The COVID-19 crisis has brought staggering change to the world of work for recruiters, employers and employees alike – but also to job seekers. It has caused many to revaluate their professional lives, and, in the process, their attitudes to work have changed. In fact, their ‘ideal role’ might look very different now to how it did pre-pandemic.
Not only that, but the increase in reliance on our phones, computers and tablets due to social distancing restrictions has meant that job seekers’ expectations around how a brand should engage with them online is quickly evolving. It’s important for organisations to acknowledge that these two factors will impact on their use of job adverts.
After all, when reading job adverts and considering applying for a new job, active job seekers will be attracted to brands that provide a positive experience from their first point of contact – and that includes the job adverts they read at the beginning of the job application process. So, organisations must promote their job vacancies to professionals in compelling and meaningful ways if they are to engage and attract them successfully.
It’s also essential that when writing a job advert, organisations keep in mind that the reasons why job seekers are in fact seeking jobs may well be quite different at the moment. Many have recently faced redundancy due to the economic fallout of the virus outbreak, for example. And if this is the case, they may be cautious when reading a job advert; trying to anticipate how secure they will feel working for your organisation.
Providing key information about the role and your organisation is crucial in order to ensure job seekers are getting the full picture – you are much more likely to retain them this way. According to our What Workers Want research conducted in the UK & Ireland, of the professionals we surveyed who left a role within the first 12 months, 42 per cent did so because the job advert content was misleading.
In terms of what candidates want to see in a job advert:
We live in a busy digital world, so to make your advert stand out from the crowd, here are a few things to bear in mind when briefing your recruiter:
Writing a job description is – in essence – professional writing, so there are certain rules that should be followed when composing one. Promoting your role through a recruitment partner will ensure you have access to the skills and experience to write one that is aligned with your brand’s tone of voice, using the correct language.
Things to remember when crafting a job description include:
After salary, culture is the most important aspect of a potential job for candidates. Conveying this in your job advert is critical if you are to attract candidates who would be a good fit for your company. Therefore, you will need to brief your recruiter on the details of your company culture and how your team works together.
Suggestions for this include:
A job title like “customer experience executive”, for example, doesn’t necessarily tell the candidate very much about what kind of job it actually is. Not only is this job title uncommon – meaning candidates are unlikely to search for it – but without context, it’s tricky to tell what this role relates to.
Look out, too, for spelling mistakes in your job titles, as this would look unprofessional and negatively impact on the likelihood of the advert appearing high up in the results on search engines. Another common practice among organisations is to omit any salary range, which may leave candidates unclear about the seniority of the role, and deter potentially suitable people from applying.
Does your overview of your brand’s vacancy clearly communicate what the position actually is? Or are you instead simply filling up the space with vague buzzwords and clichés, like “open and collaborative culture” or “a forward thinking company”?
Don’t leave candidates in any doubt about the purpose of this job and what part they would be playing within your organisation if they took on the role.
Many organisations are guilty of describing themselves in job adverts in ways that those outside the company cannot easily understand. In the process, they might fail to communicate insightful information about the business’s culture or values, which is much more interesting to candidates.
In addition, many will fall into the trap of simply listing core aspects of your company such as location, company history, services or products, without providing any real insight into your organisation. You should, as Susie Timlin, Chief Operating Officer at UK Government Investments, suggests, include your industry standing (are you industry leaders?), the direction of your company (what are your strategic objectives?) and any great benefits that come with working for you.
Does the list of duties in your organisation’s job advert give meaningful insight into the role’s broader purpose or how the successful candidate would be contributing towards organisational objectives? Or is it a short and uninspiring list that doesn’t paint a transparent picture of what the candidate’s typical day would look like?
As I touched on above, it’s also important to be wary of negative words such as “must”. Instead, focus on including details that prospective employees are likely to find attractive, such as about benefits and development opportunities.
Organisations sometimes make their job descriptions too brief, and the skills mentioned too generic, while failing to shed light on the wider context of what the given role entails. This may compromise the ability of the employer to attract applications from candidates with the skills required to do the job.
Some job adverts also lack any indication of how many years of experience are required, how a stated qualification – such as a degree – relates to the job, and what degree subject area – such as the arts or sciences – is preferred.
The ongoing challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic makes it all the more crucial to inform candidates in your job adverts about your organisation’s remote and hybrid working policies.
Depending on their personal circumstances, many candidates are likely to be thankful for potential employers showing flexibility on the possibility of home working. So, if your job adverts make no reference to remote or flexible working at all, you could be hampering your ability to lure the best candidates.
You won’t want the way you sign off your job adverts to look careless, or to give the impression of a lack of consideration towards candidates who reach out to you. Nor will you wish even a semblance of unprofessionalism to be evident – for example, the use of a generic Gmail or Outlook email address instead of a company one.
Potential applicants can see hundreds of job adverts every day, so it’s vital to make the title relevant and descriptive to hook the candidate in to read more. Exactly how you structure the title will also hinge on how you wish to position your available vacancy.
This should be a single paragraph that gives a flavour of the most exciting aspects of the role and your organisation, perhaps while drawing attention to key points, accolades and awards.
As I mentioned above, after salary, culture is the number one consideration for professionals applying for new roles. So, it’s crucial to introduce the reader of your job advert to the values of your organisation, as well as your organisational purpose, whilst encompassing its diversity, job security and progression opportunities.
This is the part of the job advert when you will need to outline the main component parts of the role, without overwhelming the reader with too much detail.
To determine what to write here, consider what challenges you will expect the new hire to resolve in this role. Also be sure to reference aspects such as the working hours, salary, benefits, development opportunities, and anything else an employee might find enticing.
The person specification is a powerful part of a job advert, consisting of a list of the required skills and desirable traits of an organisation’s ideal candidate.
This description of the ideal candidate should be effective in narrowing down a shortlist of candidates by attracting applications from those suitable for the role, while keeping the job advert broad enough to also attract those with transferrable skills.
These transferrable skills may include both hard and soft skills that applicants can easily apply to the role if – like many in the wake of COVID-19 – they are seeking not only a new job, but also to enter a whole new career field.
Outlining to candidates what will happen after they apply will assure them that you are professional, have genuine regard for them and will provide them with a positive application experience, even if you do not ultimately invite them to interview.
This part of the job advert should include an emphasis that you will be in contact with successful applicants as soon as possible.
Your job advert should end with a closing statement that encapsulates the best parts of your role and organisation, and expresses an eagerness to continue the conversation after application. Sell your company further, too, by including links to any website pages or videos which illustrate what it’s like to work with you.
Combine the above steps with the creation of complimentary employer brand content – such as captivating blog posts and engaging images, videos and biographies of your team members on your website. And encourage your employees to share this content to reinforce the messages in your job adverts. This will put you in a better position to reach the right candidates in the new era of work.
While some aspects of how to write the most compelling and effective job adverts are much the same as they have always been, the changed world of work calls for a reappraisal of how you portray your brand’s values, culture and communications in your adverts. This, in turn, will help to keep your organisation relevant and attracting more of the most relevant talent for months and years to come.
Travis O’Rourke joined Hays 9 years ago after holding various leadership roles elsewhere in the Canadian staffing industry. Travis setup and established Hays’ outsourced talent solutions business and played an integral role in building Hays’ temporary and contract divisions throughout Canada. Initially joining Hays with a deep background in Technology, he holds extensive cross functional knowledge to provide clients with talent solutions in Financial Services, Energy, Mining, Manufacturing, Retail, and the Public Sector.
Travis is the Toronto President of ACSESS (Association of Canadian Search, Employment, & Staffing Services) and sits on the board of directors for the National Association of Canadian Consulting Businesses (NACCB). He has been featured in segments with CBC On the Money, BNN The Open, CTV National and other news outlets. Like Hays, Travis is also passionate about corporate social responsibility and is an avid supporter for Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.
Sign up to Hays Thrive so your team can benefit from our Diversity & Inclusion package – as well as dozens more free training courses.
Sign up now
Looking for a new role? Search here for your ideal job or get in touch with one of our expert consultants.
Looking to recruit? Fill in your details here and we'll help you find a candidate.
Hays Ireland has offices in Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Cork. Use our office locator to find the one closest to you.