by Travis O’Rourke, President, Hays, Canada
The COVID-19 crisis has brought staggering change to the world of work for recruiters, employers and employees alike – but also to job seekers. It has caused many to revaluate their professional lives, and, in the process, their attitudes to work have changed. In fact, their ‘ideal role’ might look very different now to how it did pre-pandemic.
Not only that, but the increase in reliance on our phones, computers and tablets due to social distancing restrictions has meant that job seekers’ expectations around how a brand should engage with them online is quickly evolving. It’s important for organisations to acknowledge that these two factors will impact on their use of job adverts.
After all, when reading job adverts and considering applying for a new job, active job seekers will be attracted to brands that provide a positive experience from their first point of contact – and that includes the job adverts they read at the beginning of the job application process. So, organisations must promote their job vacancies to professionals in compelling and meaningful ways if they are to engage and attract them successfully.
It’s also essential that when writing a job advert, organisations keep in mind that the reasons why job seekers are in fact seeking jobs may well be quite different at the moment. Many have recently faced redundancy due to the economic fallout of the virus outbreak, for example. And if this is the case, they may be cautious when reading a job advert; trying to anticipate how secure they will feel working for your organisation.
What do jobseekers want to see in a job advert?
Providing key information about the role and your organisation is crucial in order to ensure job seekers are getting the full picture – you are much more likely to retain them this way. According to our What Workers Want research conducted in the UK & Ireland, of the professionals we surveyed who left a role within the first 12 months, 42 per cent did so because the job advert content was misleading.
In terms of what candidates want to see in a job advert:
- 80 per cent want to see a detailed role description
- 65 per cent want to see the role requirements
- 61 per cent want to see compensation and benefits information
How can I add maximum value to my online job adverts?
We live in a busy digital world, so to make your advert stands out from the crowd, here are a few things to bear in mind when briefing your recruiter:
- Be sure to use a common, searchable job title – including a location in the title will also help to ensure your job advert is searched for and found by relevant audiences on search engines.
- Make sure the body content of the job advert is clear, succinct, relevant and includes commonly-searched keywords. It also needs to be easy to read, so think about how you may structure the advert – for example using bullet points. This is essential for ensuring it ranks well in relevant online searches – your consultant will make sure this is perfect when creating your job advert.
- Think carefully about what candidates would really find valuable, and what would incentivise them to apply when deciding what information to prioritise in the body of the advert. Whilst it’s tempting to include all the information about your organisation you can think of, remember that candidates really value information that affects their day-to-day life, such as the type of work the position involves, what success in the role looks like, the potential career path it holds, the principles of the company culture, and the compensation and benefits. Your recruiter can help narrow this down. And of course, in the coronavirus era, candidates will inevitably be interested in details about the location of the role, whether there is scope to do the job completely remotely, and flexible or hybrid working options.
- Connect the job with your company’s strategic priorities. What are the broader objectives of your organisation, and how does this role help to achieve them? This, in turn, will enable your company to showcase its innovation and how it may have pivoted its business model in light of the changed world since the onset of the pandemic.
What sort of language should I use in a job advert?
Writing a job description is – in essence – professional writing, so there are certain rules that should be followed when composing one. Promoting your role through a recruitment partner will ensure you have access to the skills and experience to write one that is aligned with your brand’s tone of voice, using the correct language.
Things to remember when crafting a job description include:
- Use empathetic language – while we’re all having to deal with the effects of the coronavirus crisis, we’re all at different stages of this in our own lives. Using compassionate language in your job advert is an opportunity for your organisation to show that your brand has a human face and people are your first priority. It’s also important to use language that depicts working as a team or collective, instead of in silos.
- Avoid negative language – words such as “can’t”, “never” and “must” imply, in an underlying way, that you are demanding things from the candidate or telling them what to do.
- Make sure diverse imagery and language is used – according to our Diversity & Inclusion report, less than half (49 per cent) of professionals surveyed think their organisation uses suitably diverse branding when it comes to job adverts.
- First or second-person language wherever possible – saying “we will…” or “you will…” feels much more personable than “the successful candidate will…”. Third-person language is too formal and creates a gulf between you and prospective candidates, whereas a first or second-person approach helps candidates to envision themselves in the role.
How should I promote our company culture on the job description?
After salary, culture is the most important aspect of a potential job for candidates. Conveying this in your job advert is critical if you are to attract candidates who would be a good fit for your company. Therefore, you will need to brief your recruiter on the details of your company culture and how your team works together.
Suggestions for this include:
- Organisational purpose and company values – In the wake of COVID-19, many candidates are seeking to make an exciting new start with an employer that shares their values and goals, and is helping to make the world a better place. So, ask yourself what’s important to your organisation. Is it curiosity, honesty, expertise? If it’s innovation, for example, mention some of the things your organisation has done that are exciting and new.
- Growth and progression opportunities – Think about what you are offering as an employer, and how you should convey this. Talk about how you invest in your employees and the learning and development opportunities you provide in order to create a culture of lifelong learning.
- What sets your organisation apart from others? – This could be a first-class flexible working scheme, innovative products or services, remote working opportunities, regular team socials or birthdays off. Not all of these details might seem greatly important, but together, they can really help your brand to stand out.
What are some common mistakes to avoid when writing job descriptions?
1. An unclear job title
A job title like “customer experience executive”, for example, doesn’t necessarily tell the candidate very much about what kind of job it actually is. Not only is this job title uncommon – meaning candidates are unlikely to search for it – but without context, it’s tricky to tell what this role relates to.
Look out, too, for spelling mistakes in your job titles, as this would look unprofessional and negatively impact on the likelihood of the advert appearing high up in the results on search engines. Another common practice among organisations is to omit any salary range, which may leave candidates unclear about the seniority of the role, and deter potentially suitable people from applying.
2. Buzzwords, clichés and vague wording
Does your overview of your brand’s vacancy clearly communicate what the position actually is? Or are you instead simply filling up the space with vague buzzwords and clichés, like “open and collaborative culture” or “a forward thinking company”?
Don’t leave candidates in any doubt about the purpose of this job and what part they would be playing within your organisation if they took on the role.
3. A company story that only makes sense internally, or doesn’t sound particularly compelling
Many organisations are guilty of describing themselves in job adverts in ways that those outside the company cannot easily understand. In the process, they might fail to communicate insightful information about the business’s culture or values, which is much more interesting to candidates.
In addition, many will fall into the trap of simply listing core aspects of your company such as location, company history, services or products, without providing any real insight into your organisation. You should, as Susie Timlin, Chief Operating Officer at UK Government Investments, suggests, include your industry standing (are you industry leaders?), the direction of your company (what are your strategic objectives?) and any great benefits that come with working for you.
4. A nondescript list of duties
Does the list of duties in your organisation’s job advert give meaningful insight into the role’s broader purpose or how the successful candidate would be contributing towards organisational objectives? Or is it a short and uninspiring list that doesn’t paint a transparent picture of what the candidate’s typical day would look like?
As I touched on above, it’s also important to be wary of negative words such as “must”. Instead, focus on including details that prospective employees are likely to find attractive, such as about benefits and development opportunities.
5. An unfocused description of required experience and skills
Organisations sometimes make their job descriptions too brief, and the skills mentioned too generic, while failing to shed light on the wider context of what the given role entails. This may compromise the ability of the employer to attract applications from candidates with the skills required to do the job.
Some job adverts also lack any indication of how many years of experience are required, how a stated qualification – such as a degree – relates to the job, and what degree subject area – such as the arts or sciences – is preferred.
6. Lack of detail on flexible or hybrid working options
The ongoing challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic makes it all the more crucial to inform candidates in your job adverts about your organisation’s remote and hybrid working policies.
Depending on their personal circumstances, many candidates are likely to be thankful for potential employers showing flexibility on the possibility of home working. So, if your job adverts make no reference to remote or flexible working at all, you could be hampering your ability to lure the best candidates.
7. An unprofessional closing statement
You won’t want the way you sign off your job adverts to look careless, or to give the impression of a lack of consideration towards candidates who reach out to you. Nor will you wish even a semblance of unprofessionalism to be evident – for example, the use of a generic Gmail or Outlook email address instead of a company one.
So now we’ve seen what not to do, what does a good job description have?
1. A relevant and descriptive job title
Potential applicants can see hundreds of job adverts every day, so it’s vital to make the title relevant and descriptive to hook the candidate in to read more. Exactly how you structure the title will also hinge on how you wish to position your available vacancy.
2. A brief introduction and background about the company
This should be a single paragraph that gives a flavour of the most exciting aspects of the role and your organisation, perhaps while drawing attention to key points, accolades and awards.
3. Your company story
As I mentioned above, after salary, culture is the number one consideration for professionals applying for new roles. So, it’s crucial to introduce the reader of your job advert to the values of your organisation, as well as your organisational purpose, whilst encompassing its diversity, job security and progression opportunities.
4. The main job description
This is the part of the job advert when you will need to outline the main component parts of the role, without overwhelming the reader with too much detail.
To determine what to write here, consider what challenges you will expect the new hire to resolve in this role. Also be sure to reference aspects such as the working hours, salary, benefits, development opportunities, and anything else an employee might find enticing.
5. Your ideal person
The person specification is a powerful part of a job advert, consisting of a list of the required skills and desirable traits of an organisation’s ideal candidate.
This description of the ideal candidate should be effective in narrowing down a shortlist of candidates by attracting applications from those suitable for the role, while keeping the job advert broad enough to also attract those with transferrable skills.
These transferrable skills may include both hard and soft skills that applicants can easily apply to the role if – like many in the wake of COVID-19 – they are seeking not only a new job, but also to enter a whole new career field.
6. An explanation of your application process
Outlining to candidates what will happen after they apply will assure them that you are professional, have genuine regard for them and will provide them with a positive application experience, even if you do not ultimately invite them to interview.
This part of the job advert should include an emphasis that you will be in contact with successful applicants as soon as possible.
7. Closing statement
Your job advert should end with a closing statement that encapsulates the best parts of your role and organisation, and expresses an eagerness to continue the conversation after application. Sell your company further, too, by including links to any website pages or videos which illustrate what it’s like to work with you.
Transform your job adverts to be relevant to the transformed world of work
Combine the above steps with the creation of complimentary employer brand content – such as captivating blog posts and engaging images, videos and biographies of your team members on your website. And encourage your employees to share this content to reinforce the messages in your job adverts. This will put you in a better position to reach the right candidates in the new era of work.
While some aspects of how to write the most compelling and effective job adverts are much the same as they have always been, the changed world of work calls for a reappraisal of how you portray your brand’s values, culture and communications in your adverts. This, in turn, will help to keep your organisation relevant and attracting more of the most relevant talent for months and years to come.
This article originally appeared on Hays.ie
About the author
Travis O’Rourke joined Hays 9 years ago after holding various leadership roles elsewhere in the Canadian staffing industry. Travis setup and established Hays’ outsourced talent solutions business and played an integral role in building Hays’ temporary and contract divisions throughout Canada. Initially joining Hays with a deep background in Technology, he holds extensive cross functional knowledge to provide clients with talent solutions in Financial Services, Energy, Mining, Manufacturing, Retail, and the Public Sector.
Travis is the Toronto President of ACSESS (Association of Canadian Search, Employment, & Staffing Services) and sits on the board of directors for the National Association of Canadian Consulting Businesses (NACCB). He has been featured in segments with CBC On the Money, BNN The Open, CTV National and other news outlets. Like Hays, Travis is also passionate about corporate social responsibility and is an avid supporter for Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.