How to write an effective recruitment advertisement

Ten easy steps to attracting the right calibre of applicant

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Business is thriving, you’ve established an effective recruitment process, and you’re now ready to expand your enterprise by taking on extra staff. But how do you write an effective job advert to ensure you attract the calibre of applicants you desire?

You should definitely think carefully before simply putting pen to paper or fingertip to keyboard.

Just as a CV creates the first impression to a prospective employer, a recruitment advertisement is a company’s marketing tool and must be written to attract the right candidate for the job. The worst-case scenario is an in tray full of CVs from people with irrelevant skills and qualifications.

TopJobs recommend the following ten-step guide for writing a recruitment advert:

  1. Consider what exactly the job is. You may know the job title, but are you totally clear what the role involves? The better you understand the role, the clearer your ad will be.
  2. Who is my ideal candidate? It is useful to build a mental picture of the sort of person you, and the existing team, see fitting in. When it comes to wording your ad, write as if you were speaking to your imaginary candidate.
  3. What skills am I looking for? It is tempting to request high-level academic qualifications to try to filter out weaker candidates, but exam results aren’t necessarily the best indicators of workplace ability. You may be better off asking applicants to demonstrate their financial, people management and organisational abilities.
  4. What experience must applicants have? It is common practice to include in the ad the minimum number of years’ experience you will consider. This, however, fails to acknowledge the efforts of younger candidates who may have fast-tracked through their careers. It is a good idea, instead, to state the precise areas of experience you are looking for e.g. ‘experience of account-handling clients worth over £5million a year’ or ‘proven track-record of exceeding sales targets by more than 10% per quarter’.
  5. What extra-curricular activities am I interested in? It can be a useful exercise to ask applicants to include details of their non-work interests and achievements. This can often be a good indicator of a potential candidate’s social skills, determination and their attitudes towards others.
  6. What response do I want to get from the ad? It is worth considering what level of response you hope to achieve prior to placing your ad. If the role is specialist and senior, you may prefer to receive six excellent applications rather than 60 average ones. On the other hand, for a graduate trainee position you may prefer a bigger choice. The more specific your wish list, the fewer, better targeted, responses you are likely to receive.
  7. What facts must I include? At the very least, your ad should include: the name and address of your company with a brief description of the nature of the business; the job title of the position being advertised and a summary of responsibilities; special requirements (including out-of-hours working or travel); closing date for applications; and details on how to reply, and to whom.
  8. How do I reflect the personality of the company? A recruitment ad is a marketing opportunity, so it is a good idea to reflect the company’s brand values in your layout. For example, you should always use your corporate logo, colours and, if appropriate, your strap line. Typefaces, too, can be used to reflect the personality of your company; Comic Sans is light-hearted, whereas Times New Roman is fairly formal. Your choice of wording is extremely important – too complex and you could give the impression of inaccessibility, too jocular and you may lose credibility. It can be a good idea to ask existing employees to compare your proposed wording with their experiences of the company.
  9. How can I make the ad stand out? Once you have decided where you are going to place your ad, take a look at your competition. What other companies, and what positions, is your ad vying for attention with? Then consider how you can word your ad (particularly the headline) so that it stands above the rest. You may be able to claim you’re the country’s ‘leading supplier’ or that you offer ‘unparalleled’ management training.
  10. Have I made the job look attractive? Put yourself in the role of a potential applicant and ask yourself: ‘If this was my area of expertise, would I be tempted to apply for this role?’. If the answer is ‘no’, then the ad isn’t doing its job. Find out what attracted the existing team to apply for their jobs and use that information to structure the ad. For example, you may find that training is a key motivator or that the financial package was a major draw. Play on your strengths and keep the ad benefit-oriented.

Remember also to make it clear exactly what you’re after in the response to your advertisement: do you want a CV only or a cover letter as well? Do you want to provide your email address so potential candidates can email directly? Depending on the company image you are trying to portray, you could put a mobile number, but it may be worth putting a company phone number if you have one.

It’s essential to be aware of potential hiring blind spots that you may unconsciously have – these can limit the effectiveness of your recruitment and the overall culture mix of your company as it grows. Speaking of which, when you’re in a growing business, you’ll soon find that managing all aspects of HR and hiring is a full time and complex job. At the appropriate stage of growth, appointing a Chief Human Resources Officer is a canny move to support your needs.

If you need more advice or particular help, take a look at our guide evaluating the costs of HR outsourcing

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