One of the single biggest challenges you’ll see any business face is hiring; from finding and attracting potential employees, to encouraging them to apply for the company’s job openings.

Naturally, the goal is to attract the largest pool of qualified candidates as possible, and then determine the best person for the position. But, while attracting an appropriate quantity of applicants is certainly necessary, it is not sufficient alone. You must attract quality applicants who can perform well in the position you are trying to fill. The key to attracting those applicants is in how you advertise the job opening.

Prior to placing the job ad

The starting point when recruiting for any position is ensuring that you have a carefully prepared and up-to-date job description. A complete and appropriate job description will make it easier to evaluate applicants and help you screen out those who lack the minimum knowledge, skills and abilities needed for the position. It will also help good applicants have a clear idea of the job they are applying for.

Recruitment methods and sources

I strongly urge you to always look within your company first to determine if an existing employee may have the qualifications and abilities needed for the position. If that is not the case, however, then the next step is to select the appropriate sources to identify prospective candidates.

To help determine the right demographic for the job, there are several considerations to take into account when outlining your recruitment strategy. These include:

  • Your specific location
  • Current labor market conditions
  • Level of the position to be filled (entry level, management position, etc.)
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Time and budget issues

Be careful not to make the common mistake of simply picking the most popular job board for your posting. Instead, choose a site that you think will reach your specific audience, and realize that you may need to utilize multiple sources.

Strategies for ad design

In addition to the clarity and location of your ad, you must think about its ability to engage your target audience. Diane Arthur, in her book Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting & Orienting New Employees, offers three key strategies “to increase your chances of finding top-notch applicants through advertising”:

  1. “Capture the job hunter’s attention.” Using an appropriate job title will grab a potential applicant’s attention, but make sure you also give consideration to design elements such as the location, graphics, use of white space and placement of your logo.
  2. “Pique the job hunter’s interest.” Give just enough information to show the potential applicant how their skills could fit your needs.
  3. “Design your ad to be the last one a job hunter wants to read.” You want a potential applicant to see your company as the most attractive option out there, so create an image for them of how great employment with your company would be.

Your ad should stand out. Don’t hesitate to use graphics, color and catchy job-related language. However, make sure that you don’t cross the line into “strange” or “weird.”

Avoid the tendency to provide too much detail. In other words, do not fall victim to substituting a job description for a job ad. Instead of excess details about the job itself, write about your company’s mission and culture. Talk about the benefits (not simply monetary) that you offer and why your company is truly a great place to work. These are things that a quality applicant will value.

Keep in mind that this is an ad, ads are designed to sell something, and you are trying to sell your company.

Guidelines for the ad

Consider the following as the basic requirements for your job ad:

Make it easy to read. Many effective ads have subheadings and bullet points instead of a cluster of paragraphs running together. Inc. magazine suggests 400 to 800 words as the optimal length for a job ad.

Pick the job title very carefully. This is more important than you might think. Potential candidates will search for certain keywords in relation to the position. You may want to make the title something specific. For example, if you are looking for a Project Manager, you may decide to put “Project Manager – Restoration.” This tends to be more informative that simply “Project Manager.” You should also modify the title if, in the past, it did not attract the right candidates. The key is to make the title “search-friendly.”

Watch your words. Make certain the language in your ads does not violate equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws and regulations. Examples of this might include stating an age preference, gender preference or other subjective terms like “attractive,” “young,” etc.

Consider what would make someone want to work for you. What would make a talented worker leave their current employer and come to work for your company? Once you answer that question, write it in the ad. Your company’s position in the industry, location, travel opportunities and long-term career opportunities are just a few examples.

Be clear about what you need. Tell the potential applicant exactly what the job entails. Keep in mind that you are trying to hire top talent, and they are looking for challenges more than they are money. Make your position sound fulfilling and stimulating.

State exactly what you want. Equally important is to make sure that you let the potential candidate know exactly what you want from them. Be specific when outlining the required amount of experience, education, certification and skills. My suggestion is that you do not make these qualifications a “preferred” list.  Be very specific about the requirements and make them non-negotiable to help keep under-qualified candidates from responding. This will save you time and money in the long run.

Look at what others are doing. See what other companies’ ads for the same position look like. They may contain relevant keywords that you may not have thought about.

Let applicants know how you want them to respond. Many employers today are including very specific instructions and compliance requirements for candidates who wish to respond to the ad. This can be helpful, especially if the position requires a detail-oriented candidate.

Final steps

Do not rush to place the employment ad. Once you are happy with it, ask someone else inside your organization to review and provide you with feedback.

You should also make sure that you have a structure in place so that everyone who is involved in the hiring process understands the steps and procedures that are required.

In closing, you will improve the quality of potential candidates with well-written and concise job ads. Keep in mind that the substance and format of your ads are a direct reflection of you and your organization. Always take into consideration the image you wish project and the message you want readers to see based on your ads. It will make all the difference in the applications that end up on your desk.

Scott Tackett is a Business Development Advisor for Violand Management Associates (VMA), the largest consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. He is considered the leading expert in restoration and cleaning for Human Resource Development and Organizational Leadership with over 30 years of experience. Through Violand, Tackett works with companies to develop their people and profits. To reach him, visit Violand.com or call (800)360-3513.