“Men wanted for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”

This legendary, or some would say mythical, advert written by Ernst Shackleton, in preparation for his 1914 Trans Antarctic Expedition, may or may not have been published, but what it does show, in those short 25 words, is that the type of person required is accurately portrayed.

My colleague Alex recently wrote a blog Get their attention – image is everything in recruitment advertising, but what's the point if they're put off by poorly written copy.

Has the art of copy writing died?

In the late nineties my marketing budget was close to £1m and consisted mainly of print media, with a few of these new fangled job boards. Needless to say with that level of spend, we invested a considerable about of time on copy writing training. To put this into context when a national advert in the Financial Times cost £6,000 and even a local advert in the Yorkshire Evening Post or Southern Evening Echo was around £1,500, writing a poor advert was an expensive mistake to make. With job board adverts now costing less than a round of drinks the amount of care taken over advertising has reduced, but the volume of applications has increased.

Has the internet resulted in poor adverts?

The arrival of low cost cost internet advertising and the sheer volume of adverts, which can be written has generated a Copy and Paste culture in recruitment advertising. It is all to easy to copy and past the job description into the ATS, Job Board or Multi-Posting Service and voila move on to the next advert. This coincides with the Promiscuous Digit (To quote Keith Robinson) which means even a poor advert run by a direct employer can generate dozens of applicants.

Would YOU apply to a job description?

When running copywriting training course, this is one of the first questions I ask. If the answer is no, this begs the question, why publish the advert?

Understand your target audience
For those of you who are of a certain age, remember the film Crazy People and the Volvo Advert on the left? See pictures attached to this post.

It may have been tongue in cheek, but in the mid nineties the Volvo T5 was challenging for the British Touring Car Championship. Their target audience wanted sports car performance, but also needed to carry 2.4 kids and all their luggage which is depicted in the advert on the right.

To carry on the car anology, would you buy a new car based on the obvious technical specification?

Or would you buy it based on the performance, the levels of comfort, the fuel efficiency, the fact that it has 3 years servicing included.

The job spec tells you the duties and responsibilities of the role, but advertising that a newly qualified chartered accountant will be responsible for producing monthly and annual accounts is akin to stating that a car has four wheels.

What makes a good recruitment advert?

When writing a good recruitment advert, in my experience the most successful adverts are those which convey a picture of what the working environment is really like, what the team is like and what sort of person would fit in. What would really attract the right person, but also what would help people self select and ask themselves the question, "Is this me?".

Internal recruiters immediately have access to all this information, through the hiring manager and the existing team. Develop profiles of people within job families and job roles, not just in terms of their technical skills, but also what interests them about the business and why they want to work there.

Identifying the shape of a business' talent is a key part of successful business, yet rarely does this filter through to recruitment marketing. In the same way that recruiters are looking for inviduals that stand out from the crowd, your advert needs to do the same.

In Summary

And finally measure the responses and quality. Experiment and share the successes and failures with the team.

What about you?

If your team could do with being refreshed on recruitment advertising, or want to talk about how 4MAT can help you tell the employer brand and stories through the design of your career website, please get in touch.

David Johnston
020 7247 9494

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