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How to Write a Job Ad that Attracts Top Talent
Writing a job ad is the first step toward getting the right candidates you want on your team. It starts with an evaluation of the position, an evaluation of the type of candidate who will fill that job and accomplish those tasks, and being able to creatively pull together a marketing piece of content that serves to attract the right kind of people.
First off, let’s make sure that we’ve distinguished the difference between a job ad and a job description. A job description is a technical document that so many businesses post on job boards, dense with position-specific information, responsibilities, rules, requirements, bullet points, and nitty-gritty details.
… Few of which Candidates follow when applying. As I’m sure you know, listing “team players” or “attention to detail” as a skill requirement is no guarantee.
Stop posting these!
A job ad, on the other hand, is an exciting and enthralling piece of content.
It paints a picture of the company, the environment, and the culture. It describes the role in a way where the candidate can picture a day on the job, what working with their new team would be like, and the doors this new job position opens for them. It offers incentives and opportunities that excite and challenge the candidate.
What you post on job boards is often the first impression a potential candidate has about your company. So picture this; you walk into a restaurant you’ve passed several times and wanted to try.
As you walk in, it’s dark and takes a minute to adjust to the lighting. Once your vision returns, you notice a large roach darting across the floor.
Now picture walking into another restaurant you’ve passed by several times before and being greeted with a blast of the most appetizing smells from the kitchen, welcoming decor, comforting ambiance, and an impeccable clean premise.
Simply throwing a job ad out there for your future candidates to see as the first impression of your company is doing a disservice to your organization and your recruiting efforts. Your job ads need to entice candidates to apply by showing them the potential this opportunity provides them with.
Now that you understand how to position your job ads, let’s address the reason you came here in the first place:
How do you write a job ad that top performers will consistently want to apply to?
Here’s the answer in 4 easy steps.
1. Identify the Position in Your Job Ad
Understanding what you truly want in a new team member, out of the role, what objectives and responsibilities will be asked, what you expect from your candidate, and most importantly, how success will be measured, is the first step to creating a killer job advertisement that will wow potential applicants.
You can do this by asking yourself the following 8 questions:
- Where in your company is this position poised to contribute the most?
- What activities will this position be responsible for?
- What objectives do you need this position to accomplish in order to help your business grow and be more profitable?
- How will success in all of these activities be measured?
- Is this a newly created position or an existing one?
- If it is existing, have you ever had someone successful in this role before?
- If so, what kinds of traits did they exhibit that made them successful?
- Can you translate these personal characteristics into something measurable or clearly define what these traits look like on the job?
This will get you closer to creating the perfect job ad for your ideal candidate. Now you just need to create your ideal candidate’s profile! Job ads should cater and speak to the type of candidate you are looking to hire.
Ask yourself these questions to truly understand what kind of candidate you are looking for.
2. Create Measurable Expectations
Creating a list of measurable expectations will help you accurately identify the position profile. It allows you to brainstorm what this job looks like when done successfully and then allows you to organize these expectations in a way that sets the foundation for you to create a candidate profile of your ideal employee who will assume this role.
3. Matching the Job Advertisement to Your Candidate Profile
Matching the job ad to the actual job is key. Your ad should include a cliff’s notes version of what is expected day-to-day on the job.
So often in interviews, we hear that candidates want to leave their current position in part because what they thought they would be responsible for couldn’t be farther from what they actually do each day.
A good job ad tells the story of a dynamic role, its responsibilities, and the benchmarks by which a person in this role will be measured or held accountable.
Advertising Salary Range in Job Ads
The question of when and how to set salary expectations can be a difficult topic to navigate for experienced employers and interviewers. Should you advertise salary outright? Should you wait until you’ve chosen the candidate? Are ranges better than a specific amount? Do you need a salary history?
As with any employment issue, there are both pros and cons of advertising job salaries and salary ranges.
Pros of Advertising Salary
Many companies choose to advertise salary in their job postings to accomplish certain screening objectives early on. The following are several examples:
- Avoid interviewing candidates who won’t be satisfied. Advertising salary or ranges lets candidates self-select, saving you time and effort. If they wouldn’t accept the salary posted, they probably won’t apply. What might have been a wasted interview leaves another open slot instead.
- Avoid early inquiries about salary. Many companies prefer to avoid discussing salary in early interviews. Posting the salary range can help you avoid this. It gives candidates a general idea so that they will avoid questions until second-round interviews.
- Appear forthright and professional. This helps clarify expectations over a somewhat contentious issue before you even meet the client. For many employers, this is easier than introducing salary in person or at the end of the process.
Cons of Advertising Salary
Some companies avoid advertising salary outright for the following reasons:
Good candidates may be discouraged by low amounts. A good candidate may be discouraged if the posted salary range is low. If no salary is listed, a candidate may apply, come in for an interview, and feel that the job is such a good fit that they’d be willing to take less than they thought.
Fear of candidate expectations. Some leaders feel that advertising even a wide salary range can make candidates expect too much. Once they have a number in their mind – usually at the high end of the scale — anything less can be a disappointment.
Don’t advertise willingness to pay more. A really great candidate may be able to negotiate a higher salary than what the company originally hoped to offer. However, advertising a high amount, even at the end of the scale, increases every candidate’s expectations.
In addition to advertising salary, salary history is another closely related factor that must be taken into consideration. Requiring a salary history makes little sense for lower-level positions and is most typical for higher-level roles.
They can be a good way to understand what competitors are really offering. With this knowledge, you can pick a starting point for negotiations or understand what a candidate is likely to expect.
Remember to fairly assess what the candidate will bring to the company. Don’t just match or offer a rate slightly above their previous salary, even if it was a similar position. Employees who feel underpaid and undervalued will be less productive and look elsewhere more quickly.
Consider setting a target range based on the role and what you’ve learned about the candidate. Once you’ve done this, take a look at their salary history and check for extreme deviations.
The decision to post or not to post a salary range is up to you. Once you’ve posted a few job descriptions, assess what effect you think posting or not posting a range has had on candidates’ expectations and behavior. You can then see how altering your practices for advertising salary affects negotiations.
Write Creative Job Advertisements and Set Expectations Early
Writing a good job ad will force you to summon your inner creative writer from 11th grade English class. So many job ads are written without any forethought about what or how the candidate might think and feel after reading them.
They display exhaustive lists of required skills and duties that are expected of the candidate and in no way highlight any of the meaty, good, wholesomeness that good candidates get excited about!
They end up sounding more like those dry, boring, technical job descriptions we described earlier, instead of a job advertisement meant to attract people to your company!
Far too often, companies forget to include a true narrative that will draw in the kind of candidate they want, in terms of thoughtful job summaries, realistic, measurable expectations the candidate will be held responsible for, or a fun and exciting description of the company culture.
We argue that at least half of this error is because companies sometimes don’t even know what kind of candidate they want when sitting down to write the job ad, and the other part is because they simply don’t know any better.
9 Considerations For Creating Job Advertisements
We’ve addressed the importance of considering the fitment of a candidate by looking at their potential from several perspectives.
Here are a few other components that play a role in the selection of your candidate, and thus, in how you will create a job ad to attract new candidates.
Skills, natural talents, and personal qualities is a great place to start. Of course, you want your candidate to have the right kind of these things in order to do the job, but it doesn’t end there. There is so much more to hiring a candidate than evaluating their skills.
A candidate’s skills should serve as the foundation of what they bring to the table, but not be the end of the line. Your job description should then ask for these skills that are pertinent to the job, but also sell the opportunity to grow and develop more skills and talents.
Great candidates are looking for opportunities, they’re not looking to leave their jobs to do more of the same or less than they’re used to. If you find you have a few skills in your “Must-Have” column that you want in your job description, then throw them in there, but remember you must sell and market the opportunity above all else.
Education is an important component of the package that a candidate brings to the table. We’ve briefly touched on this prior, so if this is one of your non-negotiable items, then you should definitely include in your job ad the amount of required education, specific degrees, or certificates you are looking for.
If you are willing to be flexible and consider candidates who may have equivalent less formal training or years of experience, then include that too.
The goal is to cast the widest net possible, while also being precise and specific to our needs.
Experience is considered most valuable when it is gained from being on the job. Many employers want to see some experience, even if a candidate is fresh out of school, whether it be from experience gained in an internship or work-study program.
Consider what kind of experience you want your ideal candidate to have. Are you open to training and teaching or do you want someone who can come in and start working with little direction?
Identifying the level of experience also forces you to consider the opportunity you’re selling to the candidate. Does the amount of experience you require or hope to get align with the opportunity and pay you to have to offer?
All That Other Good Stuff
As we’ve stated, the purpose of a good, quality job ad is to sell an opportunity to your candidate. Stop to consider again what would make you think about leaving your current role for a new opportunity? What kind of language or incentives would be offered to get you interested in another opportunity?
While it is a good practice to optimize your description for search by using keywords and appropriate titles throughout, breaking the description up into chunks with catchy headings is also an effective practice.
For example: “About Our Company” is a pretty straightforward way to describe the company culture and values, while, “Why You Want to Work Here” is an even better heading to use to describe the unique culture your company offers. It stands out among the rest who follow a cookie-cutter approach. It also takes a stance that says, “we’re confident we have a great opportunity and are a catch to work for, here’s why…”
Humor is a great way to spice up your job description and will most definitely set it apart from the rest. Showcase your company’s uniqueness and ability to be creative when necessary. You are writing a job advertisement, after all, and no one said it has to sound like an obituary.
Too much wording without line breaks can be somewhat intimidating.
Personally, we’re reminded of standardized testing in school and within a few minutes, our eyes glaze over, and drool forms in the corner of our mouths.
No? Am I the only one? Okay.
As we’ve noted in recent previous posts about our candidate survey, you can deduce that 32% of candidates are not reading your whole job description anyway, so make sure that what you write is REALLY GOOD.
Again, feel free to use bullet points to highlight key objectives instead of writing a 5-paragraph essay. Bullet points can be very effective, as they allow the candidate to scan the document for important components of the position, whereas too much text can cause the candidate to scan over the entire paragraph completely!
Social Media Links
Don’t forget to pack your job description full of SEO buzzwords, position titles, and your own company social media links. If you have a LinkedIn company page, you should include that.
If you don’t have one, you should go make one (they’re free), and all you need is a company email handle. If you have a company Facebook page, you should encourage your candidates to follow you there as well as on Twitter and maybe even Google +, Glassdoor, and other relevant sites.
You use these tools to brand yourself with your target audience and should consider quality candidates to be a part of that audience as well.
Keeping these updated serves as free advertising of your company year-round, not just when you’re hiring for a new position. Your potential candidates can see your customer base and how others interact with your brand before even working for you.
Have you ever agreed to attend a party or event without knowing what you were getting into? Think of a blind date that you’re committed to for at least 40 hours per week. Would be nice to know something about the other person, right? The same goes for company information in a job advertisement.
Candidates want to know what they’re getting themselves into, and more importantly, what kind of awesome opportunities and culture your company has that they can’t wait to be a part of.
Your company description should include the basics of who you are, why you exist, and why a candidate should seek a new opportunity with you. you will also want to include a sense of your culture, the team environment, and if you have free lunch or pizza parties on Fridays.
Candidates want to get a sense of what they can expect and how they will fit in. If you make your description sound warm and welcoming, candidates will be excited to join the team.
Reviews & Testimonials
Another important component you might want to include is a link directing the candidate to check out client reviews or employee testimonials.
What better way for a candidate to learn about what makes your company so great than to have them read or hear first-hand from your raving clients and happy employees? Allow your clients and employees to speak to that for you.
Having the endorsement of others is a great way to show that you are held in a positive light and that others who work and do business with and for you are pleased with your company.
Let’s Get This Party Started
If you want to attract good candidates, take the time to create, curate, and develop a job advertisement that speaks to your target audience, your “A Players.”
It takes some time and effort upfront, and you might think you don’t have the time to do so. Remember, nothing great comes from doing something with half intentions, so take the time to take the necessary steps that will set your company up for success.
So much of it starts with your job ads!
1. Identify the Position
You’ll rarely arrive at your intended destination without a good sense of direction or a map with directions. Understanding what you truly want in a new team member, out of the role, what objectives and responsibilities will be asked, what you expect from your candidate, and most importantly, how success will be measured, is the first step to creating a killer job advertisement that will wow potential applicants.
Where in your company is this position poised to contribute the most? What activities will this position be responsible for? What objectives do you need this position to accomplish in order to help your business grow and be more profitable? Most importantly, how will all of these activities be measured?
2. Creating Measurable Expectations
Creating a list (maybe even a bulleted list at that!) of measurable expectations will help you accurately identify the position profile.
It allows you to brainstorm what this job looks like when done successfully and then allows you to organize these expectations in a way that sets the foundation for you to create a candidate profile of your ideal employee who will assume this role.
Tell Them What You Want For Real – No Tippy-Toeing
When you think about writing a job description and get to the part where you’re considering what you want this person to do and accomplish in their role, ask yourself, “is it measurable?”
If you can’t easily identify how you would measure a task or responsibility, adjust the expectation so that it can be measured.
Quality candidates want to know what they will be doing and how what they do will be measured to determine that they’re on track and doing a good job. Most job descriptions list an array of personality characteristics and intangible qualities that a well-rounded candidate must have.
Not every salesperson who is good at negotiation is also going to be detail-oriented and an efficient multi-tasker. They sell well because they’re good communicators who are likable and charming, not because they make their bed every morning.
Instead of listing personality characteristics like these, list the performance metrics that you will be holding this person accountable for. As Lou Adler suggests, it is most helpful to look at your company and the job expectations within specific time frames, such as within the next 60-90 days, 6 months, and so on.
These forecasts will allow you and the candidate to measure their achievements against the timeline given to ensure everything is on track.
List any tools or training that this candidate will receive to accomplish these objectives in this section as well.
3. Match the Job Description to Your Candidate Profile
Matching the job ad to the actual job is key. Your ad should include a cliff’s notes version of what is to be expected day-to-day on the job and highlight what the candidate will be doing.
So often in interviews, we hear that candidates want to leave their current position in part because what they thought they would be responsible for couldn’t be farther from what they actually do each day.
A good job description tells the story of a dynamic role, its responsibilities, and the benchmarks by which a person in this role will be measured or held accountable.
Our telling survey of 226 job applicants revealed that 72% of candidates want to read a job description that summarizes key job points and responsibilities, while 63% prefer a tone that is straight and to the point, and 55% would like to see information about the job via a list of…wait for it…bullet points!
Some Other Things to Consider
Is this a newly created position or an existing one? If it is existing, have you ever had someone successful in this role before? If so, what kind of traits did they exhibit that made them successful?
Can you translate these personal characteristics into something measurable or clearly define what this trait looks like on the job? You’re getting closer to creating the perfect job description for your ideal candidate.
Now you just need to create your ideal candidate’s profile.
Job descriptions should cater and speak to the type of candidate you are looking to hire, so how can you even begin writing them before you truly understand what kind of candidate you are looking for?
Job Descriptions Vs Job Advertisements
We wrote the (e)Book on “How to Write a Job Advertisement,” AND reading it will help attract the quality candidates you’re looking for.
Within the book is information on:
- How to create ads that will literally make your company irresistible to the best talent (even the passive ones), and get them to apply to and get excited about your job among all the rest.
- How writing a good job ad is really about marketing your company and opportunity to your candidates.
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