One day soon, the robots will have it all.
But until that day comes, you’ll be stuck hiring humans.
And what are humans always thinking about?
Writing a job advert is exactly the same as writing any piece of marketing or advertising.
You’re not trying to buy an employee.
You’re trying to sell a job.
So use the same approach you’d use to sell anything else.
Speak to the person you want to hire
One of the hardest things about writing an advert is getting the message right for a particular type of person.
And a job advert deserves the same rigour.
But in reality, it’s so much easier.
Unlike a normal advert, you’re not really writing it for the general public or a couple of demographics. You’re writing it for an incredibly narrow band of people.
You’ve already done the hard work deciding exactly who you’re looking for (I hope).
You’ve defined the qualifications, the experience, the skillset, the attitude, and the personality of the ideal person you have in mind.
If you were a copywriter, this level of laser-targeted focus would be a dream situation.
So don’t waste this opportunity: speak directly to the person you want to hire.
Think about who they are and what they want – and then promise what they’re looking for and demonstrate that you’ve got the goods.
This is not about you or your company.
You’re a seller, not a buyer. So start acting like it.
I never want to see this in a job advert ever again:
That’s not you writing to the job-hunter.
That’s you writing a brief to your hiring manager to help them write a job advert later.
Now, if you’re looking for a job-hunter who isn’t a corporate slug, you could try something a bit more like this:
Isn’t that better in just about every way?
Craft a headline (not a job title)
A job advert is not a job description.
A job advert is an advert.
And just like any written advert, you’re throwing away its power if you don’t put a lot of effort into the headline.
Unless you’re a household-name brand, no one is looking for you or your company. They’re not just looking for a job title and a business name.
They’re looking for any job that fits what they want. And that means you’re fighting against every other job advert they look at.
So how do you stand out?
With a sexy headline.
That could mean an enticing promise of a specific benefit for the job seeker:
Or it could mean asking a question that demands a positive response:
And if you want to get dangerously close to appearing like a warm human being, you could even try injecting a little fun and personality:
If you want your job advert to get noticed by bright people with plenty to offer, you need to write a headline that’s irresistible.
And sadly, just about every job advert headline out there is completely and utterly resistible. It took me hours to find a headline that contained any fun or personality at all.
Put the best bits first
Any serious job seeker is probably scouring through dozens of job adverts a day.
And that means they’re probably ready to move on to the next one before they get to the end of yours.
So what’s the solution?
Hook ‘em from the start.
1. Don’t start your job advert with a company bio
If someone clicked on your advert, it’s because they want to know more about the job.
They want to know why working for you would be awesome – not why your customers love you so much.
Instead, give your audience exactly what they’re looking for in the first few sentences:
2. Squeeze in some benefits as early as possible
After trawling through hundreds of awful job adverts just to find a few glimmers of hope to use as examples, it’s a rare treat to find a pure beauty like this one:
It’s a dense composition of benefits for the job-hunter, and almost nothing else. And the image you see is the entire job advert.
There’s no waffle about the company and its achievements. No stuffy nonsense about ‘motivated self-starters with the passion and drive to hit targets and achieve excellence’.
In just 150 words, they’ve offered a salary, a home, free language lessons, a short working week, ongoing training, and paid overtime.
And the real kicker?
A refund on your plane ticket.
If you ever wanted to see a shining example of how to sell a job to a human, this is it.
3. Ask questions to make the right person say ‘yes’
Do you prefer job ads that get to the point?
Would you read something that felt like it spoke to you?
When you ask the kind of questions that demand a positive answer, you’re not just weeding out the wrong people:
You’re bringing your reader into a conversation.
They feel involved, like they’ve become a part of the flow of the advert. (Even though it’s really just a one-way message.)
They’re more likely to read on. And on a subconscious level, they’ve already conditioned themselves into an agreeable state of mind.
So when you later start boasting about how great your company is, they’ll be more likely to be convinced.
4. Act like you have a personality
If you’ve ever had to scour the job sites, you’ll have quickly realised just how dry, stale, and homogenous every job advert is.
So when something like this pops up, it can get a lot of attention:
It’s a little corny. But it’s still charming.
From the very first word, you can feel the enthusiasm and personality of the people behind this advert.
They don’t sound stuffy and robotic. And they don’t sound like they work for another corporate mincer, slowly flattening the life out of every employee that passes through.
For most people, this isn’t really a dream job. But the advert alone makes them sound like a company that might be full of fun people to work with.
I’m sure some of you will scoff at a job advert like this. You’ll say it’s unprofessional and flippant – and you might even say that its self-deprecating humour is devaluing the job it’s supposed to be selling.
But there’s always a healthy middle ground.
If you can stick just 10% of this advert’s attitude into one of your own company’s frigid old job ads, you might be pleasantly surprised at the results.
Don’t be cheeky with the details
It’s perfectly fine to puff up some of the benefits with a little gusto and pep.
(In fact, it’s heavily encouraged.)
But don’t try to hide or obscure the important facts by burying them deep in a sandwich of waffle and jargon.
People will notice – even if it takes them a little longer to dig it out.
If they don’t notice in the job ad, they’re going to have a big shock when it comes to the interview.
And get this:
Real human beings hate being tricked.
So if your job comes with some unappealing bits, be honest about them – but try to pair them up with a positive spin.
That might mean long hours (but the overtime pay is great!)
It might mean late-night shifts (but you’ll never have to set your alarm clock!)
They might need to travel around a lot (but they’ll get to see every city in the country!)
You get the idea.
You’re not hiding anything or deceiving anyone. You’re just softening the blow with relentless positivity.
Use the same language you use in the office
I know so many warm, friendly, bubbly people who slip into a horrible mindset when they switch between saying something and writing it down.
Whether it’s conscious or not, they always end up sounding like a business-bot.
And if you think your workplace is fun because of all the encouraging personalities and playful banter – that’s exactly what any human job seeker will think, too.
So don’t hide it. Flaunt it.
Show people what they’re really applying for. Give them a taste of what it would be like to hang out and work hard with the real human beings they’ll end up next to.
Because if the tone of voice in this job advert is a true depiction of a typical conversation in your workplace, then I admire your resilience:
Be honest: you didn’t read it all.
If that was carefully written to attract a particular personality, I never want to be left alone in a room with that personality.
But this ad, on the other hand, just might have been written by a genuine human being:
I don’t know about you. But I’d much rather work in a place where people say things like ‘chip in to help the team’ and ‘keep everything running like clockwork’.
Ready to join the human race?
Good. You’ve come to the right place.
There are loads of different ways to make your job ad stand out and get noticed by organic creatures. (And if you want an easy shortcut, you can always talk to someone like me.)
But however you go about it, just remember this:
An advert isn’t about the seller (that’s you, the employer).
An advert is always about the buyer (the job-hunter).
And if you don’t make that painfully obvious from the beginning?
You’ll end up recruiting a robot.