Job Adverts: Too much of a muchness
You have invested a lot of time and money in preparing a job advert, but it still hasn't produced the new talent you wanted. This might indicate that you didn't reach or were unable to convince your target group. You're not alone. A recent study by consultancy firm Employer Telling and the software company Textkernel highlights a lack of imagination among employers when it comes to writing a job advert: too much of a muchness and a lack of differentiation; not enough active language and too much information that really isn't interesting.
Study: Like a club with run-of-the-mill job adverts
The study used a combination of qualitative language analysis and technical evaluation, analysing a total of 120,000 online job postings and 500 employers. For all those already proclaiming the death of the job advert: According to Textkernel there were 279,352 companies with a total of around 1.3 million online job postings at the beginning of October. But a search for distinctive ones would be in vain. "Employers behave more like members of a club than individual companies, communicating to give applicants clear-cut reasons for choosing a particular job. Most communication demonstrates a much of a muchness that is driven by advertising rather than content.
A change of perspective: Job adverts as viewed by candidates
So how can you present something distinctive - in just the few lines available in the job advert? Employer Telling and Textkernel offer a range of different approaches. Probably the most important one: Ask yourself who you wish to win over with the advert. Trade press? The biggest players in the industry? The board of directors? No, you wish to convince a new talented employee of your merits as a an employer. Which means you have to change your perspective. You should always write a job advert from the candidate's point of view, not from the company's perspective. Answer questions in a way that candidates will understand. Paint a picture of what to expect in the new workplace. The study's authors recommend answering key candidate questions in each part of the job advert. These in turn give your advert a logical structure:
Who is my new employer?
This is the place for a company profile, but please don't just copy and paste part of your standard corporate profile into the job advert. Present your company as an employer - but from the applicant's perspective. The company profile should take up no more than 25 percent of the advert.
What tasks can I expect?
The job description is the most important part of the job ad. Unfortunately this is where many companies get bogged down in endless gerunds (Producing, checking, managing, delivering, providing etc.) which can reduce candidates' enthusiasm for the job. They want to know what daily work is like, where and with whom they would be working, and what the purpose and meaning of the job is. This is not achieved with a random list of individual tasks.
Am I the right person for this job?
Job requirements in most job adverts are interchangeable and read like a "standard wish list from the HR department": team-oriented, committed, focussed, flexible etc. Instead of this, the requirements should be directly related to the job description and make sense to the applicant. Otherwise there is the danger that candidates will be put off by excessive requirements, or they will not take it seriously because everyone writes the same things anyway.
What can this employer / job offer me?
Don't miss the opportunity. Once again, according to the analysis, this section is also missing in many adverts. This means employers are throwing away important marketing potential, because this is where they can clearly state why applicants should apply for this particular job with their company. Any arguments you make also need to be convincing. Clichés such as "work-life balance" or "team spirit" will not produce a 'wow' effect.
Who can I ask?
What do I have to do now? Where do I send the application? Contact details in a job advert are often underestimated. “Candidates however regard this as an indication that you value them. Small and mid-sized employers can really score here, by getting applicants personally on board and avoiding the well-oiled mass recruitment machine of larger organisations.”
Leading international companies looking for team-oriented employees with good academic qualifications etc.
In their study, Textkernel and Employer Telling have broken down German job adverts word for word, analysed the linguistic style and contents, and come to some interesting conclusions: The favourite expression used by German employers - by far - is "worldwide". It was used 26,466 times in the data taken for the study! This was followed by "leading" and "international". The most commonly used buzzword in job descriptions is "amongst other things"; whilst the perfect candidate for German employers is "team-oriented" and "flexible" and has a "good degree"(or other academic qualification). To avoid getting lost in the masses, we have a few tips for you:
- Avoid over complicated sentences and filler words. Such a style is not appropriate for candidates and is often ambiguous.
- Introduce a sentence length limit. The study's authors recommend a maximum sentence length of 15 to 20 words.
- Keep the sentence construction as simple as possible, without convoluted sentences. This means: one comma (or set of commas) per sentence should normally be sufficient.
- Avoid using jargon and buzzwords. These will reduce the impact of advert and may make it incomprehensible.
- Avoid verbal hyperbole in the job requirements. Expressions such as "indispensable qualifications" or "essential requirements" put people off. Just describe the desired qualifications and skills in a neutral way.
- Make sure that the job description and requirements are consistent. The requirements should actually have something to do with the tasks described in the job advert.
- Be authentic in the way you address people. If the job advert is fairly informal, people will expect this in your company and vice versa.
Show that you're not afraid of being different! For example, with an interesting description of the tasks rather than a list of individual duties; with less superlatives and more facts; and by communicating as an employer, not as a worldwide leading global market leader!
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