Ad a little magic to attract the best

No doubt, if you have a sourcing strategy in place, it will include links into a series of different channels.  You’re probably using some if not all of the following (in no particular order) - Career website, job boards, internal referrals, employee referrals, colleges / universities, passive / semi-passive candidate searching, social media and agencies / consultancies etc etc.

As we all know, a process or system is only as strong as its weakest component.  When looking through job boards, career and agency sites etc it seems one of the major weakest components is still, in a vast number of cases, the adverts that recruiters continue to write.  When are we going to learn people!? If you want the majority of the candidates you attract to be of the bog-standard variety continue writing your bog-standard copy.  If you want to increase the calibre of candidates you initially attract and, as a result, increase the chances of recruiting great candidates (instead of perhaps just striking it lucky on the odd occasion) something’s gotta change...


...Your average ad will have a little bit of bumph about the responsibilities, skills, experience a company wants a candidate to have.  The main issue I have with these is that they list what an employer wants a candidate to have. Rarely do they list, in any great detail, what they want a candidate to actually do. Okay, maybe to a certain extent under your average, run-of-the-mill "Responsibilities" section, but how often do you read ads that tell you how successful performance is actually going to be achieved and measured in the role? As Lou Adler says in his, “Hire With Your Head” – "Define the job not the person."  Think of it like this.  I’ve met many people in the trades (plumbers, electricians etc) who (literally) have all the tools in their bags yet they still go on to do a really shoddy job. The same principle can be applied in recruitment. Just because a candidate appears to have the skills, experience it doesn't mean they know how to use them or, in some cases, want to / are motivated to use them.


Great candidates look for new opportunities differently than your average ones.  They look for careers not jobs. They want to know what they are going to learn, how they’re going to be challenged and stretched.  Where is their development going to come from? For great candidates, remuneration is a consideration (we've all got bills to pay right?) but it’s nearer the bottom of their wish list. When I worked agency-side I was taught 3 key elements to include at the top of your ads were job title, location and salary / rate.  The reasoning given was that these were the main elements candidates would look for when trawling through the plethora of ads on job boards or career sites etc (SM forums weren't as prevalent then) .  Oh how wrong this is if you’re looking for A* candidates.


Allow me to demonstrate:


Typical Advert:

Performance Based Advert:

Hopefully you’ll notice most points in the latter advert are SMARTe.  They Specifically detail what needs to be done and include Measures. They highlight the Actions that need to be taken and the expected Results, and they give an indication of the Time frames results are expected within.  The wording / writing style will hopefully give a little flavour of the environment i.e. a culture of fun and collaboration, the time pressures involved etc.

To sum up. Great adverts need to include 3 key ingredients:

  1. Your copy needs to show prospective great candidate what they will contribute, how they will develop, what impact they’ll have.  A common mistake is the mentality that says we need someone to have done X, Y & Z because we need them to replicate that here, and then decline potentially excellent candidates because they don't have an exact match. Great candidates don’t move to roles where they’ll be doing what they’ve already done. They want new challenges and to be doing different things. If the role you’re advertising is exactly the same as their existing one where is the incentive for them to apply?  Would you if you knew you weren’t going to be doing anything different. Especially if one of your reasons for moving in the first place is a loss of interest due to a lack of fresh and exciting challenges in your current role?
  2. Yes. Highlight the skills you want someone to have but more importantly demonstrate how you intend them to be used – Change the having into doing!
  3. Avoid bog-standard short titles. You want something to draw your great candidate’s in. Contrary to popular belief, longer titles are better than short ones – especially if you need them to stand out on overcrowded job boards, career sites or social media forums etc. where they're surrounded by a whole host of short titles.

Inspiration for this post came from reading Lou Adler’s - Hire With your Head. If you agree with what I’ve said  and would like to know more about the performance-based recruitment methodology I strongly recommend you pick up a copy of this book.  You can subscribe to also.

I look forward to seeing some much improved adverts in Recruitment World in the near future (*he says wishfully*)

Hungry for more?  Check me out at - training and coaching through recruitment complexities.  Follow on Twitter @TRecKnowledgy

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