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6 tricks for writing an exceptional job ad

By Rowan O'Grady, Hays Canada President, on July 13th 2017

A job ad is the first interaction most candidates have with your company, but most are not well-written, and focus more on what a company wants from a candidate, rather than what the company has to offer as an employer.

Your goal should be to gain the attention and interest of the most relevant candidates, and this means taking time to craft a message that is targeted, informative, and engaging. If you work with a recruiter they will write a job ad for you, but if the task has landed on your desk then try putting yourself in the candidate’s shoes. What are they looking for and what do they want to know?

    1. Use clear, searchable job titles

In an effort to seem fun and modern, some companies are turning to unique and interesting job titles to stand out from the crowd. It’s especially common in start-up culture, but as with many workplace trends it’s quickly spreading beyond that industry. However, when it comes to attracting the right candidate, a unique job title is more likely to be confusing than appealing.

You might want a “digital dynamo” but job seekers are looking for job titles that make sense to them. Make sure the job title is specific, indicates the career level you’re seeking, and the type of activity or tasks. Advertising for a “director of first impressions” may sound impressive, but people looking for receptionist positions aren’t likely to be searching for that title, and won’t click for more information even if it does appear in their search.

   2. Optimize your ad for candidate searches

Along with having a searchable title, ensure that your listing will show up in results on job boards and aggregators by using keywords such as industry, function, job title, and location. When a candidate searches “construction project manager Vancouver” you want your job to show up.

Think about what candidates might look for when they’re job hunting, not just what the open position is called. What are alternate common job titles? If your role is for a communications coordinator, someone with comparable skills might be looking for marketing roles. Are there selling points about your location? Maybe you need to be specifying downtown Toronto, or note that you are in a particular suburb.

   3. Emphasize the “must haves”

Sometimes a job ad includes more than 10 bullet points of what skills or experience the candidate should have. Is that really necessary? We recommend focusing on what the candidate needs to be able to do instead, because two candidates with very different education and experience could be equally successful in a role. Including a very specific laundry list of requirements will narrow your candidate pool.

For example, say “Be able to demonstrate an expertise in building, developing, and managing high performing management teams.” There are a number of ways to demonstrate that skill. At the same time, include specifics that will disqualify candidates. If you need a bilingual professional then include that in the job ad. Consider the difference between these two options:

  • Bilingual candidates will be given preference.
  • The successful candidate must be bilingual in French and English.

Both of those offer important information to the candidate, and can help reduce the number of resumes you have to reject.

   4. Include details about salary ranges and desirable benefits

Sometimes companies are reluctant to include salary information. Whether this is for competitive reasons, or because they want to find out candidate expectations first, we recommend including salaries and benefit information whenever possible. You’re more likely to attract attention from the right people, compared with if you wait and surprise people in the interview. It’s acceptable to include a range and discuss the final number with the candidate, but having no salary information puts both the candidate and the interviewer at a disadvantage. Include salary information to increase the likelihood that your job offer is accepted.

    5. Sell the job, not the task list

One of the most common mistakes we see is employers essentially publishing the job description as the job ad. Are your job ads just a long list of bullet points, split into “Responsibilities” and “Requirements”? Think about how that looks to a job seeker. When you talk about why you like your job, do you say “I regularly get to screen resumes for relevant information and I enjoy maintaining and organizing employee records.”? It’s more likely that you talk about why your job matters to the company, the people you help, the career you’re building. That’s what job-seekers want as well. Paint a picture of the role, the things they’ll learn, what their career might look like, the attitude they need.

Instead of telling them what they’ll do, tell them why and how. 

   6. Describe the company, team, and work environment

We know that the main reason someone leaves or is let go is poor fit . Many companies don’t include fit assessments in the hiring process, which means less engaged employees and an increased turnover rate. Try to incorporate fit into every stage of hiring, including your person specification and your job ads.

Describe the company culture and daily work environment. Do people leave right at 5pm, or are they likely to stay late to finish a task? Do you socialize at or outside work? Does the team have daily meetings, or are people left to work independently towards deadlines? None of these options are bad, but each individual will have preferences and dealbreakers. Let candidates make informed decisions about whether or not to apply by giving them this critical information.

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