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Can't get the staff? How to write better recruitment materials

Updated: Feb 22, 2022

If you can't get the staff, you may suck... I don’t mean as a company. I’m sure you’re all candy floss fountains and three-day weeks. But maybe you suck at selling yourself to potential candidates.

So many businesses still believe they’re doing the candidate a favour by considering them.

Big mistake.

And when you consider the importance of high calibre staff in delivering your corporate objectives...really big mistake.

Who's helping who, here?

When you're trying to recruit high calibre candidates, they're doing YOU the favour. They're bringing the skills, expertise and enthusiasm that you need to succeed.

And yet many HR teams don't equip their staff with the skills to write effective recruitment materials.

If recruiting the best staff isn't part of your organisational strategy, you may have bigger problems than I can solve.

But, if you know your dreary recruitment materials are missing the mark and you're looking for some tips to improve them, read on...

Great people don't need you, you need them

There is no shortage of jobs for great people. Great people are always in demand.

  • They help you achieve your business objectives quicker

  • They’ve got the experience to make an impact from day one

  • They just GET IT - what you stand for, what success looks like, and how they can help make that happen

The old adage of ‘build it and they will come’ doesn’t work in recruitment. You can’t just throw out any old job description and assume the right people will apply.

  • If you’re just changing the job title on last year’s person spec. STOP.

  • If you’re copying and pasting your company description from your annual report. STOP.

  • If you think that bullshit bingo and business jargon is going to impress people into applying. STOP.

Time to raise your game

The fact is, nobody grows up dreaming about facilitating, synergising or leveraging.

And absolutely no-one (NO. ONE.) wants to work in a 'challenging fast-paced environment'. So cut that crap out too.

People want to work somewhere they feel a connection to. Somewhere their work will be valuable and they'll be valued.

So you need to raise your recruitment game by adopting a marketing mindset.

You need to sell yourself.

Because good people can make you money. They can solve your problems. They believe in what you’re doing and are committed to furthering your aims...

And you're not getting them.

That guy you recruited because he was ‘the best of a bad bunch’ and you didn’t have time to recruit again…? He’s not doing that. And you’re stuck with him now.

Don't know where to start?

If you want people who'll add value to your business, you need to improve your recruitment copywriting.

  • So that every word wins them over.

  • So that every sentence sells.

  • So your recruitment efforts become business successes.

Don't worry if that freaks you out. I'm here to guide you to hiring heaven.

Follow my top tips to start writing recruitment materials that capture the imagination and inspire applications.

Top tips for writing better recruitment materials [with examples]

1. Be human

Recruitment is a process but applicants are people. So be human. Read your recruitment materials out loud.

Do they sound like something a human being would say? Or do they sound like the cheese dream of a newly sentient AI? If it’s the latter, you know what to do.

Don’t know where to start with a rewrite? Imagine you’re describing the job to someone in person and start with that.

Tempted to include big words that baffle and bamboozle? Just don't. It doesn't increase your chances of attracting top talent, and it puts off perfectly well-qualified people from applying.

2. Make it meaningful

Out of context, a long list of duties does nothing to get applicants excited.

Tell people where they fit in the business and how they help you succeed. Make it clear they’re key to your future success.

But don’t just think about the team they’re in. What’s the big picture?

University marketers don’t just ‘produce a prospectus on brand and on budget’, they help young people make informed choices and achieve their dreams.

Fundraisers don’t just ‘solicit donations from diverse stakeholders’, they help cure cancer or save lives at sea.

In fact, saving lives at sea is the slogan of the brilliant RNLI, and their job descriptions start by saying exactly how the role contributes to that goal.

Check this out...

Systems Technician. My job saves lives at sea by... maintaining boats and equipment to be available at the point of use

How would that look in your business?

3. If you have heart, wear it on your sleeve

You want to hire people who are on the same page as you. Value-aligned staff will fit better into your organisation, strive towards your shared goals, and stick around longer if the going gets tough.

Think about who your ideal candidate is and what’s going to appeal to them. Beyond money, what motivates them to get up at 7am on a winter’s morning and slog through the slush to get to work?

If your heart is set on saving the world, invite people to join your mission. If you’re all about the Benjamins, write a job spec to appeal to money-motivated people.

Your aim is to find people who are already travelling in your direction, who can hop on board and help out.

4. Paint a picture

Don’t be shy about being specific. If your applicant can picture themselves working with you, and like what they see, they’re more likely to apply.

And if you live up to those expectations, they’re more likely to stay. That’s a win-win for your recruitment and retention rates.

Got a swish quayside office with ‘free fruit Friday’? Tell people. Work in a converted barn in Northumberland? Someone’s going to love that.

Small team? Coffee machine? Staff canteen? Talk about it.

5. Steer clear of cookie-cutter content

Cookie-cutter content is the same stuff you use over and over again. But text that's right for one part of your business isn't right for the rest.

Every part of your applicant information should sell your company. So you need to review and edit any text you include, to make it work hard for you.

For example, if you’re using the same ‘About Us’ information in your recruitment info as you use elsewhere, you’re missing an important opportunity.

Compare the following statements:

About us - We were established in 1979 in a church in Stirling. We provide food for people experiencing homelessness and work towards ending it. We have 18 staff and are looking for another person to join us.


About us - You’ll be joining a committed team who think homelessness is never OK. We’ve been supporting people experiencing homelessness since 1979 and our 40+ years of expertise help us make a real difference. We started small in a church in Stirling but we’re going places, and now employ 18 staff. Are you the next member of our dedicated team?

See the difference? It only takes a little tweak to maximise your chances of finding your dream employee. So put down the template text and get more creative.   


About the author

Libby Marks is an award-winning copywriter and content marketer. After 15+ years in marketing and communications, she escaped the 9 to 5 and started Write on Tyne.

Write on Tyne is a small content and copywriting agency dedicated to making marketing managers' lives easier. We provide top-notch copy for campaigns, content marketing, and websites - underpinned by expertise in marketing strategy and SEO.


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