Tech the Halls – How to write a killer job advert

By Chris Devonshire | 16th November 2023

In the third of our ‘Tech the Halls’ series, we’re going to talk about how to write a killer job advert to get you noticed.

How to write a killer job advert is about having the right information and consolidating it in a compelling way.

Not only do organisations have serious competition to be concerned about, but they’re batting high expectations by technology professionals, skills shortages and a significant demand for TRULY flexible working.

That’s why a good job advert is the cornerstone of your hiring process. It doesn’t matter how many jobs boards you post on, or how attractive your benefits are – if you can’t tell tech talent why your role is worth applying to, then your company isn’t going to the quality applications it needs.

A job advert and a job spec are not equal

Firstly, a job ad and a job spec of two entirely different things. Here’s the difference.

  1. A job description is largely for internal use or briefing in a recruitment agency, where the full responsibilities and expectations of the role are laid out comprehensively. It’s usually long and written to cover all bases for the ultimate technology professional.
  2. A job advert is outward facing, designed to attract and excite the right kind of technology professionals.

How to write a killer job advert

Technology professionals are in demand and can afford to be more passive job seekers, therefore lacking urgency to ‘hunt’ for their next opportunity.

That means organisations must stand out.

The structure of the job advert is as important as the content itself. Over 90% of job seekers use mobile devices to look for new jobs. While you can’t always control the mobile display of a job posting, you can make sure the text is relevant and succinct.

  1. Getting started

You’ve already got a comprehensive list of what that person is going to be doing day-to-day – now you need to find the person that fits. You do this by working backwards. Get that list up in front of you then think the questions below:

  1. What would somebody need to do those tasks well?
  2. What hard skills would they require?
  3. What personal characteristics would be useful?
  4. Would a certain professional background be a good fit?
  5. Grab their attention

After job title – go straight into the key selling points of the role and consider the candidates perspective. Laying out the goals and objectives for the role is a good way to help candidates understand the contribution they would make to the company. This can be done in a few short sentences.

Think about what’s in it for them. Get the facts they want up front. For example, salary, flexible working, what they’ll be achieving or working towards.

  1. Real estate is limited

AVOID ‘We are looking for… blah blah’. You have limited real estate. Use it wisely. Opening with a question might stop the scroll.

  1. Keep them reading

Before applying to any job, candidates want to see that it is the right fit for their professional and personal development. Therefore, build interest in the role. What goals will they be working towards or what challenges are they helping alleviate. Focus on what your candidates should know and limit the fluff in your job advert.

  1. Don’t just copy and paste the job spec

See earlier comment about a job advert versus a job spec. For that reason, do not copy and paste the job spec and hope for amazing outcomes. Your list of responsibilities should be realistic, relatively short, and exciting enough to sell the role. Remember; job seekers see hundreds of these lists, so you need to find unique selling points in your roles.

  1. Qualifications – try NOT to use that word

Oftentimes the word qualifications imply to the applicant that they need to be university educated. Instead of ‘requirements’ or ‘qualifications’, try using something more inviting as a title for this section. Choose your tone and let it reflect your company culture, whether it’s more official or relaxed. Some great examples:

  • In order to succeed…
  • To rock the position…
  • To build a stellar product…
  1. Narrow down job qualifications to only what is NEEDED

Pare down your qualifications list to only what is NECESSARY. The single biggest mistake companies make in writing job postings is writing down 100% of what the ideal candidate “needs” to succeed in the job. When realistically, only about 60% of those requirements are necessary for a new hire. The rest is either above-and-beyond skills that don’t come into play very often or are skills that can be learned or trained on the job.

Many companies list extremely high qualifications and “settle” for the best of the most motivated applicants. Unfortunately, this practice can contribute to gender discrimination, as well as turning off candidates who would be better qualified but don’t feel like they can meet the full requirements list. Case in point, women. Women are far less likely to apply for jobs that are more senior than their current position (aka stretch roles) and less like to apply if they do not fit 100% of the criteria. Don’t limit your talent pool.

  1. Job perks

Part of selling your job posting is selling your workplace as a place where employees can build relationships, careers, and experiences. You can attract more candidates (as well as better candidates) when you focus on the perks of working for your company.

Check out our blog about whether your employee perks are a turn off.

Keep in mind that this means real perks. Having a foosball table in the break room isn’t a perk. The same goes for having a restaurant on campus, or open nerf wars in the cube farm, or any of the other nonsense that companies so often promote as value add.

What kind of job perks attract the best candidates?

  • Ongoing training funded by the company, including certifications, where relevant.
  • The option to work partially or fully remote, or on a flexible schedule.
  • Benefits that actually align with employee needs in the current economic climate. For example, support for families with new children, including leave for fathers as well as mothers.
  1. Break away from templates

There’s a temptation to use templates for just about everything in business. In some cases, it’s just fine, but many customer-facing or candidate-facing applications just fall flat when you’re using the same basic structure everyone else uses. You might not think anyone would notice, but the candidate who goes through hundreds of them will spot the patterns easily.

  1. Job title and formatting – keep it simple

In today’s hiring landscape, job titles are strange things. Think about how applicants look for jobs today. In the main, it’s by searching for them online. Job titles aren’t just job titles anymore – they’re an important part of search engine optimisation.

Imagine what they would be searching for online. What are they typing into search bars? What keywords are they using? Keep it simple. Don’t be afraid to test a couple of variations, either. Keep an eye on your pipeline – if you see the pipeline filling up then you know you’ve nailed it.

Just remember…you’ve got to temper this optimised approach with some common sense! Whatever job title you use, make sure it’s also a faithful representation of the role (and that people are actually searching for it).

More job ad tips

Just before we sign off, here are a few more tips on how to write a killer job advert.

Formatting

Your candidate will be scanning reams of job adverts for key phrases. This is significantly more difficult to do when presented with a hefty paragraph. Instead use short, one sentence paragraphs and bullet points to convey your content. Try beginning each bullet point with a verb, as this implies to the candidate that you are getting straight to the point.

A good job advert has a blend of short paragraphs, simple headings, bulleted lists, and formatting to make salient details stand out. Every extraneous word gets in the way of your candidate’s desire to apply, especially on mobile devices.

Get jobs on earlier in the week

Posting your job early in the week may yield more applicants over the first few days. Most applications occur on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, with just 15% coming in over the weekend.

Be careful of being too casual

Candidates shown an extremely casual job description were 4x more likely to dislike the employer and 2x – 4x less likely to apply. Walk the balance between informal and professional – informal is good – gives a felling for the role. Overly casual and using buzzwords can be off-putting.

Call in the experts

Love this advice but would like to speak to one of our team to turn it in a reality for your upcoming roles? We’re happy to help.

Reach out to our talented IT recruiters today.

Matt Hayes

Co-founder at Devonshire Hayes