When time is tight and work is piling up, it’s tempting to drop job ad writing down to the bottom of the priority list.
But take care: while compiling a candidate wish list seems like a quick task, recruitment experts say the key to success is taking the time to engage candidates through a well-written advertisement.
So, how do you craft a job ad with the flair of a copywriter? Hamish Coutts, National Client Training Manager at SEEK, and Andrew Morris, NSW and QLD Director for recruitment agency Robert Half, share their tips.
Personalise your copy
According to Coutts, “the more you can personalise your job ad, the better”. This means knowing your target audience: their demographic, what benefits they want from a job, how they communicate.
One distinction to note, says Morris, is between personalities that pursue science-based and arts-based careers.
“Are they the type of person that wants to know about numbers, needs to know about details, needs a high level of information?” You will then put a lot more information in an ad like that,” he says.
“If they are more on the arts side, then depending on what type of role it is, it’s more about culture, and that’s the way it should be written.”
Give your content structure
Candidates are more likely to stop reading an ad if it’s hard to follow and can’t be easily scanned from their phone.
Copywriting techniques can help: logically order your ad by placing essential information at the beginning; break up text with paragraphs, sub-headings and bullet points. It’s also best to use succinct sentences instead of long-winded ones. A straightforward way to do this is to avoid using too many adjectives.
Morris also advises employers to make sure the ‘snapshot’ of the ad – that is, the first three points – is clear and engaging. “The snapshot will dictate whether the person is going to click through and read the entire ad,” says Morris. “If you don’t get that right, people won’t read any longer.”
Be as specific as possible
Research commissioned by SEEK discovered it’s the details candidates want most in an ad: location, skills required, the role responsibilities. An ad that lacks clarity is frustrating for a candidate, so avoid vague descriptions and be as specific as possible.
As a bonus, including details also saves you sorting through unsuitable applications. “The more specific you can be in the job ad, the better fit those candidates applying will be. If you’re really broad and generic, what basically happens is you get a heap of people who are really broad and generic in their experience,” says Coutts.
Morris also recommends including a salary to help people “self-select” when considering whether to apply for the job. “If you don’t put a salary amount or range in, you’re going to get people who are either over-qualified or under-qualified trying to apply for that ad,” he says.
Know your audience
Ads usually focus on what employers want from candidates, but don’t forget your audience: promote your employer brand by highlighting your company’s culture and key points that are likely to appeal to candidates.
Both Morris and Coutts warn employers not to assume candidates have prior knowledge of their brand. Linking to the company website or a video are good ways to provide information; employee benefits like flexible work policies and generous leave packages are also worth including. “Talk to the key benefits you’re really proud to go to market with,” says Coutts. “That’s where you can get a competitive advantage over other companies who are fighting hard for the same talent.”
Just make sure you can deliver on your promises, adds Morris. “You don’t want to advertise something that you can’t actually act on.”
Don’t skip that final proof-read
Finally, take a leaf out of the copywriter’s manual and proof-read your advertisement before you hit publish. “Get some of your colleagues to read it as well,” says Coutts. “When you have an ad that has spelling errors in it, poor grammar or missing bits of information, that is a poor reflection on your brand.”
And the proof-reading doesn’t stop there: “Keep an eye on the level of applications you’re getting; don’t wait until the end of your 30-day job ad cycle,” says Coutts. “If you need to go in and make changes, do them while the ad’s actually running live.”