Effective job adverts

How to Optimize Your PhD Adverts for Digital Recruitment

3 min read · Advice & Insights / Effective job adverts · Published 4 years ago

Advertising your PhD position online is as simple as writing your job ad and publishing it online, right? Wrong. Having your ad online is no good if candidates can’t find it or don’t click on it. To make sure that promising PhD candidates find your ad, you need to optimize the text for digital recruitment. Here are our top tips to get started.

Make it searchable

Whether potential candidates are using Google, your university’s career page, or an external job board, they search for PhD opportunities with keywords like, “PhD position papyrology” or “PhD in language acquisition Germany”. So when you sit down to write your ad, try to think like your candidate and use the terms that they will search for throughout your advert. Search tools look at several parts of a web page to determine what it’s about and repeating keywords in the ad text is an easy way to signal who the ad will be relevant for.

Be specific with your title

Try to also think about what keywords candidates might be searching for when you choose the title for your ad. Titles like “PhD position” or “PhD position in the Department of Engineering” are too broad to rank highly in search results and don’t signal to potential candidates that this position is relevant to their interests. Stellar candidates won’t click on your ad if you make them guess what field the position is in. Instead, try a title like “PhD position in electrical engineering at University X.” 

Your ad’s “slug” (the part of the URL that identifies the specific page) usually matches the page title (in this case, the ad title) which makes it even more important to use keywords in your title. The slug is one of the clues Google uses to determine what the page is about. If your title/slug is too broad, potential candidates won’t be able to easily find your PhD ad. 

Start strong

You’ve probably been told it’s important to start your ad off with a catchy opening sentence to get potential candidates’ attention and convince them to keep reading. This is true, but a strong opening line also serves another purpose in digital advertising. Google, external job boards, and social media platforms automatically excerpt the opening line as the “meta description” or page summary. This means your first sentence has to not only convince potential PhD applicants to keep reading your ad, it also has to convince them to click on it. When you start writing your ad, try to think of a 150 to 160 character opener that will look good in a Google snippet, search results list, or a social media preview. 

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Use section headings

When writing for digital, it’s important to break up your ad text into paragraphs with section headings. Many people read job ads on their phones and walls of text are off putting and difficult to read.  Using section headings makes it easier for PhD candidates to skim your ad and find the information they’re most interested in, like the requirements, or application deadlines. Using bullet points in your ad is another way to make it easier to read on a mobile device.  

One PhD position per ad

Try to avoid advertising multiple PhD positions in the same job post unless they’re for the same project. Combining multiple PhD opportunities into the same advert might seem like a savvy way to save money when advertising outside your university’s career page, but it’s not very search-friendly. Your ad will be irrelevant for half the people that find it and you’re making potential applicants do unnecessary extra work searching through the page to find the vacancy that’s relevant to their research interests. 

This advice goes double for combining both a PhD and postdoc vacancy in the same advert. These are two different keywords with distinct audiences. Don’t make it hard for potential applicants to find the PhD opportunity they’re searching for. 

Want more?

Now that you know how to write a PhD ad that’s web friendly, why not take it a step further? Download our PhD advert toolkit to learn how to write a compelling job ad, create awareness of your vacancy, and measure the success of your recruitment efforts.

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Download your free PhD advert toolkit

Get your free PhD advert toolkit with our top tips for writing and publishing a PhD advert that will make candidates excited to apply.

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