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How to Write Better Recruiting Ads

I have a challenge for you. Go to Indeed.com and search for a job you are currently trying to fill. Don't look specifically for your job; look at all the other jobs that are just like yours.

Pretty discouraging, isn't it?

Depending on the job title and geography you searched, you may have found dozens or even hundreds of jobs that all look alike. How is a candidate ever going to find and reply to your job when everyone looks and sounds the same?

A Quick History Lesson

Back in the 1980s (you know, somewhere between the time of the Internet and when dinosaurs roamed the earth), recruitment advertising was very different. There were no job boards. No aggregators. Back then most recruitment advertising was done in the classified section of the Sunday newspaper.

In those days, staffing professionals would agonize over their ads. They'd spend hours crafting clever headlines to jump out and grab a reader skimming the Help Wanted section. They'd find creative ways to abbreviate requirements, just to get more meaning out of one less column inch (that's how we paid for ads-by the inch). And they'd include a strong call to action to motivate a candidate to pick up the phone or mail in a resume.

Then something strange happened.

Along came the Internet. And Monster and CareerBuilder and other niche job boards. Suddenly column inches were meaningless. We could now write as much as we wanted. We could more accurately categorize our jobs. We could even include links to relevant web pages and videos.

And maybe because of our newfound freedom, we got lazy...
We stopped writing creative headlines...
We substituted long, boring lists of duties and requirements for engaging descriptions...
We got too focused on what we need and not what our ideal candidates want.

As Mark Twain famously stated,

"I would have written you a shorter letter, if only I had more time."

Today, the recruiting corollary has become

"I would have written a more engaging job post, if only I had put in more effort."

What's Wrong with Job Posts Today?

I won't throw the entire staffing industry under the bus, but the majority of job posts that are being written are truly awful. Go back and read the job descriptions on your own company website. Do they capture your attention? Do they create desire for the job described? Do they convince you to apply?

Here are a few of my biggest pet peeves with job descriptions today:

  1. Functional job titles. A functional title like "Administrative Assistant" may be technically accurate, but it will never stand out on a job board or aggregator.
  2. Lengthy job descriptions. Who will ever read all that text?
  3. Incomplete job descriptions. At the other extreme are the one-sentence job descriptions that provide zero useful information to a job seeker.
  4. Duties / Responsibilities / Requirements. When these are the primary focus, candidates lose focus – and interest - quickly.
  5. Weak calls to action. Most posts seem to assume the candidate will know what to do next. That may be true, but it's also dangerous (you know what happens when we assume.
  6. Reuse old junk. The vast majority of job posts today are recycled garbage. It's fine to re-use a job post-once you've agonized over the content to make the post as strong as it can be.

What Should You Do?

The difference between a weak post and a good one can be measured in dozens or even hundreds of job applications. It can mean the difference between sourcing a superstar and lamenting the lack of talent available in the market.

Need proof? Consider this example. This was a hire we made last year-and the only change we made in the job post was the title.

Job Title # of applicants # of Interviews Hire Made?
Client Service Support Specialist 0 0 No
Marketing Support Specialist 25 5 YES
Help Desk 125 0 No

11 Ways to Improve Your Job Posts

Today's candidates have choices. If you want to attract top talent:

1. Write engaging job titles.

The job title IS your attention grabber. Yes, you should include the functional title (because people search for functional titles), but embellish it with something that will make your job stand out. You might include a location, starting pay, bonus opportunities, ability to work from home, or opportunity to go perm. For example "Administrative Assistant ($18 / hr)" or "Web Designer – Work from Home."

2. Test the same job with different titles.

Just like the example above, the same job may attract very different candidates with a different title. For us, changing the job title from "Client Service" to "Marketing" made all the difference in both quality and quantity of candidates.

3. Sell first.

Why is this such a great job? Why would your ideal candidate be interested? Start your job posts by selling the "WIIFM" to the people you want to attract. Save the list of duties and requirements until after you've made the sale.

4. Know each job and why it's exceptional.

Create a "performance profile" for each job, describing the major challenges which must be met to succeed. Presenting an opportunity this way helps you create "opportunity gaps" (significant differences between a prospect's current job and the new job) that will get a passive candidate thinking. If you can convince a candidate that he would be passing on a major opportunity, you have a much better chance of winning him over.

5. Paint a picture of your ideal candidate.

Hire a writer to help you develop your posts. Or train your people to be better writers. A job post is an advertisement, and your ads need great writing. Your copy must attract and engage your ideal candidates. You want to capture their imagination, get them to picture themselves in the role, and help them envision a better future by landing this job.

6. Include pay information.

Job posts with pay information get 40% more response. Even if your pay rates stink, it’s better to include pay and have people disqualify themselves than to waste your time with people who will never accept the offer. That stated, if you have multiple jobs for the same role, advertise the highest possible pay. And if your pay is below market, be sure to sell other positive aspects of the job opportunity.

7. Know what matters to candidates.

Offering a competitive salary is important, but it's not the only thing that matters to job seekers. Identify candidates' "hot buttons" – intangibles which are just as important as money, such as: challenging work; opportunity for advancement; location; flexible hours; a performance / salary review after six months; tuition reimbursement; occasional telecommuting days; professional development perks; and mentoring opportunities. Leverage these intangibles to strengthen your post.

8. Provide a clear call to action.

Do people have to apply online? Can they call or email you? Do you want a cover letter or work samples? Every job post should clearly tell people how to apply. Ideally, you’ll repeat your call to action throughout the post-and if people do not apply for the specific job they are viewing, consider creating a pop up to get them to submit their resume in consideration for all the other jobs you have available.

9. Co-brand your posts with client names.

If you serve well-known clients, include their names in your job titles (when you can). Job seekers often search for jobs by company name, and when you include your client name in your job title, it increases the chances of candidates finding you via Google. It will also increase your response when the jobs appear on Indeed and other aggregators.

10. Use bullets

Forget long paragraphs of text. Use lists to make your posts easier to read and maintain candidates' interest.

11. Use headlines and subheadlines.

Make the key points about the job easy to skim.

There's NO COST to Better Posts

If you're struggling to attract candidates to your jobs-or struggling to attract the right candidates, one solution is simply to write better job posts. Go back to the good old days and agonize over the copy. Write engaging headlines (job titles) to capture attention. Craft body copy that really sells-and appeals to your target candidate. And conclude by telling people exactly what you want them to do.

A good job post can't make up for the skills gap, but it can get more of those active jobs seekers (and even some passive ones) to find your firm and apply to the opportunities you offer.

More Ways to Boost Response to Your Job Posts?

  1. Think SEO and optimize your posts for search engines. Make sure your posts have optimized URLs, page titles, headlines and clear meta descriptions.
  2. Promote related jobs. Include a "You might also be interested in" section in your posts, with links to other opportunities.
  3. Encourage people to send in a resume-even if they are not interested in the job they are reviewing.
  4. Do more to promote your jobs on your website. Include featured jobs on the home page of your site. Add a flyout to encourage people to apply now. Provide a search widget at the top of various pages or in sidebars. Include “Search Jobs” and “Apply Now” calls to action throughout your site.
  5. Boost your job distribution. Share your jobs with free aggregators and social media. Test pay-per-click and pay-per-application services to see about the quality and cost per candidate they can deliver. Test niche and local job boards.
  6. Blog about hot job opportunities. Blog post are great for SEO. And they are great for sharing on social media. Use your blog to write about job opportunities in new ways. Sell your clients. Sell the benefits of working for your firm. And direct people to specific jobs you are trying to fill.
  7. Automate job alerts. Invite candidates to opt-in for job alerts and then automatically notify them when you post new jobs that match their interests.
  8. Build a talent network. This can include active and passive job seekers and candidate referral sources. Keep your network up-to-date on the jobs you are trying to fill-and the incentives you offer for referrals. And don’t be shy about asking for referrals!
  9. Call Haley Marketing! From our job board software to our new re-recruiting service and our award winning blogging and Social Pro services, we can help you find and attract more qualified candidates to your job openings. Visit us at www.haleymarketing.com or call us at 1.888.696.2900 to learn more.
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