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This article was originally published in InSight Issue 8 on 14 November 2007   Republished in Issue 57 of InSight on 5th November 2008   What makes an ad effective?     Last week in Part 1 I wrote about my experience of having reviewed all 99 ads in the previous Friday’s (02 Nov, 2007) Australian Financial Review (AFR). What I discovered was a very average bunch of ads. To summarise the basic mistakes that were made in the ads I reviewed:

  1. The ad started with ‘Our client…’ (implying that the ad is speaking from the recruiter’s perspective, not the candidate’s)
  2. Very little useful information was given about the company
  3. Sentences were too long and often confusing
  4. Sentences were poorly constructed and often butchered the English language
  5. Clichés abounded (‘excellent communication skills’, ‘dynamic individual’ ‘outstanding opportunity’ ‘challenging position’ etc etc)
  6. Too much time was spent detailing job tasks, responsibilities and selection requirements rather than selling the company’s purpose and growth together with the specific job opportunities and challenges
  7. The language used was passive not active
  8. Ineffective use of available space, bullet points and titles

Now let’s look at what I would regard as the two major principles of writing effective ads targeting a quality, not quantity, response.

  • Top Talent is, mostly, happily employed so they need to be enticed to respond to your ad by reading something distinct and engaging about your opportunity that makes it stand out from ads for similar positions.

  • The 5 major employment factors that attract Top Talent are:

    • doing work that engages them
    • an opportunity to improve their skills
    • fresh challenges
    • a positive work environment
    • flexibility & autonomy

        Any job ad targeting Top Talent is best advised to highlight as many of these five factors as the job offers (hopefully, all five of them).With these principles in mind here are my top tips for writing ads to attract Top Talent:

        1. Use a title that will attract the attention of the right candidate   The title doesn’t have to be the title of the job. “Calling all frustrated accountants” is an ad title that has often been used to attract potential recruitment consultants into accounting recruitment.    
        2. Use the funnel principle of information    Start with the bigger picture information first (ie about the company and what they are committed to) and then as the ad proceeds down the page provide more job specific information.      
        3. Lead with as much quality, specific information about the employer as you can find   Example:  “ICPS is a newly formed independent company that established in March 2007 following a Mirvac funded buyout of the Walker Corporation’s industrial property business unit. The ICPS team has delivered over 50 projects in excess of $600 million in little over six years” Judd Farris Recruitment for ICPS  , Victorian Business Development Manager (AFR 02 November, 2007, page 73).    
        4. Create context for the opportunity and challenge   Example:   “We are seeking a CFO for an exciting business being launched in Australia that promises to shake up its relevant market with an innovative, value-for-money offer. Partnering with the MD, the immediate challenge will be to set up the financial, administration & IT infrastructure and build a strong, dynamic team” Derwent Executive for Virgin Management  , Chief Financial Officer, (AFR 02 November, 2007, page 13).    
        5. WIIFM    At the risk of repeating myself, remember the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) principle  . As a recruiter we are a Sales & Marketing professional NOT an HR professional. We should always be speaking the language of benefits   (what the candidate is buying) NOT the language of features   (what the client is selling).     Do you think Coke became the first truly global brand by creating ads that spoke about black, carbonated water with 12 teaspoons of sugar (ie the features of Coke)? No, of course they didn’t. Coke’s ads are all about the (lifestyle) benefits of being a Coke consumer (variously over the years; ‘Can’t beat the real thing’, ‘Coke is it’, ‘Life tastes good’, ‘Coke adds life’, just to name four).    
        6. It’s more than just words    We primarily buy products and services to satisfy emotional needs   and jobs are no different. Although the words you use are very important it is also critical to remember the impact that the effective use of colour, shading, font, italics, bolding, bullet points, logos, graphics, images, quotes and awards can have in generating positive emotions and capturing reader interest.  

        Writing a job advertisement is an important component of a recruiter’s role. It isn’t a particularly difficult job yet many thousands of column centimetres, both in print and on-line, are wasted each year through boring and ineffective ads.     Give yourself the time, headspace and creative energy to write better ads and I promise you will reap the rewards.

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        great ideas here. Lets hope some of the advertisers out there “lift their Game”!



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