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Job Ad Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by Eric Friedman

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There’s a lot of competition for top talent in the workplace. Companies finding narrowing pools of candidates have started dipping into other industries for top contenders. The way to attract candidates has changed. Companies have to appeal to younger generations and job postings have to stand out to attract the best of the best.

With so much at stake, it’s no wonder that you need to start drafting job ads that will get responses from not just good, but great candidates. Writing a standout job description is essential to keeping your company competitive by hiring top talent. Here are a few do’s and don’ts for writing a stellar job ad.

DO:

  1. Introduce yourself. Oftentimes, the job ad is the first encounter a candidate has with your company. Some candidates look for jobs at companies they’ve heard of or are interested in, but in most cases they will just find you on aggregate job search websites, and the only thing they’ll know about you is what they read in your job ad. So, take this opportunity to introduce yourself to them. This doesn’t mean that you should include your mission statement in the ad. It means providing interesting bits of information about your company throughout the ad, starting with the title (“Join one of the fastest-growing app development companies in the country”) or within the description.
  2. Be specific. Business in general is about being specific. You can’t make a sale if you’re only quoting a broad price range to a customer, or pitch a successful campaign to a client with only two or three details. The same applies for job ads. Specificity will help you hone the candidate’s attention and hopefully pique his interest. It will also make you sound sure of what you’re looking for. If you’re vague, it may sound like you don’t know the type of skills or experience you’re looking for, and that may prevent some candidates from applying.
  3. Be brief. As with most communications, whether emails, letters, or press releases, if it’s too long chances are people simply won’t read it, or at best they’ll just skim it. Your job ads should be about 400-600 words tops. This will actually help you with the previous point. Since you don’t have space to waste, it’ll drive you to be more specific with your descriptions.
  4. Be personable. Another way to introduce yourself to candidates is by setting the company’s tone in the job ad. Making it personable will help your company and the job seem more relatable to the candidate, so he or she can actually imagine working there. The personality you provide in the job description will also help to set you apart from others. If your job ad sounds like all of the others, a good candidate may be dissuaded from applying. But if yours stands out by being more personable and friendly, he or she might just apply for your position and not your competitor’s.
  5. Keep it simple. Nothing sends candidates running for the hills faster than a convoluted and long application process. Keep things simple and clear by specifying how you want candidates to apply, whether it’s filling out an application online or sending their resumes to a certain email address. Providing simple and easy-to-follow instructions is also a way to find out which candidates pay attention and follow directions.

DON’T:

  1. Use “nothing” descriptions. You know which ones we mean—“great communicator,” “proven leader,” “team worker.” Unless your position is for a person who just arrived on Earth from Mars, everyone has (or will claim to have) these characteristics. These filler descriptions just take away from what’s really at the core of a great candidate, the hard skills that will actually make a difference in your company. Using “nothing” descriptions dilutes your message, so avoid them and be specific.
  2. Cap the talent pool. Experience and skills are interesting examples of how you can inadvertently cap your talent pool. When listing things under “requirements” that are relevant to your company and the position, be careful not to narrow yourself too much. A person with experience in sales pitches may bring an interesting new perspective to product development. Many people with transferable skills may be dissuaded from applying for your position if they feel they don’t meet the requirements exactly, but if the job ad lists skills and experiences more broadly, you may be able to draw them in.
  3. Be too detailed. While being specific is crucial, being too detailed can hinder your search. As with listing requirements that are too narrow, being too detailed can cap your talent pool and deter candidates from applying. Try painting more broad brushstrokes, not just of what the job entails, but also what a candidate can expect to gain and contribute in the position.
  4. Avoid “preferred” skills. Unless you’re listing skills that are an absolute necessity for the position, such as electrical training or a technical certification, listing a bunch of “preferred” skills could make candidates think they’re not skilled enough for your position, plus it will also lead you to violate some of the above-mentioned “Do’s,” like keeping it brief and being specific. Pick the skills the candidate must absolutely possess and then list only a few others that would be nice to have, making it very clear that even candidates without those skills will still be considered.
  5. Don’t skip keywords. Think about how candidates find your job ad. They likely run a search on their browser or on job boards using keywords, so make sure you include good keywords in your job ad. Put yourself in their shoes and think of the phrases a candidate would use to search for your job.

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About Eric Friedman

Author

Eric Friedman is the founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, a leading provider of Web-based skills testing for pre-employment and training. With academic degrees in Psychology and Business, and experience with both mature and expansion-stage company growth, Eric has focused on how best to hire and motivate team members to be the best they can be for their companies.

2 COMMENTS Join the discussion
  • Jill M. April, 26, 2014

    I think it’s quite impossible to make rules of what to put and what not to put on the job ads to attract the candidates. Sometimes you need to outline the preferred skills and go into details, and sometimes you need to be brief and specific.. The most important thing is to stand out among other companies and at the same time be true to the company principles.

  • James Aslan April, 30, 2014

    While there are no strict rules of what to put and what not to put on job ads, we can’t escape the fact that some ads are more successful than others. It’s always good to learn on one’s own mistakes, but very often we can avoid them. If we want to attract the best job candidates, we should place the best ad, which, I think, should be simple, clear and eye-catching.

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