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Candidates want to be informed and engaged—quickly
Detailed job postings that describe what it's really like to work at an organization give both candidates and employers better insight on whether someone is a good match for a job.
That's one of the main takeaways from
CareerBuilder's 2016 Candidate Behavior study, conducted by Inavero among 5,000 U.S. and Canadian job seekers and 1,500 hiring managers and recruiters.
Candidates expect thorough information from a job posting. It's not enough to simply describe the company and the basic requirements of the job. According to the study, the question on the minds of 75 percent of job seekers is "What would my day-to-day job tasks be?" and 57 percent wonder what skill sets are essential, versus skills that would be "nice to have."
Additional attributes candidates said they want to see in a job posting are:
"Job postings are not job descriptions," said Tim Sackett, president of HRU Technical Resources, an engineering and IT staffing firm based in Lansing, Mich. Instead, they're a marketing tool and need to be treated as such, especially so they can stand out from the noise, he said.
"Candidates want to know what it's really like working at the company, and a bullet list of skills the company is looking for and a blanket-sell statement about the company in a job posting just doesn't cut it anymore," said Will Staney, founder of Proactive Talent Strategies, an Austin, Texas-based consulting firm focused on talent acquisition strategy, employer branding and training. "Including dynamic content like video, company ratings or employee testimonials gives candidates a better idea of what the true day-in-the-life experience of working at your company is like."
Jennifer Davis, senior director of talent acquisition strategy at Epsilon, a global marketing company based in Irving, Texas, cedes the "necessary evil" of outlining the essential duties of the job in a job posting, "especially in larger and more-regulated companies, but that's the boring stuff that candidates tend to gloss over," she said. Davis advised employers to discuss instead the culture, company values and the value that the person will bring to the role.
Quickly Inform and Attract
According to the survey findings, many job postings don't supply job seekers with the information they really need to make the initial decision to enter the hiring process. Another finding complicates that observation: Nearly half of job seekers said they only skim the postings.
"The attention spans of job seekers are minimal, so employers need to make an impact very quickly," said Kassandra Barnes, director of product marketing and research at CareerBuilder. "Job postings do not [commonly] scream 'I'm attractive!' " Barnes said. "If you've seen one, you've seen them all. However, there are ways to build more simplicity and attractiveness in job postings to make them more attractive to job seekers."
Barnes pointed to the dating app Tinder to show how a major decision can be expressed simply. "Wouldn't it be nice if a job seeker could quickly assess 'yes' or 'no' on whether to apply for that job based upon an initial impression from the job listing?" she asked.
Barnes said the ideal job post would combine Tinder's simplicity with the beauty of an image on the Tesla automobile website. "I can intuitively feel what it would be like to drive a Tesla or own a Tesla. I am emotionally connected just by seeing a visual of the Tesla."
So how can that simplicity and emotional attraction be translated to job postings?
For starters, "talk like a human" instead of using a technical writing style, Davis said. That includes not using the job title from the applicant tracking system. "If everyone calls it 'corporate communications specialist,' don't call it 'marketing specialist III' just because it's like that in your HR drive," said Stacy Donovan Zapar, a recruiting strategist and founder of Tenfold, a boutique recruitment consultancy based in San Diego. "What are people going to search on?—That's the term you should use."
Zapar stressed the importance of eliminating extraneous material such as boilerplate language like "Other duties as assigned," and "four-year degree or equivalent work experience," and clichés like "We're always looking for top talent." Delete anything that is negotiable and could deter a potential candidate, she said. The "About Us" section is usually ripe for elimination, Barnes said. "Job seekers are not interested in the oral history of your organization. More often than not, this is the piece that they skip."
Sackett recommended highlighting text to draw the job seeker's eye, "but don't overuse this function," he added. "Less is more, when it comes to job postings. How can you grab the attention of the job seeker in about 50 words?"
Talent acquisition experts wholeheartedly recommend using pictures and video to engage candidates. "For example, you can create short 45-60-second videos to help candidates learn exactly what you're looking for and why they will want to apply," Staney said. "Videos of the hiring manager and potential co-workers explaining not just what they are looking for in a new employee but what the team culture is like, the challenge of the work and how the work they do relates to the broader company gives candidates the opportunity to meet the team before even applying."
Adding salary to the listing is a controversial practice, which is not advocated by most recruiters. "There's often a range, and you don't know what that candidate is going to command until you talk to them and find out their education, skills and experience," Zapar said. "If someone doesn't make it to the top of the published range, you've created a problem. If you price too low, you potentially price out a candidate who would've been a great fit."
But Sackett said that his company has gotten more traffic and applications from the postings with a salary in the job posting title. "Adding the starting salary or range to the job posting is just another good way to filter in and out the right candidates and set early expectations for the candidate," he said.
Sackett also believes that the best organizations can turn review sites like Glassdoor and InHerSight into an employment branding edge. Even for those organizations with less-than-stellar ratings, "if it's an accurate reflection of your culture, put it out there," said Zapar. "Then you're attracting the right people and deflecting the wrong ones. I'd rather everyone know about the company's culture
before people apply, instead of
after, or God forbid, three months after being hired."
Finally, showing personality can go a long way toward attracting the candidates you want. "Have fun and add some humor, but only if this is part of your brand," Sackett said.
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