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Signs your job ad stinks—and how to make it better

Job ads have been a staple for as long as companies have existed. It started with hanging a sign in the window (“Inquire Within”), then moved on to newspaper classifieds, then to online job boards, and, of course, social media.

But just because you post a job ad doesn’t mean you’re going to get the results you want.

Does your job ad stink? Here are a few signs:

1. Very few applicants
If you aren’t getting any applicants (qualified or not), you’re probably posting to the wrong places. Traffic matters, so if your local HBA job board only gets 25 visitors a month, it’s unlikely the right person for your role will visit and apply. Post on multiple platforms to expand your reach.

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2. Lots of unqualified applicants
Realistically, you’ll never be able to prevent clearly unqualified people from applying. But a well-written job posting can drastically lower the number.

3. Lots of views but very few applications
Many job boards allow you to track how many people are reviewing your job posting and ultimately applying. Depending on how your ad is written, you may be enticing people to look, but not enticing them to follow-through.

4. You require an in-person application
Requiring an applicant drop off their resume in person can be a big deterrent; people with jobs will find it very difficult to find time to do so. You can still allow people to drop off resumes or fill out applications, but smart companies give the option to email or complete an application online, as well. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to meet them during the interview process.

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A well-written job ad should be more like marketing copy than a job description. It is based on the job description, certainly, but attracts the right people and inspires them to apply. Here are a few best practices for creating a job ad that attracts and engages the right people.

Do: Tell and sell the company

Tell them what’s special about your company. This is a brief company bio and can sometimes be taken from your company’s existing marketing copy. For example, “XYZ Company is a community-oriented building material dealer known for engaging with customers to find solutions to every jobsite challenge.”

Then, sell them on it. This is where you share why your company/organization is a great place to work. Try phrases like “We are privately held, offer a family friendly environment, and foster a culture of success.” Or, “We have won numerous awards for our work environment.”

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If you’re feeling stuck, ask your employees what they love about working at your organization.

Do: Tell and sell the opportunity

Tell them what you are looking for—the “we are seeking” statement. Describe your ideal hire’s attributes + experience. For example, “An outgoing, achievement-oriented salesperson,” “Past success with                   ,” or “Experience working with                   .” Also, list any certifications, licenses, etc. that are needed or preferred.

Use bullet points where appropriate. Bullet points are quick, concise, and effective, and they increase the likelihood that applicants will read your ad in full.

Then sell them on the opportunity—why they should want it. Tell them what opportunities the new hire will have and the perks for which they will be eligible.

Do: Provide an easy-to-use call to action.

In this case, the call to action is pretty obvious: We want them to submit a resume or complete an application.

But you also need to make it easy for people to apply. For example, if you make them re-enter all the info on their resume, you may lose some higher-quality applicants, those who aren’t desperate for a new job.

Try out your process and see how long it takes. Unless it’s a very compelling job opportunity, the process should not be longer than three minutes. A too-arduous process may drive away a semi-passive but qualified candidate.

Above all, remember that a job ad may be a potential applicant’s first exposure to your company. A compelling, clear ad will serve to advertise what sets you apart while clearly communicating which potential applicants will be the best fit.

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