All online advertising attracts some bad candidates, but poorly written job ads seem to attract only desperate candidates. Bad ads look like everyone else’s job ads:

“XYZ company, located in Washington DC, is the foremost widget maker in the region. We are seeking a Controller. Responsibilities include… blah blah blah”

How will that ad copy help you attract the best people?

If you want to attract better candidates, start to think like a job seeker. Research shows that job seekers look for jobs using the title they have, or the title they want. Two-thirds of candidates  start their search using the Google search bar, not a specific job board. So before you post your ad, you should go read everyone else’s ads.  

If you want your “help wanted” plea to get maximum visibility, post it on one of the sites that Google shows you on Page 1 of its search results. Interested candidates don’t care where you post your job—they only care about the job itself.

When you read ten ads similar to your job, here is what I expect you will find: 

  1. Context. Not one of the 10 ads will answer the key context questions every top candidate asks about a new opportunity. (For a controller, those questions might be, “What position do I report to, how many people report to me, what are the annual revenues, and are you profitable?”). No answers to these key context questions means no interest from people who are not desperate.   (Candidates for different positions ask different key context questions, so I’m just using controller as the example).
  2. Expectations. Not one of the ads will describe what success looks like, or what tangible business accomplishments are expected. The only reason to hire is to get business results. So why not list the results you want, right in the ad? After all, it never hurts to let people know what you expect.
  3. Communication. Not one ad will paint a mental picture of what its like to work there.
  4. Meaningless words.  These are the hackneyed, stale, old meaningless phrases thrown into virtually every ad to “jazz things up” or to describe the ideal candidate (in the most boring way possible). Avoid words you see everywhere: dynamic, motivated, fast paced, team player and self starter.