As we close out the year and prepare for a new one, there’s always talk of “new year, new you.”  Diet tricks for people to lose bulk and beauty tricks to become more attractive run rampant this time of year.  Naturally, I couldn’t help but think about some of the work that could stand to go into creating a more attractive Talent Acquisition program.  First thing that comes to mind?  As an industry, our job advertisements are atrociously UGLY. 

They’re long and lacking, but that shouldn't be a surprise, given the overall confusion on the difference between job descriptions, screening tools, & job advertisments.  Look on any job board on any given day and what you’re most likely to see is a hot mess of job postings that are really nothing more than job descriptions, the "guts" we should use for legal compliance and performance management.  Those are not job advertisements… job advertisements are marketing pieces that are designed to attract and compel external prospects to submit for candidacy.  

So my "Christmas Wish" for our industry in 2016 is that we make more of an effort to keep our "guts" on the inside and present put-together, recruitment job ad "skins" to attract the people we actually want to come to work for us.  To help with that endeavor, here are the elements needed for a good, compelling advertisement:

1.  Keep Job Advertisements simple, straightforward and easy-to-understand. Steer away from seemingly clever titles like "Office Ninja" instead of Office Manager or "Client Wizard" instead of "Customer Experience Director."  While it may seem more interesting, it can be confusing to your audience... like heavy Goth makeup on a pharmaceutical sales rep, you just don't expect to see it so it's jarring when you do.  In the world of job search, that means decreased visibility as "Ninja" and "Wizard" are less likely to be search keywords a candidate would use to find their next opportunity.  It's also important to use use clear wording, shorter sentences and keep the need to scroll to a minimum so you don't lose your audience's attention.  

Key Takeaways:  The average adult attention span is eight seconds of coherent thought, according to a 2015 study done by Microsoft Corporation.  Keeping your ads simple and consise is imperative for success. 

2.  Each job description should have a job ad crafted for it - the “drop your job description into the job ad template” is so yesterday & super easy to spot.. and everyone does.   If you're not intentional about your collateral, why should your candidates be intentional about applying?  We can do better.  Work through crafting the role’s static challenges & opportunities, corporate attributes, what you offer & what you generally need in return in terms of your model candidate’s qualifications and experience before the req comes down. That way, when it comes time to fill it you have a specific job advertisement that just needs minor tweaks by getting an updated landscape from the hiring manager & team.  

Key Takeaways:  If the role is important enough for the organization to invest in a hire, it's important enough to invest in customized content.  Keep in mind, creating customized job ads by role is not a quick project.  Out of 40 companies that undertook this activity in 2015, the average time to complete this project from concept to final approval was 5 months.  So start now and you should be ready for "swimsuit season" in 2016.

3.  Give your prospects reasons to want you by sharing your story, in a (consistent) company voice, featuring the hero that looks most like them:  your employees.  Remember, as an employer your role is not that of the hero; employers take the mentor role.  So write logically , but remember you’re marketing.  That means you don’t start with what YOU want.  In general, people don’t care what YOU want.. they care about what THEY want.  Same with job descriptions – after the “cause call” (we have an opening), there’s an order of operations that needs to be followed:

  • Why your “Company,”
  • Why this ”Opportunity,”
  • Why that “Team,”
  • Why that “Supervisor” or Leadership team

Then, and only then, have you earned the right to write about the experience you want in return for providing all of that.  COTS… don’t forget it!

Key Takeaways:  You are the mentor that should be guiding both the learning and experience of your candidates:  give them a reason to apply and an easy pathway to do so. 

4.  Sharing needed “experience” does not mean cut & paste the job description.  As previously mentioned, job descriptions DO NOT belong in the job ad.  They’re written as internal documents, they’re too long, too legalistic, and rarely compelling.  They're meant to document, not to be read.  So write the “ad description” of the role that your audience will actually read:

  • 2 – 3 sentence overview of the role’s responsibilities
  • Be specific vs using overgeneralized terms & buzzwords like “Good Communication Skills,”  ”Team Player,” and “Executive Presence.”  If they need to talk tech? Say so.  If they interface w/ C-Level then give a short explanation as to how (presentations, written reporting, meetings, or sharing airspace) & what the employee will need to successfully do it.
  • A delineation between “nice to haves” and “have to haves” w/ short explanation as to why it matters for each hard requirement.  This helps the job seeker, especially in the educational area, understand the relevance to the role & can help cut down on unqualified applicants (though you may always end up with some applications that make NO sense!).
  • How it interacts with the rest of the organization & if you know it, the advancement path.  This can be more compelling than “advancement opportunities are endless."  Candidates know isn’t true, so drop the marketing rhetoric.

Key Takeaways:  Internal job ads and employment rhetoric have no place in effective recruitment marketing.  Share off your muscles and all the right curves with meaty information that helps your audience know whether you'd make a good "match" for them.  

5.  Length Matters.  You need enough information to 1) hook interest, 2) determine relevance to them, and 3) address legal/anti-discrimination requirements. That’s it.  THIS IS NOT YOUR SCREENING TOOL.  Use an actual screening tool either integrated into the application or funnel applicants into a CRM, labeling them “prospects,” before making them a “candidate” with ATS-inclusion.  There’s actually a lot of benefits to doing this, but for the purposes of this article, it helps keep the motivation to respond high & “information overload” low.

Key Takeaways:  Worth repeating, this is not your screening tool.  Remember this will improve not only your attractiveness with job seekers, but also the overall Candidate Experience. 

6.  Know Your Place.  Job advertisements need to be written for the place they’re likely to be shared:  online.  However, since it is online that means you can’t ignore search engine optimization (SEO):  include relevant, searchable keywords/terms, be careful to avoid abbreviations, and place information where candidates are likely to look.  Focus test your ads using eye tracking; a good agency can help with this or you can do a ‘low-tech’ version by simply having several pairs of eyes in your organization look it over and tell you what they read, scanned, and skipped all together.  Adjust accordingly.

Key Takeaways:  The world has moved online.  Make sure you're prepared for it. 

7.  Cover Your CTA:  Call-To-Actions.  You have to have them.. ensure your ad has multiple call-to-actions that are easy to locate, understand, and have working links.  The best ad in the world won’t work if the candidate ends up with a 404 error when they do take action!!  Test twice on different machines before posting.

Key Takeaways:  Test effectiveness of your CTAs - ask a small focus group to point out where your call-to-actions are within an advertisement.  Best group to do this with is current employees if possible. 

8.  Don’t ask for a ring before you get a date.  Even active candidates shy away if you ask too much of them too quickly.  If you link your ad to a 20-step application process it’s hard to know whether lack of results are due to an ineffective ad or a spectacularly taxing application process.  My teams' email CTAs usually sound something like asking prospects “Sound good? Set up a time to learn more!” which was linked to a request for a resume and a blurb letting them know step 2 was a 15-20 minute max screening call where we could test for initial mutual fit & compared the commitment level to “buying a cup coffee.”  After all, you’re just looking to get picked for a first date.  It's also effective:  response rates for that particular CTA have stayed at over 80% over the last 5 years.  

Key Takeaways:   Graduated commitments are important in candidate psychology.  If you don't have them, build them into your recruitment process. 

These 8 steps will help you have a vastly more effective job advertisements in 2016.  Here's to an attractive New Recruitment Year!