Tips for writing employment ads

A top tip to maximise your job ad response is to write the ad in terms of outcomes and employee benefits and not simply listing duties or tasks.

Filling your ad with a list of duties and “essential must haves” act as filters sometimes blocking suitable candidate from applying.

Learn more about the golden rules for writing an employment ad.

Watch the next video in this series here:

Part 4 – What Are the Most Effective Recruitment Methods

And watch the previous video here:

Part 2 – How to Make Job Advertisements More Appealing

And if you know of anyone who would benefit from this video, please share it with them.

Video Transcript

Hi, Andrew from SACS and welcome to video number three, in our series on Candidate Attraction and Candidate Evaluation.

In this one, we’re going to be talking about how to write employment ad copy.

Previously, we’ve told you about outcome based job definition and how to make ads more appealing through using an employee value proposition.

And in subsequent videos we’ll be talking about candidate evaluation but this one specifically focuses on how to write employment ad copy.

Maximising Ad responses

Here’s a couple of really important tips about how to maximise ad response.

First one, write ads in terms of outcomes and benefits not duties and tasks or essentials must-haves, these act as filters.

Now filters, what do I mean by a filter? A filter is where somebody writes something into an employment ad to cause the wrong people not to apply.

So that would be things like the successful candidate must have a degree in marketing. Filters don’t just reject bad candidates, they also reject good candidates.

In other words, people who have what you’re looking for sense this tone of evaluation and tend not to apply.

Let me put it bluntly.

If you’re recruiting your job is to read CV’s. People put filters in to try to read less CV’s. If you screen candidates out who don’t have what you want you’re also making the ad very unappealing.

So you need to turn that around and make the ad very appealing. And the reason is that it’s just too difficult to find the people that you want to run the risk of turning them off.

We know this from practical experience because we’ve taken ads that have been written by clients where they’ve been full of filters and we take all the filters out and we put only benefits in and you end up with much more significant ad response, both in terms of quality and quantity.

Secondly, write your ads to include content from EVPs, employee value propositions to promote benefits and target particular demographics, such as younger staff members or whatever.

And then you can use modern technology to target your candidate pool.

Now, EVPs, we talked about that in a previous video.

So if you’re interested in knowing how to create an employee value proposition go back to that video because we give you some really practical tips but I want to talk a little bit more about the technology that’s available these days to target candidates.

Behavioural marketing

You have a range of options.

One of them is a thing called behavioural marketing.

Now behavioural marketing is the sort of marketing that people use in product marketing and it’s increasingly being used in candidate attraction.

So let me give you an example.

You are an organisation that is in the disability sector to continue with an example that we’ve used in previous videos.

You want to identify people who are interested in the disability sector, have a customer service background, and are in a particular geographical location.

If you deal with the right online marketing company, the right job board, they will be able to provide you with the option of geo locating.

So you take at certain geographical post codes.

The behavioural marketing idea is where the ad will be served to people who are just web browsing.

You know, if you’re web browsing and you’re interested in what boats you find all these ads pop up about boats, well, you can do the same thing with jobs.

And so if a person has an interest in the disability sector because of their search history in the past and you do understand, of course that Google knows absolutely everything that they could possibly want to know about you and they can target ads to your age, and to your interests, and to your shopping habits. They’ve got all that.

So you could do the same thing with employment ads.

So you can say, are you interested in customer service roles? Are you interested in the disability sector? And do you live in a particular geographical location?

That’s the kind of modern technology that can really turbocharge recruitment efforts.

And we’ve often been able to do that for clients where they’ve been unsuccessful in their particular geographical location but by geo targeting it, you’re getting maximum value for the clicks that you pay for.

So consider that, consider behavioural marketing or geo targeting as approaches.

Very few organisations do it yet in Australia and New Zealand, but you will see them doing it more as the providers become better at being able to do this.

Sell the features & benefits

An important thing to understand about selling anything.

And that’s what you’re really trying to do.

You’re trying to sell the benefits of this job, is the idea of features and benefits.

Features are thing things, benefits are people things.

Now, what do I mean by thing things? A feature of a job is it will pay a certain salary. It is located in a certain geographical location. It has certain duties. Those are features.

Benefits are the people things. Benefits are you will work with good colleagues. You will be treated with respect. You will have an opportunity to learn things. You will do satisfying work.

All those emotional terms are the benefits.

Now you don’t sell anything on features.

You sell things on benefits. What will this do for you? I will work with good colleagues. I will have satisfying work.

That’s the sort of stuff that draws candidates.

And I think it’s a good golden rule to if you’re writing an employment ad for instance, to make sure that you’re getting at least seven, eight, nine benefits in every single ad and no filters, don’t put in this stuff like the successful candidate must have. I mean, ignore all of that.

You will read the CV’s and you’ll find out the candidates that can do the job or not by virtue of the way that they apply.

Benefits are often emotional reasons and ads, as we’ve said should focus mainly on benefits.

Common advertisement structure

So here’s a common structure for an ad that you might run for any job (refer to video).

There’ll be a headline in bullet points, usually three. A description of the organisation, description of the role, and description of the person.

But in all of these we’re seeking to emphasise the benefits.

And if we’ve run an employee value proposition process we know what the benefits are, and then there’s the close.

Now the close, shouldn’t just be something like, okay, well here it is.

A close needs to be a very purposeful call to action. Please apply now. Please send your CV to this address.

You know, the research into sales processes has shown that where you’ve got an explicit call to action, you get a much better response. Even from people who are equivalently interested.

So this person’s kind of interested, this person’s kind of interested.

This person sees a specific call to action, send your CV now to get an interview. This person doesn’t see that. This person who gets the specific call to action is much more likely to apply.

Now, anybody who’s into digital marketing knows this and that’s why every single website, one of the things that they people seek to do is to make sure that there’s a really clear call to action to stimulate you to do what the offer wants you to do.

Now we want people to apply, say that, please apply.

Where to start?

So where to start with an ad? We suggest that you start with the three main paragraphs, the organisation, the role, the person.

Take three sheets of paper. I mean, probably not physical sheets of paper. That’s why it’s in quotes (refer to video), but you write the three headings on each.

So you could do that on a Word document or on a white board if you’re doing it with other people.

You list down all of the benefits offered by the organisation and the position.

And then you write down the main must haves for the role.

These will go in the section for the person and you simply string all of these together in each section to make meaningful sentences.

You write these things as benefits rather than filters.

So it’s quite clear if you were writing the benefits for the organisation, this is the organization’s profitable, it has very good values, it’s making a contribution to the world. Those are the benefits for the organisation.

The position, here are the sorts of things that you will contribute by doing this. You’ll make customers happy.

Again, writing in terms of outcomes, you’ll make customers happy. You’ll work closely with colleagues to ensure that they can get their work done. They’re measurable outcomes. You’ll deliver a profit, whatever it is.

Outcomes are more attractive than tasks but then the must-haves of the job.

You need to have a marketing degree to be able to do this job. You write it as an affirmation. You are a really good communicator. You are those kinds of statements, they’re affirmations.

They will cause people to apply because they realise they’re not being screened. They realise they’re not being rejected. They realise, okay, I am being affirmed. I am being sought.

And that is much more reassuring. That will increase your ad response rate.

Use positive active language

Here’s some golden rules.

Write in positive, active language.

Important becomes pivotal, essential, key. Write emotional words. Interesting becomes compelling, captivating, fascinating. If the environment is positive use words like warm, welcoming.

Psychological research says that using words like warm actually makes people feel physically warmer but as well as that, the psychological warmth of the environment, I mean, who doesn’t want to work for a company or in a team where there is warmth and recognition and kindness.

Use those sorts of words.

People try to make these things far too corporate sounding very often.

Make them individually and emotionally appealing, and you are much more likely to get a good ad response.

Remove the filters

Some more golden rules.

Don’t include filters, the public sector ad effect.

If you read ads for the public sector you’ll see that they’re full of filters. And that can be one of the reasons why the only people who apply for the jobs are people from the public sector who are kind of used to that.

The successful candidate must have a degree in marketing with six years experience in a management role.

Who writes this junk? Can you imagine if you hire somebody and they come into the office on the first day and you introduce them. Hey everybody, this is the successful candidate. Here is your desk, the successful candidate. I’ll be seeing you at 10 o’clock to do your induction the successful candidate.

It’s just nonsense, isn’t it?

Well, why talk to prospective successful candidates in that way? You are, you have, you are a great communicator. If you write them as affirmations, you will end up with much better ad response.

Personalise your wording

Personalise your wording.

Imagine that you’re describing the job to the candidate face to face. Just talk to people. Imagine if you were telling somebody about it. You wouldn’t write all this formal corporate stuff.

That’s the way to write your ads make them personalised and make them informal. Become a connoisseur of good ads.

Look at your colleagues and competitors’ ads and plagiarise.

I think it was Tom Lehrer who wrote the song about the great Lobachevsky, the mathematician who plagiarised.

He said, plagiarise, let no one else’s words evade your eyes. And that’s what good ad writers do.

It’s not about originality. It’s about what works.

So if you see a phrase in somebody else’s ad and it looks good, well, there’s no copyright here, use it.

Try to avoid the most worn out of the cliches.

Freshness definitely helps in that sense.

And the close must be a call to action, a final appeal and statement of what you want the candidate to do. Please apply.

How to position a job

How to position a job.

This is a really interesting issue because for instance to use a classic example, let’s say you’ve got a job which is a chief accountant or a sales manager.

They’re two examples of really common jobs. What seniority is a chief accountant? Well, if you work for a giant corporation a chief accountant might pay three, $400,000. If you work for a little company, a chief accountant with exactly the same title may pay 80, 90, a $100,000. So how do you differentiate?

We strongly recommend putting salary in ads.

You know, people often don’t do this and I can’t quite understand why.

Are they worried about people knowing what they’re going to pay?

Putting a salary is a fantastic way to position a job.

And we often find that purely and simply putting a salary, in addition to everything else in the ad actually improves the quality of the ad response enormously, may reduce the quantity, but that’s good because you don’t want people who are paid too much or too little to be applying for this job.

So when possible, put a salary in but try not to say 72,612 to 86, et cetera.

Often when people see this detail, they feel, look this is obviously perfectionistic. It’s a fussy organisation. Maybe that’s not so appealing. If you turn this into low 70s to high 80s, negotiable you would have similar sort of outcome. And you haven’t painted yourself into a corner because you’ve got the flexibility to decide what you offer a particular candidate.

But that just looks much more appealing than this idea that there are really tight salary bands.

I mean, that can create the impression of kind of bureaucracy if people are thinking of applying to you.

And so what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to cause the positioning of the candidates the spread of the candidates to be as piled up as possible around the actual dollar value that you’re offering.

So we need to ensure that the response is in the range of what we can actually pay.

Not too little because that means that the people aren’t senior enough, or not too much, which means that they simply wouldn’t take the job anyway.

Writing the headline

How to write the headline.

People often write titles in their ads and that can be a mistake.

If you’ve got a job, which is let’s say, a Southern region marketing officer, you’ll run that title.

Now, what the hell is a Southern region marketing officer? I mean, if you write a headline instead of a title it might be, Opportunity to make a difference in marketing.

Let’s say, just an attention grabber. Here’s an example of an ad that we ran some years ago.

This was to run an Italian restaurant and it was Direttore Ristorante Italiano. Why? Well, because the person who is going to apply for this job probably understands Italian and not only that, it makes it kind of quirky and interesting. A little different from what people will see.

That’s good advertising.

Need not be a title. So we’ve used the example before of outstanding marketing opportunity. Must position the job in the candidate’s mind.

So ideally you would give some idea of the level of seniority by virtue of what you say.

And it must be clear as to what the job means.

Don’t be drawn into using internal titles as I mentioned earlier.

The synergy of digital marketing

Some other points for candidate attraction.

I mean, anybody who’s into digital marketing will know that one of the most powerful things you can do with digital marketing is where the various digital means support each other.

So you’ve got a website that points to a social media channel that maybe points to a YouTube channel that may be points back to the website.

All of this collaboration and synergy can certainly improve your ad response.

And of course, a social media presence can paint the picture of a certain brand of an organisation which can be very effective as well.

I mentioned behavioural marketing.

Passive attraction, have a work for us section on your website and use an applicant tracking system of some sort as a central repository for candidates.

Applicant tracking systems

Many of our clients talk to me about applicant tracking systems and they think they’re these great, big, complicated things.

Applicant tracking has never been easier. I mean, we use a thing called Zoho Recruit, which is just an ASP, an Application Service Provider option. Really easy to access. Doesn’t take a great deal of setup. And if you use a basic form you can have it running in an hour.

So this can be a really useful adjunct to your website particularly the work for us section.

It should pump the candidates immediately into the applicant tracking system and immediately send them an email saying, you have been added to our database. And when we’ve got a job, we’ll talk to you.

But many of our clients are able to fill those jobs by simply going back to the applicant tracking system which has been filled up with these passive candidates.

And you may well find that somebody who is good for the job that has just arisen is actually already there.

That’s a really smart way of managing your candidate attraction process.

Candidate referral schemes

Candidate referral schemes are where people have an opportunity to refer candidates to HR, if that’s who’s doing the recruiting, and say, well, yeah I see you’ve got a job for this marketing role.

I know this person called Mary Smith and she’s really good. And then ultimately, if Mary Smith gets hired there would be some benefit to the person who’s made the referral.

Now that will work in certain cultures and other cultures that may not be seen as being a great thing.

But look, it’s something that’s worth considering in these candidates short times.

Key selection criteria

Key selection criteria.

One of my absolute key hates in recruitment practise.

This is where people want to apply for a job and they have to jump through a hoop. And the hoop is you have to address the following criteria. One, two, three, four, five. What does address even mean for a start?

But when people sit down and do this that paints a picture of an extremely unfriendly and frankly old fashioned employer.

I know lots of people use key selection criteria very popular in the not-for-profit sector and in government but we’ve managed to persuade a number of employers in those sectors to give it up.

Don’t do it. It’s not worth doing. It screens out high quality candidates as well as low quality candidates, and it is very 12th century.

Please dump your key selection criteria. It’s not good practise.

So that’s what we’ve had to say about candidate attraction using outcome based job definition, how to make ads more appealing, and how to write employment ad copy.

Now that you’ve got your pool of high quality candidates, let’s talk about how to work out exactly who is best for the job.

And the very next video will be about ranking methods of candidate evaluation.

What we mean by that is that there’s research from the world of organisational psychology that shows you is an interview as accurate as a reference check?

Join us for the next video to find out which recruitment methods are the most predictive of candidate performance once people are actually hired.

Watch the next video in this series here:

Part 4 – What Are the Most Effective Recruitment Methods

And watch the previous video here:

Part 2 – How to Make Job Advertisements More Appealing

And if you know of anyone who would benefit from this video, please share it with them.

SACS Consulting