The typical job ad is a horrifying anti-marketing message to the talent community. When you read a job ad, you should immediately get a sense for why a smart person would want the job. The job ad should focus less on what the Selected Candidate Must Possess, and more on answering the question “What’s so great about our company, and about this job?”
We market to customers. It’s time for us to apply a marketing mindset to the recruiting side of our business, too. If we don’t, we’re encouraging the sparkiest and most-valuable people who read our job ad to skip it and go on with their lives. What talented person with normal self-esteem wants to read 1000 words of corporate drivel that drone on and on about what the perfect candidate requires? That’s putting the marketing cart ahead of the horse. If we remember that the best job candidates — the kind we’re marketing to, if we care about talent in our organizations — won’t keep reading a job ad that turns them off in its first few lines.
If the whole focus of the ad is on the job requirements, you’re artificially depressing the caliber of the candidates who’ll respond to it.
It’s easy these days for a job-seeker to read a typical job ad and have the reaction “The people who wrote this job ad are high on their own exhaust fumes. Why would I want to grovel to convince them I have something valuable to offer?”
The more talent-repelling your job ad is, the lower the quality of candidate you can expect to respond to it. When I say ‘lower the quality,’ I’m talking about marketability. The more in-demand a job-seeker’s skills and experience are, the less he or she needs to spend hours filling out tedious forms in a corporate or institutional Black Hole (also known as an Applicant Tracking System). Here are ten easy tweaks that will dramatically increase the quality of responses your job ads get. Why not try a few of them with your very next job opening?
1. Tell Us Who You Are
We need to know where the organization came from — is it a new spinoff of a larger company we know, or is it a joint venture between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and NASCAR, or what? Give us the backstory. “Massive Boring Industries is a leader in plastic extrusion” might be great branding for potential investors, who are going to do lots of their own digging if they’re smart before they put a dime into anything.
For job-seekers, you have to bring your branding to ground level and tell us what the company does and why anyone would care. If you yourself don’t know why you do what you do apart from the fact that you’re already doing it, that’s a vision-and-strategy problem that needs to be solved before you hire anyone new.
2. Lose the Zombie Voice
We don’t have to talk down to our job applicants in zombie-language job ads that read like government manuals: “You will performs tasks and duties in accordance with the Central Task and Duty Allocation Procedure outlined in blah blah blah.” There’s no reason for that kind of language ever to appear in a job ad. Its only effect will be drive anyone with a pulse away from your job ads and your organization.
3. Speak To Us Directly
We don’t speak to our customers in the third person, a la “The Appropriate Customer at 7-11 is a person with the following qualities.” We don’t specify what our customers must have. If they have a need for the stuff we sell and they have money, they’re perfect customers for us. Get any third-person language out of your job ads, too. The most common one is “The Selected Candidate will possess….” That’s insulting. It’s like you’re saying to the reader of your job ad, “This stuff we’re talking about is the stuff the Selected Candidate will have — not YOUR sorry ass.”
4. Nuke The Bullets and Tell a Story
Bullet points are the opposite of conversation. They don’t tell a story. Use your job-ad real estate to tell us what the job is about, instead. Tell us the story of the job, like this:
Acme Explosives has just received clearance to ship our modular dynamite sticks through UPS and the Postal Service, and our e-commerce business is exploding! We need an E-Commerce Operations Manager to run interference between Marketing (who manages our website) and Production (who make the stick dynamite) to keep our online business running smoothly, and growing. If you love the back end of an ecommerce site and working with Marketing to merchandise and promote our online offerings to customers around the world, this could be a great spot for you and the next place to grow your career.
5. Answer the question: How Do I Fit In?
Use a sentence in your job to explain how the open position fits into the overall organization. Here’s an example featuring the E-Commerce Operations Manager at Acme Explosives:
In this role you’ll report to the VP of Operations, Don Drysdale, who reports to our CEO Chuck Jones. You’ll work closely with our Marketing, Production and Inventory teams.
A sharp job-seeker is going to read those two sentences and jump on LinkedIn to see who Don and Chuck are and where they’ve been. The more we can tell job-seekers about who they’d be working with in the job, the more appealing your ad (and your opportunity) will be to the people who can help you most.
6. What’s Fun About The Role?
You’ve got to tell the job-seeking community (made up of every working person, let’s be honest) why this job would be fun and enriching for them. If you can’t explain why a person would grow his or her flame in the job, then you’re saying “Come for the money,” except the money is never enough. If you’ve got anybody on your payroll who is doing it for the money, you’re shooting too low in the talent-acquisition process. Here are two sentences that give a prospective Acme Explosives E-Commerce Operations Manager a reason to apply:
One of your first priorities will be to look at our site’s usability to make whatever changes will make the buying experience more pleasant. You’ll come to our CustomerSlam 2014 global conference in San Francisco and meet our biggest customers. You’ll be the principal voice for e-commerce inside our company, and right in the middle of our strategic planning conversation.
7. Direct Us To A Person
If you’re going to take the approach I’m talking about here and that we teach, called Recruiting With a Human Voice, you’ve got to give job-seekers an alternative to the soul-crushing Black Hole recruiting portal. To put a toe in the water, take one job ad and try this new approach for that opening. Use a human voice in the ad, and take the other suggestions we’ve listed here. In that job ad, use a human being’s name and email address rather than a sterile website address.
Whomever has the least risk aversion on your HR team is the perfect person for the assignment! Let job-seekers write to your designated Talent Liaison rather than pitching resumes into the void. Watch the level of engagement and quality of response zoom up!
8. Give Us An Assignment
If you’re worried about your Talent Liaison getting crushed with resumes, don’t panic. Give the talent community an assignment to fulfill, right in the job ad. Ask them to send you a Human-Voiced Resume and a 300-word essay on a topic you choose. Choose a topic that will allow the best candidates to show you in a few sentences why they should be high on your interview list. Sad to say, most job-seekers will respond to your ad without completing the assignment. That’s an automatic “no thanks,” so your Talent Liaison is unlikely to work any harder using this process than he or she did before.
Since you need candidates eventually to get into the Black Hole database if you’re going to interview them, you can ask only the folks you interview to fill out those forms, once they have a reason to expend the energy.
Here’s the assignment that appeared in the Acme Explosives E-Commerce Operations Manager job ad:
If this sounds like a good fit for you, send us a 300-word reply that explains why this job and your background are a great match. Tell us how you’d approach the role and how Acme could support you best in building an e-commerce operation to support our global customer base. Send your reply plus your Human-Voiced Resume to Declan McManus at firstname.lastname@example.org.
9. Tell Us Why You Need Us
Lastly, save a line in your job ad to tell the brilliant, creative, funny, energized and passionate people who are evaluating you as an employer what their presence would do for you. Most job ads have a voice embedded in them that makes a job-seeker feel like the company thinks it’d be doing him a favor by interviewing him. Why would we ever do that? We need our employees. They make our engine go. They delight our customers and our shareholders and frustrate our competitors. Your employees are your company.
There is no shareholder value, no new product pipeline, no accounts receivable, nothing of any value without them, just a pile of PCs and boring beige cubicle walls.
Tell us in the job ad why you need us, like this:
We’re excited about our e-commerce opportunity and excited to meet the person who will take us a big step up in our operation. If that’s you, we can’t wait to meet you!
This article was written by Liz Ryan from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.