16/09/2011

By Alasdair Murray, freelance copywriter at www.alasdairdmurraycopywriter.co.uk

The whole purpose of recruitment advertising is, of course, to generate the right response. That means attracting the attention of the target audience, telling them what they need to know and persuading them to reply to your ad. So, get a clear idea of your target audience, then…

Focus on your tone of voice

The tone of your copy should always address the target audience. Senior Legal people won’t want to read copy that contains phrases such as “Don’t miss out” or “right now” any more than a teenage sales assistant will want to hear “applications are invited” or “the ideal candidate”. You’ve got to get down with the kids (or up with the legal types).

Think of the copy as the spoken word

Copywriting isn’t about writing perfect English. It’s more about rhythm and tone, simplicity and credibility. If you think of it as the spoken word it’s much easier to write sentences simply and punctuate them clearly. You may have learnt at school not to start sentences with ‘But’ or ‘And’. But, in advertising, no such rule exists! And, there’s even better news. You don’t have to complicate the issue with lots of elaborate punctuation either! Instead of playing with semi-colons, brackets or sub-clauses, just start a new sentence. See? You’re beginning to warm to the task already!

Remember, you’re talking to an individual

Seriously, writing copy needn’t be viewed as a chore or a necessary evil. Nor should it be something you leave to the last moment and then hurriedly throw together. Maybe 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 without having to wade through line after line of boring bullet points. They want to be able to match their skills and experience against what you are looking for without having to own up to be being ‘mature’, ‘intelligent’ or ‘reliable’ — or any of the other things we can all be if we try.

Try a little creativity

OK, I admit it. It’s easier said than done. But, in the context of a job post, creativity really means originality. Try and be original. Try and say something that the other ads aren’t. Sounds impossible? How about saying something about the business or the job that no other employer could say? Maybe you are renowned in your field, perhaps you are going through a period of growth or change. Perhaps this is a brand new role or, within your marketplace place, a unique opportunity. Try and find a unique selling point. Every company has at least one. You can usually find something to say about the role that will set it apart from all the badly written jobs out there.

Think about the structure of the advertisement

It’s great to try something new and different, but don’t do it just for the sake of it. Chances are, most readers of your ad will have read a fair few in their time. They may want to be challenged and intrigued, but they don’t want to be confused or baffled. There are no two ways about it; an accepted formula for structuring recruitment advertisements has built up over the years. One that readers know, recognise, trust and pretty much expect. It’s almost a quick reference code that has become part of the whole culture of recruitment advertising, particularly within the confines of job boards. Here it is: – something about the company, something about the job, something about the person, something about the benefits. Feel free to break away from that formula, but it honestly is best not to without good reason.

That dreaded SEO content

Time was when we just wrote our copy to the best of our ability and, provided it had all the key bits and pieces in there it would generally get a decent response. Now of course, in a decade where everyone has migrated from the press to online, it’s a slightly different ball game. However, the way I look at it is, provided you use a recognised job title, put in a clear location and have a salary attached to the role that is genuinely competitive, you are well on the way to getting your copy read. Sure, you need to sprinkle it with key words and maybe repeat the job title a couple of times, but by and large you will do that as a matter of course as you write the ad. Plus, a typical search will generally consist of job title, location and salary and maybe a couple of skill sets/qualifications, so chances are, whoever you are looking for, you will have included the specific qualification they need or the experience of x, y & z the role requires. Put simply, search engine optimisation needs to be considered, but don’t make your copy stutter or stop and start in order to try and fulfil every possible SEO criteria. Your ad will get found if the top end is right.

Consider putting some ‘screens’ in your copy

For those not familiar with the term, a screen is something we use to deter applicants. That’s right, put them off. Sounds awful, but actually it makes sense if quality of response is at the forefront of your mind rather than quantity. People often try and punch above their weight when it comes to applying for jobs. If an ad says ‘substantial experience of blah blah blah’, they, with their 12 months in the role, will chance their arm. It’s human nature. So, what you need to do is make sure that there are enough (but not too many to bore everyone senseless) specifics relating to skills and experience to make it quite clear what sort of person you are looking for. If they need a degree or equivalent, say so. If they need to have operated at a senior level or to have in-depth knowledge of specific applications or software, again, say so. In short, don’t leave yourself open to receiving floods of applications, if that is not what you are after. If on the other hand, you’re happy to be inundated then fine, be briefer and less specific.

Alasdair Murray is a UK-based freelance copywriter and ex-advertising client services professional and media sales executive who has also worked at recruitment advertising agencies and for national and regional newspapers. Visit www.alasdairdmurraycopywriter.co.uk or on Twitter search for ‘Alconcalcia’.

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