Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

3 Job advert copywriting secrets that recruitment consultants don’t want you to know

By James Ball | Jan 14, 2015 | Attracting Staff

Getting a response to a job advert can be notoriously difficult, especially if you’re recruiting in a niche sector or for a role with really specific skills.

Get it right and your future Captains of Industry await, who could either make your business a million or save it a million.

Get it wrong and you’ll spend a fortune either in misplaced hires or in future advertising costs. HR Review estimates it costs £30,614 to replace an employee.

The truth is that writing a job advert which appeals to the reader, and is correctly coded up to ensure that it’s highly visible in candidate searches, requires knowledge and experience.

Normally that knowledge is the domain of your local recruitment consultancy.

However, here for you now are three of the best kept job advert secrets that will supercharge your ads and enable you to attract the best talent out there.

1.  Always, always, always publish the salary

Sounds obvious doesn’t it?  There are lots of companies out there that, for whatever reason, do not list salaries in their job adverts.

Not publishing a salary is the number one cause of death of a job ad.  The reason?

Well, people are generally pretty cynical about jobs that don’t publish salaries.  Plus, application behaviour shows that candidates want to know all the details of the job that they’re about to apply for.  One of the main elements of the job someone wants to know is the salary and benefits.

Put yourself in their shoes – would you apply for a role without a salary?  Maybe you would for a huge, reputable brand, but would you for an SME?

The evidence is overwhelming:

•    Monster says that jobs posted on their site with a salary perform on average 25% better than those without

•    With Jobsite, if you do not include a salary on your ad it doesn’t get sent to its Jobs By Email database, which roughly accounts for 50% of an advert’s response.  In one strike, you’re eliminating a huge number of people who simply won’t have exposure to your advert, let alone the number of people that may find it in a search but are put off by the lack of a salary

•    Total Jobs say that you’ll receive, on average, 16.8 applications for every role you publish with a salary, compared to 4.7 for adverts without

Common reasons for not putting salaries on mainly centre around internal politics and sensitivity concerning paying someone slightly more versus current incumbents of the position.

If you find yourself in this position and you want to get the best out of your online job advertising, it may require some lateral thinking.  Recruitment Consultants get around this problem by anonymising the advert, and maybe you could try that too.

After all, remember that the core objective of any job advert is to get the best quantity and quality of applications as possible.  Your adverts are not necessarily a branding opportunity, regardless of what your Marketing team might tell you.  You’ll have plenty of opportunity to reinforce your corporate branding at a later date.

Recruiter Pro Tip:

If you don’t publish a salary on your job advert its like trying to run a marathon on your hands.  You’re at such a big disadvantage that it will really harm your prospects of finding the perfect candidate for your role.

If you look on any of the job boards you’ll do well to find many (if any) adverts that a recruitment consultancy will run without a salary on – and there’s a very good reason why they don’t do it!

2.  Write for the reader

This is standard practice across the marketing industry, but how many of us who post job ads have the first clue about marketing?  Not many.

A really common mistake people make is to copy-and-paste a job specification into an ad.  As a result your advert ends up being an endless list of irrelevant bullet points which the reader has to trawl through.  End result?  Very few applications.

Job specs are internal documents and should stay that way.

On the flip side, another very common mistake is to mention far too little and leave your reader knowing hardly anything about the position.  End result?  See above.

Both mistakes are potentially as damaging about the other.

The core principle you need to adopt is to put yourself in the position of the person reading your ad when you write it.  What would you like to see?  What would make you apply for the role?

You don’t need endless bullet points.  Your advert needs to be succinct and to the point, getting the core messages across and leaving the reader with no reason not to apply.  Be selective with the details you include in your ad copy as you only have a limited amount of time (77 seconds) to grab someone’s attention and get them to apply.

Engage and entice – that’s how marketing professionals do it and it works.

Structure your advert in the following way:

•    The role:  Explain the key responsibilities the person will be expected to undertake
•    The candidate:  Describe what the ideal candidate looks like
•    The company:  Your chance to make your business shine, explain about why your business is THE place to work
•    The package:  Re-emphasise the salary and any benefits.  If you’ve got a particular benefit you’re proud of, shout about it

Check your grammar and spelling, send it to a friend and see what they think before you go live.  Ultimately the advert has to flow and read like a proper piece of text.

Don’t also assume that all bullet points are bad (despite what I said above).  In some circumstances it’s fine to use them (such as when you’re listing some technical skills that might be essential for the role).

Just make sure everything is in context, the piece is balanced, and it leaves the reader under no illusion that they should be applying for your vacancy.

Recruiter Pro Tip:

Would you apply for your own advert?  Does it flow?  Does it make sense?

The best job ads are those where you can answer yes to all three of those questions.  As difficult as it might be, try to distance yourself from the role and look at your advert objectively.

If you can’t do that, ask someone else to do that for you.

3.  Stuff some contextual keywords in

To get your advert working well, it needs to rank highly on a job board’s search engine.

At the time of writing this post, the algorithms that govern them aren’t as sophisticated as Google’s which means that (to a degree) you can optimise your advert to maximise the exposure your advert will receive.

The best way to do that is stuff some keywords into your advert, contextually across the piece.

Which keywords should you pick?  Simple.  The job title of your vacancy.

Once you’ve researched which job title is the most effective for your role, that’s the keyword you want to focus on.  Getting a job title that’s searched is the most important part of building any job ad as we’ve discussed in a previous blog.

But once you’re decided on this, you need to mention your chosen job title throughout your advert:

“We’re looking for a [Insert job title] to work for…”
“The ideal candidate for the [Insert job title] position…”
“In the [Insert job title] role, you’ll be expected to…”

Recruiter Pro Tip:

One huge word of warning:  Whilst the job boards’ search engines aren’t as sophisticated as Google, they’re not stupid.

You must not spam them with a series of your chosen keywords as their systems will pick it up and penalise your ad, sending it to the bottom of the list.

The trick is to mention your phrase 4 or 5 times throughout the piece and no more, contextually and in a way that makes sense to the reader.

Still consider the reader in this whatever you do – if mentioning ‘Senior Laboratory Assistant’ too many times just looks odd in your advert, you might need to amend what you’ve written to make it make sense.

Get the balance right for this and your advert will shoot up the job boards’ rankings, which will result in more views, and assuming your job is a good one and your ad text is compelling, you should receive a lot of applications.


Finding the perfect employee shouldn’t feel like a unicorn chase. These specialists do exist, I’ve seen them myself throughout the years. The good news is that you don’t have to be a maiden venturing out in your local forest all by your lonesome self in order to catch one of these highly skilled unicorns. What you do NEED to do is to write your job adverts to follow the above 3 rules.

There’s a science to writing a job ad that performs well on job boards.  How they perform is governed by its content and the structure you’ve used to build it.

Recruitment Consultants (good ones anyway) instinctively know how to do this and are experienced at writing copy that is designed to engage and attract applications from readers.

Take these very easy-to-implement tweaks and you’ll see a huge spike in applications to your job adverts.


- James Ball

James Ball

James is the founder and owner of Coburg Banks and a recruitment expert from Sutton Coldfield in the UK.  He regularly advises companies on how to improve and get the maximum ROI from their recruitment processes.

> More blog posts by James Ball

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