How to Write a Job Ad that Attracts Top-Tier Applicants
Great candidates are out there, but how do you attract the best applicants to apply for an open position at your business? Writing a job ad that makes your business stand out from the crowd will give you a powerful advantage when it comes to attracting the best of the best in the applicant pool.
What is a Job Ad?
A job ad is not the same thing as a job description.
A job description is an internal document that you distribute to employees when they are hired to let them know what is expected of them in their new role.
A job ad, on the other hand, is essentially a piece of marketing material you write with the intention of getting the best jobseekers out there to hit the “Apply” button on your post.
Writing a great job ad is a skill any doctor or manager can learn. To make it more straightforward, we’ve provided a comprehensive breakdown of everything that should be included in your next job ad below, as well as some tips to help you make it as appealing as it can possibly be.
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What Goes in a Job Ad?
Any quality job ad can basically be broken down into the following component parts:
- About the Company
- Brief summary or description of the role
- Essential Duties
- Requirements and Preferred Qualities
- Pay Range
- How to apply
Though the format is fairly simple, there are a few places within that structure where you can really make your offering shine brighter than those of other businesses vying for the same candidates.
There are also some legal landmines hidden along the path to creating a great job ad that you’ll want to be aware of when you sit down to write one.
Before You Write Your Job Ad
It’s important to have a few things in mind before you actually start drafting your job ad.
Specifically, you need to know what sort of candidate you are trying to attract, what candidates you’d prefer to avoid, as well as what your new employee will need to do once they’ve been hired.
Know What You Want
It’s important to know what traits you are looking for in an ideal candidate before you start looking to hire. In fact, that’s the only way to make sure you’ll be able to recognize a good candidate when they respond to your ad, or when you sit down with someone for an interview.
Though it may sound obvious, many managers hurry past this all-important step.
To clarify who you’re searching for, make a list of essential and preferred skills for the position, as well as personal qualities, experience, and abilities you’ll want to see exhibited by applicants.
This includes everything from necessary certifications and education, to punctuality, to a strong work ethic and a friendly demeanor. But, if you lean on boring descriptions or vague abstractions like these in your ad, we can promise you are going to get a big yawn from the top candidates.
When drafting your ad, you’ll want to drop the generalizations and pepper it with the qualities you deem most important, as well as those that you think might really matter to the best applicants.
For example, having a “strong work ethic” from your perspective might mean being on time, doing what you say you will do, and remaining open to continued learning and growth.
Rather than simply listing “strong work ethic” as a trait you’re looking for, you might phrase that portion of the ad something like this:
“If you thrive working with a team that values accomplishing great outcomes, you love to learn and grow as a person and team member, and want to make a difference in the healthcare industry, then we want to hear from you.”
Know What You Don’t Want
If you’ve recently had an employee in this position not work out, identify which skills and abilities were missing in that employee and list those along with the qualities you are looking for in your next hire.
The best way to do this is to pinpoint precisely what went wrong last time (the qualities you don’t want), then flip those negative qualities on their heads to illustrate attributes you DO want.
For example, if your last front desk receptionist was always late and lacked follow-through, include items like, “To excel in this position, you will be someone who understands the phrase ‘on time” to mean ‘fifteen minutes early’ and will take pride in your ability to follow through on details.”
It’s surprising how transforming qualities you don’t want to see into the positive attributes you need can help you achieve greater clarity in your search. It will also help you pinpoint what to focus on and which questions to ask later on during the interview stage.
For help outlining qualities you want to see in your applicants, use the ‘Difference Maker Tool’ in our free Guide to Hiring Difference Makers.
Update Your Job Description
Make sure your job description for the open position is up-to-date and includes the most critical skills and qualities needed before you write the job ad for that position.
Keep in mind that a job description is not the same as a job ad—rather, great job ads should always be created using your job descriptions as a foundation.
A job description should reflect how the position fits into your practice. It should identify the essential job duties, set expectations for measuring performance, and establish the base requirements for the position, including physical requirements (e.g., the ability to lift 40 pounds or more, the ability to sit or stand for long periods of time, the ability to read material in print or online, a steady hand for using small instruments on patients, etc.).
Having an up-to-date job description to reference makes it much easier to ensure you include all of the most important details in your job ad. This also helps you to advertise your job in a way that is accurate yet non-discriminatory (more about this in a moment), and that speaks directly to your best-fit applicants.
Writing Your Job Ad
Once you know what you are (and aren’t) looking for in an applicant and you’re confident that your job description is current and ready to go, it’s time to start writing your job ad.
Use a Catchy Headline that Includes the Actual Position Title
Start your new ad with a descriptive headline that includes the actual title of the position you are hiring for.
You may also see this section referred to as a “Position Name” or “Job Title,” but, either way, it is essentially the headline or header that will appear in bold on job boards to entice job seekers to click through and read your ad in full.
You want the headline to stand out from other ads for similar positions, but you also need to use the most appropriate title for the position so that applicants can find your ad through popular job search engines. Stick to standards like “Dental Assistant” rather than more playful alternatives like “Clinical Superstar”.
Not only will some qualified jobseekers be likely to skim right past a clever catchphrase in favor of titles that are more obviously relevant to their skillset, but no jobseeker is going to be searching for openings for “Clinical Superstars” online, thus making it almost impossible to find your ad in an online search. In this way, using standard titles helps give your posting a natural SEO boost.
Keep in mind that many job searchers will only see your ad title and the first few words of your ad, and most will pass over listings that sound too dull or non-descript. Give your headline a personal touch to make it stand out, but don’t change your position title. Think, “High-Tech Office Seeks Enthusiastic Dental Assistant” or “Front desk Receptionist for Family-Focused Practice.”
In other words, it’s good to provide some context in the title of your job ad in order to attract candidates that are a good potential fit for your business, but it’s best not to try stretching your creative limits too much in this area.
Introduce Your Business
It’s easy to think of applicants as vying with each other for your open position. Eventually, they will, but at this stage you are competing for their attention. It’s up to you to make your company sound great to work for so you attract candidates that are the best of the best.
According to a 2016 study of more than 7000 job applicants by IBM:
“About half (48 percent) of recent job candidates have had some manner of relationship or interaction with the hiring organization before applying.”
This figure is likely even lower for small businesses.
What does this mean to you? It means that the majority of applicants you consider will have never heard of your business before clicking on your job ad!
Make a good first impression by including a sentence or two about what your business does and what sets you apart from your competition. In short, convey what makes your business a great place to work.
Be careful not to misrepresent or over-inflate the company or the position — you won’t land a happy new hire under false pretenses. Instead, describe the best aspects of the opportunity with enthusiasm.
If you’re not sure what makes your business stand out or how to convey that information to potential applicants, start by developing your company culture with help from the exercises in our free guide, The Manager’s Playbook: Your Company Culture as a Management Tool.
Summarize the Position
Provide a brief overview of the job (around 200 words or less), its essential duties, and qualities associated with the ideal candidate near the top of your job ad.
Be concise, accurate, and use clear language. Use bulleted lists to make reading your ad quick and easy, and to emphasize key tasks.
A touch of creativity is OK, but don’t be confusing, vague, overly formal, or gratuitously clever. You’ll get better results by sticking to the point and using language that is sincere. Plus, your applicants will likely appreciate an easy-to-read ad that appears to value their time.
Include What’s Essential—Without Discriminating
List and describe the essential duties and the requirements of the position.
As you do so, keep it legal! Take care to avoid language that may exclude qualified applicants based on age, ability, sex, race, religion, or any other protected status.
All “requirements” you list, including physical requirements, must truly be necessary for the position. Don’t specify a “young and energetic” front desk assistant—that could imply age discrimination—nor require an “ability to lift 100 pounds” for a billing specialist.
Likewise, include any certifications, experience, or education needed while focusing on what the position truly requires. Medical or dental assistants do need to prove certification, for instance, but it’s discriminatory to ask janitorial applicants to have a college degree.
Make a clear distinction between “essential” and “preferred” qualities, if necessary. Be aware that listing “preferred” qualities may lead to a reduction in the volume of applications you receive, though it could help to qualify those applicants better up front.
If your goal is to receive fewer applicants that are of higher quality, then listing “preferred” qualities might be to your benefit. But if the applicant pool in your community is already relatively small, this might lead to missed chances to interview qualified applicants who excluded themselves from the running based on the items in your list.
Finally, make sure to include a statement that you are an Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE) somewhere near the end of the ad.
Include Pay as a Range
To attract the best of the best, you should know what they’re worth (after all, they do!) and make sure your offer is reasonably competitive.
Applicants often pass over job ads that don’t include information about pay. If the position is new, do some research to determine what’s appropriate or expected in your area.
To give yourself some flexibility, advertise a range of pay rather than a specific rate: “$16-$20 per hour DOE,” for instance. A highly promising but less experienced candidate might be willing to work for less, while one with strong qualifications and years of experience might justifiably expect and require more if you want them to pick your business over the numerous other options they have available.
Benefits and Perks
Many strong candidates actively search for jobs with benefits (health insurance, paid time off, retirement plans, flexible work schedules, educational opportunities, and so forth). So, if your practice offers anything like that, you should definitely mention it.
Explain what’s in it for them: What differentiates your business, or makes this job better than similar jobs at other companies? Is your focus or customer base special? Will the new hire get to work on interesting projects or with exciting new technology? Is your team culture the best you’ve ever known? Do you close at 5 p.m., with no weekend work? Are you closed on Fridays? Make sure the good points shine through in your ad!
Providing information about perks or benefits that may not be offered by someone’s current employer is also a great way to position yourself to receive applications from people who are currently employed but looking for alternatives to their present employment situation.
You do not need to go into great detail about the benefits you offer in your job ad. In fact, a simple statement like “Offers a competitive/generous benefits package” may be sufficient.
Still, you should expect questions about those offerings once candidates get to the interview stage. And, if you offer a QSEHRA plan instead of traditional health insurance, be prepared to explain the difference.
Other Important Details
Aside from pay and benefits, include any other details applicants will need to know, or that will differentiate your listing in positive ways from their other options.
- Include the city and state where your job is located, especially if you have multiple offices.
- If the location is especially convenient for many people (near transit options, right off the freeway, etc), or is in a coveted or interesting area, include those points in your favor.
- Include the position’s level of responsibility: Will the employee report directly to the owner/doctor, to the office manager, or to the front office team lead?
- If this is an especially good entry-level position or one with strong potential for advancement, include that.
Include Instructions on How to Apply
Ask applicants for the usual materials: a resume, references, and a cover letter, if you so choose.
You can also include a “secret weapon” to make sure your applicants are able to follow instructions and pay attention to details.
Your Secret Weapon
To weed out job-seeking zombies who are just clicking every “Apply” button they see, provide simple, multi-step instructions for applicants to follow when submitting their application. This could be two questions for applicants to answer in their cover letter, a specific subject line to use in their email, or anything else of your choosing.
Those who fulfill your instructions AND have resumes with strong qualifications will be your strongest contenders.
If you’re short on great responses but have otherwise-promising people who sent in their resumes, give them one more chance to impress you—even all-star applicants miss something occasionally. If you find yourself in this position, consider sending those applicants a “Hey, you forgot to answer these questions,” email.
Create a Sense of Urgency
Hopefully your job ad will have generated enough enthusiasm that cream-of-the-crop job-seekers will apply for your job first and treat your opportunity preferentially.
But, to give yourself an edge in this regard, make it clear that this opportunity won’t last long and provide an easy way to apply for your job posting immediately.
You may also want to include a way for job-seekers to opt in to your “talent network,” meaning that you will keep their information on file and may re-contact strong applicants about future positions.
This may help keep your practice top-of-mind for good candidates who wind up being your second or third choices, or who would make excellent employees but just don’t fit your current need.
Distribute Your Job Ad
Once you’ve got all of the pieces in place, it’s time to send your ad into the world!
Where you place your ads and how you make it known that you have a job available is, in and of itself, an art form.
It’s also no less important than any other piece of the hiring equation. Look at what other employers in your competitive space are doing for inspiration, but make sure not to limit yourself to their examples.
Online job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn are great, but challenge yourself to think outside the box, as well. Consider posting your ads on bulletin boards where you know local professional groups meet regularly, for example. Or make an effort to reach out to and/or partner with local educational or professional organizations in your community directly.
Always Be Hiring!
Even if you don’t have an immediate need for a new employee at your business, it’s a good idea to always remain on the lookout for great candidates. That way, you’ll be ready to interview and potentially hire whenever a real difference maker crosses your path.
This awareness will help you avoid missing opportunities to offer a position to someone who impresses you with a terrific customer service experience, or otherwise gives you reason to believe that they could make a positive change for your business if given the chance.
Knowing that you’re always looking for the next great candidate will also help to keep your current employees on their toes and performing at their best.
Creating an amazing job ad is a critical component to help you ensure your next hire is not just another warm body you bring on board, but is actually a true difference maker for your business.
As with anything, your ability to create attention-grabbing ads that attract top-tier candidates will improve over time with practice.
Remember these helpful tips while drafting your job ad:
- Start off with a catchy title that is descriptive and includes the position title. Many job searchers online will only see the title and pass over many that are too general or sound boring.
- Make your ad attractive to the best candidates. Assume you are competing for them and make your ad stand out from the rest by describing the opportunity and its benefits with enthusiasm.
- Make it about them. Traditional job ads focus on what the employer needs, but the best candidates want to know what is in it for them. Use the perks and benefits you offer to your advantage in your job ads!
- Motivate the candidate to take action. Put a sense of urgency in the ad so they know the opportunity won’t last long and that they must apply now.
- Use bulleted lists for easy reading, when applicable.
- Include the rate or range of pay. Top candidates will be looking for that! It’s okay to provide payment as a range, e.g., “$15 – $20 per hour, DOE, plus production bonus.”
- Include any certification, experience, or education requirements.
- Avoid discriminatory language.
- Include whether the job is part-time or full-time.
- Avoid being “too clever.” Use short sentences with specific language.
Rest assured that there are plenty of talented candidates out there just waiting for challenging, rewarding opportunities like yours. Tailor your ad to speak directly to them, don’t skip any of the essentials, give the process time to work and you and your next difference maker will no doubt find each other soon!
Need help with writing a job ad or other parts of the hiring process? Download our free Hiring Guide, How to Hire Difference Makers, for samples and guidance at each step of the process!