How to write a job posting that attracts great applicants (and repels the ones you DON’T want)

The job posting is the most fundamental tool that you have to attract great talent to a job opening, yet many business owners fail to use it effectively. A well written job posting acts like a shining beacon to attract talented folks who share your values and are looking for a terrific opportunity, while at the same time discouraging applicants who are “just looking for a job“.

how to write a job posting

I’ve outlined the important features of a good job posting below. Read on if you’d like to learn how to write a job posting that WORKS.

Write about the candidate

The primary purpose of the job posting is to market your job to potential applicants. It’s a marketing tool for your company and for the opportunity you have available. Just like other marketing documents, it needs to be written with the audience (in this case, applicant) in mind. Don’t talk about you; talk about them. Start your job posting off by describing, in terms the candidate will recognize, who the ideal candidate for this position is. You want that ideal candidate to read it and say, “Wow, this position is perfect for me!”

For example, look at this job posting example for an Executive Assistant:

You are a poised executive assistant to the owner of the company who gets great satisfaction in taking charge of the millions of tasks that your boss needs you to manage. Calling anyone, from the CEO of a company, to a vendor, or member of the press, is nothing new to you. You are self-motivated, and thrive on executing all the details in a fast-paced environment. In your approach you are agile and able to easily shift between different areas of focus; from accounting (in QuickBooks) and clerical tasks, to calendar management, to event planning. If that’s you, keep reading because we have an opportunity you won’t want to miss.

Present the challenges and opportunities together

Are you looking for candidates that will give this job their all? Candidates who want to make a difference? Then show them the difference that they can make! Use the job posting to talk about the ways that a successful candidate can make a big difference by being amazing. Also demonstrate the impact this amazing work will have on the company. But to make that big difference there are obstacles to overcome, right? It’s no walk in the park! You need to show that rock star applicant what will make the job challenging. It’s going to take hard work, creativity, and the ability to create something out of… well, not very much.

Who’s going to take a job like that? A job that requires hard work and overcoming obstacles? Not someone who’s just looking to keep a chair warm, that’s for sure. But someone who is passionate, confident, and ambitious–they’ll run for that job.

Show the candidates how they can make a difference, but also show them how hard it will be.

For example, look at this job posting example for a Financial Operations job:

Every day we process lots and lots of data, on time, and with 100% accuracy. You will reconcile accounts and prepare reports and will help create and improve processes and procedures to enhance efficiencies, strengthen controls, and develop products and services for our customers. You will be challenged by frequent interruptions and will interact every day with a diverse group of customers and vendors. We want you to succeed, so you will start by performing all the basic tasks flawlessly and learn the details of our business. Once you have mastered the basics, you will be expected to take on more responsibilities, supervise staff members, and receive more rewards.

how to write job postingAsk them to do something special for you.

One of the problems with recruiting in the digital age is that it has gotten way to easy to apply to jobs. For the candidate who has a lot of time on their hands, what’s the downside of “applying for every job that’s even remotely close to what I’m qualified for”? There is none.

To correct for this, you need to ask your candidates to do something special in order to apply to your job. Include a list of questions that you want them to answer in their cover letter; ask them to attach some relevant work samples; anything that makes them do something more than emailing their resume. Again, this filters out the lazy or barely qualified job seekers and helps you to focus on the most qualified candidates.

Don’t go blind

Sometimes business owners don’t want candidates to know where they’re applying. We have found that does not attract the best candidates. The motivated and ambitious candidates want to make sure the company is right for them. They want to do their research; so tell them about your business in a way that’s going to fuel their curiosity.

For example, look at this job posting example on how this advertising agency describes their firm:

In return, we will provide you with a creative, collaborative workplace, a friendly, laid-back environment. Our office is in River North, close to the Chicago Brown line stop and several bus lines. There are snacks, occasional gourmet cupcakes and a little dog to hold when you’re feeling down. And most importantly, we do great work and we have a good time doing it. You can learn more about what we do and the types of clients we work with at our website www.example.com.

For the same reason, don’t skimp on salary info — you should know what range you are willing to offer and put it in the ad. Learning to how to write a job posting with a salary range on it, it helps you to attract a better range of candidates; those who are wildly overqualified won’t apply if you tell them the job pays $50,000. (Here’s how to figure out how much to pay employees)

Your job posting is your first impression — before the candidate gets to know you, they will see the job posting. Make the job posting work for you by acting like a preliminary screen; by appealing to the best candidates and discouraging those candidates who would otherwise be wasting your time.

What do you include in your job postings? What tactics do you use to attract the good ones and repel the not-so-good ones?

Employee Interview Guide
Photo credit: bgottsabThewmatt

Devan Perine

Devan Perine works with small business owners on their marketing and multimedia efforts. She's passionate about helping businesses build their presence online, and giving Gen Y a voice in the workplace. When she's not working, she loves to make a mess in the kitchen, and play with her band around Chicago. She loves to chat! Give her a shout on Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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