I seem to have spent more time looking for work than actually working, as any freelancer is likely to find. And I’ve also, somehow or another, ended up hiring replacements for almost every job I’ve ever left. This lengthy exposure to the world of recruitment, has given me more experience with recruitment ads than I’d like to have thought possible. Often they’re painful to read, and provide prime examples of copywriting neglect – just do a quick search on Indeed and see. For the sake of my sanity going forward, and for the sake of those both looking for work and those hiring staff, here are my tips on writing better recruitment ads. (Please note that these tips concern adverts for active jobseekers, to help sift through candidates, rather than more dynamic branding adverts used for competitive recruitment advertising.)
Prioritise what you ask for
If you list every skill you could possible want in a perfect candidate, you’ll run into a few problems. First, the majority of able candidates who don’t tick all the boxes will look for ways to cover everything, fostering deception in applications. Second, people with experience in minor areas you’re asking for will apply, who are ultimately inappropriate for the job. Before writing your recruitment ad you need to think about what the most important skills you want are. Make these clear, list desirable extras separately.
Making clear assertions
There’s no room in recruitment for ambiguous or grandiose points. The ad should be straight with potential recruits, telling them what the job is about, where it’s leading, what skills are required to do it. It doesn’t need to be a work of creative genius, it needs to be practical.
Recruitment ads should only be emotional if that’s important to the sort of person you want to attract. For instance, sales adverts are often bombastic, suggesting fast moving, proactive positions. Which is fine if you only want bombastic candidates, but won’t necessarily work if you’re more interested in a person’s training or past achievements.
The skills and experience you ask for should directly relate to the job, in a clear manner. An example from my own experience, saying you desire a passion for the written word tells the candidate nothing about how that translates into the job. And it tells the recruiter nothing useful when a candidate answers ‘I have a passion for the written word.’ Asking for examples of previous publications, however, or examples of experience writing outside a professional capacity, require evidence of that passion, and clarifies the sort of dedication you’re after from the recruit.
Be clear about what you don’t want
A major pitfall in writing job adverts is failing to consider the sort of candidates that aren’t appropriate. Receiving too many applications, from inappropriate candidates, wastes a lot of time. Consider what will disqualify people from the position. With the internet, specifying a location is definitely a priority – the last thing you need is a hundred applications from a different country when you’re trying to fill a local position. Other considerations may be language skills, access to a vehicle and work visas.
If inappropriate candidates still apply when you have stated factors that disqualify them, then you know they can be quickly passed over.
Be upfront on the details
I once had an applicant get all the way through the interview process for a £16k job before discovering she needed a £24,ooo salary in order to renew her work visa. If I’d been clearer about the wage from the start, and she’d been clear about her work visa earlier on, it would have saved us both a lot of time.
Think about what will be important to an employee, and if there is anything that is likely to turn them off the job let them know from the start. Exceptional candidates need an appropriate wage and benefits, don’t think that by hiding these things you might string them along for long enough to snag them.
Wages and benefits also give a good indicator to potential recruits as to how appropriate they are for a job. For example, whatever other details your recruitment ad contains, if you offer a Copywriter position at £40k a year, any candidate with any sense will immediately understand you want someone with considerable experience. If you offer a sales position with flight and hotel expenses paid, the recruit will understand that the job involves travelling.
Show some respect
Finally, and to me one of the most important parts of the process, treat recruits like people, and like professionals. When I’m looking at recruitment ads and see vacuous statements like ‘must be professional’ or ‘ability to follow orders a must’, it immediately makes me think that’s not someone I want to work with. Not because I can’t be professional or follow commands, but because anyone that feels the need to state such things is not treating their recruits with respect. It looks obnoxious. Yes, they may be important traits to see in a recruit, but you don’t discover them by writing them in an ad. That’s what assessments and interviews are for.
It sounds simple to say it but a lot of people don’t stop and think about the effectiveness of their recruitment ads. Being clear with what you want and what you’re offering without waffle about abstractions will produce viable candidates. Failing to focus on the important aspects of the job and failing to be clear and honest about what you want will waste everyone’s time.