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Salary Is Most Important Part of Job Ad

Heat mapping project shows job seekers scan ads for pay, qualifications, duties

A group of business people sitting in a waiting room.

​Putting salary ranges in job advertisements may give employers a competitive advantage when trying to attract candidates. That's because most job seekers look first at a position's compensation and benefits when scanning a job posting, then at the job's required qualifications and duties, according to new research from LinkedIn.

The professional networking site asked 450 users to look over an example job advertisement and then generated a heat map based on what captivated them. Not surprisingly, pay and benefits information immediately attracted a majority of the respondents.

"When people are looking at job descriptions, they are looking for the details that drive their motivations when changing jobs," said Monica Lewis, head of product for LinkedIn Jobs. "In our recent study on what candidates want during the job hunt, we found that over 70 percent of professionals want to hear about salary in the first message from a recruiter. With 59 percent of candidates stating that salary was the leading factor that contributed to feeling fulfilled in their career, understanding pay and benefits is clearly top of mind during the job search."

A new study from backs this up. Money is the No. 1 motivator for 67 percent of job seekers and employees looking elsewhere for career opportunities, according to a survey of 1,100 workers and job seekers. When asked what would make them more likely to apply for a job, respondents said attractive benefits and perks.

"Most people have choices in this job market. They don't want to waste their time with a role where pay and benefits don't meet what they're after," said Kara Yarnot, vice president, strategic consulting services, at HireClix, a recruitment marketing and consulting firm based in Gloucester, Mass.

Programmatic job-advertising technology company Appcast recently published the findings of its analysis of "over 50 million job ad clicks and 3.7 million applies during 2017 from more than 400 companies."

"Listing noncash employee benefits in job ads radically motivated candidates to apply," said Rob Green, vice president of marketing for the Lebanon, N.H.-based firm.

"There was a direct relationship between the number of benefits, such as health care and dental insurance, employee discounts, paid time off and others, mentioned in the job ad and the apply rate," he said. "Organizations that listed at least four noncash benefits found a 20 percent-plus improvement in the effectiveness of their online recruitment advertising."

Many organizations don't list the pay range for their jobs, but more candidates are expecting it, Yarnot said, because of the prevalence of finding the information on Google for Jobs, Glassdoor and other places online. Listing salary also helps recruiters by producing a better candidate pool, she added. "People will self-select out if the pay rate is not aligned, and it ends up being less noise for a recruiter to deal with."

Craft Job Ads That Focus on the Role

Job seekers primarily want to know how much they'll make, what they're expected to do and whether they can get the job. Other crucial areas of a job ad include the job's title, location and required qualifications, according to the LinkedIn heat map. Information about the company—like its mission and culture—is the stuff candidates care the least about.

"We've been advising clients for a long time to put that paragraph about the company at the end of the job ad instead of at the beginning," Yarnot said. "Talking about how great your culture is in an ad can feel canned. A better way to get culture across is through video."  

Many respondents mentioned that they prefer to research the company through its website and employer review sites. HR could save candidates the trouble of finding that information by including their review ratings and profiles in the ad.

"Most candidates will seek out that information anyway, so you may as well embrace your reviews," Yarnot said. "Your scores on Glassdoor and Indeed may not be where you want them to be, but if you are actively responding to reviews and managing your branding and reputation, you should want job seekers to visit those sites. For candidates, it feels more transparent."

Appcast and LinkedIn data revealed that brevity is best when it comes to job ads. "Keep job titles to essential words only," Green said. "Jobs with shorter titles have higher apply rates."

Many companies are guilty of advertising job titles that may reflect compensation inside the company but mean nothing to the applicant, like "program analyst III."

"What is that?" Yarnot asked. "This is an ad, and HR should be using their marketing hat to come up with a title. You want the title to match what the candidate thinks the job is, not what you call the job internally."

She added that qualifications should be short, bulleted and easy to scan. The number of applicants you get may depend on the number of qualifications you list, she said. "You may want to ease up on the qualifications if the job is hard to fill and add more if you're getting deluged with applicants."

Regarding a job's responsibilities, respondents to the LinkedIn study were most drawn to the exact metrics they would be measured by at the end of their first year. Yet very few employers include these goals in job posts, Yarnot said. One participant noted that "the fact that the posting showed success criteria for the first year was impressive. That information is super helpful to me as a potential candidate, so I can know what my targets are, but it also shows a level of seriousness that the company has defined that up front."

Straightforward Tone Works Best

LinkedIn tested three versions of the same job description with different tones—straightforward, formal and casual.

The straightforward approach did the best with respondents, followed closely by the formal, jargon-laden ad, while the casual posting with conversational language and goofy jokes ended up being a turnoff. Readers of the casual post were four times more likely to view the employer negatively and two to four times less likely to apply.

"Job seekers told us they don't mind a human approach, but it can come across as unprofessional if it's overdone," Lewis said. "While a lighter tone could help you attract people who are a fit with your team, it can also limit your ability to bring in new and diverse perspectives."


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