Seven simple steps to a really effective job ad

Seven steps to job ad

Are you a not-for-profit or social enterprise that’s been puzzled by an average response to a job ad? Since 2009, has advertised thousands of jobs for ethical employers around the country, so we’ve seen a lot of good ads, and a lot of bad ads (no naming names though!)

Having looked at so many ads, we’ve tried to distill the lessons we’ve learned about what makes a job ad work into just seven simple steps.

Are you ready?

1) Don’t just paste the PD in – write a snappy, convincing ad.

A job ad is not a position description – although some of the content may overlap. We still see some employers who paste a long PD into the main body of the ad- this makes an ad super-difficult to read, and can turn off potential applicants.

Instead, the idea of a job ad should be to whet jobseekers’ appetites, get them interested (or even excited!) about your organisation and the role, and tempt them to download a position description – or visit your website – to find out more about your organisation and the job.

Your ad should be short-ish, readable and attractive, and should “sell” the job to a prospective job-seeker. If you can’t summarise the most exciting aspects of the the role is one screen (or maybe a little more), chances are jobseekers will miss some of the most exciting or important parts of the job.

2) Use a descriptive job title

Descriptive job titles attract more interest than generic “Case Manager” or “Outreach Worker” positions. Make sure your job title gives job-seekers at least some clue about how the job makes a difference – for instance, by including the focus of the job in the title. A more descriptive title like “Community Outreach Worker” or “Case Manager – New Migrants” can make a significant difference to interest in a job, compared to the more bland alternatives.

3) Use the summary to reveal the “heart” of the job

The 200 character summary that appears in search results on is your best chance to attract a potential applicant’s interest, and show them how your job and organisation are working for a better world. Where appropriate to the role, using values-related keywords such as “humanitarian”, “community”, and “social justice” in the summary can noticeably increase the number of click-throughs to a job ad.

4) What’s the WHY?

This is probably the most important step:

People using are looking for jobs that help make the world a better place. They want to know not just WHAT they’ll be doing in the job, but WHY they would want to do the job. That is, what difference will the job make, and to whom?

The secret to getting potential applicants interested is to explain clearly how the role (and your organisation more broadly) contributes to a more just, more equitable or more sustainable world, and what sort of difference they could make in the role.  Do this as early in the ad as possible – grab their attention rather than making them read through paragraphs of text to find out this key info.

5) Spell out acronyms

Those well-worn acronyms might mean a lot to your organisation (and your funding bodies) but they’re an instant turnoff for prospective candidates who might not be familiar with them. For example, “Personal Helpers and Mentors” sounds a lots better, and will generate more interest than “PHAMs”. If in doubt, spell it out!

6) Always attach your position description to your ad

Don’t force job-seekers to hunt around in the depths of your organisation’s website to find a position description. Include a link to your organisation by all means, but uploading a position description as an attachment to the ad saves job-seekers precious time, and makes them more likely to take a further peek for more details.

7) Include clear application instructions

You’d be surprised how many organisations post a job ad on without full application instructions. Others direct jobseekers to a position description on their website for application instructions – but then forget to include application instructions in the position description!

At a minimum, make sure BOTH your ad and PD include clear instructions on:

  • What should be included in the application
  • Where to send the application
  • Who to address the application to
  • What the application deadline is

That’s seven! Got some tips of your own? Let us know in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

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