How to create great job adverts

How to create great job adverts

The following is an excerpt from my book “Join Our Company : How to hire and onboard Technologists”. This section is all about how to create great job adverts and why they need to be better than everyone else’s.

It’s an advert!

Head on over to any job board and you’ll likely find many boring adverts. Uninspiring text going on and on about the role, the technology and giant lists of tools. There will be the must-haves, should-haves and nice-to-have sections. The person profile section. All boring.

You’ll find impossible adverts where the hiring managers are looking for Unicorns capable of doing several different roles whilst juggling being the CFO, CTO and Customer Support Manager at the same time. You’ll find the adverts with contradictory information, hyperbole, ridiculous targets, unlikely combinations of skills, 10 years of experience in a technology that’s only 2 years old and those looking for people with a wealth of experience yet paying minimum wage.

Urgh.

Dull, boring and uninspiring – all articulated and communicated with zero enthusiasm and all from the point of view of the hiring manager or company.

“Here’s what we want” is the sentiment of most adverts.

Please don’t create adverts like this.

A job advert is about attracting super talented people to your organisation. These brilliant people need to look at your advert and be excited and giddy to make the next move. The advert is nothing more than that – an advert. Do you buy products based on boring adverts? Unlikely.

An advert is an opportunity to start a conversation and compel people to take action, so make the advert interesting and make it about them. Articulate what’s in it for the potential candidate:

  • Why should they apply?
  • Why would it be awesome to work here?
  • How will their career grow?
  • Who will they work with?
  • Why should they invest energy with you?
  • What will they learn?
  • What will you do for them?
  • What is your company’s purpose and why is it so compelling that they should join?

Adverts like this stand out for the right reasons. If the right person reads it they’ll be inspired. Your goal is to encourage people to send the email, apply for the job or phone the number.

Some ways to create a compelling advert

Focus on your team’s values

Hiring someone who doesn’t meet your team’s values and behaviours will have a corrosive effect on your culture.

If you don’t have your values articulated – spend some time defining them. A good set of values should lead people in your organisation to make the right decisions. Of course, it’s entirely possible to have values that management and leadership don’t live…. hence the people in the organisation don’t either, but most companies understand the value in defining their values.

Either add your company’s values to the advert word for word, or even better, find a way to tell stories about the values or describe how people can live those values. Bring them to life through examples and behaviours.

For example, let’s say you have a value that is something like “Own the solution”. You might list this as a value and explain how you’re looking for someone who wants ownership, autonomy and decision-making latitude around their work, all supported by managers who care. I can imagine a number of people excited about taking on a role like that.

Articulate the problem you are trying to solve, or the opportunity that exists

You’ve done the research and you know the problem this person will solve, or the opportunity someone can open for the business. Get it nailed, simplified and articulated with clarity and passion. You need the candidate to understand how they can contribute to success and be excited to do so. Good people want to be excited about using their skills and experience to solve the right problems and succeed.

For example, you might be hiring a new Agile Coach who will be responsible for improving the release process. You should express how their skills will be used, what the end goal looks like, how you will measure success and what support they will get in that journey.

Create short adverts with clarity

Good communicators don’t waste another person’s time. Keep your advert short, sharp and informal.

People build a connection with those that sound like them, so use language that is simple and accessible. Use language that your target audience (candidates) will resonate with.

Edit and remove nonsense, extra words and information that doesn’t add value. Sell the role, the problems and specify the kind of person you want. Explain why they should invest energy in you and your company. Make it exciting – you want them to make the next move with enthusiasm.

Stop using mandatory and nice to have sections in your advert

Most job adverts contain two sections that are mostly useless. These are the “mandatory” and “nice to have” sections describing skills and experience.

The view seems to be that anything listed in the mandatory is, as expected, essential. Anything in the “nice to have”, is optional.

The problem with this is that it doesn’t cater for those who have the ability to learn new skills and gain new experiences. It rarely caters for personality or passion, and it rarely captures the behaviours you actually want.

How many good people will be deterred from applying because they don’t tick all of the mandatory boxes? How many people are you missing out on because you can’t find another way to articulate the problems/opportunities, the kind of person you’re after and why they should invest time and energy in your company?

What would happen if a positive, confident self-starter applied but didn’t meet one or two of the mandatory? Would you still hire them? Probably. Are those skills or experiences really mandatory?

What would happen if a candidate applied who could put a tick against all the mandatory items, but you sensed they would be a management nightmare? Would you hire them even though you know they’ll bring down the team? I doubt it.

What would happen if someone met all the mandatory but none of the optional? Or all the optional but none of the mandatory? Or a decent mix of both?

The job advert is just that, an advert, not an essay, white paper or booklet so remove these types of sections and focus on why someone should respond to the advert.

Don’t try to appeal to every single candidate looking for a job and then use the job advert as a filter. Write the advert for the people you seek to hire – and get it in front of them – not the whole world. The goal is to get the right advert in front of the right people. It’s not to appeal to everyone and filter based on definitions in the advert.

Try not to put great people off with a poor advert – use the advert to advertise your role, to the right people and kick start a conversation.

Focus on selling your amazing workplace

An advert is a chance to sell your amazing workplace and attract the right candidates. Your advert may be the first contact a candidate has with your company. Your job is to inspire them to find out more and communicate to them why your company rocks. And of course, you’ll need to deliver on that with your company website, social accounts and overall candidate experience.

Remember the scales with salary on one side and other reasons to join on the other? This is where you need to start articulating the other reasons to join.

You will face lots of competition to attract the right people, so your advert should create a wow moment. Don’t forget though – your advert must be truthful. Take the truth and make it interesting.


Find out more about the book and grab a copy here.

Book - Join Our Company