SmartRecruiters Blog

How to Write Compelling Job Ads

The war for talent is waging. Companies are competing harder than ever for top talent, using a plethora of software ranging from the useful to the absurd.  Yet despite all these changes, the job description of many companies hasn’t evolved since the days of the newspaper classified ad. The same boring text. The same laundry list of requirements. Copy-pasted bullet points that do nothing to actually entice the best candidates to apply.

A job posting should be treated like an advertisement. It is the front lines of your recruiting effort, and the first thing a potential candidate sees. First impressions are everything, especially in a world where job posts are everywhere. It’s up to you to stand out from all the noise.

So, how do you write a better job ads? Tell a better story.

Here are 4 tips to writing job ads:

1.     Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal candidate.

Who do you want applying to your job?  If you’re looking to attract top talent, you need to connect with them. Think about what these people are looking for in an opportunity.

According to Workopolis, these are the top 5:

  1. Work environment
  2. Career advancement opportunities
  3. Work/Life balance
  4. Location
  5. Compensation

And I’d take this a step further. Great people want to work on interesting challenges. They want to work with other great people. They want to make an impact.

Ask yourself a simple question before posting: Would I apply to this job?

2.     Focus on the Why

Don’t use all your real estate detailing exactly what skills are required for the job. Spend time selling candidates on why they should leave their cushy jobs to join you to change the world. You’re competing against tons of recruiters and companies better known than Justin Bieber, and the only way to compete is by being unique. Even though you can’t offer the perks of Google, focus on what makes your opportunity special. Really dig into the reasons why the job matters, and get that message across.


3.     Put a bullet in the bullet points

Yes, I’m sure you’re looking for unicorns with 30 years of experience in Javascript who also happen to have designed the first color TV, but the reality is that the best people are not going to apply to your boring job description. Having impossible requirements isn’t going to change that. Focus on selling to top people, not cutting out the unqualified. Stay focused on what skills truly matter for the job, and keep the bullet points to a minimum.

But, won’t I get more spammy resumes? No. The people who are sending their resumes to everyone will still send you their resume. Less bullet points doesn’t mean more unqualified volume, but it might mean that the most awesome people will give your company a chance.

And do you really need to mention that you’re looking for hard-working, team players? We know.


4.     Get personal

What matters as much as the job itself? The company you’re applying for.  Don’t leave this out of the job ad. People don’t apply for jobs, they apply for companies. So let them know why you’re so awesome.

Cover the basics like benefits, perks, and what you do for fun. If you’re trying to attract folks who care about your kegerator, mention your kegerator. Remember to keep the ad true to your culture, and be honest. If you don’t have daily shiatsu massages, revisit point number two. Perks are great, but true impact is even more so.

How do you write a compelling job ad? Bold question. Check out how personal and connected you feel to this job ad by 37Signals co-founder Jason Fried. So, how do you write a compelling job ad? The real answer is that it depends. The key is to be authentic and focus on what matters most to your company. What is the best job ad you’ve ever seen?


[Editor’s Note: The job ad above was so compelling that it inspired the movie, “Safety Not Guaranteed.” Yeah, you read that right, a job ad inspired a real Hollywood movie (trailer below). For another culturally significant job ad, read “The Onion: The Listening Internship.”]

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James Clift