Pitch perfect: How to make sure you always write a killer job ad

 
Hannah Moffatt
Cameron Mackintosh
Stereotypes can be more useful than you think (Source: Getty)

Getting the right people into your company usually starts with getting the right messages into your job ads. Yet many of the ads we see are just ropey rehashings of the same old corporate clichés. They’ll get you a few applicants, sure. But the best applicants could be overlooking you completely. We think it’s time to rethink the language of recruitment. Here are our three tips to make your job ads work harder.

1. Say it before they see it

What’s it really like to work in your company? Is it quiet or noisy? Will you mostly work on your own or in a team; hurtling towards your next deadline or meticulously planning ahead?

If you want candidates to decide early on whether a role could be for them, it’s your job to paint that picture, warts and all, as clearly as you can. There’s no point hiding the long hours, tight deadlines or angry customers behind euphemistic corporate speak – it’s much better that candidates know now, rather than after you’ve hired them.

Don’t rely on HR’s job spec to do the work for you, either. HR departments typically write those descriptions for people who already understand the jargon and inner workings of your company, but they’re not much use to someone who doesn’t know your company yet.

2. Balance your bias

Although instinctively the idea of “masculine” or “feminine” language makes me feel a bit uneasy, there’s been quite a bit of research to show that some words tend to appeal more to men or women. These fall on fairly stereotypical gender lines, with nurture, loyal and support appealing more to women and challenge, lead and independent supposedly appealing more to men. Neither set is wrong, but it’s worth being aware of any unconscious gender bias that might be creeping into your messages.

To get round it, try thinking about what you want from the role you’re advertising, then look at different ways you can use language to make those points. So are you challenging a team to get better results or are you nurturing a team to help them get better results? See if you can get a fairly even spread of gendered words throughout your ad to attract the broadest mix of candidates.

3. Stick to your tone

If you’re a fairly large business, the chances are that your potential candidates already know you as a customer, or at the very least they’ve seen your advertising somewhere along the way.

It’s probably that customer-facing brand that’s piqued their interest in the first place. So when you write your job ads, don’t do a Jekyll and Hyde on them. If you sound friendly on the outside and frosty on the inside, it’s going to set alarm bells ringing. Having a strong tone also helps applicants know how to approach you. If they can capture your tone when they apply, it’s a good sign they’ll be a “fit” for you. But that only works if you’re using the tone in the first place.

Remember, even if a potential candidate doesn’t get the job, your advert is still part of their customer experience. Get it wrong and you won’t just have lost a potential new employee, you might have lost a good customer, too.

Related articles