Scientific Advice for a Great Job Ad

I recently saw some advice on writing a job ad.

You’ve got a list of duties lying around somewhere (last one = other duties as assigned).

Write and intro and an outro, slap that list on a job board, and bingo bango, you’re on your way to a great hire!

I probably don’t have to say that hiring is one of the most important things you do in your organization, but I maybe I do need to say that this lazy approach to hiring stinks!

Why you can’t follow that advice

Some really smart people have figured out that there are seven categories (seven whole categories!) of information that candidates consider before choosing a job:

  1. job characteristics
  2. organizational characteristics
  3. recruiter behaviours
  4. recruitment process characteristics
  5. perceived fit
  6. perceived alternatives
  7. hiring expectancies

Sound complicated?

The good news is that while every one of those categories is really important to candidates, they’re important at different times.

Specifically, there is one category of information that’s most important to candidates at the beginning of a search, when they’re looking at job ads.

It’s called perceived fit and it refers to “candidate perception of how well their goals, values, and ideals suit the job (person-job fit) and organization (person-organization fit).”

Perceived fit

In simple terms that means when a candidate is first considering whether to apply for your job, they’re mostly considering whether their goals, values, and ideals suit your job and organization.

They’re asking themselves, “I really like a casual atmosphere and a fun team. Will I have to wear a tie every day to fit in?” or “I need my work to make a difference in the community. Does this organization give back?” or “Growing my knowledge and skills is what drives me. Do these people create opportunities for growth?”

[By the way, candidates are super interested in job characteristics like duties and compensation; they’re just more interested in those things later in the process.]

So if you’re following the old job ad advice – intro, list, outro – you’re not actually providing information about the #1 thing that potential candidates care about in the moment.

What to do instead

Unless you can afford to have recruiters chasing qualified people for you, you’re probably depending on your job ads to pull in good candidates. If that’s the case, candidates who don’t apply to your job ad are…well…not candidates.

The job ad’s purpose is to compel people to apply to your job or else you won’t even be able to consider them. We’ve long forgotten that a job ad is an advertisement and if it’s not showing off your unique goals, values, and ideals, it’s missing the mark.

Even with no budget, you can still create a job ad that shows off your unique goals, values, and ideals.

The tone, language, and content of your ad should point towards your true culture (and I don’t mean those dusty words above reception; I mean what you actually care about).

Talk honestly about what you’re trying to achieve, what your employees value in their work, what you do more and better than any other organization, and what it’s really like to work with you.

Thanks to those smart people I mentioned before, we know that candidates will use even small clues to make inferences about fit. For example, if you have a picture of diverse people on your careers page, they might infer that you value diversity. If you have humour in your ad, they might infer that you have a fun and humourous culture. If you use sleek fonts and design, they might infer that you are progressive. Even little clues can mean a lot.

So stop giving candidates a giant list of duties and start giving them your goals, values, and ideals so they can make the right choices.

And if you want some help, not to brag or anything, but our clients have told us we’re pretty good at turning plain old lists into works of art.

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