The Definitive Guide to Writing Job Adverts by Mark Stephens
One of the most common challenges facing anyone looking to recruit staff is writing job adverts. Not the job specification, but the advert for the opportunity.
We recently reviewed more than 200 job adverts for a variety of mainstream and niche roles across various industry sectors picking 3 leading job boards and selecting the top 5 results for 40 unique job titles.
We were looking for evidence that advertisers were applying the basic rules of successful advertising. We were not being subjective, just looking at structure, style, content, keywords and determining whether the copy could be considered an advertisement for the opportunity or if it was more a specification of what was required.
173 of the jobs adverts that we reviewed would have failed any basic assessment.
It is evident that the majority of ‘recruiters’, whether ‘in house’ or ‘agency’ do not understand how to maximise their response rates and attract the best applicants.
When you consider that over 90% of all job related searches are performed by people who are already in employment, then it is hard to understand why it appears so difficult for ‘recruiters’ to get their head around what they need to do, in order to attract passive online job seekers.
Now that I have established the issue, I would like to run through a few of the more basic elements that anyone writing advertising copy can apply, in order to improve their conversion rates from ‘view’ to ‘apply’.
Get out of the habit of trying to screen out all the unsuitable applicants with your advert and start thinking about your copy as an ‘advertisement’ for an opportunity that will attract the very best candidates currently working with your competition.
It is very tempting to outline your requirements for the role when writing job adverts, but you need to remember that you are not writing job specifications. You are writing job adverts. Only desperate applicants will apply to that type of job advert.
The reason that recruiters try to screen applicants out, is to avoid having to sift through dozens of unsuitable CV’s / application forms. The problem with this strategy is that it tends to result in very uninspiring job advertisements that put off the very best candidates.
Remember, it’s a massive decision for most candidates who are currently in employment, to even consider another job, so the content of your advert is actually very valuable real estate, that needs to be utilised effectively in order to highlight every positive aspect you can think of about this opportunity.
This section of the job advert is where your qualifying criteria go, so use it properly.
Candidates are far more likely to refer to this if they like the sound of the opportunity you are advertising.
The biggest question being asked by the vast majority of applicants reading your advert is “What is in it for me?”
Over 90% of people reading your advert already have a job, so one of the first sections of your copy should be dedicated to selling the opportunity.
To think that people will apply for your job just because they can do it is naïve at best.
Most candidates will be motivated by the perception that your opportunity represents a positive change for them and will need to justify the subsequent job application and interview logistics that lay head accordingly if they progress.
Consider what the opportunities are that you can highlight in your advert: To learn something new; to develop or improve their skills, to experience something different; to join a bigger, more highly skilled team; to join a smaller team where they can become a bigger fish; to progress their career; take on more responsibility or to earn more money. The list goes on.
Unless the applicant believes that your job can satisfy the ‘what’s in it for me’ question, they will not hit the ‘apply’ button.
An important section of writing job adverts is the job description and this where the temptation is to revert to spec. You really need to focus on what is interesting, challenging and is likely to be seen as ‘sexy’ to your prospective applicant.
What the candidate will be doing at this point, is weighing up and comparing their current role against what they could be doing with you.
Consider what can make the job sound more interesting and appealing; previous or current or future projects; technology and tools; clients; the people; the team; the culture or anything about the company that is worth shouting about.
If you get stuck think about how you would try and sell the role to a friend in the pub.
Choosing the right job title and keywords that you want to get found for is essential; especially for highly competitive jobs. The difference between getting your job onto the first page of results and the second can be as high as ten times the number of views.
Placing information in the right order that is not only logical to read, but also helps to focus on generating the right sort of content. Here is our recommended structure
• Job Title
• A powerful Intro (The elevator pitch)
• The Opportunity
• The job description
• Essential and Desirable criteria
• The Company
Following a logical process, not only makes writing job copy easier but also helps avoid filling up your advert with content that has no value to either the applicant or in helping you the recruiter.
There are many other advanced tactics that you can deploy, to further refine your job adverts and to help further improve application response, but I hope that this list will get you started and on the right track, to start improving application results, both in terms of quantity and quality.
About the Author
Mark Stephens has worked within the recruitment sector for nearly 20 years both in-house and agency side and more recently within the technology environment. Mark is a serial entrepreneur and is the founder of Smart Recruit Online, the Recruitment Alliance and The HR & Recruitment Resource Library. Mark has dedicated his time since 2007 researching the online recruitment sector from a user, technology, and candidate perspective and is regularly published and quoted by leading industry publications for his research and personal opinions.
Smart Recruit Online offers a low cost multi-award winning online recruitment service with a 98% independent customer satisfaction rating and the highest direct-hire fill rate in the UK.
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