How to write a winning job advert

With unemployment at its lowest level for 40 years, it’s hardly surprising that recruitment is one of the biggest challenges facing HR professionals right now.

Good candidates are hard to come by – and those who are available are often finding themselves in a position to negotiate hard and weigh up multiple job opportunities.

In this highly competitive scenario, companies need to work hard to make their job adverts stand out from the crowd and to present their brand in a positive light.

So what are the key elements of a successful job advert that attracts the right kind of people for the specific role and the business?

1. Put yourself in the shoes of the ideal candidate

We’ve all, at some stage, put ourselves through the painful process of job hunting (and if you haven’t, you’re very lucky). Think back to your own experiences. Which job adverts stood out to you and why? Where did you look? What parameters did you set when searching?

Writing the perfect job advert is redundant if the candidate isn’t enticed to click on it in the first place, however. Have a quick search on popular job boards like Indeed or Reed. You’ll see that you have a couple of lines under the job title to work with, so make them count! What can you say in this limited space that will make ideal prospective candidates stop scrolling, and click on your advert over others?

2. Be clear about what the job is

If you’re recruiting for a replacement role, it can be tempting to just pick up and reuse the previous job spec. But in fast-changing markets, job requirements can change almost overnight. Priorities may have shifted or new responsibilities may have been added to the role since the last time it was advertised. Make sure you are clear about the job spec before you start writing the ad. Think about what the role requires now, but also about how it is likely to develop in the future. A vague job ad is unlikely to result in a successful recruitment exercise. Being clear about what the job is and what you need from the outset maximises your chances of attracting the right candidates.

3. Tell a story about the brand

The best job adverts don’t just describe the role, they also tell a story about what it will be like to work for the business. Is it a fast-moving, entrepreneurial environment or a more conventional corporate setting? Is it a technology driven business? What are the core values? This kind of information will help people make a judgement about how well they are likely to fit in and if the working environment is one they will enjoy. It’s important to keep it authentic however. There’s no point trying to make the business sound leading edge and exciting if that’s not the case. Candidates will soon come to see the reality and will quickly move on to pastures new if the picture that’s been painted is not correct. A recruitment software package that allows you to create templates for job ads with standard branding and company information can go a long way to helping you ensure adverts are ‘on message’ and consistent.

4. Ensure key details are included

It may sound obvious to say include all the key details – but you’d be surprised how many job adverts lack basic information about location or working hours. Make sure people know where the job is based, whether travel is involved and whether hours are fixed or flexible. If you offer remote working, or are prepared to consider part-time hours or job share arrangements, it’s definitely worth mentioning as this can be a real draw for candidates who are juggling work with caring or other responsibilities. It’s important for the advert to convey an idea of the level of seniority/responsibility too. Does the role include managing others, for example, or managing a significant level of budget? The ad should also clearly specify what level of experience and core competencies are required – although be wary of making the list of ‘essential’ requirements too long, as this may lead to good people unnecessarily weeding themselves out.

5. Be specific about reward and benefits

One of the biggest bug-bears from a candidate’s point of view is a job advert which gives absolutely no idea whatsoever of salary. In a crowded market, if there are a number of opportunities on offer, people will simply by-pass adverts where money isn’t mentioned. No-one wants to spend hours on a job application only to find that the remuneration is way below what they need or had expected. If it’s not possible to specify an exact salary, at least mention a range. Don’t forget to mention any benefits that may be on offer too, as these can often help to sway people’s decision about whether to apply.

6. Tell people what to expect next

Surveys have shown that as many as 73 per cent of candidates receive no confirmation or communication after sending off a job application. Make sure the job advert tells people – even if only briefly – what to expect in terms of next steps. Sometimes that might mean specifying a date on which first interviews will be held, or letting people know that if they haven’t heard back by a certain date, their application has been unsuccessful. Good communication with candidates is key and will help to establish a positive impression of the organisation. With recruitment software now available to help reduce the admin load and streamline communication, there is no excuse for leaving people hanging.

Did you find this useful? If so, why not check out our article on easy ways to improve recruitment (and why you need to care)

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