The candidate experience encompasses every interaction with a candidate from first contact to ultimately hire (check out my latest post on this topic).  From your employment messaging to your apply process to how you handle candidate feedback in the interview process, all these areas affect how a candidate views and engages with your company.


While every aspect of the candidate experience is important, I want to take a look at what I like to call “first contact”.  This is where a candidate initially becomes aware of your employment brand or jobs and is the first engagement they have with your organization.  While this can occur on a number of mediums including your Career Site, social channels as well as through direct contact with your recruiting / sourcing team, the most frequent place candidates first engage with you is with your job advertisements on job boards and other recruiting sites.


When you look at job advertisements out there today, however, most of them stink and for a number of reasons.  They are too long, boring, have unreasonable expectations, unclear on the position, use terrible formatting to name a few.  Trust me, this is not the first message you want to send to candidates looking for employment.


So how can we improve our forward facing job advertisements and make it so candidates don’t drop-off the process before they even start to apply?


Here is my deconstruction of what a good job ad should include:


Company Pitch:  The candidate already knows the type of position you are recruiting for since they clicked on the job title but here’s your chance at the beginning to tell them about your company and what makes it special.  I think this should be your first paragraph and in this you should have:

What your company does: This seems simple but some leave it out.  You need to set up what your company does especially if you don’t have a far-reaching company brand.  A few examples would be “#1 sports clothing manufacture”, “rapidly growing start-up”, “industry leading engineering firm”.

What you do well:  It’s one thing to let them what you do and another to share an example or two of why you are a great company.  Did you win an award?  Were you on a top 100 company list?  Have a good article written about you?  This is your spot to brag a little and give the candidate an idea of what your company achieves.

Employment achievements:  This is where you brag about your employees and company culture.  Get on a best company to work for list?  Have an employee that is doing something extraordinary?  Have a perk or something in your company culture that is unique and special?  Share it here.

You need to sell the candidate on your company first and foremost and this section will help you do that.  It can also be re-used for many of your job ads (although one-offs targeted to certain candidate populations is definitely encouraged.)

Job Highlights:  Once you set the stage with selling your company, it’s time to sell the position.  First, you need to give a little background on the position and what candidates will be expected to do on the job.  Make sure these aren’t dry responsibility statements but compelling action items that the candidate will get to do.  I understand not all responsibilities can fit this but I encourage you to have fun with it.

Second, take the opportunity to add a bullet or two on why the opportunity is unique.  Answer the question “why should I want this job position?”.  Maybe the candidate will get access to the CEO or have advancement opportunities.  What benefits will a candidate get (yes, other than a job.)  A section on this is not a bad idea either.

Skills:  Here’s where you get into the nitty gritty of what type of candidates you are looking for.  When I see many companies get to this section, they start getting into qualifications that are very rigid such as “must have at least 10 years experience”, etc.  This, however, I think is somewhat short-sighted and I’d like to replace this with skill based requirements.  Work with hiring managers to boil down the requirements you can into the necessary skills a candidate must have in order to succeed in the position.  This gives candidates a better idea for the candidate you are looking for in the position.

Qualifiers:  While I recommend focusing on skills some qualification bullets usually need to be included.  From familiarity with a coding language for programming talent to executive experience when looking for senior personnel, there are times when requirements need to be included in order to screen unqualified candidates out of the process.

In many cases, the job ad is the first hurdle you need to overcome to engage with a candidate and most importantly passive ones.  Your ad needs to be compelling in order to convince them to move on in the process and apply for a position.


When creating your job ads, it’s important to think of them as just that, advertisements.  Your goal should be to sell all candidates on why they should continue on in the apply process and want to work for your company.  If you can do this, you are golden.*


*Although you need to continuously track your success with recruitment metrics to make sure your messaging is working.

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Comment by Alasdair Murray on April 19, 2012 at 8:14am

I've been banging on for ages about the need to write good recruitment copy. It's a big part (65%) of what I do for a living as a freelance copywriter who specialises in recruitment communications (but does other stuff besides I hasten to add!). The reason I can make a living out of it? Simple. Go ahead employers know that in order to attract quality, rather than quantity, you have to target your advertising and sell the opportunity, rather than simply cut and paste the job description and fire it out to a dozen job boards (and more in many cases).

Sadly though, there are a billion people out there that fail to appreciate/grasp the need to produce quality job ads and instead the web is littered with dull, often semi-literate cut & pasted efforts with all the allure of a dead sheep. Nowhere is the advertising generally so dull and unappealing as it is in recruitment. Imagine if all the ads you see on tv took the same lame approach to selling their goods or services? A job ad speaks volumes, not just about the job, but about you, the recruiter, the potential holder of the key to a jobseekers dreams, only, the jobseeker won't use your services if you can't even write an ad that is a) grammatically correct, b) alluring and c) targeted to a particular audience rather than a catch all that gets CVs emerging from the woodwork from every Tom, Dick and Harriet.

First impressions count. That potential client reading your job ads? What must they think when they see a poorly constructed ad from a recruiter? "We won't use these guys, they can't spell the job, let alone sell it". And all because no one bothered to think about investing the right amount of time in getting the message in that job ad right.

Comment by Chris Brablc on April 19, 2012 at 10:42am

Thanks for the great comment, Alasdair!  You are spot on.  I think part of the problem here is that companies are still filling jobs even with the poor quality of job ads (and due to that don't care all that much.)

The impact of a great job ad vs. a poorly written one can make a big difference on apply flows and the type of candidate that is applying.  We ran a test for a client on job ads and we saw that the most optimized job ad had nearly 100% more applicants than the one they typically used.  It's definitely something companies need to focus on and measure to improve their overall process and the quality of talent that are applying.


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