Copywriting for recruiters

What is wrong with this job advert?

Job title: Accounts Assistant

Location: Anytown

Salary: Depends on experience

My prestigious industry-leading client, based in Anytown, is currently recruiting 4 an outstanding Accounts Assistnat the roll is 2 start ASAP.

Key duties include: input receipts and payments, checking tansactions, running CHAPS and BACS, purchase ledger, creating reports when required. The successful candidate will have previous experience of the above dutires.

Candidates who are not committed to being team-focussed need not apply.

Due to the high volume of candidates responding to our adverts we are not always able to give feedback. If you haven’t heard from us in 48 hours please assume you have been unsuccessful on this occasion.

Before you answer, let me say that this is a not a real job advert.  What it is however is a composite of four real job adverts – all of them posted on the internet by agency recruiters.

OK, let’s unpick this bad boy:

No salary given

If you don’t tell people how much the job pays, you won’t attract the right quality of candidate. What you will attract are people so desperate for a job that they don’t care what the salary is.  If you want more desperate candidates, carry on.

The first few words fail the ‘who cares’ test

It’s too much about the client, not enough about the reader. Don’t use bragging clichés about the client’s business. Instead, tell the candidates what’s in it for them.

Writing in txt spk is has no place in business communications

Yes young people, this means you. Save it for when u r texting your date or trolling a tribute page on Facebook.  If you can’t write without using txt spk, don’t write job ads.


Fancy word meaning ‘stating the obvious’ or using two words when one will do. For example ‘currently recruiting’. No, really?! That’s why the ad is on the job board in the first place. Also, ‘creating reports when required’. That would be for those jobs where creating reports is not required, right? Use a bit of common sense to avoid this kind of error.

Speling and grammer mitsakes [sic]

These just make you look unprofessional. You do want to enhance your own career at some point, don’t you? Then learn how to write properly, or give the task to someone who can.

Too much prose, not enough white space

Busy people skim-read, especially online. Where possible, break lists into bullet points. Add bold sub-headings. Make it easy to read.

Meaningless puffery

Adjectives such as ‘outstanding’ are obvious. They’re not recruiting for someone who’s not very good.  Or at least they’re not supposed to be.

Try using direct language

That means using the word ‘you’ more than you ‘we’, ‘us’, ‘I’ or ‘client’.  The second most powerful word in recruitment advertising is ‘you’.  The most powerful is the reader’s name.  Those can be saved for the direct approaches.


Did you spot all those fundamental errors? There are more.

In short, it’s poorly conceived and poorly written throughout.  Unfortunately, this is not rare.

Most recruitment agencies write ad copy that looks as though it’s been created on the back of a beer mat or lazily cut-and-pasted from the job description provided by the client’s HR administrators.

It’s just one of many jobs they’re trying to recruit for, so they simply take the job spec, doctor it mildly (or butcher it savagely) and flood the job boards hoping they’ll get lucky. Because of their agency’s bulk buying power, it costs relatively little to place each ad, so they have no real stake in the ad and pump them out with little commitment.

If you do write job ads like this, your chances of getting a response from the better candidates is almost non-existent.

The best ads are crafted by recruiters who feel as though they ‘own’ the vacancy. They may work internally for the hiring company or externally for an agency, but either way they have a real interest in filling the job and take the time to create a compelling reason why people might apply.

Recruitment copywriter, Alasdair Murray, says: “Try telling yourself that you’re not writing a public address to the recruitment industry. You’re having a private conversation with one person who may well have had a bad day and doesn’t want to hear the same dull old lines they can read in a thousand and one other job posts. Candidates want an honest dialogue. They want to be able to recognise the attractions of your role quickly.”

To paraphrase Alasdair’s  excellent advice – put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re trying to attract.

You might think all job ads are the same, but what if Groupon thought like that? They’re writing about special offers, day in, day out – however, their copywriting teams get together for some so-called ‘head-bonking’ and come up with gems like these:

“All acronyms stand for something, and BBQ stands for meat to be cooked on. Learn the meaning of YUM with today’s BBQ Groupon deal…”

“While helping hair look its best, highlights are most useful for guiding lost spacecraft back to earth. Find landmark style with today’s Groupon…”

“Getting out of the wrong side of the bed can often put you in a bad mood, particularly if your bed is against the wall. Get it right with today’s Groupon…”

If they can do it for cheap deals, surely recruiters can do it for jobs?  After all, jobs are more important than barbeques.

1 Comment

  1. Eric Putkonen September 21, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Excellent article and topic.

    Typical job posts do not affect a potential candidate’s desire to apply. We need to pass the ‘who cares’ test with flying colors. The only way to do that is by targeting ads. An advertisement for everyone (like all java developers), will appeal to no one. Pick a smaller subset – like Java developers that are dog lovers…if you have a dog-friendly environment like the Nerdery in Minneapolis, MN. Emphasize what makes your company, department, position, etc. different. Be unique…if possible.

    This is a topic close to my heart…and I gave a talk on it earlier this year at the spring’s Minnesota Recruiting Conference. See an article here for a summary:

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