A job advert has one objective: to attract a perfect candidate to your vacancy. To do so, you need to inspire interest and sell your role to all candidates, many of whom will be looking passively.
The recruitment market is highly competitive and this is your opportunity to differentiate your role, and the University of Oxford as an employer, from our competitors.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Structure your advert with headings
Headings provide structure to your job advert. Even simple techniques like bolding keywords help job seekers focus on key content. Remember most people skim hundreds of job adverts at a time, you need to make an impression quickly.
Avoid using bullet points– instead use detailed text to tell a story.
Use positive language with a focus on what is in it for the candidate and which will help them imagine themself in the role. Be passionate and, use the second person (you) and a ‘needs supply’ approach rather than ‘demands abilities’,
“You will have the opportunity to collaborate with talented people (needs supply)”
Rather than “The successful candidate will be required to show (demands abilities)”
You will have the opportunity to spell out all the requirements in the job description.
Try to avoid jargon and Oxford-specific terminology where possible as this can create barriers to attracting candidates from diverse backgrounds.
Be aware that some language could be deemed as discriminatory or may be perceived to have gendered bias.
Some adjectives such as ‘lively’, youthful', ‘dynamic' or ‘mature' could be seen as discriminatory, and should be avoided. Similarly, words like “junior” and “senior” should only be used to describe the post’s position in the department’s hierarchy and not imply the age of the postholder.
Advertising for a certain level or number of years experience can be seen as a proxy for age and therefore may be considered discriminatory. Instead focus on the actual job requirements and qualities and skills an applicant needs to be able to demonstrate to successfully complete job tasks.
If qualifications are required, ensure that they are necessary. For example a DPhil is appropriate for a postdoctoral research post or a professional qualification for clinical post. However, you should not request qualifications such as a degree as a shorthand for a particular skillset. Where qualifications are requested, wherever possible include wording such as ‘or equivalent experience’ to avoid indirect discrimination (for example from older applicants who may not have had the opportunity to gain a degree but can demonstrate the required job related skills through prior experience). NB A degree must not be an essential requirement for any post in grades 1-5.
Avoid any language relating to physical abilities such as ‘active’ or ‘fit’, and instead explain the required activities. Bear in mind that reasonable adjustments should be made for candidates with disabilities. So, for example, instead of saying ‘must be physically fit’ say ‘the job will involve patrolling a large area over multiple floors with no access to a lift’ and give further details in the job description.
Avoid requirements such as ‘full, clean driving licence’ unless the role could not be adapted, for example because the role is primarily a delivery driver and alternative means of travel could not be used.
Avoid gender bias - research shows that women and men respond to language differently and that female candidates may be put off by male-coded words. Make use of resources such as free gender decoding apps to help diversify your adverts:
If in doubt, seek advice to ensure your recruitment is inclusive.
Convey the culture and environment as well as the role. This can be as important to candidates as the job itself. Make sure that you convey a sense of what it’s like to work in your department, and emphasise the processes and relationships involved in the role as well as the end outcomes, for example:
"As a core member of our small, friendly team…"
For the external promotion of jobs via social media:
Using real images of your office will give your job advert more authenticity. A video is also great for conveying quality content that showcases the department/Oxford. Consider including people stories and/or, career journeys through a storytelling approach. If you do want to include people be mindful of data protection issues and ensure that you have the necessary permissions.
Consider what impression you are giving through any image/video you use, does it represent an inclusive, diverse workforce or reinforce stereotypes about who does a certain role and who belongs?
We can broaden the appeal of a job if we write with the following in mind taken from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Further information on this model can be found here.
Our job adverts need to reflect a story about working for us and reflect our personality.
The ‘SUCCESs’ mnemonic is a tried and tested guide to creating a compelling copy to entice candidates, we should adhere to these principles in our adverts:
- S imple
- U nexpected
- C oncrete
- C redible
- E motional
- S tories
- S o, the word is spelled properly
The first 150 words of a job advert are key and we must ensure we provide enough concise information to ‘hook’ the candidate:
• Why is it a good opportunity?
• What’s the challenge we need their expertise for?
• Why would they want to come here?
We want our adverts to have a candidate-centric approach, the key message should be what is in it for the candidate, this approach focuses on how the position will provide them with career progression, autonomy and job opportunities through storytelling.
Ensure that all adverts state the University of Oxford as the employer. With the increase of job aggregators it is important to ensure all adverts are branded correctly. See the latest University’s style/brand view guidance here.
Include the following:
- How to apply: How/where candidates can access the job description and information about how to apply
- Contract details: If the role is fixed-term, state the duration of the appointment and, where possible, the reason, such as maternity leave cover. Avoid giving a specific start/end date unless the funding is absolutely strict to dates. Adverts should not generate expectations of contract renewal unless this is specifically stated in the terms of the grant supporting the post. In such cases, where departments wish to indicate an expectation of renewal, include 'with a possibility of renewal’ or 'in the first instance' after the specified duration.
- Opportunities for flexible working: If you are advertising a full-time role but would be open to considering a less-than-full-time contract (e.g. 0.8 FTE) or other flexible working options, make this clear in the advert. It may help you to attract highly qualified candidates who would otherwise discount the role.
- Vacancy ID: If you are advertising externally and wish to ‘signpost’ your advert on the University Jobs website, quote the CoreHR vacancy ID in your external advert.
- Where appropriate DBS or security/other screening: Include the following statement in the advert/job description:
- “Owing to the nature of this position, any offer of employment with the University will be subject to a satisfactory XXX [state type of screening]”.
- Research passport/honorary contract: If a research passport/honorary contract is required for the role, this should be detailed in the job description and/or advert.
- Clinical registration (eg for nurses and consultants): When advertising for clinical, nursing or midwifery appointments, please state the successful candidate will need to provide proof of their registration with the appropriate body, eg NMC or GMC.