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How to Write a Job Ad that Attracts Top Talent
Guide to Writing a Job Advertisements
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 that technical document that so many businesses post on job boards. It’s 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 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 incentive 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 a first impression with 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, lets 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.
Step 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.
Step 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.
Step 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.
Step 4: 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 it. 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.
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