6 Steps to Writing More Effective Government Job Ads


This column was first published by Engage local government leaders, professional association of local elected representatives.

Writing an excellent, effective and inclusive job ad is not always easy. For the sake of clarity, note that a job posting is different from a job description. The job description is the official and complete documentation of the required skills, experience and job details. The job posting is a marketing tool and requires the eye of a marketer to be interesting and engaging, as well as the expertise of an HR professional to be unbiased and inclusive. Put on both hats and consider these six things when writing your next post:

1. Write for humans

You don’t have to be smart or cute to write a job posting that will attract potential candidates. Just write like a human. Job postings that are overrun with technical terminology, exhaustive descriptors, meaningless phrases and acronyms will ensure that job seekers will ignore your job postings in favor of ones that are concise, easy to understand and simply written.

Remember the the average American reads at the 7th-8th grade level. Many government job descriptions are read at college level or above, even for entry-level positions. How easy a job posting is to read not only influences the candidate, but in the world of digital recruitment, long, robotic job postings will rank lower in search engines and may not be shown to applicants. of employment as often as cleaner publications. Write simply, clearly and save the technical brief for interviews.

2. Sell the job

Scroll through government job boards and the language gets tired pretty quickly. ‘Rewarding career’, ‘making a difference’, ‘helping your community’ – we all use the same tired phrases to describe impactful careers that directly support the health, safety and livelihoods of the communities we serve. We also need to think about using “public service” or “civil servant” to describe the work we do, because in 2022 these descriptors could do more harm than good.

Before the pandemic, as an industry, we were excited by the data suggesting that new workers entering the workforce were looking for a mission-driven career more than anything else. After 2020, the data has changed. Autonomy is a top demand workers, and perhaps no term suggests a lack of autonomy so much as that of “servant”. Gen Z workers, in particular, want to initiate ideas, lead change, and work independently. They still enjoy mission-driven work, but are eager to play a meaningful role in that mission. Strong terms that speak of action—public advocate, changemaker, community leader – are more likely to attract these candidates than passive words and phrases.

3. Skew screen

Today, most recruiters intentionally avoid gendered language such as “he/she” in favor of gender-neutral terms such as “they” or “the “, but some buzzwords can also trigger bias alerts. Words like “rockstar” or “guru,” or even terms like “strong” or “determined,” can all be perceived as traditionally masculine and should Avoid slang and use less aggressive terms like “persistent” or “motivated” to describe your ideal candidate.

Also, review your job postings with capability language in mind. Avoid terms that restrict how the candidate can perform the job to encourage candidates of varying abilities to consider the opportunity. For example, instead of “Must be able to lift 50 pounds”, we could write “Moves equipment weighing up to 50 pounds without accommodation”. This allows the candidate to self-assess if and how they could do the job based on their own abilities. Keep an eye out for physical demands that may ultimately not be relevant to the day-to-day functions of the role. If it’s not a frequent job function (how many of us who work in an office regularly lift something over 20 pounds? Like, never?), delete it.

Finally, be aware of potentially ageist phrases in your posts, such as “digital native” or “recent college grad.” The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has determined that these types of sentences may be violations of federal anti-discrimination law.

4. Overcome candidate hesitation

A Hewlett-Packard study showed that men applied when they met only 60% of the qualifications of a job offer and women applied only if they met 100% of them. ELGL shared this fantastic copy as something to include in job postings to inspire more diverse candidates to apply:

“Studies have shown that women and people of color are less likely to apply for jobs unless they believe they are capable of performing all of the tasks in the job description. We are more interested in find the best candidate for the position, and that candidate may be one who comes from a less traditional background.The city will consider any equivalent combination of knowledge, skills, education, and experience to meet the minimum qualifications.If you are interested in applying, we encourage you to think broadly about your background and skills for the position.

Of course, the hiring organization should back up this statement by thinking broadly about the skills and experience needed for the job, and should be open to considering candidates who may not tick all the boxes, but bring an otherwise potentially very capable mix of abilities. to the role. Which brings us to…

5. Focus on skills or experience

Knowing that underrepresented job seekers are more reluctant to apply for positions for which they may not meet all the points, it is important to promote only the basic skills necessary for the position. To reach more candidates, eliminate anything that is not 100% vital to the day-to-day performance of the job. For example, requiring prior experience with specific software may not be necessary if training can be provided, in which case the experience is not essential but nice to have, so don’t worry about it in the job. . Years of experience may be important for some roles, but may be less relevant for others (and of course, the quantity of years of experience does not always equal the quality of experience over the course of those years – this one should never be a deciding factor if the candidate brings a competitive skill set to the table). A concise job posting is focused on the essentials, so leave out any qualifications or experience that aren’t necessary on a day-to-day basis. You can cover these topics later in the interview process.

6. Include salary

There is nothing more disrespectful than wasting a candidate’s time and posting the salary range in the job posting is a necessary time saver. The days of discussing salary later in the hiring process are over. People do not work for pleasure; they work for a living and wages are a matter of fairness. Women and people of color are notoriously challenged in the salary negotiation process, and a firm salary range eliminates the need to haggle and levels the playing field for all candidates. It shows your organization’s commitment to transparency and fairness from the start. In New York, editor salaries will be required by law starting in April 2022, and more states follow suit. Best practices don’t have to become law to be followed. Be open and upfront about salary from the start.

Whether you are an HR specialist, digital recruiter or communication professional, writing effective and fair job offers requires care and creativity. With an extremely competitive hiring landscape and growing challenges on the horizon for governments to attract skilled workers, rethinking and reshaping job postings is essential to communicate our commitments to equity, inclusion and to provide rewarding and exciting work.

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