Write a Job Advert: Crafting the Perfect Posting to Attract Quality Applicants
<div class="grey-callout"><h2>In This Guide You’ll Learn</h2><p><ul><li>How to write a great advert that will attract the best applicants to your job.</li><li>How to use a scientifically proven structure for your advert that will maximise its effectiveness on job sites.</li><li>How to refine your advertisment to remove snags that can make it less effective.</li></ul></p></div>
If you’re advertising your role on a job site, employer career pages, social media, LinkedIn etc, then you’re going to need to write your own advert.
When doing this, it’s really important to see things through the eyes of candidates and to sell them the job.
A job advert is not a job description, but employers often confuse the two, posting adverts full of meaningless jargon and disclaimers that hamper their recruitment efforts.
You need to adopt the mindset of a marketer and be able to say exactly why your ideal applicant should join your company rather than a competitor.
In this guide, I’ll lead you through the creation of your advert using an optimised structure devised using results from scientific research that I’ve carried out using focus groups of hundreds of jobseekers.
Job Advert Structure
Headlines: key job information
- Headline and job title. The headline is there to help jobseekers find your advert and to encourage particular types of jobseekers to click on it. Use familiar job titles because that’s what applicants will be searching for. Short titles work best because when people are scanning text they tend to put more weight on the first few words of a phrase. Add extra information at the end, for example: “Web developer PHP”. One to three word headlines work best; avoid headlines longer than six words. Also, fully capitalise headlines and avoid special characters as these can confuse search engines.
- Location. Jobs in cities attract more applicants. If your job is in a sparsely populated area, list the nearest major town, then in the body copy include further location information (see below). For regional jobs state a main central town. Some sites do allow you to specify a whole region, but be careful with this as regionally tagged jobs are sometimes placed at the bottom of search results.
- Salary range. If these are too wide they become meaningless. I recommend ranges of £5,000 or so, such as £25,000 – £30,000. In the body copy you can go into more detail about bonuses and other benefits. Always state a salary: adverts that don’t tend to receive 80% fewer applicants. If you aren’t sure what the appropriate salary level is, do a quick search on a job site to see what your close competitors are paying for similar jobs.
- Contract type. State whether the job is permanent, contract or temporary.
Body copy: job highlights
After the headline, location, salary and contract type comes a more detailed description of the job. This is the main body of the advert, and I’ll guide you through it in detail.
The optimal length is 250-300 words, though this can be longer for senior roles. To help busy applicants quickly find the relevant information, use capital letters for headings and bullet points instead of large chunks of text. Keep sentences short – ideally under eight words.
Include the following sections in this order:
- Opening paragraph about your company. Give a couple of sentences about your organisation and why it’s a great place to work. Include information about how long you’ve been in business, how many staff you have, the nature of the work environment and why your company is better to work for than your competitors. Avoid hyperbole and marketing jargon. Don’t go into too much detail about your product, emphasising instead the positive aspects of your workplace.
- Overview of the job. State the main responsibilities, showing how these add value to customers and contribute to the company’s vision. Avoid meaningless caveats like “anything else that may reasonably be expected” or obvious requirements such as “maintaining positive work relationships”. Here you can also expand on the information you gave at the top of the advert about the contract type. For example, if the job is maternity cover state whether it will turn in to a permanent job, and for part-time and shift jobs specify work hours and whether these are negotiable.
- Skills and experience. The more of these you ask for, the fewer applicants you’ll get, so don’t turn your advert into a ransom note of demands! Review your Great Performance Profile and draw up a list of the skills needed for a person to be a Great Performer. Stick to essential skills. Leave out desirable ones as this can put off applicants if they think they don’t have them. Also, name specific skills. Avoid vague and hard-to-measure “soft” skills such as “passion” or “initiative” as well as meaningless platitudes like “able to work independently and as part of a team”. For more on Great Performance Profiles, see guide: Writing a Job Description (aka a Great Performance Profile).
- Salary and benefits. Give more details about the remuneration package such as whether there’s a bonus and overtime pay. Include holiday allowances, car parking arrangements and other perks. Jobs with more benefits attract more applicants. Three of these is a good number to aim for.
- Location. As mentioned, in the location field at the top of the advert it’s best to specify a major town. Within the body copy you can give more details. If your job is outside the town you’ve specified, provide further explanation and include information about transport links. For London locations, specify nearby tube stations. London jobs get more responses if you put the first part of the postcode in the headline, as in “Sous Chef – NW1”. Hybrid office-remote roles attract 12% more applicants, so if this applies to your job say so near the top of the advert.
- Call to action. When you explicitly ask jobseekers to apply, you get more applications. Don’t just say “please apply”. Say “Apply now and join our team!” Let them apply through the job site. If you ask them to email or call you’ll tend to put some people off.
Optimise Your Job Advert
Once you have these sections in place, apply the following steps to perfect your advert:
- Remove closing dates and interview dates. You wouldn’t want to exclude a promising applicant just because they saw your advertisement a day after a closing date.
- Be clear about times. Use am and pm (e.g. 11 am – 5 pm) rather than the 24-hour clock. If you have typical hours, you can skip this.
- Don’t explain your recruitment process. Giving information about even fairly simply selection procedures tends to reduce the number of applications. It’s best not to go into these at all in the advert.
- Be realistic. Are you promising too much? If so, new hires will get disenchanted and might leave. Jobseekers don’t like jobs that claim high earning potential without offering decent basic pay.
- Use clear, everyday language. Avoid jargon and specialised terminology as this will put off some applicants. Using phrases starting with “you will” encourages applicants to picture themselves working in your company.
- Use relevant keywords. To get your advert high in the search results, include keywords (e.g. “sales”, “marketing”, “finance”) while keeping the language natural. For best results, keywords should take up 5% of your advert.
- Check for discrimination. Avoid requiring some minimum number of years of experience as this could be construed as age discrimination. Ask for “native-level fluency” rather than “native fluency” as the latter may favour particular nationalities. Avoid gender-specific pronouns or nouns such as “handyman”. There is a gender bias checker on the Guides & Checklists section of our website which you can use on your job advert.
- Check spelling and punctuation. Errors don’t give a good impression, so do correct your copy before posting it.
- Check readability. Readability scores can help you make sure that your advert is easy for people to read. A grade 9 readability score is a good level to aim for. There’s a readability tool on the Guides & Checklists section of our website for you to use.
- Don’t include your company logo or name. Unbranded, plain text adverts work best. Jobseekers scan adverts quickly and rarely look at logos. Also, anonymity can be useful: companies who regularly post advertisements might be seen as having a retention problem; some applicants prefer to apply to anonymous roles to give them cover if they’re with a competitor of their current employer; and some organisations are perceived negatively or inaccurately. (The exception to this recommendation is for very well-known big companies such as Google or Walt Disney whose brands tend to pull in lots of applicants. This is unlikely to be the case for SMEs.)
- Post your advert on Monday to Thursday. Jobseekers tend to look for jobs during the week, and applications dip at the weekend.
<div class="grey-callout"><h2>Key Takeaways</h2><ul><li>To write an effective job advert it’s important to understand the needs of jobseekers.</li><li>A good job advert follows a particular structure: headline, location, salary range, and contract type, then a description of the job's highlights.</li><li>Job highlights are the main part of the advert and should consist of a summary of your company, a compelling overview of the job including clarification of the contract type, required skills and experience, salary and benefits, location and a call to action.</li><li>Once you’ve drawn up the advert, refine it using the guidelines given.</li></ul></p></div>