Hero transform-your-job-ads-from-ho-hum-to-aha

Transform Your Job Ads From Ho-Hum to Aha!

April 28th, 2014

Great job ads stand out from the crowd. They engage applicants on an emotional level by answering their top questions and creating a clear and compelling picture of what’s on offer. In this article, I’ll show you a quick way to assess ads and give you two tips you can start using today.

Take This Test

For this test, you'll need a real job ad. I recommend picking one that's not from your own company -- competitor ads are marvelous for this. Using someone else's ad will eliminate defensive thinking so you can focus entirely on seeing the content from an applicant's perspective.

Reading only the job title and first two or three lines of text, can you answer these questions?

  • How does this role impact the company's larger goals?

  • How will the new employee be measured?

  • What is the culture like in this company?

My guess is you can't answer any of those questions yet, and possibly you never will, even if you read right to the bottom of the ad. It isn't that companies are being secretive; I blame a faulty writing formula that has somehow become the go-to job ad style. You know the one -- the first lines of text are reserved for marketing hype about the company, followed by a redundant statement announcing they have an opening, and then comes a laundry list of must-haves that reads more like a legal contract than an attraction piece.

Here’s What Applicants Want To Know

1. How does this role fit into the company as a whole?

2. What is the position responsible to create or make happen?

3. What's it like to work there?

How do you fit all that into the small amount of space available? First, get ready to drop the standard job ad formula and second, make friends with the two most valuable pieces of real estate in your job ad: the job title and the first 20 words.

Prime Real Estate #1: The Job Title

When faced with a page full of search results consisting of job titles only, most applicants won’t take the time to click on each one to verify their assumptions about the role. They’ll be drawn to the ones they understand and the ones that grab their interest. I suggest you remove your corporate or agency hat and pick a job title that truly describes the role. Don't feel obligated to use your actual internal job title if it doesn't give outsiders a fair idea of what the position entails. Here are two examples showing exactly how an ad can get off track.

  • CAM Manager. This is a real job title I found this morning. From research, I discovered that CAM can stand for Community Association Manager, Certified Apartment Manager, and Corporate Account Manager. This job ad would do better if the title were spelled out in words or changed to something completely different that describes the functional responsibilities.

  • CSR is another job title that will cost you dearly in lost candidates. The initials CSR stand for Customer Service Representative, typically an entry-level position in a call centre or order processing environment. The junior people most likely to be interested in this role may not understand that they qualify to be a CSR.

Prime Real Estate #2: The first 20 Words

Now that you’ve got your job title working for you, it’s time to drive interest and curiosity by making the first 20 words all about the applicant and what they’ll get from this role. It’s the best way to cut through digital noise and get past short attention spans. It’s also an effective way to net those passive candidates.

Let’s jump right in and compare two ads:

Old Style

A) Acme Spuds is one of the world's most trusted producers of French fries and winner of the Bell Food Service Prix d'Excellence. For more than 30 years, we have provided North American restaurants with the best and highest quality foods at fair prices. Due to continued growth, we are expanding our team. We are now accepting applications for Customer Service Representative II. Candidates must possess 2 years' experience in a service capacity with a demonstrated commitment to excellence and have strong written and oral communication skills.

New Style

B) Be part of the team that puts smiles on customers' faces and the world's best fries on dinner plates. We don't know which is better; the open work environment, the relaxed dress code, or the free fries every Wednesday. Do you love talking to lots of different people? Is good service part of your DNA? We want to hear from you. Tell us what you do to delight customers and what you've learned from past experience.

See the difference? The old style is all about the company. The newer style leads with candidate interests.

Now it’s your turn. What can you do to make your job ads stand out from the crowd?

Check out more of Susan's work at Plugged In Recruiter and connect with her on LinkedIn.