Writing a job vacancy in 7 steps

A vacancy is a ‘job opening’. You will often have to write a job ad for vacancies, regardless of whether you are looking for an administrative assistant, marketing officer, or specialist. This article will guide you through the process of writing a clear, easy-to-find job vacancy in 7 steps. This will maximise the chances of a good match between your company and your new staff member.

“A good job ad stands out, is easy to find online, is easy to scan, and paints a realistic picture of the position and your company”, recruiter Claire Willekens sums up. But how do you write a job ad that ticks all those boxes? Willens shares her tips and experiences.

The components of a job ad

A job ad that echoes your company’s communication style, can convince candidates to apply. Clearly structured ads that feature these 7 elements are easy to scan for the reader.

1. Job title

The job title should be right at the top of your job ad. Be as specific as you can be. ‘Communications adviser’ is better than ‘adviser’. You could also mention your industry, product group, or location. Keep the title as short as possible. Make your job titles suitable for everyone: for example, use a gender neutral job title.

“Use keywords that potential candidates are likely to include in their online searches”, Willekens recommends. “This will increase the findability of your job listing on search engines and job boards like Indeed or Google for Jobs.”

2. Job description

Describe the role. Outline the day-to-day activities of the role, what team the candidate will be working in, and what their workplace will look like. Provide a realistic and engaging summary of the job that will appeal to good candidates. Use the following sentences and complete them:

  • You will be responsible for..
  • Your main duties will be...
  • Your team will consist of ... and your role will be ...
  • On a typical day, you will:

3. Job requirements

Job requirements are the experience and skills needed for a particular job. Potential requirements include a degree, work experience, and competencies (skills and traits). Anywhere from 3 to 7 requirements is best. Avoid listing more than 7, because you might scare people off and miss out on good candidates. Pick the most important job requirements and include them in the ad.

4. Offer

Next, tell potential candidates what you have to offer. State whether you offer an open-ended or fixed-term contract and how many hours a week. Mention primary employment conditions, like salary, working hours, and leave. “Salary is often negotiated at a later stage”, Willekens adds. “So some companies avoid mentioning salary in job ads. They assume that they will figure it out with the candidate later. I do usually mention a salary range in ads for 2 clear reasons”, Willekens continues: “First, you create realistic expectations and prevent disappointing situations in the future. Second, the more details you provide - like location, salary, and application deadline - your ad will be more findable on search engines and job boards.”

Clear and predictable employment conditions

Employers are required to provide clear and predictable employment conditions. For a list of requirements, read the article on transparent and predictable working conditions in the EU.

Make sure to mention your secondary employment conditions too, like leave and pension schemes. “Highlight what makes you special, like offering free lunches, gym memberships, or flexible working hours”, Willekens explains. “If you are not looking for self-employed professionals and freelancers, mention this clearly.” It is also worth mentioning career opportunities. That way, you are not just offering a job, but a career.”

5. Company information

Always provide some company information. What does your company do and what do you stand for? Briefly describe your corporate culture. Be honest, because candidates will always find out if you embellished the truth.

6. Application procedure

Finally, explain how candidates can apply, their expected timeline, and who they should contact for more information. That way, candidates know what to expect.

7. Application deadline

End your job ad with the application deadline: the date you stop accepting new applications. Including a deadline encourages potential applicants to act.

A few more pointers

With these 7 components, your job posting is complete. Now you can sharpen it a bit. Help the scanning reader by keeping your job posting short and clear: Paragraphs should be no more than 6 lines 

  • Your job ad should not be longer than 1 A4 
  • In each section, mention the most important element first
  • Use lists 
  • Use clear headings, such as 'what we offer you'
  • Use short sentences
  • Steer clear of clichés if you want your job ad to stand out. 'Dynamic', 'Wizard', '9-to-5 mentality', and 'passionate' are all best avoided.
  • Make sure that your job ad is mobile friendly
  • Only set relevant requirements You are not allowed to ask about age, gender, background, health status, sexual orientation, religion, or political views. In fact, doing so is punishable by law, although there are some exceptions. Dutch Law requires employers to offer equal opportunities (in Dutch).

Example of a job ad

If you are still a bit unsure of what a good job ad looks like, here is a good example.

Posting a job ad

Ready to post your job ad? You have the following options:

  • Job boards. Job boards attract job seekers. In other words, they are a good way to get your ad seen by the right people. Not sure which job board to choose? Business Insider has a list of the largest job boards (in Dutch).
  • Your own website. Make sure that search engines can easily find your job ad.
  • Your network. Ask your network to share your job ad. Ask friends, acquaintances, and employees. You could even offer a referral bonus to employees.