How to write a job ad that connects with your perfect candidate

Good staff are an NFP’s most important asset. After all, it’s impossible to achieve your purpose without the right staff in place to carry out the work.

And that means hiring them is one of the single most important functions of your organisation. But without a compelling and targeted job ad, you’re unlikely to find them.

Writing a good job ad has little to do with pasting in a list of tasks expected of the position.

Rather, a job ad is a marketing document for the role and for your whole organisation.

Writing one is a little like crafting an online dating profile: you need to present yourself in the best possible light in order to stand out from the crowd!

Especially in a job market where 58 percent of Australian HR leaders say competition for talent is a top challenge for their team.

And when you consider that jobseekers take an average of between just 49.2 and 76.7 seconds to read your job ad, it’s clear that a great one can be the difference between a good hire and a bad hire.

So how do make your job ad really connect with your perfect candidate? Here are the three key things you need to consider:

1. Audience

Your first step when writing a job ad is to have a clear picture of your target audience.

What do you know about your ideal candidate? What motivates them? What’s most important to them in a job?

Start by creating a profile of who your ideal candidate would be – including a list of education, key skills, levels of experience, levels of resilience and values/motivations you’d like to see.

For most NFPs, top of this list should be passion for (or at least interest in!) the work your organisation does, and the impact they’ll have in the job.

That’s because “meaningfulness” is one of the most important intrinsic motivators for successful staff – far beyond pay raises, bonuses and benefits.

For example, almost half (42 percent) of respondents to our most recent jobseeker survey say that their most important concern when looking for a new job is that the organisation or role has a positive social or environmental impact.

The other key intrinsic motivator to keep in mind is “competence” – so make sure your ideal candidate profile also includes the particular skills needed to do the job well!

2. Purpose

Next, connect the job with your organisation’s purpose. Why does your organisation exist? And how does the job feed into that broader vision?

This is actually more difficult than it sounds – and a quick look through ads on shows that few organisations do this well.

That’s because it’s easy to confuse your organisation’s Why with What your organisation does, or How it does it.

For instance, if you’re a homelessness organisation, your “why” isn’t to provide housing to people experiencing homelessness – that’s what you do.

Your “why” is the answer to the question “why do we exist?” And in the case of a homelessness organisation, the answer is more likely to be something like:

“It’s unacceptable that in one of the richest countries in the world, some people don’t have anywhere safe to live.”

If you don’t know your organisation’s “why”, ask the people whose job it is to “sell” your mission. That might be your fundraising manager, your communications team, or if you can get a moment of their time, your CEO.

Next, find out the “why” of the role itself – the purpose that all the role’s tasks are focused on.

To do this, try talking to either the person supervising the role or, where possible, the person currently in the role. Ask them what difference they make in their job. What makes them get out of bed and come to work in the morning?

So what does all this look like in a job ad? Well, here’s an example of how many job ads read:

“The Example Foundation provides accommodation and support services for people experiencing homelessness.

As the General Manager you will be responsible for overseeing the strategic direction of the organisation, and working with the Board of Management and staff.

Your role will be focused on ensuring that funding agreements and project objectives are fulfilled in a timely manner and according to all legal and contractual requirements.”

Not exactly inspiring, is it?

Why should a passionate, talented and dedicated candidate apply for this job over the hundreds of other GM jobs that are advertised?

Now an example that includes the purpose/“why” of the organisation and the role:

“The Example Foundation exists to end the injustice that in one of the richest countries in the world, some people don’t have anywhere safe to live.

As our General Manager you’ll make a real difference to the lives of thousands of people by supporting and empowering our staff and the local community to work together with people experiencing homelessness or at risk of losing their home.

Your contribution will ensure that all of our vital programs have the resources and leadership they need to make a real difference to the men, women and children we work with.”

See the difference?

And once your candidate is inspired, the specific task and expectations can then follow.

3. Content

Finally, you need to add in the details of the job – the key here is including enough detail, but not too much!

Critical elements to get right include:

a. A clear, descriptive job title

The job title should ideally catch the attention of jobseekers, who are often scrolling through scores of similar job titles. For instance, something like ‘Social Worker – Refugee Support Services’ is far more engaging and descriptive than simply ‘Social Worker’. Don’t go overboard though – jobseekers need to be able to recognise the job, so using unfamiliar titles like “Marketing Ninja” or “Office Superstar” are probably going to reduce the number of applicants.

b. An engaging summary

This is your hook to get a candidate to click through to your job ad from a page of search results. Step into the shoes of your perfect hire – or go back to the audience/candidate profile from part 1 – and think about what is going to resonate – generally, be descriptive, friendly and conversational.

c. ‘About us’

As described above, the strongest job ads lead with why the organisation exists and how they achieve that purpose. Doing so also connects your organisation more strongly to candidates motivated by purpose – otherwise known as your ideal candidates!

d. ‘About the role’

Be honest, transparent and realistic about the role’s requirements, bearing in mind that you still want to promote it! If necessary, speak to the hiring manager to get clear about the specifics of the role and to avoid misleading jobseekers.

e. ‘About the candidate’

Use language that helps candidates envisage themselves in the role. Second person – that is, using the pronoun ‘you’ – can be extremely effective, as can adopting a conversational tone – like a real human – instead of being “corporate” or impersonal.

f. Benefits and perks

While purpose is likely at the core of why the best applicants will apply for your role, salary and perks are still important to every candidate. There are many benefits to disclosing a salary range on your job ads, so if you can include this, do.

Either way, it can also be a powerful addition to list any perks that employees have access to, especially the most in-demand perks like flexible start/finish times, ability to work from home some days, and a paid training budget with days set aside for professional development.

g. ‘How to apply’

None of these tips count for much if your application instructions are vague or confusing. Clearly state both what you require from candidates and by when, and include a contact person in case candidates have any questions.

Getting all this right every time might take a little bit of work, but if your organisation is going to spend tens of thousands of dollars paying someone to do a job, it’s really worth spending a bit of time to make sure the ad for the role is good enough to attract the best candidates.

Image: Flickr/gottgraphicsdesign

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