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How to write a job ad that makes your organisation look professional and doesn’t deter applicants

Do you know how much your organisation’s writing projects the image and “personality” of the organisation?

Even the writing in job ads reflects whether an organisation is “solid, dependable and thorough” or shambolic.


When I advise organisations how to improve business writing, I often stress the importance of the writing in job ads. Many job ads seem to re-hash old job descriptions. Many are filled with errors – even though the job ads demand “attention to detail” and “strong writing skills” from applicants.

I encourage organisations to oversee the writing (even if the writing is done externally by a recruitment agency) as any poor writing can reflect on the organisation.

To illustrate the importance of “solid writing”, I’ll use two examples – one good (hard to find) and one that’s not-so-good (all too common in job ads). Of course, I have kept the examples “anonymous” – with Xs for organisation names.

To write a strong and solid job ad, it helps to write in parallel structure – where bullet points use the same sort of word rather than mixing up verbs and nouns.

Here is a good example where all the points are parallel – consistent with the same sort of word. I emphasise with bold the parallel structure.

Responsibilities include:

Planning, writing, editing and proofreading various communication materials — marketing collateral, web/digital media copy, internal communication, corporate presentations/publications
Managing implementation of key communication programs and projects
Working with facility managers to develop and implement local communication action plans as part of the broader strategy
Managing communication for X’s development projects, including overseeing third-party suppliers
Developing and managing a calendar of media and other profile-building opportunities
Building positive relationships with X’s executive team and senior leaders

Here is a not-so-good example:

The Role
. Develop the media strategy to raise Y’s brand awareness and engage stakeholders
. Event management, in conjunction with our Fundraising department
. Community engagement
. Accountability for media & communications performance
. Proactively initiate media opportunities and stories to promote Y
. Deliver mission information, photos, vision to representatives of the media
. Manage a small team
. Identify and develop creative solutions and strategies relating to corporate reputation and community engagement

Can you see how these points are not parallel? The writing mixes up nouns and verbs.

It’s not that hard to write in parallel form as the good example shows.
If you wanted the fix the second example – just start each point with a verb – as many of the points are already written in verbs. Put verbs in front of the nouns – e.g. instead of the “noun” Event Management – Manage Events or Organise Event Management.

You don’t have to write in verbs – however when the first words of bullet points are verbs, the theory is that the action verbs “propel each point” and emphasises what a reader must DO. Nouns are acceptable but static and bureaucratic and official. The important thing is consistency – starting points with the same type of word.

As I mentioned, from my experience in helping a variety of industries, many organisations just re-hash old job ads/job responsibilities.

It’s not that hard to look at old descriptions and tweak the points into parallel form.

Some recruiters may think that the audience (job applicants) are so keen for a job that the writing of the job ad doesn’t really matter. It’s a one-way street. Maybe that’s true.

However, let me just add that many smart professionals and executives I know judge the organisation by the writing and many don’t even apply BECAUSE of errors in the job ad.

For example, I’ve seen appalling job ads that were far worse than the above not-so-good example.

This was a real job ad that got sent out!

Eperienced Online Marketing specialist wanted!
join a growing orgnanisation

superior communciations skills
prior experince with creative flair and attenton to detail

How would you feel about the organisation if you read the error-riddled job ad?

My main messages to you:

1. Care about the image your organisation’s writing projects
2. Improve old job ads/descriptions
3. Write in parallel structure


TB LL mosaic
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I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.

I’ve disciplined my self to check ALL my different communication platforms twice a day – as part of my Check-in Ritual.



2 comments on “How to write a job ad that makes your organisation look professional and doesn’t deter applicants

  1. David Herbert
    November 3, 2015

    Hmmm Pick the job ad from the Government Department.

  2. efangelist
    February 18, 2016

    Reblogged this on efangelist.

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This entry was posted on November 3, 2015 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , .
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