What candidates look for in a job ad
On the surface, writing a job ad looks easy. But how do you ensure your ad appeals to the best talent and that these candidates follow through with a quality application? We provide some tips.

Recent research commissioned by SEEK, which surveys 4800 New Zealanders representative of the workforce each year, revealed that candidates say that including detail on ‘prestige, pay and hours’, ‘culture of the workplace’, ‘turnover of staff’, as well as ‘security’ are just part of what constitutes a compelling job ad.

We take a closer look at what candidates look for in a job ad, so you can better engineer yours for success.

The results are in – here’s what makes a compelling job ad

The research shows that candidates believe the top 10 most important features of a job ad are:

  • The details of the position.

  • A description of the duties and responsibilities in the role.

  • How secure the job will be.

  • The specific suburb or town in which the work will be undertaken.

  • The general area where the position will be based.

  • Specific experience or knowledge required to secure the role.

  • The salary or remuneration.

  • Any qualifications or certificates required for the role.

  • Information on who to contact if there are questions about the role.

  • The organisation or employer the position is with.

While this list may be stating the obvious, Nicola Laver, SEEK’s Associate Client Training Manager, has extensive experience advising employers and recruiters on how to get the best out of their job ads, and has seen her fair share of bad ones.

“I came across a sales consultant role recently and was taken aback. The summary was all in capitals, it took me eight minutes to read the job ad, and it was so long and dense I had to read it again to try and make some sense of it. There were no required skills or experience highlighted, and the information about the role was three paragraphs long. It was interesting that the section on culture was only three sentences. They used clichéd phrases like 'game changer' and 'think you’re a gun?' Overall, it focused more on how great they were than on potential candidates,“ she says.

Laver later ran a report on the ad and found that only three candidates had applied. “They had poor quality applicants and they re-advertised without changing the ad,” she says, revealing the consequences of not critiquing your ads and considering what truly appeals to candidates.

The honesty policy

Honesty and transparency are also highly sought after by candidates when analysing job ads and assessing whether a role is right for them. 89% of candidates state that it’s important that ‘the advertiser is completely honest in all aspects of the job advertised’, and a further 82% call out that it’s essential ‘salary, commissions and bonuses are not overstated’.

Simple and direct language detailing the most important criteria of a role is favoured by 76% of candidates, and 65% say it’s worth ditching terms like ‘ninja’, ‘guru’, and ‘superstar’ in job ads, unless the successful candidate is actually required to use a samurai sword on the job. Corporate clichés and phrases like ‘leading edge’ were seen as contrived and gimmicky too.

“Keep it simple and balanced. Most applicants will have researched your company and will know if you’re over-promising,” says Laver.

Recipe for success

So, what is required to write a job ad that is compelling, clear and honest? Laver cites some key ingredients, but says that you need to make a good impression quickly, as engagement happens in, “the first 10 seconds”.

“My recommendation is to include a role title and short summary that contain action words,” she reveals. “Give your job ad meaning, stay away from generic, fluffy or complex words. But ultimately, the role title and location is what draws the candidate in.”

And there is such a thing as too much detail in a job ad. 69% of candidates believed that any more than six role responsibilities (the day-to-day tasks of the role) in a job ad would serve as a deterrent to applying.

The antidote? “Be very clear on how you communicate, be succinct, understand the role brief and your marketplace. Use the right amount of words, too less signals to the candidate that there is not enough detail to make a decision.

Making your ad too long or verbose can also have negative ramifications for how they appear, and are engaged with on mobile devices, an increasingly popular method of finding and reviewing ads.

Interesting enough, most job ads aren’t optimised for mobile. If your potential candidate has to scroll and then scroll again and again, chances are they’ve moved on even before they attempt to scroll the first time. One line on the desktop is five lines on mobile, however, candidates are using mobile in the same sense the way recruiters shortlist. They will save the job ad, they will add notes and they will review again. You have a very short time to make a connection – so make it easy for the scanners, the time poor, but relevant candidates to connect with.

Learn more about job ad writing techniques by signing up to one of our training webinars – you can do so by emailing a SEEK client training representative or visiting the SEEK training page.