Like any form of advertisement, a great job advert should speak to precisely the people you are trying to reach, and convince them to pay attention. Producing a strong advert should lead to a greater likelihood of self-selection on the part of your readers: suitable candidates will realise the opportunity is something worth exploring, while unsuitable candidates will (hopefully) rule themselves out. All of this can help save a great deal of time and energy when it comes to sifting through CVs.
This is also your opportunity to set out your stall. You might not be able to rely on the instant brand and employer recognition enjoyed by large companies, but what you have to say about your business — and how you say it — can make a big difference in attracting talented applicants.
Be clear on what (and who) you are looking for
You realise that you need an ‘extra pair of hands’, but what precisely does this mean? What will the new starter be expected to do, day-to-day? To communicate this effectively to potential applicants, you need to be clear on it in your own mind. Do this by drawing up a detailed job description that sets out the purpose of the role. Get your business partners involved in this process, along with any team members who will be expected to supervise or train the new starter — they will provide you with insight into what they need, too.
From this, draw up a persona specification to identify the skills, experience, qualifications, and personal qualities you expect to see in an ideal applicant. All of this gives you an essential bedrock for putting together your advert.
Your potential applicants could be scrolling or leafing through hundreds of adverts. A vague title increases the risk of your ad being skimmed past by precisely the people you want to attract.
‘General Assistant’ could mean almost anything, for example. ‘Kitchen Assistant’ at least narrows things down, while ‘Assistant Breakfast Chef’ already starts to build a picture of what you are looking for in just three words. Be as specific as you can, while sticking to job titles that people actually type into online job site search boxes. Next, to or directly underneath the job title, specify the location to reduce the risk of applications from candidates who wouldn’t be able to logistically work for you.
Having been drawn in by the title, the reader needs to be able to quickly assess what the job involves and whether it’s right for them. Try and condense this down into no more than two or three sentences. Here’s an example:
“We are looking for a Windows App Store developer to join our up-and-coming mobile platform development company. Using your extensive knowledge of XAML and C++, you’ll be helping us deliver enterprise-grade cross-platform mobile and web solutions into new and exciting markets.”
In two sentences, this gives a top-line summary of who you are and what the job entails, as well as the reasons why you’re recruiting.
Avoiding terms such as ‘Salary Negotiable’ or ‘Market Rate’ is a smart way to save yourself time. The last thing you need, after interviewing a brilliant prospect, is to discover their salary expectations are considerably in excess of what you are able to offer.
In terms of layout, there are multiple routes to go down. Either you go straight into a description of what you expect from the successful applicant, or you could give some further information about your business. There’s no right or wrong option here, but if you’re still relatively unknown in your industry, it’s worth talking briefly about your business early on.
Be honest in how you describe your business. If you’re a start-up and still building up your list of customers, don’t describe yourself as a market leader. To attract the type of applicant who wants to work in a new, close-knit team, you’re not going to get your message home if you sound too much like IBM or Pizza Hut. Relate your description directly to the role, too. For instance, if your cafe is extending its opening times to meet customer demand, or if you’ve just landed a big contract and that’s why you need to take on staff, make reference to this.
You do not need to specify each and every task involved in the role. Instead, using bullet points, list the main tasks the successful applicant will be involved with. These should be presented in order of priority, and, again, be clear about what they will be doing to ensure relevant candidates apply.
Who you are looking for
Next comes the summary of the skills, experience, qualifications, and personal attributes you drew up in your persona specification. However, if you list all of these as must-have criteria, you risk narrowing down the pool too far. Instead, consider splitting these into ‘Essential’ and ‘Desirable’ categories.
Think carefully before getting too specific in areas such as work experience. If you specify ‘at least 2 years of customer-facing events experience’, for example, many applicants will take this literally. You could unintentionally rule out very talented front-of-house staff who have recently moved into the events industry from other niches.
As a new business, you might not be able to offer a stellar salary, but what other benefits are available? Relate this back to your business and the role itself. For instance, if it’s an entry-level role but with the potential to learn new skills and take on new responsibilities, this is worth highlighting. Can you offer flexible working arrangements? Will there be formal training on offer? List some of the reasons why someone would want to work for your business, rather than a competitor.
How to apply
Make sure the deadline date is clearly visible. If the ad is on a job site, there will be a simple process for forwarding a CV and covering letter direct to your inbox. For a print ad, give a contact name email address and postal address.
When creating a job advert as a small business, selling your company as well as the job role is just as important. If you need any more information on recruiting new staff, browse our help centre for small business-focused information.