A good job advert is the cornerstone of your hiring process. It doesn’t matter how many jobs boards you post on, or how attractive your benefits are – if you can’t tell candidates why your role is worth applying to, then your company isn't getting the applications it needs.
In this post, we’re going to show you how to write a good job advert – one that attracts great candidates, whilst also making sure you receive only high-quality and highly relevant applications.
By the way, if you are growing your startup's team, you may be interested in our free guide, 'HR for Startups':
What is a job advert?
A job advert works as an announcement that a certain role is open to applications. It’s what you post on jobs boards or upload to your own company hiring page when looking to grow your team.
A well-written job advert is your chance to ‘sell the role’ to potential applicants. It's an opportunity to show off the vacancy to candidates and make sure you’re attracting only the right people to the role.
Remember – a job advertisement is not the same as a job description or a job spec. A job advert is outward facing, designed to attract and excite the right kind of candidate.
A job description is more for internal use, where the full responsibilities and expectations of the role are laid out more comprehensively.
Getting started on your job advert
One really important part of the hiring process is a step that I call identification and alignment. Long before you start writing your job advert, you need to spend some time identifying exactly the role you’re hiring for and what their specific responsibilities will be.
To do that properly, you’ll need to bring in the other stakeholders involved in the hire (that’s the alignment part) to make sure everyone is on the same page. You’d be surprised how easy it is for people working in the same office to end up with very different ideas of what a new role will encompass!
I’m not going to cover that stage here – it's a whole blog post in it's own right. I’m going to assume you’ve already identified the company’s needs and got everyone aligned on the role, so we can focus on the process of writing the job advert itself.
How to write a job advert
Before we get started… let’s think about your dream candidate.
You might have heard marketers talk about focussing their efforts towards an 'ideal buyer persona' – the same principle applies here. What does your ideal hire look like?
If you’ve completed that process of identification and alignment, then you should already have a really clear picture of the tasks and responsibilities to be carried out by this new role.
That's a great place to start.
You’ve already got a comprehensive list of what that person is going to be doing day-to-day – now you just have to find the person that fits. You do this by working backwards.
Get that list up in front of you. What would somebody need to do those tasks well?
- What hard skills would they require?
- What personal characteristics would be useful?
- Would a certain professional background be a good fit?
- How many years of experience would they need? Is it an entry-level role or is more seniority required?
Once you’ve got those characteristics down, you need to rank them in order of importance. Visualising the ‘dream candidate’ is a useful focussing exercise, but in reality, that person doesn’t always exist.
You usually won’t get every single thing on your list, but ranking them allows you to determine which characteristics are the most valuable and which might be just ‘nice-to-haves’.
How do I structure a job advert?
The traditional job advert format looks a bit like this:
- Job title
- Introduction to your business
- Role and responsibilities
- Key requirements (qualifications and skills)
There’s nothing to say you have to use this format (we actually do our job adverts slightly differently) but it is a useful way of breaking down the different components candidates will expect to see.
We’re going to work our way through this format step by step, breaking down exactly how to write a job advert that’s going to bring in your dream hire.
1. The job title
In today’s hiring landscape, job titles are strange things.
Think about how applicants look for jobs today... mainly, it’s by searching for them online.
Job titles aren’t just job titles anymore – they’re an important part of SEO-optimising your advert so that it shows up in the right search results.
Think back to that dream hire, and imagine what they would be searching for online. What are they typing into search bars? What keywords are they using?
Don’t be afraid to test a couple of variations, either. Keep an eye on your pipeline – if you see the pipeline filling up then you know you haven’t got it quite nailed.
Just remember...you’ve got to temper this SEO-optimised approach with some common sense! Whatever job title you use, make sure it’s also a faithful representation of the role.
In an ideal world, every job advert should include a salary bracket. There’s a couple of reasons for this:
- It helps to save you a lot of time on any needless back and forth with candidates, trying to figure out salary expectations and whether it fits in with your budget.
- From a candidate’s viewpoint, including a salary bracket is just the right thing to do. It gives them some welcome clarity over what can often feel like a frustratingly opaque process.
3. Introduction to your business
There’s an old saying in marketing that says people buy with their emotions first, and then use logic to rationalise their purchase afterwards. I don’t think it’s much different in the world of hiring.
Applying for a new job is an innately aspirational act – so take this opportunity to communicate what is aspirational about a move to your company.
What is exciting about working for you? What makes it a good opportunity? Why should your dream candidate apply to work with your company, when there are so many good openings elsewhere?
Every company is unique, so I’m not going to try and tell you exactly how you should go about this. But if you’re looking for inspiration, I’ve often been impressed by how Verve talk about what sets their company apart.
4. Role and responsibilities
This is probably the most important section of any job advert. If you’re going to spend extra time anywhere, then make it here.
A ‘Head of Marketing’ job title really gives no indication of what that person is going to be doing 9-to-5, Monday to Friday. It could mean something totally different from one company to the next.
Before applying to any job, candidates will want to see that it is the right fit for their professional and personal development. Will they be spending time developing the skills they want to perfect? Will they find the work they do engaging and challenging?
I don’t know personally what gets a Product Designer excited about a new role – but I can talk to people at Charlie who do, and use their understanding to inform the advert. This is a great way of making your job advert genuinely exciting for candidates.
The job ad below is a great example. Look at how much detail the advert goes into on the specific responsibilities – you can tell that it was written with a high level of input from the wider team.
I also think framing the role responsibilities through the lens of ‘What will you achieve in the next 12 months?’ is a really great touch. It really helps give the advert a tangible sense of realness, while also keeping that aspirational aspect.
5. Key requirements (qualifications and skills)
Remember that list you drew up, detailing your dream candidate’s background and skill set? This is where it comes into play.
If there’s anything on your checklist that’s an absolute dealbreaker, then don’t be afraid to communicate that on the job advert. You want to make sure you’re getting applications from candidates who are right for the role – if you're convinced your new hire will need a certain qualification, then communicate that desire.
What we’ve outlined above are the building blocks of a good job advert – hopefully, it gives you a solid starting point from which to start writing your own. If there’s any aspect of this process we’ve missed out, or you want us to write about next, then just leave a note in the comments!
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