A job posting or advertisement is a jobseeker’s first introduction to your company. If you express the role and benefits of working at your company well, they might be your next great hire. First impressions matter!
Around 1.7 jobs are available for every unemployed worker and jobs in consumer services sectors like retail and wholesale consumer goods are up to 70% unfilled. That means candidates are in the driver’s seat. In fact, a great job ad posted on your career site or on the best job boards for your industry is crucial for your company to attract top candidates for your open positions. But writing a great job ad isn’t just a necessary step in your hiring process, it’s an opportunity to showcase the value a job opportunity at your company represents.
This article will address how we, as HR professionals, can create tailored job ads that communicate the right information to attract the best talent for the positions we need to fill.
What Makes a Great Job Posting?
The Best Job Ads Market the Job AND the Company
It is important to post a job ad that is formatted for easy review. It should demonstrate an inclusive culture, be factually accurate, legally compliant, and grammatically correct. Job seekers who read it need to be impressed enough by your organization (not just the job opportunity) to apply. That’s a lot of information to convey at once.
Besides describing the position, a great job posting accurately summarizes the skills, experience, certifications, preferred qualifications, and education a qualified candidate must have. However, that’s not all there is to it.
The purpose of a job advertisement is to outline what your company needs from the ideal candidate for this position. However, it simultaneously must market your organization and the perks of working there. To achieve this:
- Specify how much paid time off the job offers.
- Note whether the position is on-site, and whether flexible working hours or remote work are possible.
- Mention any “comp” time for employees to volunteer.
- List cultural aspects and perks. For example, if your company hosts free meals, office yoga sessions, or annual retreats.
- Specify if there is a childcare center located in the building.
The best job ads create a positive picture of the candidate’s life when they work for you. Not just the day-to-day work they’ll be doing, but also the lifestyle they’ll be able to maintain at work.
After reviewing a job post, the right candidate should feel excited about the possibility of landing a spot in your company. If you don’t think a candidate would want to join your company due to a lack of benefits or organizational culture, be concerned! A larger management discussion around human capital and retention strategy is necessary if the organization isn’t desirable.
Avoid Bias in Your Job Postings
Key in the talent acquisition process is avoiding bias in your job titles and postings. Often, this bias is unintentional as Managers and HR are recycling job ad templates that have been used for years without thorough revision for bias. We are smarter today than we were yesterday. So we must take the red pen to these old drafts.
To make your job titles inclusive, review for verbiage that might lead a candidate to believe the role is intended for a specific gender. For example, edit “Chairman” to “Chairperson.” Change “Waiter/Waitress” to “Server.”
Even creative terms like “ninja” and “guru” can prompt your best candidates to evaluate whether your organization is actively trying to be inclusive. According to dictionary.com, the word “ninja” is derived from Japanese roots and signifies one who persists. In the context of a job ad for a modern-day skilled expert, this can be viewed as misappropriated and offensive. Similarly, guru comes from Hinduism and Buddhism and is “reserved for the highest spiritual leaders.” Advertising for a guru in reference to a Computer Programmer or Engineer is therefore culturally inappropriate. (Pr-tip: Try “multi-tasker” or “expert” instead.)
According to a McKinsey Survey, 39% of job seekers have turned down or decided not to pursue a job because they felt the organization lacked an inclusive culture.
In the fight for the best candidates, don’t let your organization fall behind by inadvertently excluding members of the talent pool, or making jobseekers feel unwelcome at your organization. Make it clear that your employees will be valued regardless of gender, age or race.
Don’t Confuse a Job Ad with a Job Description
According to OnGig, a job ad is a recruiting tool used to attract candidates and market the company and the position. Differently, a job description is a legal document that details the responsibilities of a job. It is typically signed by the employee and used in goal-setting and performance conversations.
A good job description does lay the foundation for an excellent job ad, but should never be copied and pasted into your job ad. It’s too much detail that a job seeker doesn’t need.
For a job ad, listing only key responsibilities helps to convey the expectations of the job. However, including an overly detailed list of KPIs and daily duties isn’t necessary. It may even misrepresent the position as tedious.
While you don’t want an exhaustive list of tasks in your job ad, what you do say must be accurate.
In order for the job ad to effectively attract talent, the requirements for the position must be clear to candidates, interviewers, colleagues, and the Hiring Manager. Involve people in your company who work with or for the role you are seeking to post. They may be able to offer insight into tasks or duties currently listed inaccurately (or not at all). Updating documentation to create a better quality job ad and job description is a win-win.
What Job Seekers Look For in a Job Posting
Job seekers - whether they are quiet quitters, unemployed, or looking for a move, are scanning for specific items in your job post.
Salary or Pay Range is the Most Important Part of your Job Posting
The first thing a job ad reader looks for is a specified salary or good faith salary range. If you’re publishing this information, you might as well make it easy to find. Depending on where your company is located, you may have to.
Pay transparency laws in California, Colorado and a few other states are now forcing many organizations to publish good faith salary ranges as a part of the talent acquisition process. According to Pequity, “There are some variations in the laws, like whether or not a candidate must request a pay range for the employer to provide it. But generally speaking, providing salary information to candidates before they make a final decision seems to be the common thread here.”
Why is pay transparency important? According to the Society of Human Resources Management, “The movement stems from an overall desire for a fairer society in the wake of #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and the COVID-19 pandemic, which laid bare pay inequities in the U.S.” SHRM continues, “Women and people of color are consistently paid less than white men, and transparency advocates insist that disclosing more salary information will better equip workers to negotiate for fair compensation.”
Other Elements of Effective Job Posting
Besides salary, key elements job seekers scan for before reading your job ad in detail include:
- Benefits (e.g. Does the company match my 401K contributions or offer health care?)
- Requirements for the position (e.g. Do I need to have a specific degree or certification?)
- Preferred experience or education (e.g. What are listed as “nice to have” preferences, but would not automatically exclude me from the candidate pool?)
- Responsibilities (e.g. What would my daily activities look like if I accepted this role?)
- Location (e.g. Would I have flexible working hours? Can I work remotely some or all of the time?)
- Organizational culture (e.g. Do the organization’s values and my own align?)
How Technology Has Changed the Recruitment Process
Applying for Jobs is Quick and Easy (Maybe TOO Easy?)
Gone are the days of job applicants “bumping into” Hiring Managers in company lobbies with a resume in hand. No longer do potential candidates pay 10 cents per copy to print their resumes on expensive paper, hoping that detail will make the difference in scoring an interview.
Job seekers are now reviewing (and applying to!) job ads on their phones while waiting in line at the grocery store. Soliciting positions is as easy as clicking the “Apply” button in some cases where their candidate profiles are pre-loaded. And that ease of “One-Click Apply” might be the first thing some job seekers look for when job hunting— despite how ineffective this is.
According to CEO and co-founder of ZipRecruiter, Ian Siegel, “Sending out job applications has almost no impact on the probability that you are going to get contacted by an employer.” He continues, “If you compare a job seeker who applied to 10 companies with a job seeker who applied to 45+ companies, the rate of response for each job seeker only differs by 4 percent.”
Simplifying an application process is a desirable concept, but may not be the best way to ensure you get the best candidates. If a one-click trigger-happy applicant shies away from job posts that require a cover letter, pre-interview questions, a writing sample, or even a video interview, is that the type of candidate you want for your posted position?
Does it make sense to cater to applicants who want to spend the least amount of time possible applying to as many roles as they can? Should it be so easy?
Technology provides information to candidates about your posting they would never have had access to in the “old days.” As applicants open ads on job boards like LinkedIn or indeed.com, they can see how many candidates have already applied through that site. Oftentimes that can be hundreds who have already beat them to the punch. Does this information motivate job seekers to throw their hats in the ring? Or does it deter them by creating the sense that they’ve already missed out on the position to 200+ fellow competitors who got there first?
Technology Has Changed How We Review Candidates
Resume Parsing Software
Automated resume review has removed employers' burden to review the increased number of applications. By using resume parsing software, Hiring Managers can whittle down their reviews to those best suited to the position if the job posting includes details like minimum requirements for the position.
The less specific your job ad is, the more difficult it will be to hone in on the best candidates. In addition, the easier your job is to apply for, the higher the number of candidates you will likely receive.
Applicant Tracking Systems
Whether you have five candidates or 500, an applicant tracking system is a must-have piece of HR technology. These tracking systems will help ensure you are organized and equitable in your candidate interview and selection processes. It also drastically improves your key recruitment metrics like cost per hire and time to fill.
Creating a Candidate Filter with HR Tech Tools
Besides streamlining the initial applications, an automated candidate funnel can easily include additional requirements for your candidates to complete.
Using your applicant tracking system to automate a follow-up email will reap benefits. Your ATS can request a cover letter or skills test, or require responses to specific prompts to assist in your decision-making. For example, you can use it to filter out candidates who are not prepared to relocate by automating a simple yes/no question. In addition, setting required tasks naturally filter out candidates who are unwilling to make an extra effort (a fair assumption would be that they also aren’t seriously committed to getting the job. It also tells you more about the candidates who are willing.
If, for example, you are seeking a detail-oriented Executive Assistant who can write really well, the follow-up assignment will reveal whether an applicant has the writing skills you need in that role.
This tactic can be used for many types of roles. Requests for additional information can even include skills tests for Microsoft Excel or Google Suite. Additional pre-employment screening can offer a better pool of quality candidates for your review, especially if you use candidate assessment tools.
Following Up for a Great Candidate Experience
Even if they are not ultimately hired, it’s key that your applicants have a great candidate experience. From providing them with an accurate job ad to holding their hand through a remote or in-person interview experience, providing a positive candidate experience is vital to maintaining a positive employer brand. Even if this person is not the right match for this job right now, they (or one of their contacts) could be your next new hire.
Following up with them after an interview or assessment is necessary to provide feedback and set expectations on what will happen next. Under no circumstances should you ghost job applicants or break contact so long that they suspect they’ve been ghosted. With various tools available that automate recruitment communications, there is no reason for follow-up contact to be tedious or time-consuming. You can have templated responses for successful and unsuccessful candidates preloaded, and send them out with a single click.
Organizing the Information in a Job Posting
Unsure what information should go first, whether bulleted lists are more effective than paragraph text, and so forth? Let’s unpack that now.
The Ideal Order for Sections in Your Job Post
Start off by pitching the company: Give the company’s name, size, primary goal, mission, values, history, and locations where you do business. Keep it short; a single paragraph should do the trick. Think of this introduction as the elevator pitch you would give an ideal person you’re headhunting to be the next CEO.
Next, dive into the job itself: What is the job title? Is it part-time or full-time? Is there a specific schedule for the role? What does it pay? Must the employee work in an office, or can they work remotely?
After a brief review of the position, a job candidate will want to review detailed information to determine if it’s a good fit for them. Is specific work experience required? Can experience substitute for a degree? Does the job require additional language fluency? Does the position require physical strength to, for example, lift 50 pounds?
Outline the skills and qualifications necessary to do the job. Separate which are required and which are preferred skills. Specify what level of education and experience you would like the candidate to have. This is where your candidates can get creative. This is where they may be able to advertise themselves and pitch, for example, transferable skills or experience as a substitution for education.
Formatting the Content of a Job Posting
You might be asking whether it’s too formal to use full sentences in your job ad. Or is it too informal to use bullet points?
Bullets or Paragraphs?
If the information you are providing is a list, then use bullet points for ease of readability. Bulleted lists are easy to scan, so the candidate can find the information they want. This applies to job responsibilities, candidate requirements, and qualifications. It also makes sense to list the benefits offered as bullets, especially if the perks are unique enough to warrant highlighting.
When a job ad section contains descriptive information (e.g. the company’s mission and history), use paragraph form.
The Best Use of Language in a Job Posting
Concerned about using too much jargon, listing too many responsibilities, or generally writing a job listing that’s hard to read? Let’s look at the best use of language in a job ad.
How Much is Too Much?
Remember the difference between a job post and a job description? A job post is a marketing tool - not an all-encompassing list of every item required in the posted position. Many job descriptions don’t even cover all job duties. That’s why the final bullet point in most job descriptions is “other duties as assigned.”
In your job listing, make sure to list the most important job functions first. Listing 10 or even 15 bullet points of job duties will assist the potential employee with understanding the role. However, the natural emphasis will be on the first few items. If you are hiring a nurse for the maternity ward, don’t start your responsibilities list with record-keeping or greeting patients.
To keep your list concise, bunch similar duties together. If a vacancy for a Purchasing Agent requires managing the stationery orders and the kitchen consumables, you can list these two duties as one point called “management of general office supplies.”
Using Jargon in Job Advertising
Assume your reader, your candidate, is not entrenched in your organization’s vocabulary. You risk losing valuable applicants by creating the sense that they don’t understand your open position or company. Keep it simple and clear for the job ad by writing out references instead of using acronyms, and using common terms instead of jargon. Save the alphabet soup for the job description.
Do’s and Don’ts of Writing a Job Posting
With an inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading job posting, your company risks receiving potentially hundreds of resumes for candidates who do not match your needs. To receive better quality resumes and better-matched candidates:
- List an accurate and specific job title.
- Include a bullet list of skills and education requirements and preferences. Be clear about which is which.
- Describe the organization using sentences.
- Be clear about the company’s vision and mission.
- Review your job title and ad for verbiage that may show bias.
- Use gender-neutral pronouns.
- Ensure that colleagues who interact with this position (or who currently play this role) have an opportunity to review the job ad for accuracy.
- Outline the process for applying.
- Market the benefits and perks of working for your organization.
- Specify paid time off including birthday leave, parental leave, and floating holidays.
- List the pay range, especially if you are legally required.
- Post your ad on a top job board.
- Format the ad with spacing, bullets, and punctuation or optimize its readability.
- Be dishonest or unclear about the position or its requirements.
- Falsely advertise benefits or perks that don’t exist.
- Write the ad so vaguely that it’s unclear what or who you are looking for.
- Publish an ad with poor grammar or spelling.
- Create an ad that is difficult to read.
Example of a Great Job Posting
Whether you are hiring for a Data Scientist or a Digital Marketer (two of the 10 most in-demand jobs in 2023 according to Emeritus), or any other position, the formula for a great job listing is the same. As long as you use the layout explained here, each job ad you post will have the potential to attract top talent.
Here’s an example of a job ad using the layout we describe above:
Company Name: ABC Pencil Factory
About Us: ABC has been a family-run company since 1912. As a small business, our mission is to provide the general public with long-lasting, quality pencils at a fair price. Our values are Quality, Efficiency, and Fun - and our work environment reflects those values.
Our Company Culture: Whether it’s packaging our product or playing softball on Thursday nights in the company league, we are a family. If you are looking to join a crew that cares about each other, our clients, our facility, and our product, we hope you will consider applying to work with us.
- Generous paid time off,
- Two floating holidays,
- Flexible work schedules,
- Health insurance,
- 401K, and
- An on-site childcare center.
We encourage a diverse culture in which all of our employees and their families belong by honoring our various traditions and differences throughout the holiday year.
Title of Position: Operations Manager
Position Type: Full-Time
Pay Range: $50K - $75K
Location: Denver, CO; remote work is unavailable for this position
- Manage 6 - 8 Pencil Packaging Associates
- Ensure each facet of pencil quality meets ABC standards
- Ensure quarterly budget is planned and met
Required Skills and Qualifications:
- High School Diploma
- Minimum of 2 years in a factory or warehouse setting
- Excellent communication skills
- Ability to lift 50 pounds
Preferred Skills and Qualifications:
- College Degree
- Management experience, preferably in a factory setting
- Forklift certification
How to Apply: Email HR@ABCpencils.com or click “Apply Now” through LinkedIn. Please include a cover letter explaining why you are the best candidate for this position and your favorite pencil joke.
Closing Date: June 1, 2023 (or open until filled)
First impressions matter. Job postings offer the opportunity for your best candidates to learn about your organization and your open positions. Spending extra care to create an accurate, inclusive, grammatically correct job ad can help you attract talent.
With more candidates than there are positions, this will be vital to your company’s talent acquisition strategy.