As any smart job seeker knows, tailoring a CV to each new position applied for is crucial.

A simple copy and paste job is not going to be enough to secure an interview if the candidate doesn’t address the specifics laid out in the advertisement.

But is this a case of ‘do as I say and not as I do’ when it comes to recruitment?  Why do so many employers fail to heed their own advice and neglect to tailor their job adverts to the position they want filled?

Last year a report commissioned by Citizens Advice found that 88% of the job adverts they examined fell short of the standards set out by the Committee of Advertising Practice. Of the 800 ads they looked at, almost half were unclear about whether a role was full- or part-time and a third failed to mention how much applicants could expect to be paid.

While this may be confusing, frustrating and a waste of time for candidates, it could also be costing employers dearly too.  By failing to provide enough detail about the role and the boxes they want applicants to tick, employers could be attracting underqualified and overqualified candidates who aren’t suited to the vacancy.

Bad Ads Mean Bad Candidates

One problem is that certain phrases mean different things to different people and organisations.  A company which calls for someone with experience of delivering ‘good customer service’ may want someone with the personal touch, willing to invest lots of time on individual cases.  To another company, however, that same phrase may mean someone who can motor through hundreds of complaints in record time.

Other criteria such as ‘strong communication skills’ or ‘proven leadership ability’ are so open to interpretation that it’s often impossible for a candidate to know where the bar is being set.  By failing to give specifics or remaining too vague, many employers risk attracting applicants completely unsuited to the role and what it will actually entail.

Penning Better Job Adverts

So how can employers better tailor their job adverts in order to attract the right candidates?  Here are a few top tips:

  • Choose the right language – As with much online content, keywords are crucial. Candidates will often be led to your ad on the basis of the search terms they have used, so ensure your job description is tailored to include the most important criteria in search-friendly terms.
  • Keep it short – Just as employers lose interest reading lengthy personal statements, candidates have short attention spans when it comes to job adverts. Since they’re often scanning through hundreds of similar ads, you need to make sure you get the most important information in at the beginning.  Keep it short and simple.  Your first few lines should tell them exactly who you’re looking for.
  • Get to the point – Think about what exactly the role entails and bullet point the essential criteria. There’s no point asking for someone with ‘relevant qualifications’ if you don’t specify what those qualifications are.  Be as specific as possible to avoid disappointment all round.
  • Emphasise uniqueness – Nobody wants to feel they’ll just become another cog in the machine, so make the role sound unique and enticing to attract the best candidates. Tell them precisely what they will be responsible for and where they will fit in, that way they know whether they’re suited to – or interested in – the position.

Better job adverts ultimately lead to better candidates, and better candidates are more likely to stick with your organisation and bring greater benefits.  By tailoring each advertisement and successfully getting across what you’re looking for from your applicants, you’ll find yourself well rewarded for the extra time and effort.

This article was written by Stephen Pritchard from Adzuna, a job search engine that brings millions of ads together in one place.

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About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.