Are You Losing Great Candidates To Lousy Job Ads?

No offense to many of you, but your online job ads stink. For proof, take a look at the job sites like Monster, Indeed, Snagajob, Craigslist or even LinkedIn and one thing is painfully clear: Not enough hiring managers or HR personnel are spending adequate time writing effective job ads.

Spending 15 to 30 more minutes to create a well-crafted job ad will make a difference in the quality of applicants delivered to your desktop. That’s in contrast to the tsunami of unqualified candidates that you get from poorly-written or vague ads. For most people, that’s a fantastic trade-off.

The extra half-hour of writing time you spend prior to posting great job ads is nothing compared to the hours, days or even weeks spent sorting through the tsunami of unqualified applicants you get from your bad ad. (Or even worse … getting NO responses from your ad!) Those are the applicants that didn’t read — or didn’t understand — what you were looking for. It’s a waste of time and money.

OK … so now you have a job opening and want to craft that perfect ad that gives you an optimal number of highly-qualified candidates. What do the experts say you should do? Use these tips to find out:


  1. Write an ad, not a job description. By far, the #1 most egregious error in writing a job ad is that hiring pros are writing dull job descriptions instead of fun or exciting advertisements for the job and the company. At best, these are dry almost-unreadable bulleted lists of duties that the new hire will perform. At worst, they make your company look so tedious that no qualified candidate would want to work there. Unfortunately for you, dry and boring ads will catch you dry and boring candidates. Get creative with your wording and have a little fun. You love where you work and you know your future co-worker will too. Make them fall in love with your company just from reading the ad.
  2. Be specific with the job title but add some flair. Remember that you want your posting to show up high on all these sites, so if you’re hiring for an accounts payable specialist, put “Accounts Payable Specialist” up front. However, it’s an ad, so feel free to tell the candidate something about your company. You can do that by writing “Accounts Payable Specialist – for modern office with great downtown view”. That tells your applicant that you’re looking for an AP specialist and that he or she won’t be working in some stodgy old department located out in the boonies. Another big no-no is using your internal job title that makes no sense to anyone outside the company. One company on had an opening for “Accountant IV” which tells nobody what the job actually is. Accounts payable, receivable, auditor, clerk or CFO? Who knows? Chances are a large number of qualified candidates aren’t searching “Accountant IV”.
  3. Strike a good balance between brevity and details. Pick out three to five skills and core competencies your next hire must possess and the three or four most important parts of their duties with your company. Keep your ad somewhere around 500 to 800 words, highlighting the things you cannot live without from a candidate. Many bad ads fall back on bulleted lists of every possible duty the hire may do while working for you. And, it could be that several of the bullets may only happen once every five years. It’s overload at this point in the job filling stage. No matter the position, there are qualities and skills that are 100-percent non-negotiable, so highlight them. Let the “preferred skills” or “other duties include” go for later in the interview process.
  4. Avoid tired and cliché language, jargon, corporate-speak … and don’t be weird. You can make your ad fun without resorting to weird punctuation or word spellings to prove how hip you are. Like using a dollar sign instead of “S” in words or resurrecting some catch phrase from 2005 (or, heaven forbid, the ‘80’s!). In addition, leave out tired phrases like, “the candidate will possess good interpersonal skills …” because unless you plan on locking them up like a hermit in a Siberian research facility, they’re going to have to work (and play well) with others. Putting in qualities that are “no duh” to possess just wastes space.
  5. Talk to the applicant. Too many times, companies use phrases like “the successful candidate will” or “the ideal candidate” which makes the ad impersonal and a little robotic. Put the applicant at ease right off the bat by using the word “you” often. Say things like “In this fun position, you will be working with the marketing department to …” or “Coming from a customer service background, you will be expected to ….”
  6. Use a bit of trickery to weed out candidates. Here’s a neat little trick to weed out the people that don’t actually read job ads, but just do mass applications with a resume stored on the job site. When it gets to the “How to Apply” part of your ad, tell them that they must use a certain word in the subject line of their submission, otherwise they won’t be considered. Make it a word that normally wouldn’t be associated with the job. For instance, you can tell people to use the word “Orange” in the subject line. Then filter out all the submissions that don’t have the word in the subject line, saving you a lot of time. This is especially effective if the job you’re filling is detail-oriented.
  7. In the same vein, always ask for a cover letter. No matter what the position is for, ask for a cover letter. Cover letters are amazing pre-interview tools that give great insight into a candidate’s character, education level and communication style. Many times, online ads make cover letters optional, but if the applicant can’t come up with three or four paragraphs about why you should consider them, you shouldn’t consider them. No cover letter … goes straight into the rejection pile. Harsh, but effective.

Just using these tips will help you write terrific job ads the next time you’re looking to fill an open position. Remember that a little bit of preparation before writing the ad will go a long way to saving you time, stress and frustration later.

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