HWC Tips: Writing engaging and effective ads

Writing an attractive job advertisement that makes the best candidates (job seeking or not) notice isn’t easy.  Oftentimes, job ads are written off the side of a desk, covering only the basics: description, outline, qualifications, etc.  The details are important, but a job ad also has to market an organization and be the first tool for candidate evaluation.

At Harbour West, we take pride in writing a great job ad, so we’ve put together some helpful tips to help you write a more engaging and effective ad.  After all, you want to recruit the best candidates available, so why not write the best ad possible?


Ideally, in order for advertising to be most effective, recruitment is timed to take place at the same time that advertising and marketing appears.  This heightens public awareness of the opportunity and generates interest in the role.

Research the competition

It’s important to get a strong understanding of the current job market (i.e., who is recruiting for similar jobs?).  Use this information to get a sense of what response rates might be and/or how the competition may impact the candidate pool. Pay special attention to language and ‘buzz words’ used in relevant ads; incorporate keywords and phrases to maximize search engine results.

Write an ad, not an Organization Chart

The ad should always include four key points: 1. Description of the organization; 2. Outline the position and requirements; 3. Summary of duties and; 4. Next steps.  The ad should be attention grabbing, engaging and clearly articulate the role, without being bogged down with organizational details.  Show what makes the organization unique (i.e., culture and mission), the opportunities afforded by the role and why it’s a great place to work. This is as much a marketing opportunity for the organization as it is for the role; the goal of an ad is to inspire the right people to apply!

Review, review, and more review

Just because the ad is written, doesn’t mean you should rush to post it. Spend some time reviewing the overall message, layout and style of the ad. Does the ad accurately represent your organization and the expectations for the role/placed candidate? In addition, make sure several key stakeholders have reviewed the ad before posting. If possible, have someone directly involved with the position review the ad to make sure it’s clear, concise and truly representative of the opportunity.

Where to post

Many candidates search by sector or industry on job boards and/or receive email blasts through professional associations.  Link your ad with all relevant industry specific tools so potential candidates are linked to the posting through various searches.  Use existing postings as a guide to sector sites, list servs and job boards.

Step one in the hiring process

Use the job ad as a screening tool in the hiring process.  For example, if you know the position requires someone with a PhD to be successful, then make sure the ad clearly states as such and use this a ‘first round’ screening tool.  By eliminating clearly underqualified candidates, you’ll save time and be in a better position to spot the real stars.

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