Creativity is tough. It seems like everyone would prefer a creative person on their staff, whether or not they actually know what to do with one. Here, I’ll illustrate my point with a brief Tale of Two Jobs:
I applied to one position whose ad must’ve featured no fewer than five instances of the word “creative.” They were looking for a “creative” person who had experience writing “creatively.” They didn’t specify why, or what kind creative work the person would be doing, and as it turned out, the job was for a company that put out books of OSHA regulations. I took it out of desperation. I lasted three weeks.
A year later I applied to another job that made a big deal about creativity, except this time, the ad itself was creatively written. Also in the ad, they specified that they’d like someone with 2-4 years of copy-writing experience OR a track record of published work. This essentially served to backup their claim. After all, only a company that really cared about creative writing would be willing to overlook experience in favor of a publication history. I got that job and I’ve been there ever since.
My point is that job ads are important. It’s also the point that Andrew Fairley makes in a post on the Undercover Recruiter, How to Perfect the Job Spec: Recruiting’s Secret Weapon. Fairley approaches things from the other side (his article is addressed to recruiters and other hiring professionals) but it’s still good for you to read because he lays out some important points.
Basically, he says that the job ad is an important tool for outlining the position and marketing the company to prospective employees. What this means for you is that if you see an ad that isn’t doing this, that should be a red flag. Furthermore, if you go to an interview and the impression you get strays wildly from the impression you got from the job ad, trust your instincts. It’s more likely that the job ad didn’t tell the whole story than it is that you misjudged the place.
In other words, bad vibes are a bad sign, and your strongest reaction is probably your truest. So, read what a job ad says and recognize what it doesn’t say too.