September 29, 2021

Why Your ‘Job Listings’ Are Actually ‘Job Ads’

Tom Chevalier
Tom Chevalier
General Manager, Appcast Labs
September 29, 2021

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Because recruiters and hiring managers frequently use the term “job listing” or “job posting,” it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that a job listing is a job ad, intended to advertise an open position with the goal of attracting candidates.

The difference is more than semantics. Creating an effective job ad requires thinking like a recruitment marketer.

But internal processes can get in the way. Job titles are a perfect example.

About Job Titles

HR policy directors create and approve job titles, based on job descriptions. These titles are sometimes meant to help organize roles within a hierarchy, such as a Level 3 role. Level 3, however, is not a good title for a job ad. People outside your organization don’t have any idea what that means.

Similarly, organizations sometimes aim for unique job titles. A big franchise uses the job title “Sandwich Artist,” which is imprecise as well.

A job ad is less likely to get viewed or click on if the job title isn’t familiar to the candidates you are trying to attract.

And this is only the beginning of employers’ challenges.

Poorly written, poorly structured job ads don’t look as good as professional ads and may turn off candidates, while reflecting negatively on employer brand. Also, if employers don’t use keywords – words people search on – they will attract fewer candidates.

Solving for these issues is not difficult.

Start by going to a job site and searching on the job title you’re planning to use. If few results are returned, use more intuitive words. Many of your talent competitors have thought about this already, so best practice titles are readily available.

At the same time, you may want to work toward changing internal processes. Be aware that this is often an uphill battle, though, and it can take a long time.

There are companies that can help you create user-friendly job ads. But regardless of whether you enlist their services, it’s important to recognize that the most valuable thing you can do is rewrite job titles. Almost all job sites rank results based on relevance and use job titles as the criteria.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Aim for the shortest possible job title.

Appcast Research finds that job titles with one to three words have the highest click and apply rates.

  • Remove character symbols, such as %, $, &, and !,  from your job title.
  • Include your company name in the job title, if yours is a top brand.
  • Ensure that when a person clicks on the job title in a job ad, it brings them to a job description. Be careful not to send them directly to a “create account” page.

About Location

In addition, you want to focus on reaching the right candidate audience from the standpoint of location.

As a rule of thumb, use a radius around the location on which a person is searching.

If your applicant tracking system (ATS) doesn’t have a zip code feature, add a zip code to your job ad.

You’ll also want to create location specific job ads to target people you’re interested in. For example, if you’re looking for candidates for jobs in Boston area hospitals in Brookline, create job ads with the Allston zip code. Create variations for other surrounding towns as needed.

Do this manually or use tools that allow for “expansions” of your job listing into many job ads. In consumer advertising, this would be called additional “creatives.” In recruitment advertising, it might involve creating title alternatives (Acme Sales Manager, Sales Manager, Sales Leader) or creating, in this case, exact match zip codes so that you can target locations within, say, a 20-minute commute of your hiring location.

Why Job Titles and Location

Putting the focus on job titles and location is especially important when using job sites in the current advertising climate.

Job seekers have options. You need to catch their attention within a list of “job search results” by highlighting how your role is relevant to them. Because the job advertising industry has created “native” job ads, that are not as visually rich and engaging as display and social ads, there isn’t a lot of room to brand yourself.

And while it may feel attractive to build those visually rich ads beyond the job sites, tread carefully. 

People reading news or scrolling their social feeds aren’t in active job seeking mode, so even when you do get clicks there is less intent on social, resulting in higher cost per application (CPA). On top of that, you are competing not just with employers but against other kinds of advertising and that means click prices are high, thereby compounding the expense. 

Instead, Appcast recommends you use display and social ads to develop and further your employer brand to create a “halo” effect – awareness before candidates see your job ads and preference to work with you after they’ve applied – that maximizes the potential of the job ads you place on jobs sites. 

Why Now

Best practices are best practices in any labor market, but in a job seekers’ market, best practices become imperative.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are currently a record 10.9 million open jobs and only 8.7 million unemployed individuals. Job openings outnumber unemployed persons by the most ever.

There’s never been a better time to focus on creating job ads that get results.

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