How To Write A Good Job Advert and Attract The Best Applicants

How to write a good job advert

With the increase in the use of recruitment software, the traditional job advert has changed. No longer designed to attract applications through the paper press, today’s job advert is viewed online.

That creates a number of important differences. The advert is read differently online as it was in print. And the recruitment software can help you manage and sift through the resulting applications if you get a lot of interest.

So what does this mean for today’s online recruitment job advert?

What is a Job Advert?

Some people refer to the job advert as the job description. I’m going to distinguish between the two – because they are similar, but not the same.

Let’s call the job description the document you produce in order to (a) secure internal buy in and budget allocation to recruit and hire someone to do a job, and (b) to tell the successful applicant, and those they work for, what that person’s job is.

A job advert is quite different.

A job advert is used to attract as many good candidates as possible to apply for your job – so that you can find and recruit the very best person available.

We provide recruitment software, so we’re going to focus on an online job advert, but the principles will apply wherever you use your job advert.

So now we’re agreed what the job advert is - how do you write a good one and attract as many of the best candidates as possible?

Make it Catchy

A good job advert should be instantly appealing and memorable. The right candidate should not have to read it all before they decide they want to apply.

The average person who visits a web page does so for only 12 seconds. Then they get bored and leave. They go somewhere else.

Catchy Job Advert

So your job advert has only 12 seconds to catch the eye and win the interest of the good applicants. Otherwise they’ll be gone – back to Facebook, news and any old scandal that catches their online interest.

12 seconds to make a compelling case on why someone should apply for your job.

Make it professional

Your job advert must be neat, tidy and professional.

How to write a professional job advert

If you are looking for someone with a professional outlook, who cares about the image they project and the work they do, then your job advert also needs to look professional.

If you’ve got spelling and punctuation mistakes, and haven’t capitalised things properly, then you are going to attract applicants with an equally shabby outlook on their work life.

Keep your job advert neat, tidy and professional, and you’ll attract applicants that are neat, tidy and professional.

Keep it brief

Once you’ve got them to stay more than 12 seconds, they are only going to stay for so much longer. They are not going to stay forever. So you’ve got to continue to provide punchy, compelling arguments until they decide to take the next steps – perhaps even apply for your job.

If they can see that they’ve got to read a two page job advert in order to understand what you are looking for, they are going to leave – you’ll scare them away – so keep it brief.

It should stand alone

A good job advert must stand on its own – it must read as a complete, compelling argument on why the right people should apply for your job.

How to write a clear job advert

Referring to attached documents is OK – but if you want to capture the best applicants you need to provide a complete argument on the spot or you risk losing them.

Tailored and personal

An advert that is individual to your organisation, and this particular job, is far more likely to attract good applicants than a standard document that you’ve simply copied and pasted from the web.

Many times we see a job advert that has clearly been copied and pasted off the internet. These are so easy to spot. They convey the attitude that your organisation can’t be bothered, doesn’t really care about finding good staff and is not going to be a nice place to work.

Job Title

The importance of a job title

People used to say that at Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, everyone was allowed to come up with their own job title. That’s a little unusual – but it may well have worked for them.

But at the point of recruiting, you’ve got to give a job a title so that potential applicants know what it is, and you know what it is.

We’ve worked with people who try to use the job title to hide what the job really is. We really don’t understand this approach. If anyone is so dumb that they are going to apply and actually come to work without working out what the job really is, then do you really want to employ them?

A good title makes it clear what the job is. It will be understood by the right candidate, who will choose to read on to find out more about your job. Remember – you’ve only got 12 seconds to hook them, or they’ll be gone (see section above).

Let’s say you work for an SME with three staff in the accounts team, and now you’re recruiting a fourth. You’re looking for an accountant, right? So you could title the job ‘Accountant’. But what does that really mean? Is it a CFO job? Is it a Chief Accountant job? Is it a Book Keeper role? Is it an Assistant Accountant role? The right job title will attract the best candidates to read the rest of the job advert. If you’re looking for an experienced accountant to take some of the weight off the Chief Accountant, then if you call the job ‘Accounts Department Senior’, are you not more likely to find the right candidate than if you just call it ‘Accountant’.

It’s important. So think about it and come up with a good job title that immediately communicates the role.

What will they actually do?

Responsibilities of the job

The best candidates will want to actually DO something for your organisation, so it’s important that you describe the contribution they will make.

Let’s face it – you want them to do something too – or you wouldn’t be employing them.

So make it clear what they will actually do. No double speak. No ‘in house’ lingo – use plain words that everyone will understand to briefly and accurately describe what they will actually do.

For example, if you’re recruiting an accountant, they could be doing any one or combination of many different tasks. It’s not enough to say “you will be an accountant”. Will they prepare management accounts? Will they post entries to the accounting system? Will they do VAT returns? Will they design a new format for the management accounts? Will they do the bank reconciliations? Will they manage the treasury function? Will they do all those things? Make it clear – what will they do.


Importance of Job Location in a Job Advert

An engineer looking for a job on an oil rig will be expecting two things. (1) a lot of pay, and (2) to be working in some remote, hostile and wet corner of the world. So it doesn’t really matter where the job is. The engineer knows you’ll be flying them in and out to work.

But if you’re recruiting for an office job, it’s different. The best candidates have in mind where they do and don’t want to work. If the best candidate wants to be near to their ageing mother in London to help look after them, then they are not going to apply for a job that might be in Paris or New York.

The right candidate might only be prepared to work in one or two suburbs of any particular city – so to even say the job in is Accra may be too vague for them.

The rule works like this:-

We worked with a chain of Hotels in East Africa. They generally recruit hotel and lodge staff who they can post to any one of their lodges across the region. So when they advertise, they make this clear – you might be required to work anywhere. To them, the best candidates are those that are prepared to work anywhere.

But if you are looking for a receptionist to work in Nakuru, or a suburb of Nairobi, then you probably need to be a little clearer. You need to say exactly where the job will be based. Then people who want to work in that location will be encouraged to apply for your job.

Requirements - Who are you looking for?

Requirements of a job

Make it clear what you are looking for.

Before people decide to apply – and then actually spend time applying – they need to believe that they have a chance of getting the job.

So you’ve got to say what you are looking for.

But be careful. Don’t scare away the best candidates who may not have ALL the qualities you can think of listing.

If particular qualifications are essential, then say so – a law degree or a part qualified accountancy qualification – say so.

If the only thing that really matters is that they must be hard working, nice people that like dogs because the boss brings his dog to work – then say so. People who like dogs and the casual nature of the office environment will fall over themselves to apply.

  • DO include enough information for people to identify with.
  • Do NOT include too many requirements that are not really essential that might disqualify or discourage an otherwise ideal applicant.

If you are using recruitment software with a clever filtering tool like TEAM iQ – which automatically filters out candidates who don’t meet your minimum criteria, then you don’t actually need to state any ‘must haves’ – because you’ll filter out and not even look at applicants who don’t have anything they ‘must have’ so you don’t need to say it.

Requirements are a two-edged sword. By including a list of requirements that the right candidate has, you will actually encourage them to apply. Think of requirements this way – use them to get the right person to apply, rather than to discourage the wrong person to apply. If you’ve got a half decent recruitment system, you’ll filter out the wrong person anyway.

Who do they report to?

Reporting to your boss at work

Just about everyone has a boss. At least one boss. The CEO reports to the Chairman, the owner or the board – he or she has a boss. The Finance Director reports to someone. And so does the Treasury Accountant.

Generally people want to know who their boss will be. It’s just human nature.

The receptionist may well report to an office manager – in which case, you probably don’t need to say this in the Job Advert. Because if you are silent on this point, a decent applicant will work it out for themselves. They’ll expect to have a boss somewhere, and they probably don’t care too much what that boss’ title is.

But if you are recruiting a ‘Head of Treasury’ then reporting lines become much more important. Do they report directly to the MD or CEO? Or do they report to the Chief Accountant or CFO? The best candidates will want to know – so tell them who their boss will be.

Will anyone report to them?

If you are recruiting a switchboard operator, then they are not going to expect anyone to be reporting in to them. So you won’t necessarily need to say whether anyone does or does not report in to them. The office messenger may report to them – but you don’t have to say that in the job advert.

But for some jobs the expectation may be different.

Look at our ‘Accounting’ job again. In an accounts department full of accountants, accountants report to other accountants. Prospective candidates will want to know where they will fit in – In a large accounting department there may be a Cashiering department in which a team of 3 cashiers report to the Cashiering manager. So if the job title is ‘Manager – Cashiering’ then if you want to attract the best candidates you’ve got to say whether or not anyone will report in to them. It doesn’t matter whether people report in to the role or not – what matters is that you make the position clear – so the right applicants are attracted to apply.

What’s the salary going to be?

Should You Mention Salary in a Good Job Advert

Should you or shouldn’t you say what the job pays?

This depends on a number of factors.

If the pay scale is fixed, and will not budge no matter who applies, and you judge that there will be a large applicant pool, then you might as well come out with in in the Job Advert. Then if you’re not paying enough, a candidate who wants more won’t apply. And those for whom you are offering enough will apply.

But if your approach is more flexible, and you are going to pay ‘market rate’ to attract the right candidate, then you don’t need to state a pay scale – because your pay offer will be competitive and sensible – so you know you won’t fall out with the right applicant over it.

If the role is really important to you, and you absolutely want the best candidate, and you are going to pay them above market rate with a big fat bonus if they achieve targets, then you might be better off actually saying this – it will encourage more people to apply.

Let’s say you are employing a driver – to drive your aged mother around. Let’s say the market rate for a driver is 20,000. But you want a really nice person who’s going to get on really well with your mother and drive her really carefully. And you’re prepared to pay for this. So you state, right at the top of the job advert, that the job pays 25,000. You can be pretty sure that the best driver candidates will apply.

Job Advert Checklist

Download our handy checklist.  Print it off and sign off each of the stages as you work through your job adverts.

 Download Your Job Advert Checklist 

Click here for more Recruitment blog articles