Journalism Is Not Dead – It is Alive in Recruiting with Job Ads

Let’s have a candid chat about job ads and postings…
A poor job description is pretty easy to spot when you see it – it does not talk about the employer, what is in it for the applicant, etc – typically if it looks like an after thought, it probably was.
Some call job ads boring. However, I am not sure we have boring job descriptions…but wow do we have mediocre ones. LOTS of mediocre ones. And actually that has become the real problem. What is exciting about a job description? The typical one is a quick self pat on the back on how awesome you are and how awesome your people are, a list of tasks that are clearly not as descriptive as they could be, a bunch of bullet points, how much you need to be able to lift, a bunch of legal statements, and if you are lucky a glimpse of how much it pays.
This mediocrity is enabled by our tech, and what I would characterize as a large scale usage of this phrase by a large share of CHROs and heads of recruiting globally – “I know our job descriptions aren’t great, but we can’t focus on that right now – we will do it next year.”
^^ That reminds of those signs you see at a funky cafe that say “Free Coffee…Tomorrow”
Talk Data to Me – and bring the Heat Map 😉
How we process text as media has been radically changing. The optimal length of media for reading, and its engagement has shifted. Job descriptions may stand alone as one of the few one to two page content pieces that does not include video, imagery, or editorial as a standard.
Take a pause on that. Name something ELSE you read on your phone on a daily basis that fills up an entire screen of text, that you usually scroll through, that has no images, hyperlinks, or engagement…hmmm…here are my daily go to’s, and none of them are text only:
  • FB and LinkedIn threads have video embedded, I can see likes and how many comments. Typically if I do click an article there is video, images, and more engagement on the other end.
  • When I get my news from the BBC via app, almost every single article is a video summary, and less than two screens of text, with supporting content around it.
  • When I review the Phillies each day on, there are at least 2 images and 4 videos buried in the article, telling me what has happened the previous day. Not to mention dozens of other content I can get to quickly.

You need to understand how content is processed. Just because the majority of the planet reads top to bottom and left to right does NOT mean you publish content just that way. HACK THE PROBLEM >> OUR EYES MOVE AROUND THE POST. As we research visual heat maps and click thru patterns of text, articles, and media, we know that users have certain preferences for UI, accessibility, and what makes them scroll and stay engaged. Be aware of where your users are seeing your descriptions and what may or may not be distracting them. Check out these two articles on how to improve how your users read content to expand your mindset on how to build job descriptions AND what to wrap around them.

I would say that the vast majority of ATS providers have a text / html editing entry point for their client’s postings, and the job board providers certainly are not accepting complex WordPress layouts with embedded media into their workflows. Our collective authoring and publishing technologies already places the author (Pat Q. Recruiter) at a disadvantage. And yes, all recruiters are authors. So we need to be really smart about….get ready for it….TELLING THE STORY.
Become a Recruiting Journalist
Every job description is really a story. A DATA STORY. You have to set the context, discuss the problems the business is facing, talk about what has happened in the past, what is trending, what is happening now, and what can happen collectively if we work together on the business problems. You present evidence, facts, and consensus on the business and how new team members can help and have helped. Now you can start talking about what it in it for the candidate.
You know there is a story behind every job. You are recruiting someone to spend likely 2000+ hours a year engaging with your team and/or your customers…that deserves more than a few hundred templated words and some bullet points. It certainly deserves more than a quick cut copy paste from the last job.
So here is a checklist you can go through…
  1. Tell the hiring manager that you know much more about recruiting then they do, so when they don’t like the amount of content you produce for the job, they accept it.
  2. Tell your HR leader that a JOB POSTING is not a legal document, and that a JOB DESCRIPTION is a legal document. How you position in the market to attract people does not need to match up with the internal document. So stop copy pasting the legal version.
  3. Investigate this job – not the position. A position is a spot on a roster, certain duties and responsibilities that are well defined. However, every position has a JOB to do. Learn the difference. Let’s just assume that we all hire individuals with skills and experiences that are unique to them, and as such each job can only be performed in an unique way, every time (oh wait, that is exactly how things work). Find out what is going on with the business and how this job can make an impact. How is morale? How is the team? What is being worked on? Same stuff? Are you changing?
  4. Create and publish openly the rewards package for this job. If you got past the first 3, which are already pretty bold, you might as well go in for the most important set of evidence and facts – compensation and rewards. You need to list the targeted salary, any bonus payouts, unique features about your benefits programs, and talk about advancement and merit increases. If you don’t list the salary, Google already dings you. In a bunch of states you can’t ask about current pay anyway. Try something like this “We offer a very competitive compensation program for this job. Our benefits program includes health, dental, 401k with match and other standards, but we also pay for parking, transit, and a much more. We are looking to offer $85,000 per year in salary for this job, as it will keep parity with how we pay for other like jobs, and avoid any wage gap between men and women. Candidates can expect an offer at that level regardless of their current compensation.” I know…but make it fly anyway. Do the right thing.  

All the videos, images, and cool landing pages in the world are not going to change your STORY. Only you can do that. Make the leap into journalism by telling the manager you are the author, make that separation from the internal job description, find the unique story and tell it, and be transparent about compensation and rewards.

If anything, you won’t be mediocre.

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