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Stop writing job descriptions, start writing job adverts

If your job openings fail to attract the kind of talent that your business needs, you might have a job advert and not a job description problem.

A big mistake that many HR recruiters make is to put a dull, lengthy job description on the Internet to fill a new position instead of developing it into a job advert. While people often use these two terms interchangeably, there’s a big difference between them.



Knowing the difference

A job description is a list of technical specifications of what an employee has to achieve on a day-to-day basis and how success will be measured. While a recruitment advert draws on a few core duties and skills from the job description, it picks out the key features and benefits of the job that would inspire qualified candidates to apply.

Just think about how you would market a product. Instead of listing all the features you’d tell customers about the benefits and outcomes.

Your competitive edge, called the Employer Value Proposition (EVP), is vital to attracting scarce skilled talent. It’s especially important to the new generation of workers who want an opportunity to grow, travel and be part of something meaningful. Instead, they’re mostly presented with unattractive job descriptions that simply don’t surface what they’re looking for.


Explaining why your job is the best

Most job offers are still missing clearly-articulated EVPs, particularly the details about the workplace culture, the people and further development opportunities. This absence is a huge gap in selling the opportunity’s context within the wider business.

Candidates reading job descriptions don’t understand the business, where it’s going, or what opportunity there is. Often these offers don’t describe the challenge, the value they can bring to the role, or the benefits that they can get out of the job.


Knowing what to bake into the recipe

At a strategic level, HR directors need to get a clear view of the EVPs and where the business is going. They need to know what the resourcing plan looks like and where the hardest-to-fill jobs are. A specific sourcing strategy should be developed for each audience that will include elements of the EVP suited to each and the best channel to use to get the message out.

HR management also needs to put in place processes that will give recruiters the capabilities to write more marketable adverts.

Practically, writing an attractive advert requires the following:

  1. Know what you are advertising for: Don’t just use the job description you did last time, or create Frankenstein’s monster by cobbling together bits from different online job adverts. Speak to the line manager to make sure you understand the skills requirements of new positions.
  2. Profile and understand your target audience: Put yourself in the shoes of the jobseeker to understand how they think and what they’d respond to. Look for people who are already filling this role in the business, are good at it, and fit in with the culture. These insights will help you design the job advert.
  3. Segment candidates for the best approach: Segment candidates into groups based on their generation, skills and demographic areas. If you understand them well enough, you’ll know where the talent is and which channels could reach them. Then craft the right message, apply that to the right channel, and drive traffic back to your Applicant Tracking System so you can easily manage it.
  4. Use the right titles and keywords: A job title that’s very specific to your business makes it very hard for candidates to stumble across your offer. Choose a job title and research common phrases based on the keywords and location candidates are likely to search for and click on.
  5. Sell the broader opportunity and the value to the candidate: Softer EVP benefits are becoming increasingly critical. Look at including things like flexi-time working, culture, bursaries or learning opportunities, support for innovation, self-development, experience, and the degree of autonomy and headroom.
  6. Creating a more compelling advert: With an understanding of the business, where it’s going, the EVPs and how to use them in an attractive and authentic way, glance at the job description for a general overview of what you need. Then sit down and think, what kind of talent, capability and experience is needed, and apply some creativity around that.


Most HR recruiters are still doing text based adverts on job boards or their ATSs. Increasingly EVP messaging is added to websites through video, pitches and testimonials. A line manager talking about the business area, its culture, the opportunity in this particular function, and a bit of scope of what the job is about in a video could make all the difference.

graylink can help you use recruitment technology and digital best practices to recruit better talent quicker, more efficiently, for less. Use the below form to contact graylink if you’d like to find out more about our full suite of services.



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