How to write a winning job advert

If your organisation has experienced growth or turnover, chances are recruitment is part of your agenda. But to find the right people to join your organisation, your job adverts must stand out from the crowd and present your brand in a positive light.

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So, what are the key elements of a successful job advert?

1. Be clear about what the job is

Before you start drafting your job ad, make sure you know exactly what the job involves. If you’re recruiting for a replacement role, it can be tempting to just pick up and reuse the previous job spec. But as we’ve come to know during COVID-19, job requirements and expectations 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.

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 the role and what you need from the outset maximises your chances of attracting the right candidates.

2. Put yourself in the shoes of the ideal candidate

We’ve all put ourselves through the painful process of job hunting. 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 an accurate job advert is redundant if the candidate isn’t enticed to click on it in the first place. 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?

3. Be inclusive

The value of having a diverse and inclusive workforce is well proven, but many unknowingly create job ads that exclude certain groups. Openreach found through the analysis of their own job adverts that 50% of female applicants are less likely to apply for roles with coded gender bias.

Keep your ad concise and neutral if you wish to attract different types of candidates. It can be hard to notice what is considered biased language, so consider using free tools like this gender decoder when proofreading your job adverts.

4. 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?
  • What are your 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.

But it must be authentic. There’s no point trying to make the business sound cutting 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. HR systems with a recruitment software package that allows you to create templates for job ads can go a long way to helping you ensure adverts are ‘on brand’ and consistent.

5. Ensure key details are included

You’d be surprised how many job adverts lack basic information about the location or working hours. Make sure people know where the job is based, whether travel is involved, and whether hours are fixed or flexible.

Many jobseekers now expect a more flexible way of working. Whether you offer home working, adjustable working hours, or job share arrangements, make sure you mention these clearly. Flexible work arrangements are a real draw for candidates who are juggling work with caring or other commitments.

6. Outline the job responsibilities

Your advert needs to convey an idea of the level of seniority/responsibility too. Does the role include managing others or managing a significant level of budget? The ad should also clearly specify what level of experience and core competencies are required. Discuss with the hiring manager in detail whether these requirements are realistic and are actually necessary for the job.

If a list of ‘essential’ requirements is too long, it can come across as too demanding and will put off good candidates. Should you come across this problem, it might be worth thinking whether you’re looking for more than one role to fill to meet the business’ needs.

7. Be specific about rewards and benefits

One of the biggest bugbears from a candidate’s point of view is a job advert which gives absolutely no idea whatsoever of salary. 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 state any benefits that may be on offer too, as these can often help to sway people’s decision about whether to apply.

8. Tell people what to expect next

Make sure the job advert tells people – even if only briefly – what to expect in terms of the 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 day, their application has been unsuccessful.

Good communication with candidates is key and will help to establish a positive impression of the organisation. With recruitment and applicant tracking systems now available to help reduce the admin load and streamline communication, there is no excuse for leaving people hanging.

Making the effort to write the perfect job advert can save you a lot of time in your hiring activities later on.

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