Writing a job advertisement properly can improve the quality of applications received by many folds. A well-written job description allows job seekers to perceive quickly whether their skills match the requirements and whether the company is worth starting a career with. Whereas, job seekers usually give a bad job ad a miss, when they don’t know what they are getting into.
I will share some tips on how to write a proper job ad in this article.
First, a job ad should have the essential elements (preferably in this order):
- job title
- headline—a brief description of what the job entails, highlights of the challenges and rewards, etc.
- company and product descriptions
- a list of job responsibilities
- a list of job requirements—what skills are required? Level of experience, etc.
- compensation—information about the expected salary package, benefits, etc.
- how to apply?
I have analyzed many good job ads, and discovered a few factors that drove good candidates to apply to them. For your benefit, I summarize them in the rules of thumbs below.
1. Job responsibilities & requirements must be written by a tech guy.
I have seen many job requirements that non-tech hiring managers wrote. They usually copy-pasted from a template and changed some words (avoid doing that!). From such job ads, the job seekers could surmise at first glance that the company did not have a tech lead.
Job responsibilities & requirements must be precise, worded in technical language. It should convey exactly the type of skills that are required, and what is to be done in the day-to-day work of the job. They must not be too specific however. Specific skills that can be picked up on the job may be omitted.
Tips: you can show your company’s tech stack with stackshare, so that the applicants can gauge how much they can contribute and learn on the job.
2. Distinguish must-haves from nice-to-haves.
Mark non-essential skill requirements with “optional”, otherwise job seekers could perceive them as compulsory requirements. If your list has many must-haves, consider point #6 below.
3. Job title and the list of job responsibilities & requirements must be consistent with each other.
Job responsibilities & requirements should reflect what the job title normally means in the industry. If the job title has a different meaning in your organization, change it to follow the norm.
Examples: “frontend developer” is usually not required to write any backend service code, if yours does, consider changing the job title to “full-stack developer”. “Data scientist” is usually not required to write any code that runs on a Spark cluster, if yours does, consider using “data engineer”, “Spark engineer”.
4. Make the list of job responsibilities as light as possible.
I find that the implied responsibilities of the role can be safely omitted. E.g. engineers are expected to write clean code, fix any bugs in the application, etc. There is no need to reiterate those.
A long list of job responsibilities generally turns quality candidates away. Because it gives off an impression that the role has heavy workload. Maybe the team is new, understaffed or consists of mostly juniors, or “the only person in that position has just resigned and the company has to hire a new guy to take over everything”.
By having a lighter list of job responsibilities on the J.D., you might get qualified candidates who could fit into other roles, even though the one he/she applied to does not suit him/her.
5. Be honest about the compensation you can offer.
This is probably obvious to you. But I have seen that it could go wrong when there is an external recruiter involved. You should always update your external recruiter of any change in the hiring budget, otherwise he/she might misrepresent your job opening in his/her ads or calls to potential candidates.
6. Cater for under-qualified or over-qualified candidates
A common scenario of drop-off from the job ad is when the reader thinks he/she is under-qualified or over-qualified. Usually overqualified candidates are more than welcome, but if you do not express it explicitly, they may leave to find other job openings.
Include some information to handle this scenario: e.g. “if you have more/less experience than required, we will consider you for a senior/junior role and adjust your compensation accordingly”, etc.
7. Always find a person to proof-read the job ad before publishing it.
As with other copywriting activities, proof-reading helps you to improve the copy, and catch any glaring mistakes before you publish your ad.
Here are some examples of well-written tech job ads for your reference:
- Machine Learning Developer @ Similar.ai
Job ad need not be a dull list of responsibilities and skills. Sometimes infusing creativity into a job ad can bring fantastic results:
British GCHQ used cipher puzzle to recruit for security experts.
I have also written 7 common mistakes in the wording of a technical job description.