candidates for a very real job.

While it’s evident that this company is trying to shock readers, the question remains: is this approach necessary, appropriate, or effective?

The demand for top-tier technology talent continues to rise, with the job market for software developers projected to grow more than twenty percent from 2012 to 2022, making a unique job posting necessary just to stand out in the tech market. However, one questions the necessity of using obscenities in something so serious as a as a job posting. One wonders what type of candidates will be attracted to this ad.

Erica Mixon, Analyst with Argosight, believes that the use of shock value to gain popularity is a means to capture the reader’s attention and encourage them to invest time in the content. She points to the fact that the ad has been shared among personal contacts and covered by Business Insider as proof that it has reached a viral status.

While the ad has been seen and talked about by many, one can’t help but wonder if this recognition is good press. Marc Wareing, a member of our LinkedIn Group and owner of RecruitMyBuddy, a UK-based recruiting and staffing service feels that if the company’s objective was to get people talking, then they have succeeded, however he adds, “ I don’t believe it reflects well on any company to use such an approach, irrelevant of the sub-culture they are trying to attract.”

Heather Brebaugh, co-founder of agrees. “So the take away is ‘know your audience and cater to them.’ I get that,” she says. “I just don’t support vulgarity as a way to cater, no matter who the audience is.”

Mixon, however, believes that desperate times call for desperate measures. “Modern marketing capitalizes on the concept of being unapologetically edgy in contexts that we have been conditioned to assume are sophisticated,” she writes. “Perhaps this is since constant exposure to the media has resulted in a highly-desensitized generation. Perhaps we’re so immersed in cutting-edge media that it’s becoming tougher to rise above the noise, and now recruiters and hiring managers are forced to take on bolder techniques to make us pay attention.” She cites a Dollar Shave Club commercial, the success of, as well as the animated web series “Happy Tree Friends,” all of which utilize the shock value of offensive humor to reach viral status.

A Millennial herself, Mixon feels that perhaps this sort of job listing is appropriate for her generation. “After having been encouraged to create, innovate, and be themselves, these workers don’t do things a certain way simply because that’s how it’s always been,” she states. “Perhaps this job ad speaks to millennials as a whole, who as a group is actively trying to ‘not give a ****’ and have even coined the acronym (DGAF) to go along with this concept.”

So one wonders if perhaps the culture of this workplace is just different than the traditional workplace. Perhaps those of us from Generation X and the Baby Boomer generation just don’t get it. We aren’t cool enough to grasp the pure marketing genius behind this organization’s anonymous ad.

Perhaps. But I tend to believe that this sort of advertisement is only asking for trouble within that nameless company. Our LinkedIn members appear to feel the same way.

  • “Speaks volumes about values and culture at this company.” Terry Barnhart, professional trainer and coach

  • “Vulgarity in any form can lead to harassment.” Ann Anderson, Consultant at HR One Solutions.

  • “If I’d seen the vulgarity in the job posting, I wouldn’t have even opened it! I don’t want to be assaulted with that type of language when I’m in a serious job hunting mode.” Deborah Scroggin, President and Owner of

  • “I can totally understand the motivation behind posting a job in this manner… trying to stand out from the crowd. However, what does a posting like this say about the company? Mostly negatives, which is clear by the fact that the company has chosen to not use their name. I am totally for using a creative job posting, and even utilize humor to some extent… but vulgarity is not something I would personally use.” Shawn Rogers, Talent Attraction Specialist with Halogen Software.

In speaking with several Millennials who have read the ad, I’ve found that the majority of them would not even consider applying. Brittanie Pucillo, born in 1986, states that she would think the posting was a scam. “I cannot take that posting seriously,” she states. Katie Lanford, born in 1983, agrees. “I wouldn’t touch that ad with a ten-foot pole. That’s not the kind of language that attracts people who are dedicated or professional. It seems sketchy as hell, and a little too, ‘come drink our kool-aid.’” Lanford states that perhaps this type of language would attract young Millennials, “but those of us that identify more closely with Gen-X would be suspicious of it.”

Danielle Smith, also a Millennial, feels that the wording of the ad portrays the employer in an unfavorable light. “The employer seems really egotistical and full of themselves. I don’t want to work in that kind of environment.” She continues, “ I get that they’re trying to be edgy and cool with all the swearing, but it just comes off desperate and makes me think the people at this job are a nightmare to work for.”

So perhaps this style of offensive approach is not aimed directly at Millennials themselves. Perhaps, it’s aimed at a candidate with a foul mouth and a “DGAF” attitude.

However, Denise Dolph, group member and HR Advisor at Cimarron Engineering Ltd., makes an interesting counter-point. She agrees that the company is attracting a specific type of individual, adding that the company advertisement portrays “a free-for-all kind of culture that wouldn’t work with most companies.” She adds, “If you use that type of posting and hire those types of people and that’s not your cultural norm, be prepared for a lot of ‘storming’ in the workplace. I don’t know if you’d ever get to ‘performing.’”

What makes Dolph’s comment so interesting is that the company itself seems to sense this problem. At the very bottom of the posting, listed in a postscript, the ad reads: “We do not encourage or display profanity levels above the social norm in the work place. As such, profanity will not be accepted in lieu of skill.”

In other words, “We’re seeking ****ing candidates, but they’d better not ****ing swear on the job.”

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