Skills shortages, the talent war and demographic change – all excellent choices for a round of buzzword bingo as played by HR specialists. The job market’s not getting any easier for employers. And the disconnect between the job ads posted and the people actually looking for work is getting wider, with many businesses now finding it unexpectedly difficult to fill their vacant positions. Increasingly, there’s even talk of companies now actually ‘applying’ to potential employees rather than the other way around.
Thankfully, most employers have been revising their strategy for a while now. Although employer branding, proactive recruitment, employee retention and professional development are typically important elements of a successful HR policy, they all tend to involve projects with very long timescales that cannot guarantee short-term success. And we know how popular ‘quick wins’ are with senior management – it’s another square on the buzzword bingo board, after all.
So the next time you need a great job ad up and running – ideally yesterday – I’d highly recommend checking your past efforts. The idea here is really very simple indeed: the easier my ads are to find, then the easier it will be for me to find the right candidates.
Fine in theory, but how does this look in practice? And how should I go about writing this ultimate job ad?
First things first: every job ad needs a title. And if search engines don’t find it, the ad will never be read. So the job ad title should be constructed according to search engine optimisation (SEO) guidelines, to ensure it isn’t sidelined by all of those clever algorithms. This sounds more complicated than it really is and, thanks to tools like Google Trends, you can easily check for popular or less popular search terms.
Keep the title short, as well. This makes it easier to read and less likely to be ‘amputated’ by mobile screens. After all, keep in mind that over half of all jobseekers now actively use their mobile devices to find their next job. On the bus or train to their (much unloved) workplace in the morning, for example.
What’s interesting is that being hip, cool or sexy is no advantage at all when it comes to job titles that need to be found quickly and easily understood. Quite the opposite, in fact: out-of-the-ordinary, ‘eye-catching’ job titles are actually harder to find, occur less often in hit lists and therefore reach far fewer applicants. And the ‘seek and ye shall find’ mantra offers cold comfort when faced with the 15,000 vacancies for engineering and technical jobs, for example (as of 30 Jan 2020). (That’s just the figure for Stepstone, by the way.)
Put yourself in their shoes
Now we come to what I see as the most important point. And it doesn’t require the skills of an SEO expert or HR professional. Just imagine you’re a jobseeker. What keywords will you search for – and how? What’s your search strategy? Whatever the profession, position or profile, you’ll quickly find the answers you need. Go ahead and give it a try!
The job description is obviously just as important, and is typically organized by tasks and function. And it really must describe things, too – clearly and unambiguously. The SEO and text length rules apply here in the same way as for the job title. More than five bullet points is more than enough.
The tasks involved should be presented as interestingly and as appealingly as possible. Keep things realistic, though: no-one wants to see crestfallen candidates in the interview room. So don’t gild the lily or make commitments you can’t keep. All talk and no action is not the way to succeed in recruitment.
So there’s plenty to keep in mind when looking for the right ideas and the right way to express them. Most of the time, though, common sense and seeing things from the applicant’s perspective will put you on the right track. And remember: cool and sexy might make your job look good, but it won’t help at all when it actually needs to be found.