Language to use in job ads

So, you’ve understood the job specification and you’re ready to write the job ad, but now it’s time for the tough bit.

It’s crucial to get the language and wording of your job ad right in order to set the tone of the employer and attract candidates with the right cultural fit.

We look at some important points that all recruiters should be considering when writing a job ad.


Language to avoid

UK law makes it very clear that your job ad “cannot discriminate against anybody in relation to disability, race, sex, gender or age.”

In simple terms, that means using general job titles such as ‘waiting staff’ or ‘salesperson’ and using ‘they’ or ‘he/she’ instead of ‘she’ or ‘he’. You also can’t inadvertently describe your company as having a ‘young team’ or by stipulating a ‘mature’ candidate.

Sometimes it’s down to a slight word-change. You can’t ask for an ‘English receptionist’, for example, you would have to advertise instead for an ‘English-speaking receptionist.’

As a rule, you can’t go wrong if you clearly outline the responsibilities of the role. Then target the right candidate by simply specifying the qualifications and work experience required to do the job.

Stay legal… More detailed information is available here.


Hit the right tone for the job

You need to try and speak directly to your target candidates, and that means you need to alienate everyone else.

If you’re recruiting a high-flying chief executive for a City firm, you’ll probably be conveying a company culture of hard-hitting business deals. In that case, use a formal tone, with conventional language, such as ‘excellent analytical ability.’

Conversely, if you want to attract a graphic designer for a start-up IT company, you’d want to convey a sense of trendiness, creativity and perhaps a more relaxed atmosphere. So use a relaxed tone, with more carefree language, such as ‘flexible’ and ‘busy but friendly team.’

Beware… not to intimidate or mislead candidates by being too formal or overselling the job, or risk your job ad not being taken seriously because you’ve used language that is too laid-back.

Similarly, try to avoid tired phrases such as ‘competitive salary’ and ‘excellent prospects.’ They have been used so often they almost don’t mean anything. Try and be original.


Check and double-check

There’s only one thing worse than writing a non-targeted job ad, and that’s writing one that is badly spelled with poor grammar.

Most employers would bin a CV that was poorly written even if the role didn’t require writing skills. That’s because there’s a perception that applicants who take the time to check their spelling and grammar will also be conscientious at work.

It follows then, that a good candidate will be less than impressed with an ungrammatical job ad. If the employer is sloppy, candidates will question whether the company is sound enough to fulfil their ambitions.

Double check: Don’t just rely on spell check, get your job ad proof read and checked by a reliable source before publishing it


Keep it simple

To be really effective, use the style of language that your candidate might use. Maybe think about the type of newspaper they might read, or level of education they might have and then use the vocabulary to match. But keep it straightforward, not ridiculously hip, patronisingly low-brow, or bafflingly clever.

Whatever your target audience, it’s best not to use complicated words. Keep your sentences short and where possible use bullet points to list qualifications and experience.

It also helps if you address the candidate directly. For instance, by saying: ‘you will manage a team of three” the candidate is more likely to visualize themselves in the job.’


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