10 Ways to Attract High Caliber Candidates with Compelling Copy

A standard job advertisement is like a marketing campaign that attracts a few new customers: lots of effort for little return. A great job ad, on the other hand, attracts dozens of suitable candidates who are excited about the role and eager to work with your organization. A great job ad triggers conversation, social sharing and an inbox full of A-player resumes.

Winning Applicant by RubyGoes, Flikr

Think about what would make you interested in applying for a position and use that to get the attention of your next star hire.

Here are 10 ideas to get you started.

Job Ad Tip #1: Start with an Attention Grabbing Subject

Candidates give job postings about the same amount of attention as a news article. You have only a few seconds to grab them. Don’t waste words. Identify three key selling points; and then pick the most persuasive element of the role and use it as the subject or headline of your job ad.

Job Ad Tip #2: Plain English Works Best

Writers who use excessive or sales-oriented language, sprinkled with buzzwords come across as insincere. Sell the opportunity, but aim to be genuine and human as possible. This means using plain but persuasive language, designed to grab attention without turning off your audience.

Job Ad Tip #3: Be Truthful

No one wants to apply for a role only to find the “great chances for advancement”, or “opportunities for international travel” were only words on paper; especially if these were the very points that moved someone to make an application. Only include what is really on the table.

Job Ad Tip #4: Sell the Company

Even well-known brands need to sell the company and live the brand. Through websites like Glassdoor.com, potential candidates will find out the inside scoop about working in your office. Your job posting has to be honest, time emphasizing the unique selling points of your workplace without sugar-coating the reality. Shout about the positive, promote the benefits and, if expectations are high and the work is demanding—just say so.

Job Ad Tip #5: Sell the Working Experience

There are brand values, mission statements and quarterly objectives, and then there’s the actual experience of working in your office and with your team. Startups are great at presenting the work experience as a key differentiator. Here’s an example from the careers website of Shopify, a venture-backed e-commerce company in Toronto:

You’ll fit right in

Shopify’s culture is defined by the great people who work here.

You’ll get a chance to work on challenging problems with some of the industry’s best and brightest. Shopify is growing quickly, which means there are opportunities everywhere. Find something that interests you, and own it. You’ll have the creative freedom to make a real difference in the world of commerce.

At Shopify, you’re encouraged to experiment, take risks, and push the envelope. And if you make a mistake? That’s cool – learn from it, and share your experience with the team. We expect you to learn and grow, and we’ll provide you with the resources to make that happen.

The language is empowering. Phrases like “own it” and “make a real difference” sell the vision alongside the reality of working with the “best and brightest.” What’s best about your working environment and your workplace culture?

Job Ad Tip #6: Embrace their Aspirations

Belle Beth Cooper describes how the best brands sell themselves to customers in her widely quoted article: People don’t buy products; they buy better versions of themselves. In your efforts to attract the best candidates, are you listing the attributes of the fire or describing how awesome it is to throw fireballs?

The highly respected economist and marketing expert, Theodore Levitt, who popularized the term ”Globalization,” attributed the following simple, but profound quote (about why people buy products), to Leo McGinneva:[1]

“They don’t want quarter-inch bits. They want quarter-inch holes.”

The same can be said about job advertisements. People apply because they want to move up in the world or experience the prestige associated with a particular brand (e.g. Google or Universal Studios). They are seeking a way to achieve their aspirations—whether this job is the dream itself or just a step on the ladder. Speak to those aspirations. What can your company and the advertised role do for them?

Job Ad Tip #7: Speak Human, Not SEO

Everything online can be used toward search engine optimization. Keywords and phrases help pull people in, but when they’re added at the expense of readability, they clutter the job posting and obscure meaning. Just as the overuse of buzzwords and jargon masks your message, so too can inappropriate use of SEO tactics.

Job Ad Tip #8: Set Realistic Timelines

One of the most stressful parts of a job search is waiting for a reply to an application or after an interview. As the employer, you can make that wait much less painful by clearly indicating whether all candidates (or only those selected for an interview), will be contacted; and providing a timeline for contact. In this way, candidates will know how long they have to wait before finding out whether or not they are moving forward in the process.

Job Ad Tip #9: Keep Them Updated

If your selection process includes multiple interviews and stages, make that clear in your job posting and state your policy regarding contact during that process. Once you have a strong candidate engaged, keep them informed so they don’t assume they’ve been rejected and move on.

Job Ad Tip #10: Be Clear About “Must Have” Criteria

Some high performance candidates hate to be rejected. Some won’t even apply if the barriers to entry seem too high to jump. They may prefer to apply elsewhere, where an interview is almost assured, than face rejection. Keep this in mind when specifying “must have” criteria and make sure that list includes only essential qualifications.

The next time you sit down to create a job advertisement, aim for the epic marketing campaign approach: attention grabbing, clear and concise, truthful, highly targeted, candidate-focused and founded on persuasive and compelling copy.


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