I have spoken with many HR heads and internal recruiters on the subject of making job adverts work harder to attract the best candidates. After all, hiring the right people is fundamental to your success. Start a Google search and you’ll find countless opinions on the dos and don’ts of advertisement writing. Here are some home truths and some guidance that works.
People don’t read job adverts
Let’s deal with this point first. Direct feedback from jobseekers confirms that most don’t read your job adverts in full, unless they’re preparing for interview. Some people avoid reading them altogether. If you work in HR or recruitment and you think this is implausible, how many CVs do you read fully?
Let’s explore that for a second. Typical CV practice is to scan the first line or two of the opening statement; skip to previous job titles and terms of service before reading any of the detail. You may hope that the information you require is in a convenient bullet point format, because you don’t have much time to qualify suitability.
Now we know that job advertisements are merely scanned, let’s look at how they are found and reviewed.
How are adverts found?
Jobseekers often start with internet search engines like Google or native job board search tools. They use words they understand to find the jobs they are interested in. Do those words and phrases appear in your advert in sufficient density? If you are advertising for a plumber, the word plumber (not plumbing or piping) should be in the top section of your advert at least five times. Increased word density improves the chances of your advert being presented towards the top of any search results.
Tip: Use phrases like “the ideal Plumber” rather than “The ideal candidate” to increase word density.
How are job adverts reviewed?
Just as with recruiters and CVs, Jobseekers scan adverts for critical information. Right up front, they want to know:
- What it is
- Where it is
- The salary
If the basics suit, they may seek the following:
- Required skills, experience and education
If they like the shape of your vacancy, they will consider:
- Organisation type
- Organisation Size
- Personal prospects
If you present a wall of text and you make it too hard to find what they need, candidate will lose interest quickly; there’s always another advert just one click away. I’ve spoken to jobseekers and that’s the feedback. It seems that attention spans aren’t what they used to be.
What, where and salary
As this is the most critical qualification point in your advert, make that information abundantly clear. Some job boards don’t like salaries and locations in advert titles. Indeed is a prime example. However, on many there is little reason to avoid writing titles such as “Pharmaceutical Sales, Berkshire, to £60K OTE”
Tip: Write a remuneration section in the body of your advert. Head it up with a title so that it can be found easily.
Responsibilities and Requirements
Make these clear and meaningful so that candidates can visualise the job. What will they be doing, managing, building? List the job responsibilities in bullet form.
Tip: Leave out items like ‘contribute to team discussions’ or ‘report of daily progress’ These can be considered low level administration points of the job rather than the actual job.
Make sure that the minimum entry requirements for education and experience are clearly laid out in bullet point form.
Tip: These are important qualification points, so list them in a headed section.
The organisation, its ambition and the potential influence of the role are important factors when candidates make their final choice. Think about the scale of the opportunity, the level of autonomy and the impact you’re expecting from your new employee. Teachers don’t want to teach just any old class of kids. Some want to teach the brightest, others want to raise the aspirations of the disadvantaged and a few want the freedom to change the teaching concept altogether.
Described accurately, your vacancy can appeal to the right person. Think about your retention rates and why people leave your organisation. Perhaps your mission or the specific challenges of the job could have been clearer at the outset.
Writing adverts is a science. Write them to attract the one person you would like to join your organisation. Avoid writing them to attract people. We’re all busy and asking you to invest more time to improve job advertisements could meet some resistance. However, we need to ask ourselves whether we can afford not to.
Stuart Haddow is the Product Director for CVMinder ATS which was awarded best value Applicant Tracking System 2017 by Capterra. He’s a former Board Director of enterprise software companies, run a successful recruitment company and he understands job advertising strategy. The advice given above is solely personal and is, based upon his experience in software engineering, recruitment services and hiring management.