The Really Big Impact of a Small Number of Sentient Specifics
By Peter Weddle
Recruitment ads posted on the Web generally fall into two content categories. There are the really brief notices that offer the job title, employer’s name and maybe a couple of candidate qualifications that are deemed essential to satisfactory performance. And then, there are the novellas that run on and on and on with enough job and organizational detail to impress even a government bureaucrat. Unfortunately, both are unlikely to motivate the kinds of talent most employers and recruiters want to hire. Whether they're posted on a job board or on LinkedIn and Twitter, ads that are too brief or too long are too weak to have a big impact on "A" level talent.
The key to developing high impact content for a job posting is to remember what it—the ad—is supposed to do. Recruiting is definitely a sales activity—we are, after all, trying to convince prospects to buy the employment value proposition of our organization. That’s our job, however, not the job of our ad. A job posting has a much more limited sales goal. Its role is to convince the prospect to invest a little of their most precious resource: their time. The ad must sell them on the value of paying attention to what we have to offer while ignoring everything else going on around them.
To accomplish that objective, a job posting must be developed in a two step process:
Step 1: Figure out what matters to your target demographic.
To sell your employer successfully, you have to know what triggers your best customers to say “Yes” to its offer. In other words, you aren’t interested in what motivates “C” level talent; you want to know how you can effectively engage the “A” level talent your employer needs. Since such prospects are almost always employed, even during a Great Recession, you must figure out what factors have the power to induce them to do the one thing we humans most hate to do: change.
Ironically, these factors seldom include the kinds of information we typically provide in a job posting. They are rarely the requirements or responsibilities of a job. But don’t take my word for it. Ask the experts. Ask the “A” level talent you already have in your organization.
Pull together a focus group of the top performers in the fields for which you’re recruiting and ask them what triggered their decision to say “Yes.” Encourage them to be as specific as possible and to rank order or prioritize the factors they identify. As our colleagues in sales have long known, there probably won’t be universal agreement on any single factor, but there will almost always be consensus on the top two-to-five motivators. These are the triggers—the specific benefits of employment—you want to highlight in your job posting.
What are these factors likely to be? The following list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a place to start.
• The reputation of the organization, its products or services, or even its leaders;
• The kinds of people who will be a new hire’s coworkers or the caliber of their boss;
• The location of the facility and the quality of life available in that area;
• The opportunity the organization presents to do interesting and/or important work;
• The prospects for professional growth and/or advancement that would come from employment.
Step 2: Express the triggers in sentient language.
The dictionary defines sentient as “endowed with feeling.” Sentient language, therefore, is a word or words that touch the reader, that have an emotional impact on them. An idea expressed with a normal vocabulary might be very clear and comprehensible to the reader, but it doesn’t have the impact necessary to trigger them to make a change. Sentient language, on the other hand, conveys the same idea in a way that matters to a group of prospects—in this case “A” level performers—and influences their behavior in a direction conducive to their recruitment.
For example, if you learn that your organization’s reputation is one of the key motivators for “A’ level prospects, you can express that idea several ways. You might say:
• Our organization is a Fortune magazine “best company to work for.”
• Our organization empowers you to do your best work.
The first expression is an abstract statement of fact. It provides helpful information, but does not include an emotional wallop sufficient to motivate a passive prospect. The second statement, in contrast, uses both a single term (“empowers”) and a phrase (“do your best work”) with sentient impact—the ability to touch and influence a prospect.
Why worry about something as mundane as word choice in your job postings? Well, there are at least three reasons for doing so:
• First, most postings on the Web today have the emotional appeal of a brick. That’s true whether they appear on job boards or on LinkedIn and Twitter. As Noan Cohen recently noted in the The New York Times, “Tweets arte generally banal,” and banal doesn’t recruit top prospects.
• Second, we are still in a War for the Best Talent. Despite an unemployment rate that is steadily creeping toward 10%, it is still very difficult to recruit people who have rare skills or are “A” level performers. In that kind of environment, a high impact job posting is one of the best weapons at your disposal.
• Third, despite all of the brouhaha recently about social media’s role in recruitment, the message remains just as important as the medium. You can be on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter and be just as disappointed with your yield if you use a message with little or no impact as you would (allegedly) be using more conventional sources.
“Less is more” is clearly an overused phrase. However, if your less is more impactful than a longer expression or even a shorter but duller one, you’ll have enormous success in recruiting top talent.
Thanks for reading,
Visit me at Weddles.com
Peter Weddle is the author of over two dozen employment-related books, including his latest, Work Strong, Your Personal Career Fitness System.