Why you should tailor your job ads

by in Recruitment

We’re experiencing a long-term skills shortage and a one size fits all job advert won’t help you find the candidates you need. Wave‘s Emily Buckley explains why you need to tailor your job ads to the candidate, the role and the organisation you’re recruiting for and gives you tips on how to do it.

As a recruiter, you’ve probably advised your candidates to tailor their CV to the job they’re applying for but do you tailor your job adverts to the industry and the role you’re advertising? More importantly, do you tailor your job adverts to the candidate you want to reach and attract? If not, you may be missing out on relevant candidates and instead by reaching and attracting unqualified candidates.

The Wave Recruitment Trends Report for 2023 found that a huge 77% off all applications are of low quality, meaning the majority of candidates applying were unsuitable for the job. Defining your target candidate and then altering your job advert to appeal to them will help you to attract the candidates you need, increasing the number of high quality applications and decreasing the number of low quality applications you have to read and reply to.

Outline your target candidate

In order to appeal to the type of candidate that you need for your job, you must first know who they are. This is where having a good relationship with your clients will prove incredibly fruitful. Ensure that at the point of briefing, you know exactly what your client is looking for. This also where your role as consultant and market expert comes into it – if the candidate profile they give you is too narrow, crosses D&I lines, isn’t quite right for the role, the business or the industry, this is where you can advise.

Defining a target candidate can be challenging as you don’t want to focus too tightly on a particular type of person and risk missing out on talented candidates because they don’t tick the boxes you’ve set – that’s not what outlining a target candidate should involve. Instead, think about a broad outline that allows you to target your job advert without blinkering you. It’s akin to creating a buyer persona. What motivates your target candidate? What are their values? What are the goals? What makes them want to get up in the morning and start work? That will enable you to tap into their emotions and encourage them to click on that apply button.

Ensure the job title is clear

Know what the standardised job title is for the role you’re advertising. This is an area of the job ad that really doesn’t benefit from creativity. It should be clear from the title what the job function is so that candidates know exactly what to expect. Candidates search for titles they know and that are commonly used in the industry. Someone searching for a Retail Assistant role may never get to see your Merchandising Ninja job ad. Top tip: start typing the job title you are considering into the search bar on a job board – if it appears as you begin to type, don’t try to use something else thinking that you’ll beat the system. This means that the recommendation already has candidates searching for it. When entering it into the job title field, don’t use special characters or attempt to sell the job – that’s not the purpose of the job title. 

Create the right messaging

Let your client’s organisation shine through in the tone, the wording, the imagery. In doing so, you’re telling candidates what it’s like to work there without having to spell it out in words. This is heavily linked to branding and, again, relies on you working closely with your clients, getting under the skin of their business and their culture and being able to capture that in a job advert. You need to be familiar with their values and their ethos so that you can target candidates with similar values.

Use the optimum word length

Research has shown that the average length of time a candidate spends reading a job advert is just 14 seconds. In general, therefore, you want your advert to be concise, pithy and immediately engaging. It’s essential to remember that you’re writing a job advert, not a  job description, and an advert – whether for a product or a job – should be designed to grab attention and compel the reader to action. The Wave Recruitment Trends Report for 2023 has revealed that the average optimum word length is 250-300 words. Of course, optimal word length differs depending on industry as some roles require more or less detail than others. The report’s chart showing the distribution of applications per advert length by industry is fascinating. For Social Services, for example, a comparatively lengthy 600-650 word length received the majority of applications. Banking candidates prefer it short and sweet, with the majority of applications being received in response to 150-220 word ads.

Find the USP and emphasise it

What is this particular job’s unique selling point? Why should candidates apply for this job and not one advertised by a competitor? You can always find a USP, whether that’s in the flexibility offered, the benefits package, or if it’s an exciting, prestigious or unusual role or organisation. Whatever the USP is, highlight it throughout the job advert. Give candidates a reason to get excited, to click that apply button and send in their application.

Vary the detail according to the role

Different roles in different sectors will require varying levels of detail and the type of detail will also be different. For example, some roles may involve similar day to day tasks so you could keep that side minimal and instead hone in on the company culture and benefits to differentiate it. Other roles may vastly differ depending on the industry and business so you’ll need to use more space to outline the role responsibilities – but still keep it succinct!

Consider different mediums

Job ads don’t have to be text-only. Video, images, infographics, even cartoons can create an eye-catching and engaging advert that really sells the job but the success of this may depend on the role. This would work for any creative role but also for a wide range of other roles. And for a generation of TikTok users, whereby short-form video is the medium by which a whole range of content is consumed, visual, instantly engaging video can be incredibly attractive.

What should be included in every job ad

Tailoring your job adverts is important for the best response but there are some elements that every job ad needs.

  • Salary, even if a range. Candidates expect it and various research has shown an uplift in applications when salary is included.
  • Location. If remote or hybrid, add that to the top of your job advert as it’s a huge selling point.
  • Keywords but without over-stuffing.
  • Bullet points for better readability but limit each list to 5.
  • An elimination of any bias in the wording of your ad. No gender coded words, jargon and culturally-specific phrases.
  • The same general structure should be adhered as there’s a framework recommended by all job boards: the hook, company pitch, role responsibilities, experience and skills required, benefits, how to apply.

Job adverts are not one size fits all. While there are elements that should be included in every job ad to make it compatible with the job board and search engine algorithms and to appeal to a broad range of candidates, different industries and roles will require different approaches. Create an outline of the kind of person you are looking for and craft your ad to target them, just like any other ad creator would.


This article was originally posted on ukrecruiter.co.uk on the 25th of May 2023