Employment advertising is a medium for posting employment opportunities through ads that appear in public media, most notably newspapers, magazines, and Internet sites. Ads appear in all countries in the Western world and to a lesser extent in other parts of the world, generally in dedicated sections of newspapers, typically in proximity to sections covering business and economic issues. Ads for specific professions sometimes appear in other sections (e.g., employment in medical professions is sometimes posted in newspaper sections dedicated to medicine). Labor economists and labor policymakers often consider the number of employment ads appearing in a country at a given time to be a key indicator of unemployment and the degree of economic vitality of the country.
Ads can be posted and paid for by a potential employer, by a recruiting firm, or by a placement agency and are often designed by marketing or public relations firms as a part of organizational efforts intended to promote the organizational image. The costs of employment advertising vary widely, depending on size (number of square inches), complexity (e.g., with or without color), and status and market reach of the newspaper in which an ad appears. There are many guides to effective product or service-marketing advertisements, but little research has been done on effective employment advertising, perhaps because the cost of employment advertising is typically significantly lower than that of product advertising.
Research on employment advertising has typically compared ads with other sources of employee recruiting, such as college placement, employee referral, or placement agencies. Employment advertising is usually found to be less effective than other sources, most notably employee referral. Advertising is identified as a formal recruitment vehicle (as opposed to an informal vehicle, such as employee walk-in) that relies on external information (as opposed to relying on internal information, such as employee referral).
Employment ads are strikingly similar in structure, regardless of the newspaper or region of the world in which they appear. Historically, ads were structured as a rectangle with some embedded text; today, they include elaborations in both text and visual elements, such as fonts, logos, color, pictures, or borders. The content of most ads includes a “skeleton,” that is, a job title and contact information. Most include additional information, or “embellishments,” on the skeleton, including marketing information about the organization, the physical or social work environment, or the legal issues pertinent to the posted job or the posting organization. There is significant variation among ads in the content of embellishments, and there seem to be some systematic differences in the nature of embellishments employed in different countries and different professions, but little research has been done on the rationale behind them or their effects.
Employment ads serve functions other than connecting employees and employers. Job seekers and people actively employed are encouraged by career advisors to read ads as a means of learning about the job market, and many report that they read them for reasons other than finding specific jobs. Managers and technical people report that they read ads for the purpose of learning about competitors, about new projects, and about new developments in their fields.
- Breaugh, J. A. 1992. Recruitment: Science and Practice. Boston, MA: PWS Kent.
- Rafaeli, A. 2000. “Forming a Reputation in Organizational Recruiting: Lessons from Employment Advertising.” Corporate Reputation Review 3:218-240.
- Rafaeli, A. and Oliver, A. 1998 “Employment Ads: A Configurational Research Agenda.” Journal of Management Inquiry 7:342-359.