How to Write Job Ads That Actually Work

Writing a Job Ad That Works

  • Nearly 80% of web users don’t actually read the webpages they visit
  • The average webpage visit lasts under a minute.

Finding the right person for a job starts with creating a great job ad, and these days, the internet is the best place to post job advertisements.

Do these scary stats mean it’s impossible to create an effective job ad online?  No!  Just follow our simple guide to writing job ads that work!

No one is reading your job ads:

The most important thing you need to understand is that people read content on the web very differently than they read words on a printed page. 

In fact, web users don’t read in a traditional sense at all – they skim.

Extensive studies of online reading behaviors have proven that:

  • Only 16% of people start at the top of a webpage and methodically read all of the content from top-to-bottom, left-to-right
  • 79% of people rapidly flick their eyes across the screen in an F-shaped pattern, scanning for things that catch their attention
  • People spend 80% of their time reading “above the fold,” which is the information they can see on their screen without having to scroll down
  • The average visit to a webpage lasts under a minute
  • On average, people only have time to read 20% of a webpage’s content

Formatting is the key to a successful job ad:

Don’t let those grim statistics get you down!  Once you’ve accepted the harsh reality that the majority of people aren’t reading your online job ads the way you want and need them to, you can begin creating advertisements for your jobs that actually work.

Formatting is the key to communicating successfully on the internet.  By following the simple techniques outlined below, you will learn how to not only create killer job ads, but also how to create highly readable web content of any kind.

Always put the most important information first:

  • When you write online, you must always front-load your most important content, so that it’s the first thing people see.
  • Never waste your time on a flowery introduction — jump right to the heart of what you’re trying to communicate.

But which part of your job ad’s information is the most important?  Is it the duties?  The salary and benefits package?  A description of your company’s culture?  No! 

In general, the most important info in a job ad is the position’s requirements.

Look at it this way: The purpose of your job ad is to find a qualified person for your position.  Therefore, the most important piece of data you need to convey — the content that must be featured first — is your job’s requirements.

Remember that:

  • People spend 80% of their time reading above the fold on webpages (the info they can see without scrolling down)
  • 79% of people “read” online by flicking their eyes across the screen in an F-shaped pattern, which means they scan twice along the top of the page, and then rapidly run their eyes down the left-hand side of the page in a search for data that catches their attention

This is why — if you want to deter unqualified people from sending you their resumes, and ensure that qualified candidates  understand they’ve got what you want — you should list your job’s requirements before you write anything else.

Use bullet point lists as much as possible:

Since people scan information online, rather than doggedly plowing through every paragraph of text one sentence at a time, you have to make your job ads as  easy to scan as possible.  Bullet points are one of your most important tools.

  • Bullet points are easy to scan quickly
  • They make content easier to digest
  • They visually break up the data on your page
  • You should use them as much as possible

Just to give you an example of how effective bullet points are at making info easy to scan, here’s the list above written in paragraph form:

Bullet points are easy to scan quickly.  They make content easier to digest.  They visually break up the data on your page.  You should use them as much as possible.

See how much easier it is to read all of that when it’s broken out into a list of bullet points? 

Break a job’s requirements and duties into bullet point lists as much as you possibly can to make them more readable.

Separate your data with headings:

Headings are a great way to split your job ad’s information into different sections.  Using headings to separate out your content:

  • Makes your job ad easier to read at a glance
  • Allows job hunters to more easily scan for the specific data they’re seeking
  • Creates a “map” of your job ad that helps readers quickly navigate to important info

This means that your headings need to be informative rather than clever or cutesy.  A heading should clearly state what kind of content will be found beneath it.

If you get too playful or coy with your headings, job seekers can’t use them as a map to find the information for which they’re looking.

Format your text to emphasize important info:

Another way to make your content web-friendly and to highlight important information is to use formatting such as bold, italics, colors, and different fonts.

You don’t want to overdo it, of course — using too much and too many different kinds of formatting overwhelms the eye and actually makes your content more difficult to read.  But judiciously-used bold and italics are a great way to emphasize important information and ensure that it snags the eyes of job seekers.

If you’re posting a job ad on a website that does not allow you to use formatting such as bold, italics, or different colors and fonts, you can still use formatting tricks to make your text more readable.

For instance, you can place headings ENTIRELY IN CAPS to make them visually distinctive, or use lines of symbols to highlight and separate out important information

******************

like this.

******************

Don’t use long paragraphs:

Long paragraphs are the antithesis of web-friendly formatting.  When writing for the web, your paragraphs should ideally be no longer than about three sentences in length.

The longer your paragraphs, the greater the chance that people are skipping over them without absorbing the information you’re trying to communicate!

Take a look at jobs you’ve posted online, and run your eyes over the text.  Is it easy to pick out information?  Or is the data all clumped up in big, impenetrable paragraphs?  If you can’t scan and read it easily, neither can job seekers!

The wrap-up:

If your job ads aren’t formatted to accommodate the way people read online (or, more accurately, the way they don’t read online), you’re actively undermining your ability to attract the right candidates.

By putting your job ad’s most important information first, and by using headings, lists, and formatting to make it easy to scan, you ensure that job seekers are more likely to comprehend what you need and understand the nature of the job that you are trying to fill.  For more information about online reading behaviors, check out this article, or researcher Jakob Nielsen’s excellent work.

Lastly, if you read this entire article from beginning to end, congratulations, you are the exception to the rule — and thank you!

One Response to “How to Write Job Ads That Actually Work”

  1. Eric Amundson

    Terrific article, Sara!

    All of your points on formatting web text are wonderful.

    Judicious use of headers not only breaks up the text to make it more scannable, but headers have more weight with Search Engines. So, if your headers contain keywords relevant to the job listing, the job listing may rise higher in search results.

    This would be less true for generic headers like:

    “Job Requirements”

    but might help a header like:

    “Operations Assistant Job Requirements”

    Thanks for your great work!

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