How to write a decent job ad

Posted on Fri 27 August 2021 in blog • 3 min read

Over time I’ve come to accept that one of the things I’m apparently reasonably competent at is writing and publishing ads for open positions, and I’ve received questions and requests for advice from other folks who hire people. So I’m going to try and break down what I consider a decent job ad. Not a perfect one mind you, perhaps not even a particularly good one, just a decent one that people will want to read, pass on, and maybe apply to.

A few general notes

I try to write an ad in such a way that it answers most of the questions an applicant might have about the position. And I then structure it like an imagined conversation between a potential applicant (asking questions) and me, the hiring manager (answering them). That’s why practically every subheading in the ad is a question.

The structure

In my career ads, I give answers to this list of questions:

  • What’s this gig about? — The ultra-concise summary of the role to be filled. One sentence.1
  • What will I be working on? — Details of the systems/processes/responsibilities associated with the role.
  • What should I know? — Prerequisite skills and knowledge.
  • What can I learn? — Opportunities for acquiring new skills and knowledge.
  • What communities would I engage with? — People and communities outside your organisation the employee would interact with.
  • Who would be my direct manager? — Information about yourself.
  • How’s work at company? — Notes on organisational culture.
  • What does my team look like? — Notes on team composition and culture.
  • What does my work week look like? — Information on how the team organises its work on a daily/weekly basis.
  • Where can I work from? — Information about preferences or restrictions regarding the physical location of prospective employees.
  • Can I work from home?2 — Information about your remote work policy.
  • What timezone would I work in? — Most teams have preferred times-of-day when the majority of team members is awake and working, which tends to be when most work gets done. Or, else, your team may operate 24/7 in shifts, and you’re looking to cover a particular shift.
  • Is travel involved? — Possibly a non-issue in the middle of a pandemic, but you might want to establish expectations for when it’s over.
  • What employment conditions apply? — Have standard contractual clauses that apply to everyone, like vacation policies or specific packages? Might as well list them.
  • When would I start? — Don’t assume that your applicants are available immediately. If people have a notice period in their current job to work with, they’ll want to know what’s the earliest and latest date you want the role filled.
  • What will I make? — Compensation.
  • How do I apply? — Details and deadlines related to the application process.

The details

I have a few more details about several of these items, which I’ll try to elaborate on as my time permits. So there should be more installments in this series, eventually. Hopefully. 🙂

  1. Can’t condense the role description into one sentence? You’ll either have to work on your editing skills, or define the role better. 

  2. If your answer to this question is “no”, I bid you good luck!