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‘Sell don’t tell’ - job ads vs. job descriptions

‘Sell don’t tell’ - job ads vs. job descriptions

Although the two work together, there is a big difference between a job ad and a job description – one sells your organisation whereas the other outlines a role’s key responsibilities.

Both serve a very important purpose. Typically, when looking to hire and advertise a vacancy, you will inevitably start by formulating your job description. Often included as a Word or PDF document that can be downloaded, it contains a long bulleted list of tasks as well as the desired and essential skills to be considered for the job. It also includes salary and benefits details and any other points of interest.

Nothing wrong with that but it can deter a candidate from applying if all you do is regurgitate that list in your job ad (whether in print or online) or make little or no effort to sell your company and the reasons why I should want to work for you. Remember that candidates, especially more experienced professionals, know what to expect of the role itself – it isn’t news to them!

Let’s turn our attention to the job ad itself. This can make a big difference to the quantity and quality of applications received. So how do you make your job and company stand out? Remember, you don’t have much space to play with so you need to make every word count.

Here are our top 5 job ad tips:

1) Catch the reader's attention

The headline is where you will pique someone’s interest (like an email subject line). Your job description will come in handy here – pick out a selling point of the role. It might be the international travel side that appeals or the team management responsibilities. Weave it in to your headline.

2) Describe your culture

Without repeating your values word for word, think about what makes your organisation different. Avoid corporate speak, use plain English. Give people a sense of things to come at the start. ‘You’ll be joining a team that likes to work hard, where everyone supports each other and we like to have fun.’

3) Value purpose and wellbeing

The new gen of workers want development opportunities, so if you offer a set annual budget for every person’s training, say so. They also desire a healthy work-life balance and meaningful work. What’s your flexible/remote working model moving forward? What mental health initiatives have you introduced?

4) Show your human side

Often job ads can feel cold, especially when it comes to contact details. Don’t just include a web address for more details, include a person’s name, email address and direct line. Encourage the applicant to get in touch if they’d like to discuss more. You’ll come across as a company that people want to work for.

5) Make it personal

You may have noticed the use of the word ‘you’. This is deliberate as you must address your audience in the second person. Make whoever is reading the ad not only feel important but at ease. Nothing will put a candidate off more if you just go on about how amazing you are and the awards you’ve won.  

If you want to attract the best talent you have to sell your company and the benefits of the role. Use a warm, human tone of voice to describe your proposition. What you don’t want is someone looking at your ad and thinking, ‘same old drivel, another company that doesn’t care a jot’.  

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