5 Rules to Writing Better Job Ads

February 19, 2015

The hair at the nape of your neck is damp from all of those anxious department managers breathing on it… not to mention the 15 emails, 12 voicemails, and 1 strongly worded Post-It note waiting at your desk, each detailing precisely why they need their open positions filled ASAP — if not sooner. Gratuitous punctuation abounds, and you now know the answer to how many exclamation marks someone can use on their sticky note before you feel like crying.

You’re busy. Hoo-boy, are you busy! You have a lot on your plate, and reinventing the wheel simply does not fit when it comes to advertising your job opening. Perhaps Sweet Brown says it best: “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

So you crack your knuckles and get down to business. Your fingers dance lightly over the keys as you deftly open up your internal job description, click over to your job board of choice, and then quickly do a little CTRL+C and CTRL+V action. So quick; so satisfying. (Sing it with me! “Copy and pasting, and it feels so good.”)

You click Submit, and you’re done, free to move on to the next task while you wait for the rush of resumes.

Only… instead of the roar of resumes rushing your office, you’re met with silence and the occasional cricket chirp.

We’ve seen this happen. Frustrations and tensions mount as companies scramble to understand where exactly they’ve gone wrong.

“Why isn’t my ad working?”

Your opportunity may be amazing, but the talent isn’t rushing to apply because you didn’t sell it. And while it may not be wrong, using your internal job description as your advertisement runs counter to what classified advertising really is about.

Way back when, classified advertising was an art — the challenge of skillfully creating a simple, eye-catching, succinct ad that would entice the reader to buy, respond, or apply. Each word, every line meant money and physical space in a newspaper or other periodical, so carefully articulated ads were a necessity.

But lo, the World Wide Web and all of its nooks and crannies gave us endless amounts of space — a vast real estate with limitless characters. We said goodbye to the classified advertising of yore, one that started by carving letters into stone, moving on to painstakingly handwritten notices hung in public spaces, and then eventually figuring out creative ways to save a buck with abbreviations in a newspaper.

What we can share with you here and now though is this: at we read and review every single job posting that is submitted to our site. Yes, every single one. Most of these descriptions are precise and articulate, thoroughly outlining the position and all that it entails.

But once in a while an ad will come across our desks that is a work of art. It makes us giddy with excitement — so magnificent and wondrous is the posting that we share it amongst ourselves. It has even been known to happen that, should we have occasion to speak to the creator of such fine work, we heartily compliment them on their posting well done.

And just what about these ads make us sit up and take notice? They’re oozing personality and style. They’re truthful, informative, and engaging. They understand that this is a candidate-driven market, and engineers are not a dime a dozen. They work — hardto appeal to their audience of engineers, and they bring in their talent by thoughtfully selling their position, their company, their brand, and their culture.

In short: they are not copy-and-paste pros, and they’ve realized that creating a job advertisement fit for an engineer is time well spent.

5 Rules to Writing Better Job Ads

So how can you get us crushing on you when you submit your posting?

1 – Be clear and concise:

If engineers are scanning your ad, you’ll want to keep the copy succinct.

2 – Write like a job seeker:

Ask yourself what you want to know when reading a job posting, then do that.

3 – Educate yourself:

Write like you know what you’re talking about. Engineers are a smart lot, so make the effort to ensure your ad copy is articulate and accurate.

4 – Sell, Sell, Sell:

Take what’s cool or unique about your company, and sell the heck out of it, whether it be its culture, its business, its technology, or even its location.

5 – Be deliberate and thoughtful:

Keep your end users — engineers — in mind when you’re creating an advertisement. Chances are, if you take the time to write a decent ad, they’ll take the time to read it and even apply.

And finally, if the lack of resumes doesn’t persuade you to make better use of your classified advertising space, perhaps this will: in a recently published Engineering Jobs Report, Amanda writes, “…if you’re hiring engineers, your competition is probably growing faster than your talent pool.”

If your competition is advertising in the same spaces that you are, you would be smart to slow those copy-and-paste fingers down long enough to create an ad that will woo your candidates away from your competitor and into department managers’ waiting and outstretched arms (and away from your soggy neck).


Do you have any tips on how to create smart, successful classified ads? Share them with us in the comments below or on Twitter @HireEngineers.