Attracting Superstars: Job SPEC vs. Job ADVERT

By Holly Olugosi

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Generally speaking, us Recruiters have it tough. The industry as a whole has a pretty awful reputation, and given that there are no formal qualifications required to be a successful recruiter, we are often seen as far from the most intelligent of people. But hey, who cares, right? We haven’t got PhD’s and a lot of us fell into the job as opposed to specifically seeking it out, yet we’re probably earning far in excess of many others with greater educational achievements. I’m not here to say money is the be all and end all, but we’re not doing too shabby.

So why is this relevant to the article title?

We’ve got a poor reputation. This doesn’t just stem from the fact that we’re salespeople or that, in addition to the fact that we’re actually doing a very admirable job of finding people work, we’re ultimately putting up with the stress of the job because of the big bucks involved – no. We’ve got a poor reputation for so many reasons.

“Hi Susan,

Hope your well.”

Guilty? If you’re not then you know someone who is. Our focus is on candidates, clients, making money, closing deals, winning business and definitely not on our administration. Attention to detail is possibly not our top endorsed skill on LinkedIn and frequently screwing up the correct ‘your’/’you’re’ only adds to external opinions that perhaps we’re not the most highly educated of industries.

But as I said, who cares, right? 

Well – your candidates DO. If you’re often the victim of thirty six separate applications from fast food restaurant employees for your Finance Director adverts (no disrespect to fast food employees, this is a generic use of an industry for effect purposes), or you’ve ever had a candidate apply for every single job you’ve advertised in the last six months, despite them having been told numerous times that, in order to be considered for a role in medicine, it might help for them to have been through some kind of recognised training - then you’ll probably want to check out the below. If the applicants you are receiving are of poor quality or possess completely irrelevant experience to that which you are trying to attract, then the likelihood is that your adverts are the real problem:

1.    You don’t know your target audience. You’re recruiting for a graduate role but you’ve literally CTRL+C, CTRL+V’d a spec to an advert template and then smashed it out onto your job board platform. You’ve given a 1st Class Graduate, with 1000 other opportunities available to them, a list of day to day duties and responsibilities and bulked it out with long, complicated words and corporate jargon. Is it a wonder that you’ve not had the best response? Get to know your target candidates, ask yourself what type of language you’d expect these candidates to be looking for. I’m not saying that every single graduate is after a jolly, but this is your opportunity to talk to them. Open questions, assumptions, colloquial language and opportunities for growth and progression. Before you can even consider writing a great job advert, you have to know who you’re trying to reach.

2.     You don’t know your client. This is an advert not a specification. Especially in more junior roles or perhaps at a more transactional level, generally speaking, duties and responsibilities won’t vary too much from job to job. A Purchase Ledger Clerk will process invoices, a Customer Service Representative will answer calls and handle queries, a Software Engineer will be writing code. This is about selling the companySelling the bigger picture. If you don’t know your client and the company well enough to be able to put into words a more personalised description of their history, their plans for growth and their current situation, then the likelihood is that you do not know the company well enough to successfully recruit the role. By visiting your client, meeting the team and immersing yourself in the culture, you should be able to put across in your advert exactly what someone can expect from joining this company. The big electrical retailers don’t advertise their fridges and washing machines by opening their pitch the with instructions on how to use it, they tell you how brilliant the features of the washing machine is and how they are going to benefit the consumer. This is the same thing.

3.     You haven’t told the truth. Not every single job you work on is going to be a complete finished article. Not every client you recruit for is going to be a listed company with a fully functioning set of policies, procedures and systems in place. Sometimes, the chance to walk into a mess, ruffle some feathers, switch things up and ultimately make things betteris the opportunity a candidate will be looking for. Not everyone wants a BAU role, not everyone is looking for a well-oiled machine – but you have to make it clear that this is what it is. There is absolutely no point in selling someone the dream of a gold-plated castle, only for them to turn up and find out that it’ll only be gold plated once they’ve built it. This kind of role will appeal to some people, but not all. That’s the point. It’s a huge waste of time for you to screen twenty-five applications who all look great on paper, only to find out that twenty-four of them aren’t in the market for a ‘do-er upper’. Be honest from the start and find the selling points of the opportunity and the candidates you are presented with will be half-way-screened already.

4.     You’ve been lazy. I hate to break it to you, but unless you’re working on a temp desk and your entire candidate pool is on the verge of redundancy or already out of work, then the likelihood is that the only two people that your role is “urgent” for – is you and your client. It’s not urgent to the top calibre candidate you’re looking for who is already in a permanent, stable position, doing an absolutely marvellous job for someone else. In brief, you’ll need to find other words to generate a buzz around your role. Get a thesaurus out, check out some alternatives. I’m not suggesting you should replace ‘exciting’ with ‘intoxicating’ as that might not give the desired impression, but get out of the habit of suggesting that every single job is exciting, urgent, or both! “Our client, a leader in their field” is about as enticing as “we don’t know much about them but we’ve got a job spec”. Job seeking is soul destroying. Some job seekers will be looking at hundreds and hundreds of jobs every single week, and by the time they’ve read their fourteenth “our client”, they are likely to assume it’s actually the same job. Lost your ultimate candidate to another agency? They probably applied for their job first, and then thought they’d already applied for yours when they saw it. You have to stand out.

5.     Your spelling and grammar sucks. Yes, the written word is not everyone’s favourite thing – and no, we’re not asking you to enrol yourself onto an English degree. We cannot be expected to be brilliant at everything all the time, but we can take every precaution to ensure that our adverts are as well written - both creatively and grammatically - as possible. Spell check is available to you in so many forms. Electronically on your computer, in the form of your super-spelling colleague, a fresh set of eyes over the page. I’ve had a number of candidates apply for roles now who have stated that the reason they applied for the job was that there were no spelling mistakes in the advert. Your advert is reflective of the company you are recruiting for and if a candidate’s first point of contact with that business is a blinding great spelling error, you’re not really getting off on the right foot. Bullet points – either you full stop them, or you don’t. Capital letters matter. Full. Stops. Matter. Commas matter, too. If you’re not sure or you know it’s not your forte, ask someone to check over your work (it always worked at school, right?) and give the best first impression possible to your clients and candidates.

We have a hard enough time without being seen as completely illiterate and lazy. Not only do poor adverts reflect badly on our written communication standards, they also suggest to our clients that we really fail to add any value at this stage of the process. If all we are doing is simply copying and pasting a job spec, what are we doing that is different from them? We are experts at this stuff. Our clients rely on us to understand their requirements, attract the right talent and send them forward in the process with their eyes open, fully aware of the role and its challenges – as well as it’s good bits!

If you’re a Recruiter who is struggling to unearth the very best talent in the market, then setting aside some time in your day’s plan to get your advert written properly should certainly help you to see an ROI pretty quickly. And if you’re a recruiter who’s smashing it without writing top quality ads?

Share your secrets with the rest of us, please!

About the Author: 
Holly Olugosi is a Recruiter with eight years’ experience across both Agency and Internal. Following her falling out of love with running a desk last year, she now supports her current employer, The ONE Group, with talent attraction, employer branding, social media presence and writing and delivering training for both rookies and experienced consultants alike. In addition to a full-time job, two children and trying to run off her chocolate consumption, Holly is passionate about writing and producing content and regularly posts industry-related articles on LinkedIn, as well as running a Parenting Blog – www.facebook.com/ThePrimeMumister.

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