How to write job ads that attract (the right) attention

By Lisa Sandberg

We’ve all read job ads that are full or buzzwords like ‘good communicator’ and ‘team player’, or job descriptions that are long yet evasive about what the role actually is. But in a highly competitive recruitment market, boring copy simply isn’t going to cut it. The content in your job ads is often the first contact potential candidates will have with you, so what message is it telling?

As the owner or leader of an SME, how do you find the time to craft great recruitment copy? And how do you do this if you’re a technical person, not a professional writer?

Here are my top tips for how you can write recruitment copy that attracts attention and compels them to hit the ‘APPLY NOW’ button, making your recruitment process a whole lot easier.

1. Keep it short and punchy

Make your job ad easy to read by employing some of the basic principles of concise writing such as:

  1. Highlight the key points with subtitles and bullet points.
  2. Avoid long blocks of text or lengthy sentences.
  3. Choose short words over long words – we know it’s appealing to get all technical and use lots of big words to impress people, but short and simple is best and most engaging.
  4. Be conversational – avoid boring corporate speak. Make yourself sound like an actual human being and people will be more attracted to you.

2. Use your introduction/overview to appeal to the reader

Usually, job ads start out with a long-winded overview of the company who are ‘a leading construction firm founded in 1978 with 150 employees’, or something along those lines. Instead, use your overview to appeal directly to the potential candidate and their needs – why might they be looking for a new role or a fresh start? What is so great about this role that they might be interested in? What might their career vision or career stage be that makes this the perfect role for them?

3. Use keywords

People’s attention spans are most often short. Identify what your 5-10 top keywords are for the role and make sure they are included throughout your copy so they ‘pop’ out at the reader when they are glancing through your ad. Focus on including them at the front end of sentences and bullet points to make them stand out.

4. Be aware of current trends in the workforce

Are work-from-home (WFH) or hybrid work options potentially important to people applying for this role? Keep abreast of current workforce trends and make sure you include those selling points in the message if they are relevant to the role.

5. Don’t include long laundry lists

Do you really need to have a long list of 20 personal qualities or skills you are looking for in that candidate? The more items you include in a list, the less important each of them becomes. Try to stick to the key 4 or 5 qualities or skills that are essential to the role. This will help candidates to pre-screen themselves and will limit the number of underqualified candidates that apply for the job.

Same goes with the list of responsibilities for the role. This should not be too long or overwhelming while still covering the main duties and giving the candidates an overview of what the role entails and what their day-to-day would look like.

6. Be realistic about the experience and education requirements

Be honest with yourself about what experience and education level you actually need in the role and be realistic with what experience and education you expect someone at that level to have vs what training you will provide for them.

7. Portray your company culture

When describing your company, it’s important to include references to your company culture and your vision as a business. This ensures that you’re recruiting people who are excited by and share this vision, and will be a good fit for your company culture. If you’re telling people that your culture is vibrant and energetic, then your writing needs to be vibrant and energetic too. Remember, actions speak louder than words!

8. Call to action

Don’t forget to tell them how to apply AND how to get more information if they need it.

9. Call in a recruiter if you need help!

Writing compelling ads is a skill, and as a business leader you need to work out the value cost of our own time. If writing compelling copy feels like it’s in your ‘too-hard’ basket, or if writing it feels overwhelming, think about engaging a recruiter to help you.

Writing compelling ad copy will help you to attract the right candidates, making the recruitment process smoother. Boring or lacklustre jobs ads will do nothing to sell your company culture or the role you’re recruiting for and can lead to the wrong hire simple because of a lack of quality applicants. It’s an up-front investment of time (and potentially money) that will pay dividends in the long run.