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How to write job adverts that attract the right applicants

There's no shortage of advice for candidates on writing a good CV (we've even written our own tips and advice on CVs), plus what NOT to do on a CV.

But it's a sad fact that many job adverts contain exactly the same sorts of mistakes that employers or recruiters find unforgivable on CVs.

Added on 13.01.2014

One survey revealed that 65% of employers would bin a CV with spelling mistakes  - well what does a spelling mistake on a job ad say about you and your client? It takes only a few seconds to run a spell check on your ad before you post it.

A poorly written job advert can create a bad first impression, make the job (or company) look boring or vague, can lead to wasted time when people who are not suited for the job apply for it, and - even worse - wasted opportunities when people who should apply don't. So here's a list of things to bear in mind to help your job ads help you.

Job title

People don't read; they skim. So many jobseekers will skip down job board listings until they find a title that grabs their attention, and then read the rest of the ad. So make the job title the best short description of the role you can. Most job board software (not to mention Google) uses the job title as their prime way of assessing and ranking the job alongside thousands of similar ones. So, whilst 'Marketing Manager' isn't wrong per se, it's not a patch on 'Face to Face B2B IT Sales & Marketing Manager', which also tells us about the niche and more about what the job entails.

First paragraph - leave it out for now

Our advice is to actually write the first paragraph last, so we'll come back to it later on.

Deal Breakers

Most job requirements include at least a few 'deal breakers' - things that are either essential for the client, or whose absence from the ad means you'll have to sift through wasted applications from people that just wouldn't have considered the role in the first place. So always include:

Location

Very often the biggest deal breaker, so let people know where they'll be based, or the area they'll have to cover. As with the job title, job boards allow searching on location, or within a radius of a postcode, so you're limiting exposure too if you don't include it.

Type of company

It's usually necessary to protect the identity of your client, but you can mention size of the business, the market they are in and their position in it, the company history and culture, without getting into specifics. Any good recruiter knows the character of the company they are recruiting for and the office environment there, and this should be communicated to jobseekers.

Job responsibilities

As with the company, sometimes you can't give too much away. But if you want to attract applicants that are right for the job then you'll need to provide the purpose of the role, key responsibilities and duties.

Seniority, abilities and experience

Is this an entry level job where the client wants a graduate to train, or a second / third job where someone with a proven track record is essential? Does the client only want someone with certain amount experience at this level, or will they entertain applicants looking to take a step up?

Key skills

Not mentioning required qualifications and/or training that is non-negotiable for the role, or necessary IT skills (for example familiarity with certain software) wastes everyone's time. If there are some skills that are absolutely necessary, and others that would be advantageous, do list them separately.

Salary

Surveys and data from job boards all point to a truth that needs to be recognised: jobseekers respond more to adverts with salary information. The salary is also another indication of the seniority of the role, so we'd recommend giving at least a salary range rather than meaningless words like 'competitive' or 'generous'.

Back to the first paragraph

Now that you have properly detailed the job, you need to find a way of summarising all of this information in your first paragraph. This needs to tell the job seeker everything they need to know as succinctly as possible; think of it as a mini advert that would have to do if it was all you were allowed to say.

Other Dos and Don'ts

No jargon or cliches please

Bland and over-used terms from a thousand other descriptions will make your ad look like a thousand others. Use plain, direct English and stand out from all the 'cut and paste' advertisements out there.

Who are you?

As we said above, it's more than likely that you'll have to preserve client confidentiality, but you need to let jobseekers know who you are. Come up with a short snappy introduction to your business and end all adverts with that. Any jobseeker who has read to the end of the advert might be thinking that they are not quite right for this role, but that you might have others that they would be suited to. Sell yourself!

Obvious call to action

Your phone number, your email, your website, together with clear instructions on what to do to apply. You might like to work this into your company introduction too.