Here’s what one recruiting newsletter had to say recently about online job ads: “The job hunt, driven by slothful job ads, results in a huge pile of not-necessarily related resumes… Any recruiter who doesn’t work to polish the job ad to a precise solicitation is a fool.” “Fool” might be a little strong, but I certainly agree that spending a little extra time on the job ad is a wise move. A good job ad can simultaneously attract the qualified applicants you’re looking for and deter the unqualified applicants that fill your literal and/or virtual inbox with unwanted resumes. I see tips everywhere for writing good job ads, but they usually focus only on attracting applicants, not helping applicants pre-qualify themselves. The following five tips will show you how to make your job ads do both. 1. Be Specific You know how difficult it is to find qualified applicants when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for because the hiring manager hasn’t clearly outlined the job specifications. It’s the same for jobseekers. If they don’t understand from your job ad what you’re looking for, and exactly what they’ll be doing, they won’t know whether or not they’re qualified, or whether or not they should apply. So be specific in every section of the job ad: the responsibilities, the requirements, benefits, etc. The more accurate and detailed your job ad is (especially when it comes to the requirements and responsibilities), the more successful it will be in helping job seekers pre-qualify themselves for your position ? and in limiting the number of unqualified resumes you receive. 2. Focus on the Applicant All good writing is targeted to the audience for which it’s intended. The audience for a job ad is the jobseeker. So the internal job description that you and your hiring managers use won’t cut it as an ad to attract and pre-qualify applicants. Revise the internal job description and tailor it to the jobseeker before you post it to a job board. It doesn’t take long, and you don’t need to be a professional copywriter (or a rocket scientist) to do it effectively. Think about what job seekers care about and focus on what’s important to them, not what’s important to you. Fully explain the job’s responsibilities and what the applicant will be doing on a day-to-day basis. Also include information about benefits, perks, the company culture, location advantages, etc. ? everything that will differentiate you from your competitors and attract the most qualified applicants. In addition to including information that will interest job seekers, be sure you present the information in a way that keeps the focus on them and their needs. For example, instead of saying, “Company X is looking for a C++ Software Engineer,” say, “Here’s a great opportunity for you to use your C++ programming skills.” 3. Requirements Are Required A lot of the tips I’ve seen for writing compelling job ads either imply or say straight out that a list of requirements is a no-no. But detailed requirements information is the best way to prevent unqualified candidates from applying. Besides, if you’ve effectively described the responsibilities, a list of requirements isn’t going to turn off the qualified applicants. It might even cement their decision to apply. Developers.net, an online job board for technical professionals, recently surveyed 3,346 job seekers who applied for jobs through Developers.net and asked them what job characteristic most influenced their decision to apply. Job qualifications (21%) came in a close second to responsibilities (32%) as a reason for applying. According to one survey respondent, “The requirements for this job are exactly the skills that I have. I would be perfect for this job.” And many applicants indicated that both elements were highly influential in their decision. Even more telling, the qualifications were the second most popular reason for not applying (30%). Most likely, these candidates were able to determine from the requirements that they weren’t qualified for the position. So they decided not to apply, and saved you from wasting your time reviewing their unqualified resumes. The popular advice today says you have to really sell your position and your company to attract qualified applicants. That’s fine. But including a detailed list of requirements in every job ad is just as important. So make sure you clearly understand from the hiring manager what requirements are needed, and fully explain those in the job ad. This is especially important for technical positions. Don’t assume that applicants will understand the company’s internal jargon or will know that you want experience hand coding C++ when you just say C++ experience. For technical jobs, mention as many technologies as possible. This will help with keyword searches as well. 4. Salaries Are Essential A salary helps attract the top candidates who won’t bother to apply unless they’re sure that the money is worth their while. According to Headhunter.net, job postings on their site that include salary information receive 42% more views and 41% more applications than those without. The party line seems to be that passive candidates are the best candidates. If you aren’t actively looking for a job, will you take the time to apply for a position without knowing how much they’re willing to pay you? Probably not. And neither will the passive candidates you’re looking for. Don’t believe me? These are some of the comments I’ve recently received from candidates who chose not to apply for a job because the job ad didn’t include the salary range: “It would have been nice to know the salary range. The description sounded really nice.” “I’m very selective with my resume and companies that I apply for. … I would not want to waste the company’s or my time applying for a job that may not meet my minimum salary requirement.” Unlike some other job writing advice, which takes a bit of time and creativity, including a salary range is easy. And the benefits are obvious. As one applicant commented: “A salary range will save time for candidates and clients.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! 5. Don’t Forget the Formatting When you’re putting together an online job ad and implementing the tips mentioned above, keep in mind Jakob Nielsen’s guidelines for writing for the Web. Nielsen’s oft-quoted study of web writing (from way back in 1997) found that the most user-friendly web writing is concise, scannable, and objective. So use lots of bulleted lists, lots of sections and headings, and lots of white space. And don’t sell the position or the company too hard. Putting It All Together Creating a job ad that will attract the applicants you want ? and deter the ones you don’t ? is easy. Just focus on the applicant, be specific, include detailed requirements and a salary range, and format the information so job seekers can easily process it on the Web.