September 11, 2008

80% of Job Seekers Only Read the Headlines

Do your Job Ad Headlines attract the right individuals?
by Toby Marshall

Think back over your recent recruitment campaigns. Did your ads always attract the high quality candidates that you were hoping for, with the right skills for the job? Your headlines play a large part in attracting people to your ads.

Your headlines should not be an afterthought – research indicates that around 80% of those reading ads only look at the headline, and if it doesn’t appeal to them immediately, they move on. Your headline is critical – its objective is to catch the attention of those you want to reach. You have just a few seconds, maybe less, to snare this interest.

Writing great job advertisements is like any other marketing activity. According to the statistic above, this applies to the headline even more than any other aspect of the ad. You are putting yourself out there, selling your business, this time not to customers, but to good quality individuals who you hope will want to work for you and help you drive your business forward.

Review the headlines of your former ads. Do they jump out at you? Are they captivating? Is the text persuasive? Does the job sound interesting? Does the job appeal to the desires of your potential candidates? Do you really know what your candidates are looking for?

Thus, the headline is by far the most important part of your ad. It should be emotive, stirring up excitement in the target audience and it should get them motivated to apply for your job.

Writing a headline that will appeal to your target audience will set the bait for your potential employees – captivating them, reeling them in and making them want to read more about what you have to offer.

Your headline has to stand out, and it has to do this amongst a sea of similar looking ads, whether in a newspaper or online. In printed form this is more challenging as costs are exorbitant and you want it to look good and be unique but most likely, in a small space. Your headline should be short and sweet, no more than 15 words, otherwise the reader will quickly lose interest.

n many cases the headline can be the job title itself. However, this can be spiced up with perks that won’t fail to attract your target audience. For example, the title Public Relations Director could have a sub-heading (or strap line) of Overseas Travel. This will instantly appeal to those with a desire to travel and highlights a genuine and very strong draw for a certain subset of individuals who you are hoping to attract.

The headline has to be short to grab the attention of the audience. It’s best to go for black text on a white background, with plenty of white space surrounding it. You can use abbreviations that are well known in the trade, e.g. PR for public relations.

So in the case of the example given above, you could shorten your title and make it stand out as follows:

PR Director - Overseas Travel –

This will stand out a lot more than Public Relations Director which takes up about the same column width, but does not have the same presence or appeal.

You want your ad to stand out on a crowded page. The abbreviated version of the job title, with the employee benefit directly underneath stands out a lot more than the full job title. Think about the short forms you can use, for example:

- Sales Mgr rather than Sales Manager - BDM rather than Business Development Manager. - Ops Manager rather than Operations Manager

A BDM knows what BDM stands for. It doesn’t really matter about those who don’t know what BDM is, because if they don’t know what it is, you probably aren’t trying to appeal to them anyway.

Sub headings can be longer if necessary, and emphasize words that you want to stand out by using bold or larger font. A general rule to follow is that the heading and sub headings should take at least a third of your ad space.

Despite the temptation, beware of capital letters. They are less readable than mixed case, for example:

PR Director is easier on the eye than PR DIRECTOR. In this situation, you are presented with a series of solid rectangles. Recognising words becomes more challenging on the eye.

With online ads, you have just the first 150 or so characters to grab the attention of your target audience. If these characters don’t appeal, you will have lost these potential recruits. Your upfront summary has to be spot-on, so that you don’t miss out on these people.

The bottom line? Every character counts. Choose your words wisely and target them directly to appeal to your key audience. If your headline isn’t right, you will be missing out on high quality, great candidates for your company.***

About the author:

Toby is an active speaker on the international conference circuit. His mission: To give all companies, no matter how few employees they have, the information and expert help they need to do their own recruitment and selection and find great new staff. If you like what you have read so far, you can get more information and resources at

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