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How to write a job ad for the Web

29 April 2005

The World Wide Web offers the ultimate audience for human resources departments and recruitment companies. After all, the idea is to show a job advertisement to as wide an audience as possible to attract the best selection of candidates.

The only problem is that many people have approached recruiting via the Web in the same way they would approach advertising in a magazine or newspaper. This breaks what is definitely rule number one: the Internet is decidedly not the same as print media, and job adverts should reflect this.

Too many companies believe that they can simply issue a job description as the ad on the Web, and thus attract candidates. But they would never do that if they were spending £4,000 to run the same ad in a magazine. Most companies see ads as an extension of their brand values and, by treating the Internet ad in this way, they devalue the brand in the candidates' eyes.

Before you start writing

It's a good idea to research the Web sites that you intend to advertise on. According to the National Online Recruitment Audience Survey, the average job seeker, who uses the Internet to find a new job, will visit 4.7 job sites.

Aim to find the top five recruitment Web sites in your industry. Have a look at the Web sites and evaluate the quality of them:

  • are they easy to use?
  • do they show a large number of jobs
  • are there jobs similar to the one you want to advertise?
  • are jobs posted regularly?
  • do they make the application process simple?

Do this extra work and you are more likely to get value for money.

What to include in your ad

In writing your job ad, remember that potential candidates are skimming through information on screen and, unlike in print, they may not ‘flick' back through the pages and see something they missed first time round. So you've got to grab them right away.

There are plenty of similar jobs advertised on Web sites so, to stand out, you need to make yours a cut above the rest - interesting, innovative and, very importantly, correctly filed on the site.

Title If a candidate is searching for his or her next move, they'll key the job title into the search criteria, so make sure that you use multiple words in the job posting to ensure the best results on these searches.

Job category Make sure you include this, or it will never be found on a site.

Job summary Remember that you are selling the job, not just describing it, so be enthusiastic. That said, do include an accurate job description that will appeal to as many candidates as possible. Break it up into small chunks of text. Include responsibilities and duties.

Salary Include a prospective salary, even if you need to put a ‘depends on experience' clause next to it. Candidates often use salary as a key search criterion so, to be seen, you need to include it. It also saves everybody's time if you're honest about how much you're willing to pay.

Skills Be very specific about ‘must have' job skills. Try to specify qualifications or length of service so that potential candidates know immediately if they're what you want. List desirable skills too, but only after the must-have ones.

Prospects Include possible promotion or career prospects - candidates today aren't just looking for this job but the one after as well.

Location Town, county and country should all be included. Remember that the Web is international, so people could be looking at your ad from the other side of the world.

Work permits If you're advertising a position in the UK and only want EU nationals, say so in the job ad.

Further information The Web has the space that would cost you a fortune in print, so use it. If you've caught a jobseeker's attention, you want to give them as much information as possible to keep them interested.

List the benefits that go with the job, and give a brief description of the company. If you're looking for a chef, list the standard and style of the cuisine you're producing.

Contacting you Include your e-mail address so the candidate can e-mail his or her CV to you, or you'll never get any replies.

Contacting them Ask candidates for a mobile phone and/or landline number through which you can reach them, in addition to their e-mail address. They may not check their e-mails very often, and you may want to interview them quickly.

Layout

Here's where the difference between the Web and print media can really show. While a print ad may cost £4,000 to produce and run, one on the Web may cost only £250. But don't let the difference in cost affect the final result.

Visual Keep everything in bite-size chunks. It's harder to read screen text on the Web, so make it easy for the viewer to digest.

Bullet points List qualifications, or desirable skills, in bullet-point form, so they're easy to read.

Logos Use a company logo if possible. It won't slow the download time and it can be an effective brand reinforcement to distinguish your ad from several others.

Spelling Don't let the side down by forgetting to spell-check the ad before it goes live online.

Some final words

Make sure you reply to all candidates who apply for your job. Not only is it polite, it will present your company in a good light. A short e-mail saying thanks is ideal.

Spend some time researching Web sites, writing your ads and e-mailing replies and you will find that you have a good quality of applicants, get more for your money and save time in the long run.

With thanks to Alex Hens, head of new media at recruitment agency Thirty-Three, and Peter Burnett, Internet operations manager at Berkeley Scott Group, for their tips and advice.

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