Attracting and retaining top talent is a priority for any company but with many industries facing skills shortages, finding the right person for the job, first time round, can be critical.
Hiring the best candidate starts with writing a great job ad. Yet many employers oversell the role, give only a vague job description or list too many competencies. To attract top talent, here’s what to include, leave out, and how to make your ad stand out from the crowd.
Employers can sometimes be tempted to exaggerate the seniority of a job by overplaying the title or scope of the role, but there are good reasons to be realistic about the position.
‘But by ramping up the role and asking for qualifications and experience you don't really need to risk hiring a top-end candidate who will quickly get bored.’
Similarly, don’t over-specify by producing an extended list of competencies. Instead, John suggests asking yourself what really matters to making the job successful and getting that list down to around six must-haves.
‘Focus on what matters and what you expect from a top 20% candidate. Be as specific about the kind of experience you're seeking as you will be in the interview. If you have minimum requirements, make them clear so you don't waste people's time.’
Sell the company – not just the job
As well as conveying the key requirements of the role, a job ad is also an opportunity to promote the company and what makes it different.
‘Remember you’re selling your organisation as well as trying to attract people who match the job specification. Be specific about both the job in hand but also talk about your organisation’s culture,’ says Jonny Gifford, Research Adviser at the CIPD.
To challenge perceptions or promote what makes the company different, it helps to know how the organisation is perceived by candidates in the wider industry.
‘Candidates can use Glassdoor.com and LinkedIn to get an insight into what it is like to work in your organisation, so take a look at your brand and how your employees perceive your organisation,’ advises Jonny.
It also helps to understand the talent landscape, so take time toresearch who you are competing with for candidates and what you can offer that’s different.
For example, as a tech start-up, you may not be housed in a trendy warehouse with funky furniture, break-out areas, pool tables and a high tech gym - but you do offer candidates a valuable opportunity to take on responsibility, learn new skills, and rise through the ranks more quickly than they would at a big company. Find what sets you apart and focus on that.
Inject some personality – but don’t try too hard
While it’s important to sell the company, choose your language carefully.
‘You're looking for candidates, not investors, so spend time being clear about what you do rather than talking about how well you do it,’ says John.
Job ads don’t have to be dull and corporate to come across as a professional. Injecting some personality is a good way to give candidates an idea about the company culture. Just use your creativity wisely.
‘Avoid buzzwords, empty language and role descriptions that make the organisation look “cool” and only use jargon only if it helps screen candidates in,’ warns John.
‘And remember, rock star, visionary and guru aren’t job titles candidates are likely to be searching on in job postings.’
Give a salary range
Many employers prefer not to disclose salary, but if you don’t offer a range as a guide, you risk wasting your own time as well as the candidate’s.
Leah Freeman, Team Manager at PFJ Media Recruitment, who places temps on a regular basis, says it’s a problem that frustrates many candidates.
‘I met with a candidate just this week who was looking for around £30k pa. She had a really promising telephone conversation with a company, only to find out at the end of the call that the max salary the company could pay was £25k pa.’
What should they apply?
Finally, think hard about what’s likely to attract candidates to respond. If you’ve got more than one office, offer a relocation budget or allow remote working, make that clear.
‘The job title and nature of the organisation carry a lot of weight, but the types of projects they can expect to work on and development opportunities are important too,’ says John.
‘Don’t just communicate amazing perks and the company culture – select one or two larger projects they will be working on, outlining their responsibilities, contribution to the team and the impact you expect their role to have on the business.
‘Remember, today’s candidates aren’t just looking for a job — they want a career. Many of them are looking for and even expect continuous development, so give them an idea of the training and development opportunities as they progress in the role, not just at the start.’
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