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7 Tips for Writing a Killer Job Ad to Find the Right Employees

The Internet is littered with job ads. From both employers and agencies. And, when you come to hire someone, it seems like everyone else is looking for the same thing: a really good employee that helps the business grow. But before you can hire the right employee, you need to post the right job ad. So what can you do to ensure your job advertisement stands out from the crowd and actually attract applicants?

Once you’ve written one or two job ads, they can start to sound the same. To make your ads stand out, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time. But if all you do is simply change the job title and role responsibilities, leaving the rest of your ads the same, you’ll lose engagement from your audience. If you want to attract the kind of bright talent your business needs, your ads need to be punchy, detailed and stand out from the competition.

What candidates want to see when reading a job ad is detail. Anyone can write a generic, run-of-the-mill advertisement. One that talks about being a team player, entrepreneurial, and hitting the ground running. But who is this really appealing to? 

If you work in a candidate lead market where competition is fierce for talent, you need to sell your opportunity and business in detail. This is so candidates can already start to picture themselves in the role. It is an often-stated reality that good employees are hard to find. But, one of the reasons why leaders struggle is due to their job postings. Below are the key areas you should focus on with each and every ad you write.

1. Select an Exact Job Title

This is very important to get right and should be given sufficient consideration. I’ve had clients in startups calling and asking for CVs for roles like CTO or Product Director. When in fact, once we drill down on the requirements, it’s really a Head of Engineering or Lead Designer that they’re looking for. However, if you advertise a CTO role, guess what? You’ll get CTOs applying who are looking for the associated salary and responsibilities that go along with that title. 

Not every early hire in a startup needs a c-level title. So, if in doubt, go with the title of the next level below. This leaves you somewhere to go when you get to promotions and salary reviews. It also allows candidates to grow into a role as the business grows. Doing this will attract ambitious, key talent from other successful organizations where perhaps there isn’t the opportunity to move up.

2. List Clear Role & Responsibilities

Here you want to include as much detail as you can about what’s required and what the post-holder will be doing on a day-to-day basis. Candidates need to be able to picture themselves in a role to know if it’s something they want to do. This doesn’t need to be paragraphs of text; research shows most people reading job ads want easily, digestible information, so bullet points are fine, but make them specific, and avoid the generic. 

To achieve this, sit down and think about all the responsibilities of the role and make sure you include them. What will your Head of Sales be involved in besides running a team or department? If they’ll work alongside the marketing and product teams, be sure to highlight that, it may just be the variety that someone’s looking for in a career move. If there’s potential for the post-holder to shape their role in any way, make sure that you mention this too. 

People love to take ownership of their roles, and if someone’s looking to leave their current job as they feel they can’t move within the organization or feel they aren’t being listened to, this kind of detail could be very attractive.

3. Describe the Company Environment/Culture

Ask yourself, what’s it really like to work for you and your business? Is it a collaborative environment, a small team, what size is the office, do your employees socialize, do you have a remote workforce, or offer flexible working? Paint a picture of what it’s truly like to work for your business alongside the current team. This will really get engagement from qualified candidates. Some things may seem small to you. Such as Friday pizza in the office. But, these things help build a culture, team spirit, and bonds between your team. New employees want to know about that and care about a positive company culture. 

Consider the following examples, which one is more attractive to a candidate? The first is the type of generic description I see all the time in employers’ ads, and the second actually gives some specifics:

  • You will join an ambitious, hardworking team. We provide fruit, drinks, snacks, and a social program as well as the annual office trip. 

OR, another way to put it:

  • You will be part of a 5-person team. 
  • We work hard, support each other, and have breakout areas where you can grab a colleague to quickly sanity-check any ideas you want a second opinion on. 
  • We provide drinks and snacks (from fruit to pizza) and love to socialize. 
  • We have weekly drinks on Thursdays. We also do a monthly run if you’re a fitness fanatic (neither is obligatory!). 
  • Our annual trip took us skiing last year. This year, we’re considering a city break. 

It’s a longer advertisement, sure. But, it provides actual detail and rises above the generic noise.

4. Mention Future opportunities

While the focus of your advertisement should be on the role you need someone to do for you right now, where will that role lead in the future? Most employers save this information for the interview stage, but why? You might not even get there if you don’t attract the right people with your ads. 

Be sure to include a sentence or two on future prospects. Or, you could even mention what a previous post-holder has gone on to do within your business. This way candidates can see that the role offers a future for them rather than just a job that needs doing for you. Lack of advancement opportunities is one of the main reasons why good employees quit their jobs. If your candidate is looking for a place where they can grow, mentioning those opportunities in your ad will catch their attention.

5. Include Compensation or Pay Range

You don’t need to include the full remuneration package in detail. This is because it may be necessary to negotiate on certain points to secure that key player. However, by ignoring the salary, which so many employers do, you’re missing out on a number of applicants without a doubt. Salaries can, of course, be a sensitive issue. But by at least including a range it doesn’t waste anyone’s time. And, your applicants will be in the right ballpark when you come to agree on a salary. 

Besides salary though, include all other benefits you offer. Remember, money isn’t everyone’s number one priority. So if you provide equity options, extra accumulative holiday, flexible working arrangements, childcare, training, etc. make sure they are in your ad.

6. Describe the Ideal Candidate

This should really go without saying, but be clear about which skills and experience are essential for the role and which are desirable. Few employers find that 10/10 person. Most hire someone pretty close with the ability to grow and become that 10/10 person. So, while you have your ideal wish list of what you’re looking for, be honest with yourself about what is essential. And understand what is just a “nice to have”. 

If you haven’t written a job ad before, also be sure to seek advice on the language used. This ensures you aren’t being discriminatory in any way without even realizing it. You don’t want to miss out on that perfect candidate because they were put off by poor phrasing or implied discrimination.

7. The Personality of Your Business

Once you’ve got all the key information down, your ad will probably be very informative but most likely devoid of any “voice” or personality. Think then about your business, what is the company culture and vibe like? Perhaps it is a formal environment where everyone is expected to wear suits but if it’s not, you want to get your voice across in the ad. 

There’s nothing wrong with using humor in ads. I’ve seen some genuinely funny ones, or simply a relaxed, informal style might best represent your culture. Whichever way, if you can give your ad a tone and voice that really represents you and your business, you’re well on your way to creating unique ads that will attract the right people.


This article was first published in 2019 but has been updated and expanded.

Simon Benson on LinkedinSimon Benson on Twitter
Simon Benson
Monthly Contributor: Simon is the founder of a specialist UK-based recruitment business that supports tech startups. He advocates a consultative approach to recruitment and blogs for the benefit of both employers and job seekers as well as on the experience of running a startup himself. He has a background in document editing and loves good coffee and his vinyl collection. Follow him on Twitter @sibenson_wg

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Find Your Way · Grow Your Business · Leading Your Team · Your Mindset

Monthly Contributor: Simon is the founder of a specialist UK-based recruitment business that supports tech startups. He advocates a consultative approach to recruitment and blogs for the benefit of both employers and job seekers as well as on the experience of running a startup himself. He has a background in document editing and loves good coffee and his vinyl collection. Follow him on Twitter @sibenson_wg

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