How to write a better job advertisement

Writing a job description for a digital professional requires a unique approach. That is because demand outstrips supply.

Paul Boag
Paul Boag
Jul 25, 2016 · 5 min read

Back in June I wrote a post explaining how the recruitment of digital staff required a different approach. I explained how the job advertisement had to entice applicants, not drive them away.

What I didn’t provide is a tangible example of what a good job advertisement would look like. Fortunately I have been working with the British Cardiological Society to help them recruit a digital lead. They have been kind enough to allow me to deconstruct the advertisement I have written for them.

But before we jump in I should say this is a real job ad that you can apply for. The British Cardiological Society is an ambitious organisation. If you are looking for a new challenge then this is a great opportunity.

Okay, lets begin.

A job advertisement deconstructed

The British Cardiological Society (BCS) plays a pivotal role in ensuring that British Cardiologists are some of the best in the world. Our work in training, education and research allows our membership to save thousands of lives every year. But, we aren’t doing enough and we need your help to make a bigger difference.

Start by saying something about your organisation. Who are you and what do you do? But notice I also emphasise the impact BCS has on the world. People like to feel they are making a difference in their jobs. A job where you can teach surgeons to save people’s lives is cool.

We have a vision, but need your help.

We want to help Cardiologists save lives, not just here in the UK, but around the world. We want to bring our knowledge to a global audience and to do that we need digital experts.

We have big ambitions. Ambitions around online training, courses and workshops. We want to take our world renowned annual conference and bring it online. But we don’t want to stop there. We want to create a global community of cardiologists. A community sharing their expertise via social media, video, as well as written material. We want to bring cardiology into the digital age.

Show that you are an ambitious organisation. An organisation with a vision that applicants can get behind. Also make it clear how pivotal their role is in that ambition.

But we are cardiologists and not digital experts. We can see the potential, but we need your help to make it a reality.

Make it clear you are looking for experts to provide guidance. Digital staff do not want to work at organisations who are just going to tell them what to do. They are looking for companies who value the expertise they can bring to the table.

What we need from you

We are looking for a digital entrepreneur. Somebody with the drive and experience to take our tentative vision and make it a reality.

Of course this is not an easy challenge. You need to be able to:

Work with cardiologists to understand their needs and how digital can help.

Build a digital team able to deliver on this vision.

Help the rest of the organisation embrace digital and understand its potential.

Help the society adapt to this new digital reality.

Manage your team and move the vision forward.

Adapt to new innovations as they arise.

In essence this job needs somebody who is an experienced leader, a people person and a bit of a maverick too.

Instead of a big list of requirements the applicant should have, layout the challenge as you see it. People like a challenge and will know whether they feel capable of rising to it.

As I said in my previous article, putting things like “must have five years experience” is not the way to go.

What we have to offer

Let’s face it. We are no Facebook or Google. Neither are we some sexy London agency. But we can offer you something that they cannot. The opportunity to make a real difference.

A difference that will lead to lives saved. The training you will deliver online will allow Cardiologists around the world to help patients.

A difference to BCS. We admit we don’t understand digital. We are looking for somebody to teach us. You won’t be a cog in the machine. You will be shaping the future of an entire sector.

Find something that others cannot offer. As BCS are based in London I knew that they would be competing with some big names. How could I lure people away from that environment? I settled on the opportunity to save lives and the fact that you would get to provide leadership rather than be a cog in the machine.

Notice I didn’t try and win people over with perks or salary. Instead I offered them an exciting role in shaping the future. People value that much more.

We also believe this position could be a great career progression. Maybe you have been a technical lead or a creative director. Now is the time to step up and run the show.

One of the main reasons people move jobs is to progress their career. As a result I was careful to frame this job within that context. I also wanted to make it clear we weren’t looking for the perfect applicant who has done this job before.

Next steps

No doubt you have loads of questions. We haven’t addressed issues like salary, perks or hours. That is because we don’t know! We want a discussion.

All through the advertisement I have tried to paint BCS as being open to ideas and discussion. Not only does this draw people to the job, it also encourages potential applicants to contact you.

The one thing we do know is that we will need you at our London offices at least a significant amount of the time. Otherwise we will not get to learn from you. That means you will need to either be London based or willing to move.

Leave any specific restrictions to the end of the advertisement. Get people excited before you flag any potential issues.

If that is the case get in touch by emailing [email protected]. Tell us about yourself and your background. But most of all tell us how you have solved similar challenges for other organisations. We don’t need you to have experience in the medical field or even being a digital lead. But we do need to be confident you can help us. So we leave it to you to convince us and then for us to convince you that you want to join.

I end by encouraging a dialogue, but also a challenge. We don’t ask people to fill in a long form. Instead we ask them to convince us. We want to see the ability to communicate well and show some of the skills they will need in the job.

The perfect job advertisement?

Is this the perfect job advertisement? Of course not. But it should give you a sense of an alternative way of writing a job advertisement. One that doesn’t consist of lots of requirements designed to weed out candidates. That only makes sense when there are more candidates than jobs available.

Originally published at on July 26, 2016.

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