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If 8 out of 10 job ads ARE badly written. How to be one of the other two

IT & Project Recruitment

It caught my eye. I cannot find robust research that backs it up, but I have to agree, that when you look through the ‘situations vacant’, you do see a lot of basic errors in grammar and spelling. Also, there’s often a lack of focus on who hirers are actually trying to attract. So, for the sake of argument, let’s accept the claim at face value … and if 8 out of 10 job ads ARE badly written. How do you make sure that yours is one of the other two?

First, let’s reframe the question.

How do you go about hooking your perfect candidate’s attention and how long do you think you have to do it?

The answer to the first bit is usually is some kind of advertisement.

To answer the second part, open the stopwatch app on your smartphone, switch on commercial television and time each advert. They are probably, on average, around thirty seconds, right? There’s a reason for that. Thirty seconds is both an adequate amount of time to get your message over and still hold the attention of your target customer.

That actually sounds reasonable, think about a good elevator business pitch … would you say that should last 20 to 30 seconds? Cool, so thirty seconds …

Now grab the jobs section of a newspaper or fire up a recruitment website. Be honest, do many of the ads catch and hook your attention for half a minute? Actually, thirty seconds is probably considerably less time than a candidate will give you these days because something else happened … Smartphones.

According to scientists, smartphones have left us humans with a shorter attention span than a goldfish! Back in 2015 researchers in Canada studied brain activity using electroencephalograms and concluded that the average attention span has fallen to eight seconds.

So, it turns out, that you have just eight seconds to make such an irresistibly good first impression that you catch and hook the attention of your ideal candidate.

Or, to put it another way, the length of time it took you to read that italicised last sentence. Eek!

Badly written job ads are not a luxury you can afford in a competitive job market … but how do you make sure that your ad is one of the 2 out of 10 that isn’t badly written … here are 7 tips.

1 – Get Specialist Help

Think about the advertisement timing experiment earlier or the last time you sat through a commercial break without pressing the fast-forward button. How many of the ads that you saw do you think were made in-house by the advertiser? Probably none, right? They were written and produced by specialist agencies with years of experience and a proven track record. It’s the same with recruitment, especially for specialist IT roles. A specialist IT recruitment partner can advise on where and when to place the ad to get the best results, the language you should use and the content of your campaign collateral.

2 – Have Your Ads Written by Subject Matter Experts

The more meaningful your ad is the more powerfully it will work for you. Having everything from role descriptions to job ads written, or at least looked over, by experts in the role for which your hiring will help you attract the right talent – like attracts like!. Recent example, a company looking to hire an IT Project Manager set about the challenge like they did for any other role. Their HR Director called their usual recruitment firm and said find us ‘a Project Manager’. The ad was produced and to the untrained eye it kind of looked OK but it didn’t connect or engage with the talent that it was meant to, resulting in a bad hire. We have since started to work with this business and now that their ads are written by subject matter experts the client is reaping the benefits.

3 – Don’t Copy & Paste

It can be tempting to seek out a competitor who is using a specialist recruitment partner and copy and paste their recruitment ads, I actually saw one of my ads reproduced word for word once. Apart from being quite rude, this is HUGELY self-defeating. The ad that you are ripping off was designed to attract talent to your competitor’s firm, not yours. You have a whole different set of challenges, maturities and needs and, what’s more, you want to attract candidates to buy into your USP not that of the firm across town.

3 – Sell Yourself as a GREAT place to work

For me, this is why you could argue that 8 out of 10 ads are badly written. They nail the role description and a list of responsibilities, salary and reporting hierarchy, they even pepper the ad with keywords … but so do all the other ads on the same page. What makes your ad stand out is the same thing that makes your firm stand out as a great place to work. I’m not talking about the table football or the beer that you put in the fridge on a Friday afternoon, it’s not your Secret Santa or lottery syndicate … dive deeper! When you know what makes you an irresistible place to work and you can communicate it clearly, the potential power of your recruitment advertising increases massively. In short, sell yourself! Say it plain. Say it straight. Tell candidates why they HAVE to choose YOU. If you struggle with the deep dive a specialist recruiter (ie, an independent pair of eyes) can really help!

4 – Approach Recruitment as an Advertiser – Treat Potential Candidates Like Potential Customers

Compare your product advertising with your recruitment advertising campaigns. Why is the budget, time and effort spent on the first greater than the latter? It always is and massively disproportionately so. The best explanation I ever heard was that product advertising brings in revenue whereas recruitment advertising results in a cost – the employee! What a lovely way to be seen by a prospective employer – a cost! OK, I accept that you’re never going to spend the same on recruitment that you do on ‘regular’ advertising but it is worth remembering that in both instances you are projecting your brand into the marketplace. While budgets may never be the same, disciplines, process and methods should be! When you apply the same focus on candidate attraction that you do on customer attraction you will get better results. Know who your target candidate is like you know who your target customer is!

5 – Be Brand Aware (And Consider Including Your Logo In Job Ads)

My colleague always talks about how he once worked with a major high street name that spends millions every year on its brand. If I told you the company’s name you would instantly see their logo in your mind’s eye. Despite this, they never used that logo in any of their recruitment advertising until my colleague pointed out the massive trick they were missing. If you have invested in a logo to make you stand out in the marketplace use it to make you stand out in the equally competitive jobs market. Increasingly, ‘employer brand’ is becoming a more pressing priority for businesses, if you don’t have one consider finding a specialist recruitment partner to help you create yours.

6 – Put the Job Ad in the Right Place

This sounds obvious … and yet I still see adverts for IT Project Managers in the ‘situations vacant’ sections of industry sector magazines and journals. Let’s say you run a train operating company, right now your next great IT Project Manager is working for the local council’s IT team or a chain of chemists or pubs … what are the chances that she’s scouring the job ads at the back of Rail Technology News? Either get a specialist recruiter who will know where to ad

vertise and how to use social media to attract the right candidate or, if you have a large enough team of similar professionals, ask them where they would look for a job.

7 – Use The Language Of Your Candidate – BUT Not Your Jargon

One of the worst examples of a bad job ad, or best depending on how you look at it, was a posting advertising a vacancy for a Business Analyst. Although the firm didn’t call the position Business Analyst (BA) they called it “Business Requirement Manager” (BRM). Not only had they re-invented the wheel, they’d renamed it and made it unrecognisable to anyone in the market for a wheel. The ad itself explained the duties of the BRM and, if you read it long enough, the penny would have dropped that they were after a BA. But remember we established earlier how short attention spans can be, just about every BA who saw the ad zoned out at “Business Requirement Manager” figuring it wasn’t for them! When placing a job ad you need to think beyond the language and jargon used by you, your business or industry sector and reach out using the language of your ideal candidate.

In conclusion, I’m still not entirely convinced that 80% of job ads are badly written and in many ways, it doesn’t matter. It could be 99% for all you care! All that matters to you is that YOURS is well written, designed to attract the perfect candidate and posted in exactly the place where they’ll see it. A specialist recruitment partner can be pivotal to that end but addressing each of the points above will help too. Good luck with your next recruitment campaign and thank you for staying with me longer than 8 seconds!

Find out more about Access Talent’s Recruitment services

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