If you use a designer to create and produce artwork for your job advert I urge you to control their creative instincts - a job advert is advertising a job, it is not a CD cover or a bottle of shampoo.
Here's a reminder of the essential writing tips for advertising and for clarity of business communications, in the context of writing and designing effective job or recruitment advertisements:
Use one simple headline, and make the job advert headline relevant and clear. Normally the logical headline is the job title itself - this is after all what people will be looking for.
If the job title does not implicitly describe the job function, then use a strapline to do so. Better still, if you find yourself writing a job advert for a truly obscure job title which in no way conveys what the job function is, then consider changing the job title.
An effective alternative main headline - especially for strategic roles with a lot of freedom - is to describe (very succinctly - and in an inspirational manner) the main purpose of the role, which can then be used with the job title and organization's name serving as secondary headings.
If the organization is known and has a good reputation among the targeted readers then show the organization or brand name prominently, as a strapline or main heading with the job title, or incorporated in the job advert frame design, or in one of the corners of the space, in proper logo-style format.
N.B. Some organizations prefer not to tell the whole world that they are recruiting, in which case, if this is your policy, obviously do not feature your organization's name in the job advert. On which point - if you use a recruitment consultancy, examine the extent to which your job advert is promoting the recruitment agency's name, and if you think they are over-egging things perhaps suggest they contribute to the cost of the advert, or reduce the size of their corporate branding on your advert.
Make the advert easy to read. Use simple language, avoid complicated words unless absolutely necessary (for example if recruiting for Head of Rocket Science), and keep enough space around the text to attract attention to it. Less is more. Giving text some space is a very powerful way of attracting the eye, and also a way of ensuring you write efficiently. Efficient writing enables efficient reading.
Use language that your reader uses. If you want clues as to what this might be imagine the newspaper they read, and limit your vocabulary to that found in the newspaper.
Use short sentences. More than fifteen words in a sentence reduces the clarity of the meaning. After drafting your communication, seek out commas and 'and's, and replace with full-stops.
Use bullet points and short bite-sized paragraphs. A lot of words in one big paragraph is very off-putting to the reader and will probably not be read.
Use simple type-styles: Arial, Tahoma, Times, etc, or your house-style equivalents or variations. Serif fonts (like Times) are more traditional and more readable. Sans serif (like Arial and Tahoma) are more modern-looking, but are less easy to read especially for a lot of text. It's your choice.
Use 12-20ish point-size for headings and subheadings. Try to avoid upper-case (capitals) even in headings - it's very much slower to read. Increase prominence by use of a larger point-size, and to an extent emboldening, not by using capitals. CAPITALS HAVE NO WORDSHAPES - SEE WHAT I MEAN?)
Use ten, eleven or twelve point-size for the main text; smaller or larger are actually more difficult to read and therefore less likely to be read. Definitely avoid upper-case (capitals) in the 'body copy' (main text).
For the same reason avoid italics, shadows, light colours reversed out of dark, weird and wonderful colours. None of these improve readability, they all reduce it. Use simple black (or dark coloured) text on a white (or light coloured) background for maximum readability.
Get the reader involved. Refer to the reader as you and use the second person (you, your and yours etc) in the description of the requirements and expectations of the candidate and the job role. This helps people to visualise themselves in the role. It involves them.
Try to incorporate something new, innovative, exciting, challenging - people are attracted to new things - either in the company or the role.
Stress what is unique. You must try to emphasise what makes your job and organization special. People want to work for special employers and are generally not motivated to seek work with boring, run-of-the-mill, ordinary, unadventurous organizations.
Job advert statements and descriptions must be credible. Employers or jobs that sound too good to be true will only attract the gullible and the dreamers.
Remember AIDA: The Attention part is the banner or headline that makes an impressive benefit promise. Interest builds information in an interesting way, usually meaning that this must relate closely to the way that the reader thinks about the issues concerned. Since job advertisements aim to produce a response you must then create Desire, which relates job appeal and rewards to the reader so that they will aspire to them and want them. Finally you must prompt an Action, which may be to call a telephone number or to send CV, or to download an application form from a website address. Your job advert should follow this step by step format to be effective.
Your main heading, strapline and main message must be prominent. Do not be tempted to devote 75% of the space to a diagram of your latest technology or photograph of your new manufacturing plant in Neasden.
Headlines do not have to be at the top of the frame - your eye is naturally drawn to a point between two-thirds and three-quarters up in the framed area, which means you have room above the headline for some subtle branding, or - heaven forfend - for some blank space.
The best position for adverts on a job page is 'right thumbnail'. That is, top right corner. Right-side sheet is better than the left because your eye is naturally drawn right on turning over the page, which reveals the left-side sheet last. Top-right corner is the first part of a double page spread to be revealed. Top of page is better than bottom - obviously - we read from top down, not the other way around.
Resist the temptation to buy a half-page or a full page (unless the page size is very small) - you do not need it. A quarter of a page is adequate and optimal in most publications, indeed arguably even unnecessarily large in broadsheet newspapers.
People assume that big adverts produce a big response - they don't unless they are good. A good moderately sized advert will produce just as good a response as a good massive advert. Added to which you can run more insertions of sensibly sized adverts than big ones.
Having seen the layout and design rules above, here are the items to include in an effective job advert. The bold items are those which would normally be essential; the others are optional depending on local policy and circumstances. The list is loosely in order but this is in no way prescriptive - use a sequence that works best.
An alternative approach is to place the advert with application form, instructions, job description, candidate profile, etc., as downloadable pdf or similar files on the internet, and use a smaller advert in your chosen media, containing far less detail, which acts as a signpost to direct people to the website URL. This enables a high-impact relatively low-cost small printed media advert.
Out-placement organizations. (Which help place people in jobs who have lost theirs for one reason or another - often very high-calibre people lose their jobs, for no fault of their own. Also, organizations commonly use out-placement companies to help find jobs for staff who have been made redundant, and this route offers a rich pool of talent and experience).
And in a similar vein, armed forces resettlement programmes. (The armed forces produce a constant stream of highly trained, highly disciplined, technically very competent people. So do the police and fire services. Many of these people retire early, or leave the services before retirement, in which case they often pass through resettlement programmes, which can be a very worthwhile recruiting pool.)
Universities, colleges and schools.
Trade associations and membership bodies.
Internet recruitment resources.
Using headhunters for middle and senior positions.
Please see additional referencing/usage terms below.
Writing an effective job advertisement is the best way to woo the right applicants and will help you sort the wheat from the chaff. You need to present your company in the best light, as well as accurately describe the position and its role within the company. The more specific you are in your criteria, the more effectively you will target the right applicant – and see if they’ve bothered to read the fine print.
Putting together an effective job ad is simple if you stick to some basic guidelines.
Make sure you include the professional job title at the top of the ad. Potential applicants will search for certain keywords in relation to the position, so it’s a make-or-break manoeuvre. Make it simple, honest and to-the-point. You may choose to add extra information if it makes the job title more specific – for example, ‘Project Manager – Financial Services’ is more informative than simply ‘Project Manager’.
After knowing what the job is, the applicant wants to know exactly who they will be working for. Show how desirable your company is, the opportunities it presents and why a talented worker should uproot from a current job to come and work for you. You could include some points about the organisation’s position in the industry, the central location of the office and opportunities to travel or be promoted within the company.
Now you need to tell your future employees exactly what the job entails. Top performers respond to challenges more than money, so you want to make the job sound rewarding and stimulating. Tell potential applicants what they will be responsible for; give an outline of their day-to-day tasks and who they will be answering to. This will give job seekers an idea of the expectations for the role. Also mention when the position will commence and whether it’s full-time, part-time or contractual.
It’s time to let potential applicants know exactly what you want out of them. This isn’t the time to beat around the bush – you want to filter out the unsuitable people before you find yourself with a stack of useless resumes. Also, giving a strong description will attract people who are after a challenge.
Many companies make the mistake of using lots of buzzwords that don’t necessarily translate into anything practical. Use criteria that mean something, like how much experience is desirable and what level of education is expected. Also outline what skills are required – for example, customer service or specific computer programs.
If there is a clear outline of the ideal candidate for the job, it will mean stronger applications as well as applicants who will fit into the dynamics of the company. You may choose to use bullet points to cover characteristics such as:
The salary question has to be broached at some point. Most people scanning a page of ads gauge their suitability for the role on the wage. If a media manager who is on $40,000 sees a job ad for a media manager on $200,000, they may think it’s out of their depth. You should also list any extra perks that will set you apart from the competitors. A fantastic location or unusual perks of the job, commission, supportive work–life balance policies or flexible work hours can be effective selling points. Alternatively, you could write ‘salary package to be negotiated’ if the level of the job is evident.
A simple job ad is an effective one. Ads that are plainly written and clearly formatted are easier to read and will enable job seekers to quickly assess their suitability for the job. Bullet points work well.
Steer clear of complicated job descriptions, fancy designs, funky language or anything out of the ordinary. Someone reading a job ad with lots of fancy, yet confusing jargon will wonder straight away what the catch is.
Make sure the method of application is clear. Most advertisements have a contact email and number with the name of the person applicants can direct their enquiries to. Don’t forget to put a closing date on applications!
A recent survey by Kelly Services found almost half of business professionals would be in breach of anti-discrimination laws when writing a job ad. Putting together a job ad that doesn’t discriminate is actually harder than it sounds – firstly because there are so many groups you can discriminate against, and also because laws vary across states.
In general, all jobs must be open to all people on the basis of merit, and only merit. That means the job ad can’t discriminate against age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, transgender status, industrial activity, marital status, family responsibilities, breastfeeding, physical features, political belief or activity, pregnancy, race, or religious belief or activity.
These days jobs are most often posted online. The largest Australian job boards are on the Seek, MyCareer and CareerOne websites. You could also choose to publish your ad in your local paper or the MyCareer lift-out of the Sydney Morning Herald. Government jobs are also posted on the website APSjobs.gov.au or the print version of the Australian Public Service Gazette. Make sure you publish your advertisement in a place that will reach the right demographic for the job.
What do you do when you need to hire an employee? Write a quick description of the job then post it to the handiest online job board? If so, you're missing some of the best candidates, according to Michael Overell, co-founder of RecruitLoop, a marketplace for independent recruiting.
"Remember that a job ad is still an ad," he says. "A lot of people forget that. You should be thinking like a marketer."
As the economy improves and talented people with certain key skills become difficult to hire, your approach should not be: "If we post it, they will come." Instead, take the time to create a well-crafted job ad and carefully choose where to post it. It's a small extra effort that will pay for itself when you start to find the best qualified job candidates. Here's how to go about it:
Online, that is. "A common mistake is to just pick the most popular job board," Overell says. While a giant job board may attract millions of visitors, it might not be the best place for your job ad, any more than the site with the highest overall traffic is necessarily the best place for your product ad. In both cases, it's better to pick a site that will reach the specific audience you want.
The best side for a job ad will vary, depending on the type of job and its location. "If you're looking for an online marketer on the West Coast, there are two or three different places that work well," Overell says. To find them, try pretending you're a qualified job-seeker yourself and do a few searches, he suggests. Another strategy is to ask professionals in the field you want where they would look if they were job-hunting.
"Use all the tools that you would as a marketer," Overell advises. That means paying attention to things like keywords--what terms are your ideal candidates searching for? You can try using online keyword tools to find out, although they may not index terms on all job board sites.
You might learn more by looking at other companies' ads for the position you're seeking to fill. Review several of these and you should get a feel for which keywords seem most relevant.
"The two things have a lot in common, but they're not one and the same," Overell says. "A job description is usually an internal document created to clarify what the role will do and to outline reporting lines. A job ad's primary purpose is getting the right person to click 'apply.'"
That means your job ad should probably skip a lot of detail about who reports to whom, and include some sense of your company's culture and mission, the benefits you offer, and why it's a great place to work.
"A lot of people are guilty of writing a jumble of paragraphs that cover the right content but don't make it easy to find," Overell says. Instead, think about structure and use subheads and bullet points. The ad should be divided into clearly labeled sections, for instance one on the job responsibilities, one on the qualifications of the ideal candidate, and one on the application process.
Here's a little secret: The title you put in your ad doesn't have to be exactly the same as the title a new hire will actually have. "The analogy is the marketing email subject line," Overell says. "It's the only tool you have to get someone to click on your message. Almost the sole purpose [for the listed title] is to show up in search results, so it's important to understand the terms that candidates might be searching for." The smartest companies optimize their job titles for search, rather than choosing a title for how it fits into their org chart, he adds.
"It can save you a lot of time if you qualify out unqualified candidates," Overell says. "For example, if it's a requirement that an applicant have working rights in this country, make sure to include that in the ad. 'Will only consider application if A, B, or C.'"
With fewer unqualified candidates in the screening process, you'll have a less overwhelming pile of applications to get through on the first round, and you may be in a better position to spot the real gems.
Another way to lessen your workload--especially if you're looking for a detail-oriented candidate--is to include a very specific instruction somewhere in the middle of the copy. For instance, write that you will only look at the application if the email contains a particular word or phrase in its subject line.
It may feel like you're being slightly sneaky, but as Overell points out, "All you're dong is filtering out the people who haven't read the ad carefully."
"Don't rush the ad out the door," Overell says. "It's a common situation, when you get the approval or the funds to go hire someone, that the first thing you do is write an ad and get it out straight away. But it will help to have a few different people in the company read it to make sure it's clear and says what you want it to say."
Ideally, you should get at least one read by someone who has applied for the same type of position in the not too distant past. That way, "You can find out how the ad might be interpreted by someone looking for work," Overell says.
Before you post the ad, set up a system that will ensure every applicant gets a response. It doesn't have to be a personal response--though of course that's always best. Even an auto-responder that thanks them for applying and says you will get back to them by a certain date if you're interested in learning more about them is a whole lot better than no response at all.
Why should you care about the feelings of a faceless mass of job applicants? "You want candidates to have as good an experience as possible of your company," Overell says. "You never know where they might pop up in the future."
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