Recruitment ads typically run alongside hundreds of similar ads, and they often face limitations in size and presentation. To entice the best candidates, it is critical that these ads be targeted, competitive and compelling. This requires researching your market, developing a budget and an action plan, and assessing who you are and what you have that would attract a new prospect.

Research the Market

In order to attract the right talent, it's important to be creative in your recruitment approach and explore non-traditional advertising vehicles. Finding specific industry-related recruiting opportunities will enhance the chances of targeting talent who meet your needs. Explore other advertising opportunities by:

  • Researching industry-related trade publications that are directed to the type of talent you are seeking
  • Maximizing relationships with associations and educational institutions to recruit students and/or alumni
  • Pursuing free or low-cost advertising on association websites or job boards
  • Hosting an open house event to introduce potential recruits to an array of job opportunities with immediate onsite sign-on opportunities

Web Ads

Target your best prospects by pursuing sites devoted specifically to the profession. You can determine what the most promising sites are by asking these questions:

  • What are the site demographics?
  • How many hits does the site get on a daily basis?
  • How is traffic driven to the site?
  • Do they have affiliations with other industry publications or organizations?

Often, if you purchase print advertising in a magazine, the magazine will offer special deals for running complementary banner ads or buttons on its website. Does the site offer other kinds of advertising perks? For instance, some employment sites also offer corporate profiles and automated job posting updates.

In many cases, job placement websites will offer a trial period at no charge. Take advantage of these opportunities; they allow you to gauge the response you are seeking before you commit to a long-term contract. With job boards, it is advisable to initially pay as you go, so you can track the response rate and the number of successful placements.

Print Ads

For a print ad to be successful, you need to choose the right publication. A publication with a more specialized market may yield better results than if you simply ran an ad in a large newspaper. The publication's recruitment manager can provide you with the following information:

  • Rates
  • Size and format options
  • Publication dates and how often the ad will run
  • The circulation (number of subscribers to the publication)
  • Deadlines for delivering camera-ready art

With newspaper advertising, a discount rate is often available if you agree to place a series of ads within a certain timeframe. If running an ad in a smaller publication, you may want to ask for their editorial calendar so you can coordinate your ad with relevant topics of interest. This increases your chances of attracting strong candidates.

For example, the editorial calendar might indicate that the magazine is planning to run an article in March on the latest web technologies. This would be an ideal place and time to run an ad for the new web programmer position that's just opened up in your department. You might also want to test ads in several different markets until you've found the optimum size and presentation.

Develop a Budget and Plan

Generally, placing an ad one time is not going to generate the type of response you are looking for. Some researchers estimate that an ad has to run nine times before people begin to recognize and respond to it. That's why you should have a comprehensive plan in place with clearly defined outcomes.

You need to determine how much money you want to put into your recruitment ad and what opportunities will give you the most bang for your buck. Budget parameters will determine the size, design and number of times you run your ad.

Research Yourself

Before pen is ever put to paper, the ad writer (and designer) should know who they're trying to reach, what the recruitment objective is and what value proposition (primary benefit) they can offer prospects. Talk to your own people. Ask them what they like about their job and what would grab their attention in a job announcement.

Here are some key strategic questions to get you started:

  1. Audience. Be aware of who your target audience is for the ad. For example, if the magazine in which you are running an ad is directed to a younger, more eclectic audience, you want to make sure your ad is written and designed in such a way that it will attract this type of reader. Understanding the demographics of the publication's readership (income level, geographic location, gender, etc.), as well as the "psychographics" (education, interests, values, etc.) will help you anticipate the expectations of your audience.
  2. Perception. How does the target audience perceive you--your products, services, reputation, work culture, etc.?
  3. Biases. Are there any negative biases the ad should address? For example, your company may have a reputation for high turnover, which could be off-putting to many job seekers. You need to address and allay any fears, real or perceived, that your prospects may have about you.
  4. Competition. How do you hold up against the competition? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Are there any gaps in what the competition offers? How do you propose to fill them? Remember, weaknesses and strengths must be relative to your audience, not to you.
  5. Benefit. What is the single most important benefit you can offer to a potential candidate? This benefit should be unique, persuasive, meaningful and supportable.
  6. Credibility. It's not enough to simply say you're a great employer. You need to show it. Awards, favorable press, consumer confidence, a reputation in the industry, etc., are the proof behind your promises.
  7. Precedent. What hasn't worked well in the past? Have you run past ads that didn't generate a good ROI? Why? Are there business problems you can address now that will augment the effectiveness of your recruitment efforts?

Conveying a Consistent Message

Often recruitment ads will need to fit in with a company's much larger branding campaign or marketing objective. In addition to a clear benefits statement, you may need to reflect a corporate identity. Every company has a personality it wishes to project. Your company voice and presentation should be consistent in all your advertising efforts.

Obviously, your recruitment ad can't address all these issues, but the knowledge you gain from this exercise will be indispensable to you in the writing and hiring process. Now that you've collected valuable data about your market and yourself, you have all the background information you need to begin writing your ad.