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How do I write an effective job advert?

How do I write an effective job advert?
How do I write an effective job advert?

Job adverts come in many shapes and sizes, but there are a few simple rules that every advert should follow to ensure it attracts the candidates who are right for the job.

An appealing job title
The most obvious way to increase the number of people who view your job advert is to make the job title appealing. Internally, the role may be known as a ‘Grade 2 Global Communications Support Officer' but how many people are going to type that into a search box? If the kind of person you want to attract is the type who would want to work as a PR Executive, then title your job ‘PR Executive'.

If you have access to a CV database, find some CVs of the people you would like to invite for an interview and use the ‘Desired Job Title' field as the basis for your advert. If that's what they want to work as, that's what they're likely to search for.

Setting out your structure
There's no set format to how you describe the job role, but you should look to include these elements:

  • Short introduction – Aim to keep this to around 40 words and talk about the job rather than the company. This will help the reader quickly assess if it's an appropriate role for them, enticing them to keep on reading.
  • Role responsibilities - List between three and seven main tasks the successful applicant will be expected to undertake. Try to relate these to a business objective where possible so the applicant can envisage how the position fits into the company's plans. For example, “Developing an email marketing programme to help increase customer retention levels”. Remember your advert is not a job description and therefore doesn't need to include every element of the role, just enough to get the right people to send their CV.
  • Person specification – What skills, qualifications or attributes are you looking for in your ideal applicant? Try and divide these up between what is necessary and what would be an advantage. If you are hoping to obtain a high level of CVs you can afford to be less specific with your requirements, whereas if you just want a couple of high quality applicants then be very clear about the strict criteria they will have to meet. Job seekers take literal notice of this area and you can affect your response rate dramatically with just a few carefully chosen words.
  • Rewards – As well as information on the salary candidates can expect to receive you should also look to point out some of the key benefits and perks they can look forward to. What would make them want to apply for your role rather than a similar position with a competitor? Rewards don't have to be financial so think about what flexible working programmes, team outings or child day care options your company offers.
  • Location - As well as filling in the ‘Location' field when filling in the online job posting form, you may also want to add more specific information about where the job is based. Is it a new office? Are there good transport links? What is the local pub like? Is the role always based in the office or is there a certain amount of travelling involved? Where people work is often just as important as the role they are taking on.
  • Your company – What's your business? If your company isn't a well known brand name you'll need to provide an explanation of what kind of industry you are in. Rather than copying the ‘About Us' section from your website, try to relate this to the role. So if it's a sales role you could put “A leading supplier of textiles with an aggressive expansion programme to gain business outside the UK.” whereas for an IT role you could put “A leading supplier of textiles with a newly developed online ordering system built on a .NET framework.” Don't make the mistake of providing too much information here, the job seeker will do their own research if they want to know more.
  • Next steps – If the reader is interested in your vacancy what are the next steps you want them to take? There is an ‘Apply Now' button placed on all job adverts placed on Monster but you may also consider adding a contact email or phone number as well as a reference number to quote so you can track where your applications came from. Is there any specific information that you would like the applicants to include in their cover letter? Now is the time to ask.

Appealing to your audience
If you take the analogy that the job is your product and the job seekers are your customers, you need to make a compelling case for why they should make a transaction (or take their time to apply for the vacancy). Job seekers value their skills and experience very highly and if you want them to apply for a job, you'll need to appeal to their wants and needs in the same way you would with a consumer.

Think about when you're shopping. Which are the products that catch your eye? What kind of products are your target candidate attracted to? What lessons can you learn from the advertising language they use and the way they are displayed?

Many job ads are written with the assumption that the employer is doing potential candidates a favour by inviting them to apply for their job. This attitude instantly discourages your audience – if you're not welcoming in your job adverts then you can't expect people to think you'll provide a welcoming place to work.

Looking for a job is a full time job in itself so try and keep your job advert to fewer than 700 words. Long rambling job adverts suggest a stifling working environment, whereas a fun and joke packed advert will give the impression of unprofessionalism. Talk to people on their level and in the second person, using 'you' and 'your' rather than 'we' and 'our'.

For every job advert you place, resist the temptation to just copy and paste the description you used for the last time you hired for this position. Think about how the responsibilities of person specification may have changed. You want to employ humans with their own individual personalities and attributes, not robot clones!

Discuss this issue on The Employer Forum.