Write better job adverts by writing for your audience

Published October 10, 2020

Employers often seem to struggle with hiring because they don't try to understand the mindset of a job seeker. In any relationship, it's important to try to understand the needs of the other party. A basic aptitude for empathy is important not just for care workers, but in fact for everyone who deals with other people.

When someone finishes reading a job advert, they should want to work for the company. What does this company offer me? Why is it worth my time and emotional energy to apply for this job. What's the pay off for me? That's what anyone reading a job advert is asking themselves, consciously or not.

If those answers aren't forthcoming then the advert, intentionally or not, was not written for its audience.

Anyone writing a job advert should be asking themselves "what makes this company great to work for? What makes it better than my competitors?" and putting those answers convincingly into writing. (If you can't answer those questions then you have deeper problems you need to address before worrying about your writing skills.)

The most important thing to include is an indication of salary and seniority level. A lot of adverts omit this information, which is unfortunate because 1) it gives the impression that the company doesn't know what it's looking for, 2) it means the candidate is unlikely to feel they have much chance of success by applying because it's not clear if they fit the profile or not (in which case, why bother?), and most importantly for a lot of people, 3) it's unclear to the candidate what you're actually offering — does it for them represent a promotion in line with their career aims? A sideways movement? A demotion? Who knows! The candidate certainly doesn't, and the company doesn't seem to either.

On top of that, you should be selling perks of your workplace, even if they're not material. As an example of how to do this, an ex employer of mine always used to include some blurb in its job adverts saying they take effort to make the workplace as friendly and relaxed as possible with no internal politics. That's the kind of thing you should be trying to express, but doing so with meaningless statements like the above is not convincing.

Show, don't tell.

If you care about running a friendly and relaxed workplace, don't just say that you do. Instead, explain the policies your workplace has in place to ensure that the statement is true. (In this company's case, there were no policies in place, and the statement was not true, so the fact it was unconvincing as per the "show, don't tell" rule was a valid red flag to potential candidates, worse than simply omitting the statement). You can also list other things. Does your company invest in training? Say so. Does your company freely provide employees with the best equipment available for them to do their jobs? Do you offer career progression? How does your company support new employees? Is your office modern? These things are all worth noting, because they improve the working life of your employees. Nobody wants to work for a company that tries to make its employees work in a dirty office, unproductively on underpowered PCs with antiquated software, or without support because it doesn't care if an employee fails and quits after a few months, but those companies exist, and the candidate wants to know that you're better than that.

What candidates want, along with an affirmation of their expectation of fair compensation, is some indication that the environment you are offering is one where they will be treated well and encouraged to succeed. And that's what your job advert should be assuring them of.

Filed under: employment, job adverts
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