Recruitment 101: how to write and publish a job ad that gets results
The perfect candidate for your latest vacancy is out there somewhere — but right now, they don't know their ideal role exists.
That's where your job advert comes in.
It exists to draw in candidates who could, potentially, become exceptional employees at your business.
But at so many companies, the way a job advert is written is something of an afterthought. And there's not much care given to where to actually advertise the posting, either.
Finding the right staff can be incredibly difficult, but refreshing your job adverts and evaluating where you publish them, are relatively easy ways to make improvements.
Let's get started.
How do I write a job advert that gets results?
Before you start, you have to actually know what you want from the job advert. Pick out any specific skills or traits of job seekers that you're looking to find in your search.
The next step is to draft a job description that details the job title and duties of the role, and the skills required to fulfil these duties. Don't just copy and paste the old job description — think long and hard about whether the scope of the role has changed, or should change.
We've put together a job description template to help you out, and a couple of sample job descriptions to give you an idea of what you should be including.
One important point: job descriptions should largely be for internal use — they shouldn't be used as job adverts.
What's the difference between a job description and a job advert?
Job descriptions are composed to explain an employee's duties — not to 'sell' a role to a candidate. The language used to explain and inform versus persuade is very different. You therefore need to make adjustments to your job descriptions before they can be used as part of a job advert in order for them to be at their most effective.
Of course, job adverts also need to inform candidates about the scope of the role, like a job description. But a job advert should show more of your brand's personality than a job description.
Another key difference between job ads and descriptions is brevity. Job adverts don't need to be as detailed as job descriptions — your goal is to catch the attention of potential applicants, not tell them every little thing they'll be doing in a particular role.
Overall, the job description should help you draft your job advert, not used directly within it.
What you should include in a job advert?
There's no right way to structure a job advert, but generally look to include the following:
- Role overview/introduction. A brief summary of what the role will entail and the type of candidate you're looking for.
- Responsibilities. A bulleted list of the main responsibilities attached to the role.
- Essential and desirable criteria. Two separate lists of skills, experience and qualifications that you'll be looking for from candidates.
- Company information. A short paragraph with some details on what your company does, where it's located, and what your next moves are.
- Salary and benefit information. Always include at least a salary range in job adverts — that way, you're not wasting anyone's time. Don't forget to share any other benefits you offer staff, including flexible working hours or extra annual leave.
You don't need to split your job advert into these distinct sections, but we do recommend it if you're not 100% confident in your writing skills.
You can grab a job advert template here, and check out some example job ads below.
Tips for Writing an Effective Job Advert
- Think about who you're 'selling' to. Use language that you think will appeal to the types of candidates you're after. For example, if you're looking for a salesperson who'll work hard to reach and excel targets, use words such as 'highly motivated', 'ambitious' and 'driven', and describe your workplace as 'fast-paced'.
- Never use company jargon. Don't assume that everyone understands your company jargon! Jobseekers will be drawn in by language that they're familiar with, and become frustrated if jargon gets in the way of them understanding what the job role actually involves.
- Be realistic with requirements. By listing a long string of essential criteria, you'll shrink the candidate pool or even dry it up completely. Loosening these restrictions may lower the overall quality of candidates, but you'll receive applications from talented individuals who may have otherwise been dissuaded by tougher requirements.
- Give context. Present your job vacancy not just as filling an empty role, but in context of your company's wider plans, for example: 'help us launch our highly anticipated S/S 2019 collection', or 'build the foundations of our expansion in Ireland'. This approach will tell potential candidates how their work will be valuable to the business as a whole, providing another source of motivation.
- Use keywords. If you're planning to post your job advert anywhere online, you need to make it easy for search engines to find it. Use keywords that job seekers will be searching for, and feature them prominently in your job title and the opening paragraph of the advert.
- Be concise. Keep your advert short to hold applicants' interest. You can provide more specific information later on in the recruitment process.
- Make adjustments based on where you're posting. The advert that works for your shop window won't do so well on an online job board, and you'll need to cut down your advert for the local press. Adjust content length, tone, and structure based on what works on a particular platform.
Unsure where to publish your job advert? Let's look at your options.
Where can I advertise jobs for free?
If you don't want to pay any money to advertise your vacancies, the good news is that you still have a variety of options available to you.
The shop window
This tried-and-tested method of advertising vacancies still works for shops, cafes, and restaurants in areas of high foot traffic, particularly for roles such as sales assistants and front-of-house staff.
This approach isn't going to work for higher level jobs, office jobs, or for businesses that are off the beaten track.
Whether you have a formal referral programme in place or you just ask staff if they know anyone who'd be a good fit for your vacancy, referrals can be a hugely valuable source of applicants. They work best for companies with happy, engaged workforces.
Referrals might sometimes cause problems if the new hire doesn't work out. You might anger the friend who referred the applicant originally, or even ruin their friendship! You should also try to treat referrals in the same way as any other candidate — don't let them skip stages of the recruitment process.
If you have a website, by all means post the job ad on it! If you want to boost its chances in Google's search results pages and you're comfortable with basic coding, you can use schema markup to help your listing show up in Google Jobs when it launches in the UK.
If you can't update your website frequently, or don't think job adverts will look professional on your website, you may want to give it a miss.
Some online job sites will let you post job adverts for free, with some restrictions. Indeed is the biggest name to offer free postings, but you may find other sites in your field or region that let you advertise for free.
While job boards let you reach out to millions of potential candidates, you also face stiff competition from other firms' job ads. Each day, your advert will fall further out of sight.
Universal Jobmatch (aka Find a Job).
Employers can post adverts on the government's Universal Jobmatch service (soon to be renamed to Find a Job) for free. This method can be particularly effective for retailers, cafes and restaurants, but all businesses could potentially find applicants here.
Most individuals using Universal Jobmatch will be unemployed — and less picky about what they'll apply for. This could lower candidate quality. Additionally, the job centre encourages (and sometimes forces) job seekers to apply for jobs they're not qualified for, leaving you with a mountain of applications to sift through before you find an application that's worth consideration.
You can publicise job vacancies through social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. You'll usually need to link to a page with more details, either on your website or on a job site — or you could just post an email address or phone number. If you have plenty of followers, social media is an easy way to get your advert out there — and if your followers share your advert, it could be seen by thousands of potential candidates.
But it's becoming more and more difficult to get social media posts noticed by your followers, let alone anyone else. The main social networks have been reducing the frequency of business posts appearing in news feeds, significantly reducing the reach of your free posts.
Where can I advertise vacancies if I'm willing to spend some money?
Your options open up significantly if you have at least a small budget available for advertising vacancies.
All major job sites
Sites like Monster and CV Library charge for each job advert you want to post. You might also gain access to other perks, like a dedicated account manager, your logo next to your adverts, and analytics that show you the effectiveness of your ads.
Although you place your advert in front of a large audience, you may still struggle to find the right people for the job — particularly if you're looking for people to fill senior positions or highly specialised roles.
Specialist/niche job boards
For certain industries, niche job boards are the norm for advertising job vacancies. These websites are ideal for advertising roles that are otherwise difficult to fill, but they won't be suitable for many businesses.
Another option is to pay for your job adverts to get a boost on major job boards like Indeed. Sponsored listings will appear at the top of the search results on Indeed. TotalJobs' Premium Listings feature images and videos. Some sites will require you to pay upfront, while others will only charge you once a job seeker clicks on your advert.
A word of warning: these types of paid listings can quickly become expensive. Make sure you've done your sums and determined that the cost is worthwhile before proceeding.
You may not be able to afford to take out a job ad in national newspapers, but advertising jobs in the local press is far more affordable. If you think potential applicants will be trawling through local newspapers looking for a job like yours, it can be a highly cost-effective method of advertising your vacancies.
Local press circulation is down, and their online job boards aren't as popular as other types of online job site. If you don't think your target audience will be reading the local press, there's no point in advertising your job vacancies there.
Aside from publishing job ads through the usual LinkedIn posts, you can also publish job postings through LinkedIn's jobs service. Job seekers on LinkedIn can then find your job listing when searching for the relevant criteria. You pay per click. LinkedIn job postings can be very effective in industries where LinkedIn is heavily used.
In almost every industry, you're limiting your talent pool significantly if you only choose to advertise your role on LinkedIn. While LinkedIn has 500 million users, the site doesn't disclose how many of those users are active. You'll need to advertise your job somewhere else in addition to LinkedIn in almost all circumstances.
Other paid social media
If you're struggling with organic reach on channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but you know the audience for your job advert is on those platforms, you can choose to pay to get your posts seen. The social networks offer an incredibly intricate range of targeting options to help you find interested job seekers. Payment is almost always per click.
You need to be careful with how you use these targeting options. For example, if you target your job adverts at university graduates aged between 20 and 25, it could be argued that you're discriminating against over-25s. Again, you should use social media promoted posts as just one pillar of your recruitment strategy.
See What Works
Once you've decided where to advertise your vacancies, you should always try to track the success of each of the methods you've used. Recruiters call this 'Source of Hire' — a simple metric expressing the percentage of hires that came from different sources.
You can measure this by using analytics provided by the various platforms, or simply asking candidates where they first heard about the vacancy.
If you don't hire a high volume of employees, you might find it more useful to look at the source of not just the eventual hire, but all candidates who make it to the final stage of the process, so that you have a larger sample size to work with.
You can then compare the source of hire with the cost of each platform, so you can calculate which sources provide you with the best value. Adjust your approach to future recruitment based on these results.
Job adverts should be more than just your company's internal job descriptions with some contact details attached. Instead, you need to sell the role to the candidates you want to attract.
How you achieve this will depend on your brand, the types of candidates you're seeking, and your company's selling points for potential employees (salary, benefits, working environment etc.).
Finding candidates is just the first step of the recruitment process. Now you need to narrow down the field and conduct interviews. Want to ask effective interview questions? Here are 20 to choose from.
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