SME: How to write a great job ad

Placing a job ad

By Kate Southam

When you are looking to hire a new employee, it is easy to focus on what you want from the successful candidate but before you start writing your job ad, you need to refocus and think like a job hunter.

Ironically, making your wish list the most prominent part of your ad will actually minimise your chances of finding that ideal new hire.

You need to showcase what you have to offer to the right person in the top half of the ad. What hooks are you going to highlight in your ad to reel in the best candidate?

Talk to other employees about why they enjoy working at your organisation. What are the key selling points for them? Once you are clear on what you have to offer, as well as what you are looking for, then it is time to start writing your ad.

The first step in creating a successful online job ad is the title. The good news is being literal – not creative – is the way to go. Simply use the title of your role. The days of catchy or kitschy headlines are long gone. Imagine someone is trying to find a role as a marketing coordinator. I don’t like the chances of your ad for a marketing coordinator showing up in a keyword search if your headline is Creative self starter wanted. I actually typed those words into a search box and returned article references, jobs for IT interns in Detroit and a briefing paper for CFOs.
Follow your title with three dot points highlighting the main benefits of the job. In our example, the benefits would be from an entry level marketing candidate’s point of view.

For example:

Marketing Coordinator

* Join a friendly and fast growing team
* $45k plus super and incentives
* Great location near rail and shopping hub

It is also a good idea to continue to use the job title and key job role benefits and features through the body text of your job ad to make your job ad more “searchable”. The advice is to spell out your benefits in the first 170 words of text. Some candidates search by salary and or location so consider including these details in the job ad as high up as possible.

Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver on. As an employment columnist, I have read emails from loads of candidates wanting to leave their new job after finding out that the role they were promised at the interview bears little resemblance to reality.

Be as genuine as you can be in your job ad and the interview process to avoid the expense and emotional drain created by staff churn.  

The body text of your ad should expand on what you have to offer and also outline the criteria candidates must meet.

To ensure you get the most relevant applicants be clear about the “essential” and desirable” skills, qualifications and experience a candidate needs to make a success of your role.

Also, consider managing timeline expectations by adding some copy at the bottom of your ad. An example might be: “Applicants shortlisted for interview will be contacted by September 20, 2011. If you have not been contacted by this date, consider your application unsuccessful on this occasion.”

It is vital you keep to stated deadlines. Also, deliver on any promised communication. Email candidates about next step in the recruitment process. Keep candidates in the loop. Yes, you have a million other things to do but if you don’t communicate then you risk missing out on your ideal candidate.

You can invite candidates to email or phone a nominated staff member to find out more about your job role and organisation. However, if you don’t want candidates to ask questions, then spell out the application instructions in your ad and consider creating an email address specifically to receive applications.

Also consider including your company website. While this might provide access to your staff via your Contact Us tab, there are benefits of enabling candidates to research your organisation. You only want to attract candidates who really want to work with you.  

Find out more about creating a winning job ad by viewing CareerOne’s guide to optimizing your ad.  

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