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10 September-2019

Writing Your Job Ad: How to Attract the Most Qualified Candidates

Image by Gerd Altmann

Employers know that any standard job ad posted online will result in many (many!) resumes from people who aren’t appropriately qualified for the role. Nature of the job board beast. Yet, if you write a job posting that’s too specific and narrow, you may not find enough (or any!) candidates. As we all know, there are very few unicorns wandering around in the recruiting forest. 

That said, how can you write a job posting that will attract the right people without either opening the floodgates or unintentionally turning away some potentially solid prospects? It’s a delicate art.

The Headline
The headline is the first thing people see, and it’s critical, so spend some time crafting it. You’ve got to convey a message that will set the hook and pull people in. “Account Executive – lucrative commissions!” Try several options, because you must select something that will grab someone’s attention as they’re speedily scrolling through dozens of listings on a web page. 

Admittedly, we’re fond of using the job title followed by a long hyphen and then an exciting, enticing descriptor of some sort. You might also toss in an exclamation point or some other typographical character that makes the posting stand out. #$&!

The Introduction
Start your job post with information about who your company is and what you do. Weave in language about your organization’s mission, values, culture, etc. What makes you special?  Why will people LOVE working for/with you? 

Finding the words shouldn’t be difficult it’s your company’s DNA. This verbiage is what I often refer to as an organization’s “love language.” It’s on your website and in your brochures. It’s the elevator pitch when you meet someone new and tell them what you do. It’s what you feel compelled to say about yourselves at the start of every candidate interview.

Just be careful not to stuff too much content in there. If you create a blocky, chunky, oversized paragraph, job seekers will just skip right over it.

The Job Details
After the introduction, you need to explain the job, including the basic scope of work and the key responsibilities. A good rule of thumb is 10 bullet points total here. More than that amount will likely be overwhelming, and you could end up impacting your reader’s interest level. Like a resume, a job posting is not supposed to tell the entire tale. Instead, it’s intended to provide an overview so that readers can gather a general and accurate sense of what you need and expect and whether or not they might be a fit.

Next, you can list the minimum desired requirements you have for applicants, and this section should be about five bullets or so. If you’ve got more than five lines of content and just have to share, it’s probably time to break this into two sections of no more than five bullets each and then delineate between “must-have” items and “nice-to-haves.” 

Common Problems

  1. Too vague about what you want.
    Oops! Now you’ve ended up with 500 applicants on day one. What happened? How do you even respond to that many people with a “no thank you” message? If this has occurred, your ad is probably too vague and doesn’t narrow the funnel enough. I often see companies post 50,000-foot-view ads that are all about the organizational narrative and the important soft skills they seek when hiring team members, but they never get granular enough on the role details or the requirements to give candidates a chance to self-eliminate. So they don’t. “I’m a positive people person, and I like unlimited vacation days. I can definitely work there!”   
  2. Too many “must-haves.”
    If your collection of must-haves is lengthy, you may be overreaching. That is going to push your job over into “niche” territory, where you’re making it nearly impossible to find someone who can check all those boxes. Folks perusing the ad will simply self-eliminate if your wish list is super picky. Revisit that mountain of must-haves to see where you can flex.

Closing the Job Ad
End your job posting with specific information about how you want people to apply. You might list an email address, an upload link, and required items (PDF copy of the resume, writing samples, etc.).

Also, you should let people know what to expect next. Most applicants assume if they don’t hear back, their application was lost in the mysterious electronic void.

  • “You’ll be hearing from our recruiting team regarding next steps within _____ business days.” 
  • “Please look to receive an email with a link to an assessment. Check your junk/spam folder if you don’t see it come through within 48 hours.” 

Be Prepared to Post
Don’t set yourself up to “ghost” your candidates. Before you post anything, have a process in place so that you can respond effectively, even if it’s just an automated “Thank you for your application.” You can use job posting and/or applicant tracking system software tools to help with this part of the equation. Or you can elect to send messages manually. Either way, send something. Failure to respond at all will lead to a negative candidate experience, and that will come back to haunt you. 

Where to Post Your Job Ad
Use the job boards that are most likely to be frequented by the traffic you want to attract. Study the market look at boards to see where postings similar to yours are appearing. Ask your peers where they post like roles. If you’re posting to more than one site, consider whether they may overlap with regard to the audience demographic. Don’t spend twice as much money to get the same applicants. Speaking of $$$, watch the cost. Some job posting sites charge by the click-through as opposed to by the week/month. Lots of applicant traffic can get expensive quickly in the pay-per-click scenario, and it can also be quite irritating when heavy, pricey flow is producing a pile of unusable profiles. 

Start with your company’s “Careers” page, and please make sure it’s attractive, up to date, and easy to use. Candidates should have a lovely experience when visiting your website, just like guests should have a lovely time when visiting your home. Make them glad that they came and eager to stay/return. 

Word to the Wise

You can do all of these things above really, really well, and still end up with more than a fair share of off-target applicants. But that comes with playing this game. Understand that going in, and focus on creating the best job posting possible. You never know when that unicorn will wander by. 

If you need help with navigating the hiring process, reach out to our team for help with pipeline management, recruiting training, and access to top talent