You only have a matter of seconds to reel in talent.
Fail, and you might’ve just lost your next game-changing hire.
So how do you make every word count and attract a bigger, richer candidate pool?
This is how to write job adverts that convert (using behavioural science)...
What is a job advert?
A job advert is an announcement of an opening, intended to 'sell' the job to candidates. Job adverts are usually a shorter, more snappy version of a job description (which lists all of the duties and responsibilities of the role).
What is the purpose of a job advert?
Job adverts are meant to attract and engage potential candidates.
They’re essentially your chance to make a lasting first impression.
You need to give candidates an overview of the organisation they’ll be working for, what the role entails and the skills needed to succeed.
How to write a job advert (in simple 5 steps)
1. Tell candidates about your company
First impressions matter.
Candidates take around 14 seconds to make their mind up about a job description - and with job adverts, you have even less time than that!
Tell candidates exactly what your organisation does, without jargon or business schpiel - forget 'innovation-driving' or 'bar-raising'… keep it short, sweet and grounded.
As an example, here’s how we started one of our own job adverts:
“Applied is on a mission to make hiring a fair, super scientific and positive experience. It uses fun, predictive assessments to make sure people are chosen soley on their skills.”
Notice how we framed what we do as a mission statement?
Well, Glassdoor’s survey found that 79% of job candidates would consider a company’s mission and purpose before applying.
Even if you’re not rescuing puppies of fixing world hunger, you can still make your organisation sound mission-driven and purposeful. Ask yourself this: what would the world look like should your organisation reach its full potential?
If you have any stats or proof of your organisation’s success so far, be sure to share it. Candidates want to know that you’re actually going somewhere and making waves.
Here’s what we said in our job advert:
“Applied is currently used by over a hundred businesses, from tech firms and banks; to government and charities. We make hiring 66% quicker, improve staff retention dramatically and give huge boosts to the diversity of hires, simply by getting rid of bias”.
You should also touch on company culture
According to the same survey as above, 77% of those surveyed said that they would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job there and over half said that company culture was more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction.
You don’t have many words to spare in your job advert, but you could sum up your company culture in a sentence, perhaps just highlighting the key values that your team live by.
2. Rephrase responsibilities as ‘what you’ll be doing’
Frame your open role as an opportunity for candidates to do something exciting.
The job should sound like a chance to work on exciting projects, rather than a dreary list of tasks they’ll be bogged down with.
Take a look at how we did this for a recent Product Designer role:
“In your first 6 months at Applied you'll:
- Meet some of our lovely customers. We love meeting our users and you'll get a chance to learn what they think is awesome (and not so awesome) about Applied
- Help us build a simpler user onboarding in a product-led-growth world
- Help improve user experience in our WebApp (we have a mobile responsive WebApp)
- Help us prioritise between UX design for new features vs simplifying older UX designs
- Work on both hi-fi and low-fi designs and collaborate with all teams to come up with most simple/delightful solutions for features
- Help break down the user stories for tech to implement”
As you can see, a few bullet points is enough to give a flavour of what the role will look like.
You only have a few seconds to grab a potential candidates' attention - so make sure these requirements are relatively short and positive-sounding.
3. List only essential skills required for the job
Your requirements shouldn’t look like an endless shopping list.
Think about which 6-8 core skills are absolutely necessary for the job.
Although it’s common to also include ‘nice-to-haves’ - you should give these a miss.
The more requirements you list, the more your gender diversity will be at risk.
Research has proven that women tend to apply only when they meet 100% of criteria, whilst men will apply if they meet just 60%.
This is thought to be due to a gendered difference in confidence and that fact that women are more socialised to follow the rules.
And it’s not just women who you’ll put off. Any risk-averse candidates will give your job a miss if the requirements are too steep. Whilst some candidates will see your requirements as being desirables that they don’t need to stack up to in their entirety, others will see them as essential skills/ capabilities that they must have all of in order to apply.
If we look at the results of the survey below, most candidates don't apply for jobs because they believed they wouldn't be hired due to not meeting the exact requirements - not because they thought they wouldn't be able to do the job.
Your average job advert will usually list specific education and/or experience requirements... but you should avoid this if you want to attract a bigger, more diverse candiate pool.
Yes, education and experience might give you some insight into how someone will perform on the job, but this extremely tricky to separate from socioeconomic advantages.
This is why to cast a wider net, we recommend sticking to the skills needed for the job - these can be a combination of both softer and more technical skills.
4. A good job advert sells the benefits of the role
Whilst things like culture and learning opportunities are important to advertise, people don’t generally tend to work for free.
So, you'll have to make sure your job advert actually sells the role and its benefits.
The first thing to start with is salary. You don’t have to list salary, but you should.
Since many companies don’t disclose how much they’re actually willing to pay someone, this is a chance for you to stand out and be transparent in a marketplace where so few companies are willing to do so.
When no salary is specified, it feels as if the employer may offer the job to the lowest bidder or at the very least short change candidates if they don't push hard enough.
Beyond the salary, what other benefits do you have to offer? These don't have to just be obvious perks like health insurance or stock options, you're not just selling the job - you're selling the lifestyle and identity that goes along with it.
In addition to any other benefits/ perks, be sure to mention flexible working options. The ability to work outside of regular hours or remotely may be the deciding factor for a parent or carer.
5. Make sure your job advert is conversion-optimised
When it comes to the wording of your job advert, you’ll want to make sure it's as inclusive and digestible as possible if you want a big and diverse candidate pool to fish from.
The language you use in your job descriptions conveys subconscious meaning.
If you use an excess of masculine-coded terms, you’re likely to deter female applicants.
These terms are signalling that you’re looking for a specific type of person - and candidates who feel they don’t ‘fit the bill’ will qualify themselves out.
This doesn't mean that they're sensitive or weak... they're just picking up on (albeit unintentional) subconscious messaging that they wouldn't fit in.
Masculine-coded terms to avoid:
Just a quick glance at our research confirms that if you want more women to apply, you should aim for either feminine or neutral-coded job adverts if you want to improve gender diversity - since men aren’t deterred by feminine language.
Your job advert should be easy to read - in short, simple sentences.
The reading level shouldn’t be higher than the level actually needed for the job. This isn’t ‘lowering the bar,’ in fact, the best, most in-demand candidates are probably too busy to read long and elaborate job adverts.
Make sure you’re as to-the-point as possible so that your job advert can be read and absorbed by someone in a hurry or reading on a small screen. Remember: the purpose of job adverts is to sell.
Jargon doesn’t just make your job advert painful to read, it could be giving the impression that your company is cold and dull.
The solution is a simple one: write in everyday, human language.
Talking about ‘business solutions’ and ‘innovation’ may sound impressive, but they’re so overused and non-specific that they don’t really say anything at all about your company.
You can still use common industry-standard acronyms, just be sure to avoid any technical, niche terms.
P.S. Our Job Description Analysis Tool was designed to make sure your wiring stays inclusive and high-converting by detecting things like gender-coded language and reading burden.
How to write a good job advert: putting it all together
- Sell your company
- Let candidates know what they’ll be up to
- List essential requirements only (6-8)
- List benefits
- Keep it short (300-800 words)
- Avoid gendered language
- Ditch jargon
Job advert template
Your job advert should look something like this:
Applied is the essential platform for debiased hiring. Purpose-built to make hiring empirical and ethical, our platform uses anonymized applications and skill-based assessments to identify talent that would otherwise have been overlooked.
Push back against conventional hiring wisdom with a smarter solution: book in a demo