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The perfect job advert — it’s just like dating!

How so? Think back to the last date you went on (if you can think back that far!). How do you want your date to feel? Do you want them to feel they are the most important person in the room? Do you want them to fall for you totally? Do you want to get a second date? So, do you start talking about yourself or do you ask them questions about them? No-one gets that question wrong.

The perfect job advert blog image

Now, think about the construction of a typical job advert. The first third is normally some ‘blah blah blah’ about your company, the second third a dry description of the job, and the last third lays out in great detail what you need to do to be successful in the role. Because the advert is based on a job description. What would happen if we took that approach on a date? If you spent the first third of our date talking about you I wouldn’t be sticking around for the main course!

If you’re not getting a good response from a job advert, or the calibre of candidates isn’t of the standard you’d like, the chances are you’re getting the substance wrong. But it’s so easy to put right.

The most important thing is to get clear on the type of person you want to apply. Before you write anything work that out because everything you put into the ad needs to appeal to them. You need to make them sit up, take notice and feel urged to apply. By working out the target candidate you are also more likely to increase the number of passive CVs submitted which is great because you want fewer but better applications.

Now, let’s return to the construction of the advert and take it step-by-step.

First third

Back to the dating scenario, and you want to make a great first impression! Neurologically, the first impression people have about you is the most important moment in your relationship. You often don’t get the chance to change the first impression and if you do it’s extra work. This first impression allows job seekers to decide if they can be bothered to expend the energy to listen to what you have to say.

Work out what it is that will get them to apply. The candidate will be asking themselves “why should I make the move to this company? Why is it better than the job I already have?” Great people have choices. So, that’s what you need to be asking too, and answering in this part of the advert. Perhaps there is something about their current job that is frustrating. You could ask your best employees what that frustrating ‘thing’ was at their old workplace and why they don’t find it an issue with you. Start with that, it’s a reason to move.

For example, let’s say you’re looking for a programmer, you could start with:

Do you feel like you’re wasting your degree? Are you spending too long playing office politics rather than designing amazing software that makes a difference? Would you rather be saving the world than wasting your time? Fed up with being micromanaged? Wouldn’t you prefer to work somewhere the boss won’t shout at you?

You may think that last question is ridiculous but I actually had one software developer ask me whether he would be shouted at in an interview, because that’s what his current manager did!

But these are all questions that will get a passive candidate thinking about what it is they want, and then you can move onto how your company fixes the frustrations they have in their current role.

    Second third

    Once you’ve grabbed the candidates’ attention you can move onto the company core values. Be honest about what you stand for. These days more and more candidates are looking to work for a company that has an ethos. They want to feel like they’re making a difference. But one size does not fit all, we know that. So talk about what you don’t want.

    For example:

    We know we aren’t for everyone. If you prefer to be the biggest fish in a small pond we probably aren’t for you. If you love playing office politics, make promises you have no intention of keeping or are in it for the money this may not be the job for you.

    Last third

    No-one cares how big your company is, how many employees there are, or how much money you make, they care about the improvement you can make to their lives both professionally and personally. Think about the great benefits your company offers that can make their lives better and sets the tone of your company. Career development? Yoga classes? Unlimited holidays? Beer Fridays? People care about what they care about, give it to them. And tease them. Leave them wanting to know more. Make it impossible for them to NOT apply!

    Working on a laptop - blog image

    Everything I’ve mentioned so far will help ease the headache of the construction of the job advert, but I still have some more advice that might help get those great candidates to apply!

    Sell the job

    Don’t just describe the job, really sell it. Give an outline of what the job will entail. There’s nothing worse than a long list of things the candidate needs to be or do. Do they really need a degree? If not, don’t put it in. You might find you put things on the list that stops great people from applying. Who cares if they do or don’t know how to use PowerPoint. They can learn if they’re the right fit for your company.

    “When hiring key employees, there are only two qualities to look for: judgement and taste. Almost everything else can be bought by the yard.” — John W. Gardner

    Again, think about what it is about the role that they couldn’t get anywhere else. What would get them to apply, not stop them from applying?


    Our last two hires both said they read the advert and decided they had to apply because it was so different. They wanted to know more. It teased them. This technique often helps entice people who are only thinking about making a move, they haven’t begun a proper search. Seeing an interesting and different advert was enough to get them to throw their hat into the ring. These are the perfect applicants as they aren’t in the job market!

    End date

    Let’s have some urgency. Put an end date on the advert to drive rapid action. You want people to read the advert and apply, not decide to do it later and forget about it.

    Multiple adverts

    Put out two different ads — see which one gets the highest calibre response (not the most responses). You can then see which the applicants prefer. Work that into other adverts. Test and test some more.

    Use a tool to make it easier

    I have been using and recommending Recruitment Revolution for a few years. It gives you a platform for posting adverts and tracking progress. It allows the team to collaborate on reviewing applications and makes it really easy to invite candidates to view or decline them.


    What all of the above boils down to is careful thought. Work out what you want then find an interesting, appealing way of putting that into advert and sell the role.

    Just to be really clear, the number one thing you can get right as a leader to impact your business performance is getting the right people on the bus. Ask yourself this quick question:

    “Would you enthusiastically rehire all of your current team?”

    Right, I thought so. So, you have to work out how to hire better people right now. A good job ad can do that. It’s important. Because the better the job advert the better the chance you have of attracting the high-achieving candidate your vacancy requires.


    How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

    Hiring for Attitude: A Revolutionary Approach to Recruiting and Selecting People with Both Tremendous Skills and Superb Attitude, by Mark Murphy

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    Written by Certified Scaling Up Coach, Dominic Monkhouse — founder of Monkhouse & Company. Found out more about his work here.

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