How to write a stand-out job advertisement
Are you a conservation organisation looking to attract the best possible talent to support your mission? Do you struggle with too many, too few, or low quality applications?
We help 1000s of conservationists stand out from the crowd when they apply for conservation jobs. In this article we’re switching things up to show how conservation employers can create compelling job advertisements that attract the best candidates – from titles to creative details!
1. Grab attention from the start with a catchy title
Job advertisements are exactly that – advertisements. Your single best opportunity to capture attention is at the very start, in your title.
Choose a compelling title that generates interest and is specific enough to speak to the right kind of candidates. For example, ‘Research Assistant, Marine Plastics’ communicates the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the role at a glance. By contrast, ‘Team Lead’ or ‘Fundraising Officer’ may be too vague (unless your organisation is well known).
Here are some examples of jobs and internships (and their titles) that performed exceptionally well on Conservation Careers:
- Photo-ID Research Assistant, University of St Andrews (Job)
- Marine Management Support Officer, RSPB (Job)
- Project Coordinator: Forest restoration monitoring, Restor (Job)
- Conservation Effectiveness Officer, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (Job)
- Red List Research Assistant, BirdLife International (Job)
- Wildlife Conservation – 24 week Internship in South Africa, Conservation Careers (Internship)
- Wildlife Conservation Research Assistant, Operation Wallacea (Internship)
- Elephant Conservation – 24 week Internship in Thailand, Conservation Careers (Internship)
- Interactive internship on the Smooth-coated otter behaviour in India, Wild Otters Research (Internship)
Most of these titles capture both a specific area of focus (e.g. a species, location or sector within conservation) and the type of role (e.g. research, project coordination, etc.) Of course, exciting locations and species don’t seem to hurt, either.
Other titles (like ‘Wildlife Conservation Research Assistant’) are immediately appealing to many early career conservationists, while others (like ‘Conservation Effectiveness Officer’) generate curiosity, or communicate the ‘why’ or impact of the role.
2. Use a summary (or ‘hook’)
A brief summary of the opportunity right at the top of your advertisement can help applicants understand at a glance whether or not they might be a good fit – and keep them reading if so.
We call this the ‘hook’ and it often takes the form of a sentence or short paragraph that covers the who, what, where, when, why and/or how of the role.
The ‘why’ is particularly important in the conservation sector, where most candidates are motivated by the impact they wish to create. Why not show applicants from the start how your role will make a difference and how they can help?
Another technique is to open with a one or more questions that grab attention (did you see what we did in this article!?)
3. Cover the basics
There are some elements that are always important to include in a job advertisement, and they are:
About the organisation: Let applicants know who you are, what you do and why. You might choose to include information such as your mission, vision, and values, or even your impact and company culture.
*What you’re really answering is the question, ‘Why work for US?’ (as opposed to another organisation).
Job Description & Duties: What is the purpose of the role and what are the specific roles and responsibilities of the successful candidate?
Criteria: Often called ‘Person Specification’, ‘(Selection) Criteria’ or ‘Qualifications’, this section identifies the essential and desirable experience, skills, knowledge and personal qualities being sought in an ideal candidate.
Generally, the more specific the criteria, the more specific the applicants. For example, “6 months experience in tropical fieldwork” leaves little room for interpretation. However, more general criteria, such as “ability to cope for extended periods in remote environments”, gives applicants more flexibility to demonstrate their fit using transferable experience and skills.
It can also help to prioritise criteria by listing them in order of their importance.
How to apply: Give potential applicants clear instructions to follow when applying.
Key details: This section provides applicants with the key information they need to know in order to decide whether to apply (and can save questions during recruitment). Details usually include:
- Job title
- Contract type (e.g. permanent, temporary, freelance)
- Hours of work
- Benefits (e.g. holidays, pension, training – or accommodation, stipend, etc. for voluntary roles and internships)
- Closing date
- Diversity statement, where applicable
- Interview date, if known
- Responsible to / for, if applicable
Tip: If you only hire applicants from a certain country or region, it’s a good idea to make this very clear in your advertisement!
4. Add extras
Just as job applicants strive to stand out from the crowd, you might want to include something that differentiates you as an employer. Here are just a few examples:
- Give examples of projects that the successful candidate(s) will be involved in
- Include an image or video about your organisation, programme or project
- Describe your company culture
- Include examples from employees describing what a day in the life of an employee is really like, like Action for Conservation did in their advertisement for a Programme Coordinator – South West England & Wales.
- Describe the personal qualities or attributes you’re looking for in a new recruit, like the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside did in their recruitment pack.
- Represent your organisation visually using an organisational chart showing the different positions and teams.
How can I receive higher quality (and/or fewer) applications?
Being very specific about the kind of person you’re looking for (using your selection criteria) can help target the right candidates.
You might also consider making the application instructions more specific – for instance adding a short task that demonstrates skills or asking a question to quickly identify those applicants who meet your desired profile.
Recruitment is essentially a matchmaking exercise; the more relevant and specific information you provide to candidates, the better the chances that they’ll be able to evaluate whether or not it’s a good match.
To encourage higher quality applications, why not share a link to our free guide, Conservation Jobs: The Step-by-Step System to Get Hired as a Wildlife Conservationist. It walks applicants through the process of deciding whether they should apply, how to understand an employer’s needs, and how to produce a well-tailored application.
How can I receive more applications?
While the largest conservation organisations are often inundated with applications, particularly for early career roles, we’ve found that many smaller and/or lesser-known organisations still often struggle to recruit conservationists.
This makes sense when you think about advertising power: smaller organisations with smaller advertising budgets simply can’t reach as many people.
If you’re struggling to recruit, we recommend making use of the many free options available to advertise. These include social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (and associated groups). You can also use listservs or reach out to relevant groups or societies.
For more helpful articles on recruitment, we recommend:
- How to give great feedback to all job applicants in under 20 minutes
- Top Conservation Skills
- Webinar | Conservation job applications: Employer insights
- Behind the scenes | Applying for a conservation job at Conservation Careers