Job Ad Architecture

On July 12, 2011, in HRExaminer, John Sumser, More2Know, by John Sumser

Job ad architecture on on HR ExaminerJob Ads have two basic faces, Content and Data. The data is the awful set of details that are a art of filling out a form to have the job entered into an online database. The content is the material that a prospective employee reads. Getting them both right is the key to effective job advertising.

I am constantly astonished by the errors and incompletions that constitute completed job “posting” submissions. The degree to which money is wasted by data entry professionals who do not take adequate time and attention to fill in the required data is simply amazing. There isn’t a recruiting shop that uses online advertising that wouldn’t benefit from a thorough review of the quality of the data submitted to the various job boards and other media outlets.

The simplest way to conduct this sort of internal audit is to create a master list of all of the data fields required by the various services and examine the data that is being submitted in each field. Data quality is, of course, a user responsibility. The job boards can’t help you if you get this wrong

Many problems in a variety of services, from Applicant tracking systems to Job Boards could be easily improved with the addition of software that points out omission or errors and makes useful suggestions for correct completion. Years ago, Net-Temps pioneered this sort of customer service.

Beyond simple completion of the form (and, again, it is amazing how few companies take the time to make their investment payoff by ensuring that this is done), there are a number of decisions to be made in the completion of the data.

For example, the location of the job may well be different than the location of the person placing the ad. Careful attention to the zip code fields is required in this case. Unless you wish to relocate applicants from the place where posting is happening to the place where hiring is happening, don’t use the zipcode of the main plant.

The careful use of keywords in the submission process should improve the chances that your job ad will be seen by a job hunter. After all, submitting a job ad to any large database is a lot like buying a lottery ticket. Their claim will be that your job will be seen. Your task is to improve those odds. Improving your chances is what the data entry component of the process is all about.

More than any trick or technique, the simplest way to ensure the optimal response to your ad is to make absolutely certain that all of the data is getting entered. We wouldn’t be surprised to discover that some of the Job Distribution Services would help you in this regard by feeding back a completion audit.


The one thing you know for sure about most job ads is that calling them an antidote for insomnia is being polite. Badly worded, overly long, failing to adequately describe the opportunity and impenetrable are but a few of the adjectives that describe the norm.

Resume blasting is the appropriate response by job hunters to advertising that wastes their time.

That last point is worth an underscore. Badly written job advertisements set a very bad starting point for a relationship with a prospective employee. By not crafting the ad to make the most of the candidate’s time, the company is saying, in effect, shoddy performance is celebrated in our company. Join us if you aspire to mediocrity.

There is at least some ground for an argument that expects the best written material that comes from a company to be the job ad. After all, it is often the candidate’s first encounter with the operation.

Given that recruiters seem to care so little about the quality of their advertisements, is it really any surprise that they get garbage back?

The meaning of your communication is the result that you get.


The components of a job ad’s content are:

  • The Job Title
  • The Opening Line (Hook)
  • The Opportunity Description
  • The Opportunity Requirements
  • The Company Description
  • The Closing Sell
  • The Contact Info

The objective of a job ad is to make the right prospective employee want to submit a resume for consideration. It is, above all else, a sales document designed to elicit very specific behavior from very specific individuals.

The first step in developing a job ad is to gather all of the inputs from hiring managers and HR functionaries. In a reasonably large firm, there will be a standard job description. This is a particularly useful piece of paper. A close and careful reading of the company job description is the best example of what your final output should not look like.

After all of the source data and materials have been collected, the very best thing to do next is write a description of the kind of person who would fill the job well. This “audience description” should describe the ideal candidate demographically, in terms of a range of interests (from reading materials, television programs and musical tastes to hobbies and recreational interests). After all, if you don’t know who your intended audience is, how can you write a message to them.

The underlying message of any job ad is “this opportunity will feel good to you in the way that you like to feel good. From the audience description you’ve just prepared, extract the key points on which you want to connect. Is it the company culture? The challenge in the department? The stability of employment? The autonomy offered the employee? Whatever the key items are, pull them out, express them in three or four word phrases and prioritize them.

A good ad is relatively short and compelling. More than five key messages will cause confusion in the ad itself.


Writing the ad takes time and attention. People who are great at writing three or four paragraphs of compelling sales material take three days at $7,500 a day. People who are good enough can do it in a day or two for $3,000 a day.

People who are not very good at writing often get jobs as Recruiters.

If you can’t write well enough to be a Recruiter, you probably are qualified to write internal job descriptions.

As it is in most intnet based writing, the first two elements are critical. This is where you crab the potential employee’s attention.

The Job Title

It All Starts With The Job Title. This is the place where data and content meet. The title of the Job has to simultaneously meet the needs of the database (no one will ever search for “Director of Fun”) and start the process of selling the job. It’s an intellectual puzzle that would stump the most creative advertising copywriters in the business. The trick is getting a couple of Key Words right and then adding sizzle to the phrase.

If you want to find a “Director of Fun”, you might try a Job Title like: Human Resources Director: Benefits and Perks (Director of Fun) or Organizational Development, Team Building (Director of Fun). The crush of competing job openings is amazing. With hundreds of thousands of offerings in the largest database, you can imagine that the eyes of a job hunter glaze over fairly quickly.

In short, the title of the job has to simultaneously grab attention and hits in the database.

The Opening Line (The Hook)

Once you have them looking at your ad (ie, you have gotten the data and the Job Title right), you have a window of about three seconds (no more than 10 words) in which to grab their attention and start to get them excited. Getting the hook right takes more thinking than writing. It requires a firm grasp of a picture of the ideal candidate, her likes and dislikes. It captures a moment and propels the candidate into the rest of the material.

Unfortunately, the task is harder for smaller companies. For some job hunters, the allure and security of working for a large, well known operation is the competition for attention. As a job ad writer for a small company, the message in the first line has to be doubly attractive. It has to make up for the fact that the larger concerns have implicit employment branding.


Paying deep attention to the mechanics and architecture of the job ad is where real control of candidate flow and workforce quality actually begins.



 
Read previous post:
Why At-Will Employment Isn’t

Heather Bussing is a California attorney who has represented employers, unions and employees in every aspect of employment and labor...

Close