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How to write a good job advert (1/3)

Recently, some academics complained to the big academic job board, www.jobs.ac.uk, that an advertisement for a lectureship contained exactly one sentence that was useful to the job applicants.   We know that our job advertisements are often bad.  But in truth, most of us have no idea how to fix them.

I think the trick, which I put here for you to consider, is to remember that selection is about prediction but recruitment is about securing supply.  It is marketing.  We want to catch people’s attention but we also want them to pre-select and arrive as marketers put it, pre-qualified.  There is no merit in attracting lot of applications when you only have one job.  It wastes your time and it makes a lot of enemies.  But how do we achieve the twin goals of being noticeable and being useful?

Some marketing terms

Were we to be marketing the latest £1bn FMCG product, we might think in terms of {Category, Personas, Problems, Motivations}.

Category.  In recruiting, we probably assume that Category is just “a job” but we will probably return here to answer the question – what category of product does the customer put you in?  In other words, what would be their alternative if they weren’t using your product?  Gather your competition and you will have some idea of the category, or set, in which you fall.  Sometimes you are surprised by what people would be doing if they weren’t working for you/

Persona.  Who is likely to be interested in this job?  Where have they come from?  Where are they going to?  Who are they taking with them?  Simply imagine candidates that you would very much like to apply and write down who they are – though keep this private because to do it well you must draw out of your imagination details that will be illegal if they remain part of the system. So, if you imagine yourself recruiting a young male, write it down. Then later you can challenge yourself to imagine recruiting a young woman, an older woman or an older male.  Your task here is not to finalise the system but to begin to walk in the shoes of your applicants and to learn too what assumptions you make about them.

Problems.  Now imagine the issues that your applicants have with your category – that is you and your competition (and your competition might be a gap year!).  What questions are candiates likely to ask, not just you, but other people privately?  What are they googling?  What issues have come up with previous incumbents?  I remember being asked by a very senior person where the printer was.  It really irked him that he had to waste time running around to find his stuff.  This was not central to his competence but it pointed me to factors that he was taking into consideration.

Motivations.  What is the motivation behind these problems?  Why are these problems important to the audience?  In the case of the printer, the person wanted to be efficient, didn’t want to do administration and wanted to be respected?  Maybe these are traits I don’t want and I can signal that in the advertisement.  Or maybe, these are traits that I do want and I can indicate the ‘state of the plant’ in the advertisement.  In recruitment, money and location is important.  And so too is not lying about these.  It is amazing how often recruiters do.

Will taking a marketing mindset help you?

I know a lot of recruiters who just can’t be bothered. They don’t really understand the jobs they are filling. And forgetting that they have two audiences, concentrate mainly on what hirer wants.  That is of course, their judgement.

My experience of using marketing in recruitment is that both we successfully fill jobs, and on the first pass.  Moreover, the number of applications plummets by an order of magnitude. We get better replies and we get fewer replies.   We satisfy both our audiences: the hirer and the applicants.

With this little bit of homework, which is quite enjoyable to do, particularly in a group, we write better job advertisements.

 

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Published in Alternative Methodologies Business & Communities

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