The ultimate guide to creating a killer job ad (and why it matters)
The humble job ad plays a crucial role – not just in the recruitment process but on a much wider scale, directly affecting people’s careers, the success of businesses, even the future of entire sectors.
If that sounds like an over-estimation of the worth of a job ad, it really isn’t. Each time someone is hired and thrives in that role, that’s a success for the individual, the recruiter, the employer, and the economy as a whole – and all that starts with a great job advert.
The 4 elements of a great job ad
That means optimised, quality, compelling content but also an ad that is posted in the right place at the right time so that it is found, read and resonates with the right candidate. Its importance cannot be overstated but getting it right is not always so easy. You need to think about content, structure, time and place – the 4 main elements that combine to make the perfect job ad.
Content – As well as being engaging, there are several components the content of a job ad should include.
Structure – Stick to the framework that job boards recommend for best results.
Time – Posting your job ad at the time when the majority of candidates are actively searching is essential.
Place – If you’re not posting your ads on the job boards that candidates in your industry are searching, you immediately reduce your net.
In order to flesh out the basics of what to include in your job ad, always keep this question in mind: what is the ultimate aim of my job ad copy? Obviously the end game is for quality candidates to apply and for one of those applications to result in a placement. But first of all you need the ad to be found in a search on job boards and search engines and displayed to the right candidates. The best way to do this is through a 6-point checklist.
1. Job title
Keep it standardised and short, avoiding alternative, quirky titles. Candidates search for titles they know and that are commonly used in the industry. Someone searching for a Retail Assistant role may never get to see your Merchandising Ninja job ad. Top tip: start typing the job title you are considering into the search bar on a job board – if it appears as you begin to type, don’t try to use something else thinking that you’ll beat the system. This means that the recommendation already has candidates searching for it. When entering it into the job title field, don’t use special characters or attempt to sell the job – that’s not the purpose of the job title.
2. Add a location (even if it’s a remote position)
Adding this kind of structured data makes it easier for Google for Jobs and job board search engines to pick it up from keyword searches and will help candidates to immediately see whether a job is suitable for them. If you are advertising a remote/work from home/work from anywhere/hybrid position, just add that to the top of your job advert. Alongside salary, location flexibility is now one of the biggest motivators for candidates.
3. Include salary specifications
Whether or not to include salary on a job ad can be a contentious issue and the right salary can depend on a multitude of factors but the reality is that pay transparency is what candidates now expect. Salary is a significant motivator in the job search so it stands to reason that you will achieve a higher rate of quality applications if it is included in the ad. In fact, research by reed.co.uk has shown a 27% uplift in applications when salary details are published on job ads.
4. Word length
Don’t bore candidates with an overly long job ad containing every role responsibility. A job ad is nota job description. This is important and where a job ad most often falls down. An ad should be designed to grab attention and compel the reader to action. WaveTrackR data shows that an average of 150-350 words is sufficient.
Weave keywords through your copy but don’t over-stuff the text with them or the ad will become clunky and search engines will penalise you. Check all the words you use carefully, avoiding gendered words.
6. Reign in the bullet points
Limit yourself to 5 bullet points per list. Bullet points are great to break up chunks of text and allow candidates to skim important information but too many and the benefit of highlighting points is lost.
How to structure the job copy
The job copy should always follow your job title, location and salary and there’s a framework that all major job boards recommend.
1. Introduction – the hook
Firstly, give a brief introduction to the role and the business. Think of it as your elevator pitch, quickly hooking candidates so that they read on. State who you are looking for, in which location and, very briefly, what the role involves.
2. Company pitch
Next, you need to sell the company. Mention anything that makes the company stand out amongst competitors. This is a great place to talk about the company vision and culture. Sell the role, sell the business, sell the culture.
3. Role responsibilities
Thirdly, you need to succinctly explain how the role fits into the business, what the candidate will be doing on a daily basis, and list the key responsibilities of that role. Don’t overwhelm the candidate – stick to 5 main responsibilities.
4. Experience and skills
Cover the experience and skills need for the role but state which are essential and which are nice to haves. As with responsibilities, don’t lay down a long list of required skills and experience as that can deter many, especially diverse candidates. If you do ask for a specific skill and/or qualification, always state the reason that skill will be needed.
End on a high – close the ad with the benefits the candidate will receive, creating excitement and desire for the job. Pay-related benefits are great but there are several other candidate drivers. Flexible and/or remote working is now one of the biggest candidate wants (bordering on an expectation in some industries) so be sure to prominently mention that if the role offers it. Emphasise company culture, wellbeing initiatives, any caring support, extra holiday – anything that will further sway a candidate and encourage them to apply.
6. How to apply
Finally, don’t forget to make it clear how to apply – ideally via a quick apply button that sends candidates to your own website apply page, ensuring they are directed into your ecosystem. On that point, ensure your website apply pages are live and functioning and that candidates can apply quickly and easily.
If you’ve followed all of the recommendations above you should have a first-class job ad but you need qualified candidates to see it or all that work will be for nothing. To do that, you need to post your job ad at the right time and in the right place.
The best time to post is when candidates are actively searching for jobs. WaveTrackR data shows that, in general, the majority of candidates apply for jobs at the beginning of the week, on a Monday or Tuesday, and the fewest applications are received at the weekend.
Our data has also found that 50% of candidates apply for a job within a day of that job being posted. The takeaway? Schedule your jobs to post at the very beginning of the week to catch the highest number of candidates actively searching for jobs.
Where you post your jobs also matters. Technology such as WaveTrackR can recommend which job boards are likely to facilitate the highest number of applications based on the job specifications.
WaveTrackR regularly provides data on the job boards that receive the highest number of applications per job.
Top tip: niche job boards often provide a higher average number of applications per job than more generalised job boards, especially in industries with hard to fill roles.
You might also want to consider upgrading your listing on the job board so that your job appears higher up the results list. As a bonus, you’ll receive additional marketing from the job board and it’s a great boost to branding.
Be sure to also make the most of the free branding the job boards offer. Utilise the ability to post your logo, company profile and listings free of charge. Of course, job boards aren’t the only platforms on which to advertise your jobs.
Don’t forget to post your job on your website, immediately bringing candidates into your ecosystem and allowing them to see other jobs you’re advertising.
A huge number of both active and passive candidates are on social media sites so consider posting on relevant socials, particularly LinkedIn.
How technology can jump-start your ad writing
Many recruiters would agree that the most time consuming, difficult or dull part of their job is writing job ads. Getting them right is hard and can be a long process. And yet, as we’ve already established, job adverts are a crucial first step in the candidate attraction process.
Put simply, a poorly written advert will generate a poor response. The option to utilise an AI tool which takes details from the brief to quickly write a job advert that reads well and incorporates key job role information could be a lifeline for busy recruiters. Imagine no longer having to start from scratch with every job advert you write.
Instead, you can use a tool such as WaveTrackR’s AI Job Advert Assistant to jump-start those job ads which can then be added to, adjusted, and injected with that all-important human element.
Don’t forget who you’re writing for – and why it matters
At a job advert’s heart are people. When we talk about job ad tactics, keywords, conversion rates, ROI and so on, it’s easy to forget the big picture. The people that are involved. Because that’s what recruitment is about. It’s a people business. Helping people into great jobs and long-lasting careers. Helping businesses thrive by supplying them with any business’ greatest asset, which we all know is its people.
How a great job ad helped Grace – and thousands of others in turn
If you’re still in any doubt about the importance of taking time to ensure your job ad is optimised in every way, consider Grace. We’ve created Grace for the purposes of this guide, to allow you to see how job ads fit into a much wider, more significant context, but her story is representative of thousands of real examples out there.
Grace has wanted to be a civil engineer since she was a kid, building bridges, schools and hospitals out of LEGO. She put in the work, passed her school exams, went to university and got a degree in civil engineering. So far, so good. She now needs to find a job and she begins the way most candidates do, by searching online. She’s looking for entry-level civil engineer jobs and performs a Google search as well as searching on a handful of job boards – some big generalist ones, some niche ones that have been recommended to her, and some aggregators. What would make a job ad stand out to Grace? What would she be looking for in that ad, what does she need to know?
- Compelling copy – the ad must be compelling, make the role sound exciting and with plenty of chances to grow and progress in her career.
- Realistic qualifications and experience expectations – the qualifications must be relevant and achievable for the level of the job.
- Salary – the salary should be competitive (and, importantly explicitly stated).
- Benefits that match today’s expectations – the benefits should match current candidate expectations (flexible work options, etc).
- Location included – the location, or remote/hybrid status should be stated so that she knows if it is workable for her.
Many of the job ads Grace sees miss out vital pieces of information, are boring, or reel off a long list of expectations that are overwhelming but one catches her eye that included all of the points above. Grace applies for that job, the process is quick and simple and she is contacted for an interview. Of course, this is just the beginning of the process for Grace and the recruiter. The entire process needs to be streamlined, with regular communication and slick interview stages. Luckily, in this scenario, the application goes on to secure her the job and a long, fulfilling career in civil engineering ensues.
That one job ad kickstarted Grace’s career and contributed to the success of the multiple projects that she worked on. In her career she helped to build the hospitals, schools and bridges she once constructed from LEGO on her bedroom floor. When you think of the power that a single job ad has, the importance of getting it right is magnified.
In order to create the best job ad, it needs to be structured well, written carefully, kept concise, and posted at the right time and in the right place. It might take longer than copying and pasting the job description into a template and posting it to the usual job boards but it is well worth it. The ultimate aim for recruiters is to place good people into good jobs and facilitate fulfilling careers. And that all starts with a great job ad. Grace will certainly testify to that.
Find this data and more
In Wave’s Recruitment Trends Report for 2023 we dig into the recruitment trends that characterised 2022, including how the job market evolved over the year.
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[…] The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Killer Job Ad (and Why it Matters) “The humble job ad plays a crucial role – not just in the recruitment process but on a much wider scale, directly affecting people’s careers, the success of businesses, even the future of entire sectors.” Your entire hiring process starts with a job ad and that ad can make or break whether or not you will have a sucessful hire and that hire could affect the success of your business! (.. read more) […]
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