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How to write stellar job ads that attract the right candidates

A compelling job ad can help you attract the most qualified candidates

Published on

September 25, 2023


A compelling job ad can help your organization stand out in a crowded field and attract the most qualified candidates. It’s also a great way to highlight your mission and vision, your commitment to diversity and why your organization is a great place to work.  

And while it should be juicy enough to captivate your audience at first glance—candidates spend on average only 14 seconds reviewing an ad before deciding whether to apply—it’s also important to keep it concise.  

In fact, most hiring experts recommend keeping your job ad between 300 and 700 words. With this in mind, include only the most essential elements of the role, the truly must-have skills and, most importantly, what’s in it for the candidate. For example, how will they contribute to your company’s mission? What benefits and perks does your organization offer? How will you, the employer, contribute to their success? What kinds of growth opportunities are there?

Below are some of our top tips for writing compelling job ads.

Make sure it’s one-of-a-kind

Treat every job ad as an important marketing opportunity—a chance to toot your horn loud enough to attract the best and brightest.  

To speed up your writing, while it’s tempting to use an existing job ad as a template or AI-based tools like ChatGPT to create a basic framework for your ad, to truly stand out, it’s best to keep it fresh. Take the time to write new content tailored to the actual role and describe why it would make a great career move for top candidates.  

Keep in mind that since Google prioritizes unique content, your one-of-a-kind job ad will rank higher in Google searches than duplicate ads, especially if it includes plain-language titles (without abbreviations!) and top keywords for the role. In other words, search-engine-optimized (SEO) content.

Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes

Imagine yourself sitting at the computer about to search for your job. What job title are you searching for?  

To help candidates find your ad, make sure you use the most common title for the role rather than inventing something exciting. For example, if you’re looking for a Social Media Specialist, avoid titles like Social Composer or Digital Storyteller.

  • Tip: To attract the right tier of candidate, include the required experience level right in the title (e.g., Associate, Director, Senior Manager, Coordinator etc.).

Also, think of how the title applies to the role itself and what the person will actually be doing. For example, the title Client Support Administrator doesn't immediately tell the job seeker what the job is. It's better to use a recognizable job title like Customer Service Representative.

If you’re feeling stuck, ask yourself these questions before writing the job title:

  1. How would a person in this industry search for their own position online?
  2. Is there a more specific job title to describe this role than the one you are using?

Be clear about the role and responsibilities

Once you have a clear, SEO-friendly title, get specific about the type of person you’re looking for and what you’re expecting them to do.  

Your goal is to find the best match—in the short time you have the candidate's attention—by making it easy for candidates to assess whether they have the right experience and an interest for the role.

To craft a role description and list of responsibilities, start with a clear vision of what the position will add to the company, what problems they’ll be expected to solve, and what their day-to-day duties will include.

Keep the following questions in mind when writing:

  1. What are the current and future needs of your organization? Does the role, as you’ve envisioned it, meet these needs for the foreseeable future?
  2. How would someone in this industry typically describe their job and day-to-day responsibilities?
    • Tip: Once you have narrowed down a list of responsibilities, organize them according to importance and frequency.
  3. What must-have skills and experience are required to be successful in this role?
  4. What additional information would the candidate NEED to know to understand whether they should apply?
    • Tip: Additional information, like who they will report to and the measures of success they’ll be working toward (e.g., increasing sales calls, growing an email marketing audience, implementing new software programs etc.) can provide a clearer picture of the role.

Once you've gone through these questions, begin writing with your answers in mind.

Don’t forget about soft skills

When writing your job ad, you’ll likely have a candidate with specific hard skills (also known as technical skills) in mind. These skills—like demonstrated experience in data analysis, email marketing, human resources, project management and more—are essential, but they aren’t the only thing you should be looking for.

Our advice is to take a step back and think beyond technical skills to the human qualities (also known as soft skills), that will help a candidate be successful in this role and in your workplace. Traits like problem-solving, adaptability, collaboration, ability to communicate clearly and time management are harder to teach than technical skills and can be a boost to your workplace beyond the day-to-day duties of the role.

These skills contribute to who we are as individuals beyond our experience and qualifications. They can add to your team culture, lead to better client relationships and introduce new ways of thinking to your workplace.

  • Tip: Start by thinking about your company values. Are there certain soft skills that naturally align? For example, if your company values collaboration, include that in the job ad to attract candidates who consider themselves team players.
  • Tip: Consider what this person’s responsibilities will be. What soft skills will help them achieve the best results? For example, relationship-building and communication are both important soft skills for a sales professional. On the other hand, a more technical role would be complemented by time management and problem-solving skills.
  • Tip: When in doubt, ask! Your staff will often have insights into potential skills gaps on their team. When writing your ad, ask them what soft skills would be the best value-add for this role.

Often, soft skills will help you decide between two candidates with similar qualifications, someone who will be a great match and potentially fill in some gaps on your team. Our advice? Don’t skip this detail when writing your job ad.

To get more insights on why human skills are so important at work, read this blog by our CEO, Kathryn Tremblay.

Tell candidates why your organization is a great place to work

Give potential candidates a reason to choose your workplace over other employers vying for top talent. The role description and responsibilities highlight what you’re looking for, but how can they determine whether your organization is what they’re looking for? A short company profile—essentially your organization’s elevator pitch—will help candidates get excited about the idea of joining your team.

To get an idea of what to include, ask yourself (and a few members of your team!) these questions:

  • What sets your workplace apart from other organizations working in this space?
  • What has helped you retain your longest-tenured staff?
  • What gets you excited about your organization’s work?

Once you have your answers, start writing your company profile using the topics below as a guide:

  • What your workplace does and why. Share your organization’s purpose without diving into the mechanics of your work. Keep it high-level and straightforward.
  • Your organization’s values. Candidates are increasingly looking for workplaces that align with their values. If your work is purpose-driven, prioritizes diversity, supports green initiatives, champions workplace mental health or supports other causes in your community, make sure to highlight this in the posting.
  • A snapshot of your workplace culture. What’s it like to work at your organization? Is it fun and flexible? Fast-paced with onsite activities? Collaborative with a focus on professional growth? Corporate culture can be a deciding factor for candidates, so be sure to shine the spotlight on what makes your workplace special.

To finish this section off, demonstrate that you walk the talk by mentioning any awards or recognition your organization has received for workplace culture or diversity and inclusion efforts.

Tell candidates what perks and benefits are in it for them

If writing an effective job ad was like baking a cake, the perks and benefits would be the icing on top. They sweeten the deal for top talent who are considering your organization as their next employer.

Start by highlighting some top items from your total rewards package. Depending on what your organization offers, these could include:

  • Pension or RRSP contributions
  • Flexible work arrangements (flex hours, hybrid or remote work, summer Fridays)
  • Paid time off
  • Maternity leave top-ups
  • Extended health coverage

Since many companies will have similar total rewards offerings, you may want to highlight benefits that go above and beyond and connect back to your workplace culture. For example:

  • Highlight tuition reimbursement offerings, a professional development budget or mentorship programs that demonstrate your commitment to staff growth.
  • Put a spotlight on your commitment to inclusion and belonging by mentioning your staff social calendar, team-building events and DEI initiatives.

If your company offers any other unique perks that will set you apart like pet-friendly offices, wellness programs, or free snacks, don't forget to mention them.

What about compensation?

While it’s becoming a more common practice to include salary information, what works for someone else’s organization may not necessarily work for yours. Some workplaces choose to exclude this information to ensure they can adapt to changing market conditions, adjust the compensation to match a candidate’s experience and, in some cases, maintain a competitive advantage.

However, on the plus side, being transparent about salary from the start can attract applicants, lead to better candidate matches, set the stage for open conversations about compensation, increase equity—particularly for underrepresented groups—attract a wider pool of candidates and improve your organization’s image with jobseekers.

If you’re not sure about what approach would be best for your team, our staffing experts can help.

Remove barriers

By taking steps to ensure your ad is inclusive, you’ll attract highly qualified, diverse candidates who bring a range of in-demand skillsets to the table.

Here are four considerations to ensure your job ad isn’t leaving anyone behind:

  1. Be mindful of your language. The words included in a job ad can mean the difference between a candidate applying or choosing to pass on the opportunity. This is particularly true for racialized individuals, women and even those in certain age demographics.
    • For example, job ads with masculine-coded language such as ’competitive,’ ’driven’ and ’fearless’ are less appealing to women. Examples of feminine-coded language include ‘cooperative,’ ‘honest’ and ‘supportive.'
    Tip: Use the Gender Decoder to check whether your job posting is gender inclusive.
    • Tip: Avoid using exclusionary terms to describe your corporate culture. For example, referring to your workplace as ‘young.’
  2. Separate essential skills from nice-to-haves. Think about the responsibilities and experience needed for the role—is each requirement a critical function of the job? Be honest about what experience is nice to have vs. essential to avoid excluding qualified diverse candidates.
    • For example, if a valid driver’s license isn’t necessary for the job, it’s not something worth losing a great candidate over.
    • Or, if you’re hiring a role that does not require writing content for an external audience, listing excellent writing skills in English may discourage candidates whose first language is not English from applying.
  3. Avoid using jargon and unfamiliar acronyms. Insider language is a quick way to make someone feel like an outsider. This includes over-professional, industry-specific and company-specific jargon that can be intimidating and leave job seekers questioning whether they’re qualified.
    • You might be wondering about keywords. The trick is to use words that are well-known in the industry and relevant to the job itself (think of words that job seekers would be searching for).
  4. Include your commitment to diversity and inclusion. This will help candidates understand your commitment to diversity and inclusion in your hiring practices.
    Tip: If you use a tool like ChatGPT to write the framework of your job posting, be sure to review all content it generates for unintended bias—a common issue with AI tools.

Be up front about the hiring timeline and process

Transparency is the cornerstone of a solid candidate experience.

Since jobseekers often apply to dozens of opportunities, they’ll appreciate knowing what to anticipate in terms of timing and processes. Posting this kind of detail can also help employers and hiring managers streamline candidates who agree to these terms.

Consider these questions:

  • Are you looking to fill this role immediately?
  • How many interviews will there be?
  • Will you email all candidates or only those selected to move forward?
  • Will there be an assignment required for candidates who make it to the final interview stage?

Be open and honest

While you want to sell your company as a great place to work, you also want to find the best match and reduce "buyer's remorse"—turnover in the first year of employment. When writing your posting, be upfront about the responsibilities and challenges of the role, the career growth opportunities available and your corporate culture.

Now that you’re ready to start writing your job ad, use our free template below to get started.

Job ad template

Job title

Opening paragraph (4-6 sentences)

  • Sentence 1-2: Overview of your company and the position.
    • Include: An attention-grabbing, short overview of the company and the role that includes industry-specific keywords (no jargon).
    • Include: What makes this position special and why they should apply.
  • Sentence 3: Experience and skills
    • Include: A brief overview of the type of candidate you're looking for and the amount of experience.
  • Sentence 4: Necessary details
    • Include: Job location (if relevant), work environment (remote, hybrid or onsite) etc.

Roles and responsibilities (7-9 bullets for standard roles, 10-11 for technical roles)

  • Include: The core responsibilities and day-to-day activities of the position.
  • Bonus: Detail how the position fits in the organization, including who they report to and what their measures of success will be.

Qualifications and skills (3-5 bullets)

  • Include: Both essential and nice-to-have qualifications and hard and soft skills that align with your organization’s values.

Education (1-2 bullets)

  • Include: Degrees or certifications that are relevant to the role you’re looking to fill. Keep it to must-have credentials, rather than nice-to-have.

Perks and benefits (2-4 bullets)

  • Include: Total rewards package (RRSP matching, benefits, vacation time and professional development).
  • Optional: Compensation, which can help with attracting the most aligned candidates.
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