The 2 Keys to Killer Job Ads

Not too long ago, my company was approached by a client who wanted our help with a technical professional search. Our client provided us with the following job ad:

“C#.Net, ASP.Net, and MS SQL. Experience with ASP.Net a plus. Bachelors in Computer Science required. Experience with large database experience a plus. Excellent technical and non-technical communication skills required.”

Have you ever looked at the list of ingredients on the side of a cereal box? It looks like this:

“High fructose corn syrup, calcium carbonate, malt flavoring, artificial flavor, ascorbic acid and sodium ascorbate (vitamin C), niacinamide. To maintain quality, BHT has been added to the packaging.”

See the similarities? Can you imagine a marketing campaign where Kellogg’s tries to sell cereal with a one-page ad of ingredients? Pass me the oatmeal! To write the most affective job ad, you need to perform a thorough job analysis, which is time consuming. Lou Adler is the master of job analysis and performance profiles, but I want to focus on the minimal effort for the greatest yield. I’ll show you how to quickly take your list of ingredients, apply some basic marketing principles, increase your response rate, and increase the quality of your applicants. Your ad will help filter and recruit for you, decreasing time spent on junk resumes, increasing speed-to-fill openings, and maximizing your return on ad dollars.

The key to marketing is to know your audience and to get them to do what you want. The purpose of the job ad is not to tell the world how great your company is, or to demand a set of skills; it’s to sell, sell, sell! You are selling your opportunity in a saturated and competitive market. This is an ad, so let’s apply some age-old marketing principles and allow the ad to work for us. Focus on two things: 1) stressing benefits; and 2) a call to action.

Stressing Benefits

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You need to make it about them – not about you. Job ads tend to focus on what you need, not what they gain; that doesn’t work in a tight labor market. You need to stand out amongst the crowd and penetrate deep within their minds.

  • Stress what you are going to give the candidate both now and down the line. The candidate, like you, is interested in the bottom line – what’s in it for me? So go ahead and tell him or her. Make sure he or she knows it’s a beneficial relationship on both sides and include the challenge, opportunity to grow, advancement, and non-monetary aspects.
  • Differentiate yourself from the rest. Think benefits! Rather than saying your company provides a work-life balance, go beyond the feature to the benefit of “more time with the family.” And don’t forget the unique perks your company offers – including specialized training to enhance your skill sets, and teambuilding outings to the ball game – as something tangible that people can imagine and get excited about.
  • Paint a compelling picture. Take those benefits and expand them to include a lifestyle that the candidate will find attractive. Be descriptive and specific. Illustrate the full range of possibilities and advantages for joining your company and taking this opportunity.

Call to Action Always keep your audience and what motivates them in mind. You want them to pick up the phone and call you today. Spark their imagination so that they are excited to learn more.

  • Motivate the candidate to act. Put a sense of urgency in the ad so they know that this opportunity won’t last long, so apply now. Better yet, make it clear that it’s a benefit for them to act quickly because you are growing fast; a new office is opening or a project is launching.
  • Provide multiple ways to apply. Just as in your print advertising for your services or goods, offer a phone number, an email address, or even a live chat to answer questions and talk to candidates. Remember that some candidates cannot call or email you when they are at work. Imagine how convenient it would be if with a mouse click they can instantly chat with you discreetly about the opportunity.
  • Make it easy for them. Don’t make it a hoop-jumping, marathon-running experience. You need these people now. You make it easy for your clients to buy, so make it easy for recruits to apply. And don’t sit on them once they have applied. Treat them with respect; if you want them to be responsive, then you need to be responsive.

Once you revamp your job ads, candidates will be more interested now that they have a clear picture of what the challenges and opportunities are. Rather than reading the side panel of a cereal box, they’ll feel they’re reading about a potential new and thrilling life. Lastly, they’ll be motivated to act, and you’ll make it easy for them regardless of where they are or when they see your ad!

Mo Edjlali ( is the CEO and founder of TalentFamily, a Microsoft niche recruiting and staffing firm and the president of the DC International Association of Microsoft Partners. He has a diverse background leading CRM and one-to-one marketing initiatives at a variety of organizations, including Accenture, Fair Isaac, Home Shopping Network, USPS, Commerce Bank, UNC Charlotte, and a number of start-ups. Mo Edjlali has a degree in Computer Engineering from Virginia Tech.