Crafting the Perfect Job Ad

By Roy Maurer Feb 26, 2016
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A well-written job posting is critical to finding the perfect candidate for an open position. The key is giving candidates the information they need to make the decision to apply.

“Your job ads matter. If you’re not focusing on job ads, you’re wasting your first impression,” said Chris Forman, CEO and founder of Appcast, a recruitment advertising technology company based in Lebanon, N.H. “There is a real relationship between what you call a job, how you describe a job and the amount of people that flow through your recruitment funnel.”

Job postings should turn passive job seekers into active applicants, said Matt Singer, vice president of marketing at Jobvite, a talent acquisition technology firm based in the San Francisco area.

“Based on our data, we see at best a 90 percent abandonment rate from careers pages and at worst a 96-97 percent rate, so you’re only going to get three to 10 visitors [out of 100] to your careers page actually applying for a job,” Singer said. “Even improving that rate by 1 percentage point will have a huge impact on the number of candidates you’re getting in the door.”

Be Clear

The job posting serves as a checklist for both the employer and the candidate. Advertisements should be specific about the past experience, job skills and education desired while at the same time provide potential applicants with an honest preview of the job.

“Often times we think of marketing as being cute and clever, like calling a facilities manager an environmental manager,” Forman said. “It sounds more highbrow, but if these folks don’t understand what the job really is, they won’t apply for it.”

According to Jobvite, job seekers most want to know about a potential employer’s compensation, location, work/life balance and health benefits.

Vague job postings also make it more difficult for potential applicants to determine if the organization is the right cultural fit. “Put yourself in the job seekers’ shoes for a moment to understand what they may be thinking, feeling and searching for,” advised Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder, a job search site headquartered in Chicago. Explain why it’s great to work at your company, she said, but don’t just talk up “your fabulous perks and awesome culture.” It’s also important to give candidates a realistic idea of the type of work they’ll be doing. And also: “Think beyond the day-to-day tasks they’ll be expected to perform. Those aren’t really going to get anyone clamoring for a spot at your company.”

Haefner said job postings should show off a company’s personality. “This is your chance to show the world what it’s like to work at your company versus the dozens of other options they probably have in front of them. In a word, how would you describe your company culture? Fun? Collaborative? Transparent? Whatever it is, find a way to get it across,” she said.

One major flaw seen too often: relying on the internal job requisition to write the job posting. “There needs to be a conceptual difference between these two documents,” Forman said. “The requisition is an internal document that helps recruiters understand who they should be recruiting and what the needs of the organization are. The ad is a marketing document soliciting for that particular position. If your job ads are written as marketing documents rather than a regurgitation of your requisition, it can be a huge game changer.”

Be Concise

Research from Appcast found that postings of roughly 4,000-5,000 characters (500-600 words) produce a 12-15 percent click-to-apply rate, a sweet spot smack in the middle of a bell curve. That means for every 100 people who viewed the job ad, 12-15 people actually clicked to apply.

“If it’s too short, there’s not enough information, and it’s not compelling enough for people to take the time to apply,” Forman said. For postings of 1,000 characters, the click-to-apply rate is 7 percent. For postings that are even shorter than that, the rate drops to 3 percent. “Job posts over 10,000 characters have roughly the same impact of being too short,” he added.

The same idea applies to job titles. Appcast found that titles comprised of 50-60 characters, including spaces, work best, outperforming other titles by 30-40 percent. Very short and long titles suffered “a relatively quick click-to-apply drop-off,” Forman said.

Be Consistent

CareerBuilder recommends including the following four elements when crafting job ads:

  • A description of the position and requirements. List the most important skills and requirements first.
  • An explanation of the specific duties involved.
  • A brief, appealing description of the company and the opportunity presented.
  • A description of the benefits and intangibles.

At the end of every job description, include a single, clear call to action.

“Make very clear what the next step is and set expectations around what candidates need to do, who they are dealing with and when they can expect to hear back,” Haefner said.

She also recommended limiting the number of response options. “Offering an e-mail address, a link to your careers site, an ‘apply now’ button and perhaps even a mailing address leads to job seeker confusion. The less options, the better. You will also be making your life easier by reducing the number of candidates who apply for the same job through multiple means.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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