How to write effective job ads

Nearly all of us have a relationship with recruitment advertising at some point in our careers, either as recruiters, candidates, or as third-party creators of the ads.

I have written hundreds if not thousands of recruitment ads over the years and there is one thing that stands out about them, to me, more than anything else. That is, quite simply, they have to be a finely tuned balancing act.


Because in the majority of cases they are trying to achieve two things at the same time which, in advertising terms, is usually difficult and rarely successful.

Tricky balancing act

In the first place, the apparent purpose of a recruitment advertisement is to attract the right kind of candidates for a position. Sounds very straightforward, doesn’t it? However it isn’t always that simple.

For a major corporate organization to come down to basic recruit level and talk his or her types of benefits will often be seen, by the powers-that-be in the organization, as contrary to the guidelines of their corporate image. Clear, direct writing is not normally what “corporate speak” is all about.

The other side of the balancing act – what the corporate executives will argue – is that despite an advertisement being intended to recruit staff, if it appears in the “company colours” in whatever media it must reflect the corporate/brand values of the organization. Fair enough. But in practice that doesn’t always work, and leads to the wrong tone of voice – the safe, corporate, brand-led voice – being used to address candidates whose immediate priorities and interests are different.

So, does that mean it’s time to forget the corporate image and just drive our efforts towards speaking directly to our potential candidates?

Can you keep the corporate politics out?

Ideally yes, but usually not. And there are several other, political issues than can get in the way of clear recruitment advertising.

For example, as one expert says, “…the problems with ads written by recruitment consultancies are that they are written in such an ambiguous way … top ten firm, blue chip, market leader … to stop the competition from finding out who the job is with. That means they lose any personality that the job may have.”

This takes us back to the dilemma of companies advertising for staff, wanting to make sure their ads reflect their corporate values, image, and everything else that a passing customer or competitor might find of interest.

Staff vacancies can reflect a multitude of issues … from the signaling of success via expansion and growth to an indication of failure via the hemorrhaging of confidence in the organization. And all these corporate skeletons in the closet tend to get forced down on to the shoulders of the poor old recruitment advertisement.

A recruitment expert’s advice

Let’s now hear from a good friend of mine – an expert international recruitment consultant – who tells us how recruitment ads should be composed if they’re going to attract the right candidates:

1. The advert should be more about the reader and less about the employer. Too many ads say too much about a company and its own opinion of itself and not enough about why the reader should care. Think about what job seekers care about and focus on what is important to them

2. Many of the best recruitment advertising concepts have accompanying visuals. People scan before they read. If you don’t attract their interest when they’re scanning, you probably won’t attract their interest at all. Good use of white space and bullet points (if it’s on the web) helps achieve this.

3. The second-best word in a recruitment advert is the word “you.” The best word is the reader’s name. Sadly, this is not possible in recruitment advertising (but is in headhunting).

4. Good adverts attract, intrigue and persuade. Attract with the visual or the design, intrigue with the headline or the concept, and persuade with the copy. If the advert does not attract, it’s ignored. If the advert does not intrigue, it’s glanced at and then ignored. If the advert doesn’t persuade, it is noticed, read and then ignored.

5. The ad copy should be compelling, intelligent, and honest. You can’t bore someone into sending you their CV. You can cheat someone into a sending you their CV by lying to them, of course, but that is the starting point of high staff turnover and/or lots of rejected job offers.

6. It takes about 1 minute to pick up the phone and check whether or not the candidate who is calling you, can do the job. So put a phone number in the advert. Don’t be lazy. Let the good people find out more.

7. Be specific. If the advert isn’t specific about the responsibilities, the requirements or the benefits, the better candidates won’t respond.

8. Include the remuneration package. Be brave!

Interesting stuff. But how do you actually walk the line between creating ads that target the best possible candidates, as our expert suggests, and satisfying your employers / co-directors / shareholders that you are putting across the right image and corporate identity for your organization?

How to handle the corporate issues AND make the ad effective


If you can, ideally, use the corporate image purely as a visual framework for the recruitment ad, including relevant logos and taglines, but keep the rest of the copy focused entirely on the reader (your potential candidate.)

If you’re obliged to include more than that in terms of “corporate speak,” try to section that off visually from the main text – and keep that main text focused on the reader.

In the text addressed directly to the reader, use language and tone of voice that s/he will identify with – not pompous corporate posturing or meaningless business clichés.

Don’t patronize the reader with nonsense like “are you talented enough to work for us?” (yes, you still see sentences like that in recruitment ads and they’re embarrassing..) but at the same time, don’t overdo the attractions. As our expert says, be honest and specific – that saves a lot of time in the long run.

Keep your text tight and concise, but don’t be mean with space. Provide as much information as you can, but leave out less important details.

If there are any essential criteria for the job being advertised, make these crystal-clear in your text.

Make it clear how you want candidates to get in touch with you and then ensure the contact information is well displayed.

Write effective job ads and much more besides:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English




  1. says:

    How to write effective job ads…

    Nearly all of us have a relationship with recruitment ads at some point, whether as recruiters, candidates, or 3rd party writers. Here’s how to make them work well….