As an HR manager, recruiter, or team leader, you’re going to be responsible for writing compelling job ads.
When someone leaves, or when a new position opens up, you need to position your company to attract the best possible candidates – and persuade them to work for your business.
Candidates can discover your job ad in one (or more) of several ways. They could stumble upon it in a job posting board. They might see it featured on your website. Or maybe they saw it because a friend sent it to them.
Whatever the case, they’re going to make strong assumptions and judgments based on the quality and content of the advertisement.
Do a good job and you’ll have an endless stream of qualified applicants.
Do a bad job and you might get no applicants.
With that in mind, how do you write more effective, compelling job ads for your target audience?
Elements of a Job Ad
First, you should understand the core elements of a job ad.
Certain job posting boards will have specific formatting requirements you need to follow. On most other platforms, you’ll have more creative flexibility.
Still, it pays to follow a traditionally successful format for your job post. This will make it easier for candidates to understand and review – and keep your information organized.
Generally, you’ll want to split your job ad into various sections with prominent, bold headers. This way, candidates can effectively “skim” and understand the logic of your content organization.
These are some of the most important sections to include:
- The job title. The job title is the simplest part of the job ad and probably the one you’ll have the least trouble with. If you don’t already have a job title in mind for this position, start brainstorming. Your goal is to concisely capture the core responsibilities and characteristics of this role, while simultaneously making it appealing to potential applicants. Oftentimes, businesses dress up job titles with formal language to make them seem more impressive, and therefore more attractive; for example, “sales rep” isn’t nearly as interesting as “associate vice president of sales.”
- A job description. Next, you’ll need to include a job description. This is arguably the most important part of your job ad, since it explains exactly what this job is going to look like. Some of this is going to be implied by the job title, but it’s important to clarify ambiguities and make sure your candidates know exactly what they’re getting into. Consider including core responsibilities, examples of projects, and a snapshot of day-to-day work in this role.
- Minimum qualifications. Most job ads should also feature minimum qualifications, suggested qualifications, or both. What type of education and skills should a person have before applying for this position? Do they need a college degree? Should they be familiar with a specific program? Should they have a specific number of years of experience in this field?
- The salary range. Did you know that only 12 percent of employers include information on salary in their job descriptions? You can easily make your job ads stand out by including this information. You don’t have to be precisely specific here; simply including a salary range, or a starting salary is acceptable.
- Included benefits. You can attract more job applicants if you also list the benefits and perks of working for this organization. If a person takes on this role, how will they benefit other than making a consistent salary? Will they have health insurance? Do they get access to a 401(k) plan? Does your company subsidize gym memberships and offer individual parking spaces? Don’t be shy on listing these.
- The work environment. By extension, you may want to describe the overall working environment. Why would someone want to work here, rather than somewhere else?
- Examples of ideal candidates. What does your ideal candidate look like? Only a third of all companies include this information in their job ads, so if you include it, you’ll instantly stand out. There is some redundancy between this section and your section on minimum qualifications, so you may not need to include both. Still, it often pays to be as descriptive as possible when illustrating the type of person you want working for your organization in this position.
- Future career potential. Most people don’t take on a job with the intention of keeping it forever. Accordingly, your job ad should include some information about how this could turn into a longer, more rewarding career. Could this person earn pay increases in the future? Are they in line for a specific promotion? Does this job offer growth and learning opportunities?
Goals of a Job Ad
What makes a job ad “compelling” anyway?
Ultimately, you should strive to make your job ad:
- Attract attention. The first goal of any job ad is to attract attention. If people don’t realize this job exists, or if they breeze past it when scrolling through opportunities, you’re not going to get any applicants. The same is true if a prospective applicants read through your job ad and have to fight to stay awake; if your ad is structured and worded like thousands of other ads, most talented people aren’t going to spend much time on it.
- Provide unambiguous information. It’s important for your job ad to be as unambiguous and descriptive as possible. This is your opportunity to set expectations, educate your audience, and set them up for success in this position. It’s a bad idea to embellish or exaggerate the positive features of this position; while such a move may attract more applicants initially, it could increase attrition and damage the company’s reputation when those applicants find out the truth.
- Filter out bad fits. There are approximately 6 million unemployed people in the United States, and even more people actively looking for jobs. If you had 6 million people applying to every job you posted, you’d quickly lose your mind. Accordingly, your job add should serve the function of filtering out potentially bad fits. People who aren’t a good fit for this job should know it immediately and stop themselves from applying.
- Persuade good fits to apply. At the same time, you need to make it clear who is a good fit – and persuade those people to apply. The two sides of this are accurately describing your ideal candidate and making the job opportunity look attractive enough to warrant an attempt to win it.
That all sounds good, but how do you practically achieve these goals?
What strategies should he be implementing to make your job ads more compelling?
Think Like Your Ideal Candidate
The first step is to think like your ideal candidate.
In marketing and sales, teams usually develop customer personas to embody the types of demographics to which they want to appeal. Once you better understand the customer persona, and you do ample market research, you can think like your customer and write better advertisements for them.
In HR and recruiting, you can do something similar.
Who is your ideal candidate? How much experience do they have? How much money do they make? What do they find to be most important in a job opportunity?
Once you better understand who this person is, you can work on things like:
- Perks. Which perks are going to matter most to this ideal candidate? In the early stages of career development, candidates may be most interested in making as much money as possible. If you’re appealing to the most talented and skilled people in the world, money may no longer be an objective – you might be better off emphasizing benefits like flex time or working from home. Show off the advantages that are most likely to appeal to this type of person, specifically.
- Vocabulary. You can also adjust your vocabulary to better suit the type of person who’s going to be reading this ad. You’re going to need to use more technical, more sophisticated words and phrases if you’re trying to appeal to someone with more skills and more industry knowledge.
- Phrasing and voice. Also consider your phrasing and overall tone of voice. Depending on who you’re targeting, it might be better to maintain more formal, professional, concise language or delve into more fluid, conversational language. You may also be restricted by your organizational culture and brand voice in this area.
Differentiate Your Company
One of your biggest goals is writing a job ad that stands out.
To do that, you need to find ways to differentiate your company.
What makes your company unique?
Why would someone choose to work for you, rather than any other business?
These are some of the best things to focus on:
- Work culture and environment. How would you describe your work culture? What kind of environment can people expect when working here? Some people thrive in a competitive, ambition focused environment; high pressure and active rivalries keep them engaged and drive them to do their best. Other people do better in freer, more casual environments; they feel more comfortable, so they’re less stressed and are more willing to put forth an effort. It’s important to be honest with this section – you don’t want to mischaracterize the nature of your work culture or environment – but at the same time, you may want to tweak some things or emphasize certain aspects to appeal to your ideal candidate, specifically.
- Growth and advancement opportunities. What kind of growth and advancement opportunities are available at this organization? Do you have a tendency to promote from within? Is there a benefit that allows people to continue their education? Do you offer on the job training or mentorship opportunities? Most job applicants want to accept positions that allow them to continue advancing themselves; they don’t want to lock themselves into a job that indefinitely remains stagnant.
- Work life balance. Among job seekers, 72 percent of people consider work life balance as an important factor when reviewing opportunities. And it’s easy to understand why. Even for the most driven and ambitious among us, work isn’t everything; it’s important to take time away from the office for yourself, your family, and your interests. Make sure to explain your company’s philosophy on work life balance and any policies or opportunities that allow for people to have more time for themselves. For example, how much vacation time do people get? Do you allow for flexible hours? Do you support people on the verge of burnout?
- The location. Location also matters. Some people love the idea of working in a tight-knit, engaging office environment. Others would rather work in their pajamas from home. Emphasize what makes you different than other workplaces; what do you offer that job applicants can’t get elsewhere?
- Compensation packages. You can also make your job ad stand out by offering more attractive compensation packages. You may or may not have wiggle room on the exact numbers or perks available, but you can invest more time in how you phrase and position these benefits. For example, if you’re only offering an average salary for this position, you can spend more time listing all the secondary and tertiary benefits that come with the job. Someone making their decision based on overall compensation packages might instantly be more interested in this role once they see just how many perks are associated with it.
Don’t Just Describe. Persuade.
Many recruiters are tempted to write job ads as pure, unmitigated description.
They see their entire job boiling down to writing a handful of sentences about the responsibilities associated with this position.
But in most cases, it’s not enough to just describe the role.
You also have to persuade people that this role is for them.
Some people seeing your job at are going to be actively looking for a position. These won’t be much of a challenge. But others already have a position they enjoy – and they may not be interested in leaving just yet.
Or, they may really be interested in a specific perk, like remote work.
How do you convince these people that your job is better? How can you persuade them that working for your business, in this role, is going to give them a higher quality of life?
You need to think about this and write your job ad as persuasively as possible.
In a sense, you’re trying to sell people on this position.
Leave Out the Bullet Points
Traditionally, job ads have been written with bullet points end numbered lists.
Intuitively, this makes sense. Bullet points are a convenient way to organize lists of details, especially when you’re trying to organize the skills necessary to succeed in this role or the responsibilities a candidate will take on by accepting this role.
However, modern best practices for job ads encourage writers to leave out the bullet points entirely. Instead, write in full sentences and paragraphs and try to make your job ad more narratively cohesive.
This is going to help you in a few different ways. For starters, you’re going to stand out; most job applicants don’t like seeing the exact same format for highly similar positions, over and over again.
This is also going to make your job add more engaging, bringing people in with more conversational, fluid language.
On top of that, this format is going to encourage you to be more creative and thoughtful in your approach. Instead of making up new responsibilities to make your bulleted list longer, you can present the most important details in a natural way.
Keep It Concise
If there are many minimum requirements or many responsibilities you feel are necessary to understand before a job applicant submits an application, feel free to include them. But for the most part, you should keep your job ad concise.
Too many recruiters and HR managers err on the side of length; they feel compelled to include as many details as possible to make the job seem more important or to appeal to every possible demographic. But in practice, lengthy, convoluted job ads force people to skim and make people feel exhausted before they ever submit an application.
After writing your first draft of a job ad, consider combing through it and removing any unnecessary details. How can you say things more concisely? Which details are most important and which ones can be left for later?
Write More Personally
Most candidates respond to job ads more favorably when the ad is written in a more personal way. That doesn’t mean you have to adopt a casual tone of voice, but it does mean you should try to write more like a human being than a robot.
When reading your ad, people shouldn’t be internally debating whether or not this was written by an AI algorithm. It should be obvious that the ad was written by a human being with a real personality.
This also sets a good tone for the future of your working relationship. People want to work with other people; They don’t want to work with faceless bureaucracies or cold, uncaring algorithms.
Get Outside Opinions
Writing a job ad should never be a completely solo endeavor. Before publishing any of your work, you should take it to other people and collect outside opinions.
It’s especially important to get the opinions of people who already hold this position, as well as people within this department who will be working with the chosen candidate eventually.
Do these people feel you’ve adequately captured the scope of this position? Do they have recommendations for how you can make the position more appealing? How would they have responded to this add if they were applying to your company for the first time?
You don’t need to completely rewrite the job ad just because someone else doesn’t think it’s perfect. But if many different people have the same critique, it’s a sign you should make an adjustment.
Consider AB Testing
AB testing is a popular marketing tactic, but it has an excellent application in the job ad creation world.
The basic idea is this: create two different versions of your advertisement and publish them in similar contexts. Then, measure the performance of each version to determine which version is more successful.
In the marketing world, you might measure this with metrics like traffic, conversions, or subjective favoritism. When placing job ads, you might simply measure the number of applications.
Creating an experimental alternative version can educate you, in real time, about the importance of certain factors, like wording, formatting, and titling. The more you experiment, and the more you learn, the better you’ll be able to write job ads in the future.
Remember That Placement Is Half the Battle
One final note here. So far, we’ve comprehensively covered the most important strategies for writing a compelling job ad. But you also need to remember that placement is half the battle.
You might have a hypothetically perfect job ad – a precisely accurate depiction of the role, customized flawlessly for your target audience. But if the people in your target audience never see it, it’s not going to be effective.
Make sure you publish and distribute your job ad on as many channels as are relevant to your target audience. And use any audience controls available to you to filter out people who aren’t a good fit.
Are you trying to develop better jobs ads for your business? Or do you need help in other areas of recruitment and HR? Contact us for a free consultation today!
Ryan has served in the Staffing and Recruiting industry for over 10 years. As an independent recruiter and business owner Ryan partners with decision-makers to attract, hire, and attain top-tier professionals to succeed and grow their companies. Ryan consistently implements new tools to help the needs of both clients and candidates until they are satisfied. With years of direct experience and knowledge from scaling and disrupting other major global industries. If you don't see Ryan with his family he is hard at work finding the right fit for your organization's open roles.
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