What to write in your job ads

When you are trying to attract unemployed applicants (perhaps because you know there are a lot of them on the market, or because you need someone who’s available to start quickly), it should be relatively easy. They’re actively looking for work, browsing job boards and careers pages and LinkedIn. If you’re lucky, they’ll read your ads and apply if they’re suitable. If you’re unlucky, they won’t read your ads and will apply to anything because they’re desperate.

When you are trying to attract applicants who are currently employed elsewhere, your job ads have to try a little harder. These people might be window shopping – occasionally checking what’s out there because they’ve had a bad day or are open to moving to a better job. Or you might attempt to reach them through direct sourcing. (All the lessons on our ad-writing course can be applied to InMails and emails too.)

When you are trying to attract an experienced person, you don’t need to tell them what the role involves. They already know that, probably better than you. What they need to know is why they want to do that role at this place rather than where they are currently doing it. What’s different about the role here, and why they’ll like it.

When you are trying to attract school-leavers and graduates, you need to tell them why they want to join this sector or do this job as well as what the role involves. That’s because they are new to the workplace and don’t know any of that yet.

When you are trying to attract someone who is currently working just below the level of the role you are marketing, it’s usually pretty easy to sell the job. They will probably get more responsibility and more money than the place they currently work. They will hopefully get training and support so they can learn quickly.

It’s harder when you are trying to attract someone to move sideways rather than upwards. Ask the hiring manager what will make someone want to go through all the risk and hassle of moving jobs when they are already doing something similar where they are now. Wait until they give you a good answer (a clue: it probably it won’t be the legal minimum pension scheme, beanbags in reception or fun day Fridays). If you don’t get a good answer from the hiring manager, ask the person who’s just left, or their colleagues, or check Glassdoor reviews. You’ll eventually find a compelling benefit as the hook you can hang your ad on.

Note that when we talk about including ‘benefits’ in your job ads, we’re not talking about the ‘benefits’ of the role such as the number of days’ holiday. We’re talking about the benefits to the reader. The things that answer the question in their mind which is ‘What’s in it for me?’ (All the best copywriting is from the point of view of the reader – and, at the point of reading your job ad, they’re not a candidate yet, they’re just a reader.)

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