Writing a Killer Job Ad

ITalent is more aware than ever of their value to companies and the options they have. Looking for a job is stressful; reading job descriptions shouldn’t be. Writing a killer ad is a must if you want the best talent to join your company rather than your competition.

Before we dive in, a heads-up: some local regulations might require specifics like benefits and salary range. Remember, always encourage applications beyond your salary range – you might discover a hidden gem worth more than initially anticipated.

Step 1: Define Your Ideal Candidate

First, we will guide you through some research.

You may think, “Research, really! Is this necessary?” The answer is: “Yes.” In most companies, payroll is one of the largest expenses.

Consider hiring like a big investment. Taking the time to research candidates thoroughly now can be the difference between landing some amazing talent and having to settle for someone who simply fills the role.

“Less” often translates to more expense down the road. Invest time upfront to avoid the significant time and resources you’d spend later training someone who needs constant correction, or worse, letting someone go who isn’t the right fit for your company or the position. Henna Pryor, Author of “Good Awkward,” says, “If you are talking to everyone, you are talking to no one.”

Pro Tip: Borrow a tactic from marketing – create a “Buyer Persona.” Think Neil Patel or HubSpot. See Shopify or Neil Patel.

Imagine your ideal candidate, their background, their language, and what keeps them up at night (work-wise, of course!).

This isn’t just about writing an ad; it’s about understanding who you’re reaching out to. This is where some intel gathering comes in.

Start with your current staff. Make sure they understand that this is an addition to their team, and it is in no way a reflection of their performance nor is their job at risk. Ask for complete honesty and ensure confidentiality. This will also create buy-in once a new team member is introduced. If the position is currently vacant, ask employees who work with this role on a day-to-day basis.

Bonus: Your current staff may just refer the perfect candidate to you!

Download an Example email to current staff here

What to ask your current employees?

What is/are:

  • the best part of their job
  • the not-so-enjoyable parts of their job
  • their biggest pain point, both on the job and outside of the job
  • success to them
  • the best part of belonging to your company
  • the not-so-enjoyable parts of belonging to your company
  • a day on the job like
  • the best part about the location
  • their most valued benefits
  • the reason they stay at your company
  • it like to work for their manager

Search engines are your friend! Type in the job title and ask similar questions to those you pose to your team. You’ll be amazed by the insights you unearth on platforms like Reddit or X. And don’t forget to ask your friends Gemini and ChatGPT.

Your Goal: Understand your ideal candidate on a deeper level – their interests, aspirations, and most importantly, their challenges.

Here’s the golden rule: tailor your description to their desires, not yours.

Understanding your ideal candidate will allow you to sell them on parts of the job that they want, not what you think they want. As such, you will tailor your job description to their desires.

Finally, name your candidate. You will be able to write a much more personal ad when you are writing it to Bob from Houston, than to a candidate for the Sales Manager position.

* See Worksheet below on how to put together your ideal candidate.

Side note: Even though you want to reach your ideal candidate where he/she hangs out online, you need to advertise on broader platforms to comply with recruiting laws.

Step 2: Write the Job Description

Next is the actual job description. (Yes, we are skipping over the title for now.) A job description is the first, well maybe second part (salary is first) a candidate reads when looking for a job. Use positive engaging language. Write it from the job applicant’s perspective, not yours. Describe what you have to offer, not what you need.

Consider this job ad as an opportunity. It’s often the first impression potential candidates (and even the broader community) get of your company culture and hiring process. So, make sure it aligns with the overall marketing plan you have established for your organization.

The Hook: The first paragraph is the hook, your chance to grab the candidate’s attention and to keep them reading. Think of it as a movie trailer in a single paragraph — give three to five details that make the job exciting. (Many boards show the first lines of the job description in the list of jobs)

Do not underestimate its value. It is the difference between a candidate clicking on the job or scrolling past it.

Your Goal: Get the best candidates to click “Apply Now,” but for that to happen you must hook them first.

Be specific: A vague job description implies that the role isn’t well-defined, which screams “disorganization” and can scare off qualified candidates. It can also imply that the employer is lazy. Be clear about the responsibilities and expectations.

Readability Matters: Use clear, concise language and avoid jargon. Proofread carefully for any typos or grammatical errors. Typos and grammatical errors are a major turn-off. Bullet points are your friend, but keep it to a manageable number (think 7 or less per section).

Skip Cliché Words: “Fast-paced environment” and “team player” are overused and yawn-inducing. Instead, breathe life into the role – “work alongside a passionate, creative team” or “every day is an adventure.”

Write Like You Talk: Imagine you are having a conversation with your ideal candidate. Do it in a way anyone can understand. Write in a friendly, approachable tone, ditching the corporate jargon. Don’t try to intimidate or overimpress.

Paint a Picture: Make your ideal candidate see themselves thriving in your company. Use the information you gathered to showcase the exciting parts of the job and the company culture. If you are stuck, here are some sample questions to use:

  • What would make Bob successful in this job, and how will success be measured?
  • What impact will Bob have in this job on the company as a whole?
  • How is this job different and more exciting than a job at another company?
  • How does this job solve challenges Bob deals with in his day-to-day life?
  • What is exciting about this job to Bob?
  • How does this position fit in with other similar roles? How would Bob fit within the company?
  • What can Bob expect on a day-to-day basis?

More Than a Paycheck: People are motivated by more than just money. Highlight the growth opportunities, perks, and the chance to make a real impact.

Focus on the Benefits, Not Just the Duties.

Location, Location, Location: Don’t just mention the address – paint a picture of the work environment. Is it remote, hybrid, or in-office? Easy commute? Great amenities in the office or nearby? Parking? Public Transportation? Daycare options?

Company Culture: A job is much more than just a job nowadays. People want to belong. A good cultural fit is a must. Use words and phrases that reflect your company culture. What are the things that are important to your company? What do you value in your employees? What do your employees value? Is the company affiliated with a non-profit or a cause? What makes you unique? What are you passionate about?

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Consider using an image that reflects your company culture instead of just the logo.

Clear Requirements and Desired Skills: Skip listing obvious skills (think basic computer skills for an administrative assistant). Present requirements and desired skills in a bullet-point list for easy scanning.

Step 3: Create a Compelling and Clear Job Title

The title is often the first thing a candidate sees, but it will be the last thing you write. It flows from the content of your ad and uses relevant keywords. Avoid generic titles as well as gimmicky titles when possible. No one is searching for “Rockstar” unless they are thinking of joining an 80’s hair band.

Your Goal: Get the candidate to stop scrolling and to click on your ad.

Pro Tip: Run your ad through your favorite AI and ask it to write different titles for you, including the platform you will use them on.

Optimize the Job for Search Engines:

When it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization), it’s all about working backwards. These are the breadcrumbs that lead job seekers to your door. Think of them as sprinkles, not a whole cake.

To unearth relevant keywords, keep an eye on trends, your competition, and what job seekers focus on.

Here’s a trick: Type the job title into a search engine and see what auto-completes show up. Those are the search terms people are using – gold!

You can also use keyword tools like https://keywordtool.io/ or https://neilpatel.com/blog/keyword-research/ or Google’s keyword planner.

Finally, search for those keywords on the job board you plan on using. Are similar jobs appearing? If so, you are on the right track and can proceed. If not, adjust.

To help include keywords, you can use your friend Bard/Gemini/ChatGPT. Remember, you always want to rewrite everything in your own words.

According to Neil Patel, content written by both humans and AI together does way better than those written by AI alone. https://neilpatel.com/blog/ai-create-content/

Step 4: Make it Easy to Apply and Ask Them to Apply

Provide clear instructions on how to apply and include a link if applicable. Nothing is more frustrating than a long application process. This starts with the initial application. You do not want an applicant to give up.

Put yourself in the job seeker’s seat:

  • Open your favorite search engine.
  • Type the name of the open position.
  • Once you find the job posting, go through the application process.
  • Read the full job description. (Does it flow? Does it make sense? Does it make you excited about the job?)
  • Click on the apply now button.
  • Follow the steps to submit your resume and information.
  • Check if you receive all information.
  • Evaluate. Ask yourself, “What went well?” and “What could you do differently?”
  • Adjust.

Step 5: Monitor and Adjust

Have someone else, preferably someone who is familiar with the job or currently in a similar position, read the ad and go through the application process. Run the ad by the employees you interviewed and see if they would change or add anything. Also, ask for feedback from applicants.

Impressions, clicks, conversions, applicant quality can help you understand what works and what doesn’t. A simple spreadsheet can help keep you on track, or you can use online services to do this for you.

Finally, close the ad once the job has been filled. And don’t post jobs “just to see what talent is out there.” Respect candidates’ time. There’s nothing worse than applying for a ghost job listing. Your reputation is on the line – you don’t want to see your talent pool evaporate.

Remember: A killer job ad takes time, but it pays off in the long run. You’ll attract top talent and leave the competition in the dust.

Further Reading:

Forbes: how to post a job on google in 4 steps – https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/how-to-post-jobs-on-google/

Download a Copy of the Ideal Candidate Worksheet