Business Advice: Writing a job ad for the web

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

When you are looking to hire a new employee, it is easy to focus only on what you want as an employer. Ironically, if you make your wish list the most prominent part of your job ad, you could very well be minimizing your chances of attracting that ideal new hire.

Before you start writing your job ad, you need to take a walk in the candidate’s shoes. What will the right recruit want from you?  Talk to other employees about why they enjoy working at your organization. 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 on the web. 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 throughout 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 the job they do in reality.

Be as genuine as you can be in your job ad and also during the interview process to avoid the expense and emotional drain of having to replace the new hire because they left within weeks of starting.

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 February 4, 2012. If you have not been contacted by this date, consider your application unsuccessful on this occasion.”

Your ad could  invite candidates to email or phone a nominated staff member to find out more about your job role and organization to discourage people applying despite having none of the criteria specified. 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.

Once you start the application screening process it is vital you keep to stated deadlines. If you promise to let short listed candidates know by email and you hit a delay because a key decision maker goes interstate or gets caught up on an important project, let people know. Also, once you interview people, email candidates about the 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. 
Job hunting is an emotional business. For you, hiring for a particular role is one of many things you have to do but for the candidate, getting a new job is central to their life so please don’t leave them dangling. Silence, poor or testy communication from your organization creates a poor image of your company and candidates talk.

Personally, I think you should phone every shortlisted candidate who made it to second interview. You never know when you might want to talk to one of these people again.

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About Kate - View all posts by Kate

KATE has been covering employment issues for a decade and is the founding Editor of, the author of the syndicated newspaper advice column Ask Kate and the digital column about employment and careers, Cube Farmer In recent years Kate has also become a speaker, a job interview coach and consultant to both job hunters and employers. Kate also speaks on radio and television about workplace issues and job hunting. Follow @KateSoutham !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs'); Kate started out as a cadet journalist at Fairfax media. She has been an ABC radio reporter in North Queensland, a news reporter on the Sunday Morning Post in Hong Kong, a media gopher to a Romanian presidential candidate, the environment writer on the Sydney Morning Herald and a news journalist for ninemsn. Career highlights include being a young journalist in Hong Kong in the 80s where an assignment could be “go to China tomorrow” and the next, “interview Pierce Brosnan”. Although drinking vodka and talking about a crumbling communist world on a roof top in Bucharest with diplomats, journalists and “political advisers” was pretty good too. Kate loves the employment and careers space as it goes to the heart of who we think we are. Despite the importance of employment to how successfully we live our lives too many people rush their CV, don't prepare for interviews and lurch from one career to the next without planning. Kate can help with all those things and more.

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