Mozilla’s nearly flawless job ad, and why.
“The internet has a people problem” and other notable examples.
Unlike most job ads, Mozilla’s job ad for The Coral Project is one you’ll probably actually read. It’s engaging, concise, and personal—without requiring a heavy dose of casualness.
Having reviewed a few thousand job ads over the course of the past decade, I’ve seen it all. The two-liner. The dissertation. The heavily cheeky. The irreverent-bordering-on-offensive. And the outright offensive.
There is no perfect job ad. Sometimes the most effective ad is the longest and most direct. Other times it’s the shortest and most casual. Mozilla’s job ad is exemplary regardless of industry, title, length, or candor. It was written by Andrew Losowsky, project lead for Mozilla Foundation’s Coral Project and adjunct professor in journalism at The New School, the latter of which shouldn’t come as a surprise given the quality of his writing.
I reached out to Andrew to understand his approach to writing job ads. Some of his remarks accompany my observations below.
1. A compelling intro that cuts to the chase.
“The internet has a people problem.” Boom. Mozilla’s ad skips the banal company intro and immediately dives into the Why, as if to say, “Here’s why we need you. The weight of digital humanity will rest on your shoulders. No pressure.”
Only a couple sentences are needed to describe the people problem which, even if you skip, already has you hooked. A second mention in the closing line and a third mention in the perks underscores the enormous opportunity of helping to solve a problem inherently global in scope.
Andrew’s advice for writing a compelling intro is pretty simple: “Whatever the thing is that you might want to impress people at parties about your job? That’s the start of the ad.”
2. Text that reads aloud as smoothly as it reads written.
One of the best ways to engage readers with nearly any form of copywriting is to write as though you were speaking with them or to them. This doesn’t mean a casual or cheeky tone necessarily, but rather human-to-human communication with a tone appropriate to the circumstances. After all, a jovial notification of failed payment or a sassy job ad for mortician probably won’t go over well with readers.¹
Coincidentally, personalized communication is key to Mozilla’s Coral Project and the work of its employees. “One of the important parts of our work is trying to encourage positive online interactions,” Andrew says. “Language matters, as does how you frame a space, and how you signal what your expectations are for that space. We try to model this in everything we do — including our job ads.”
3. Exhaustive criteria are replaced with simple lists.
A job ad is an invitation to chat. Nothing more. Exhaustive requirement lists may filter out unwanted candidates and lessen the load on your inbox, but they’ll also drive away potential superstars. Err on the side of more applications filling your inbox, not fewer. Besides, there are plenty of applicant tracking systems that make it easy to filter candidates and respond with templates or automated replies when necessary.
And to be clear, lists are a good thing! Candidates often scan job ads until finding a list. After you’ve captured their attention with a list, keep their attention with a list of reasonable length.
4. Commitment to diversity is clearly stated.
Assuming your company values diversity—and I hope it does—diversity pitches are some of the toughest lines to master in job ads. Sure, you can take the easy route and tack on the trite “equal opportunity employer” line at the end. But chances are candidates will treat it just as that—a trite statement that has little meaning.
The more challenging route, and the more effective one, is to make it clear that your organization values diversity innately. Mozilla’s ad contains one of the best pitches I’ve seen:
“We are committed to diversity and especially encourage members of underrepresented communities to apply.”
Beautiful. “The diversity of our team is really important — we work hard to write our ads in a way that might appeal to a broad set of candidates,” Andrew says. And there’s no need to state what the underrepresented communities may be, as that may serve to only strengthen assumptions and bias about these communities and individuals. They know who they are. All they might need is a little encouragement to apply.
BUT… and this is important: Diversity is more than just a one-liner. Your entire job ad should support your company values, either directly or indirectly. Every line or bullet is an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to these values. Andrew suggests using Textio “in order to remove unintended bias and cliché.”
High fives, Andrew. You done made Mozilla proud. 🙌
¹ Recommended reading: Design for Real Life to write better copy for these scenarios and others.