Generally speaking, there are two types of job hunters.
1. Those looking for a better job
2. Those looking for another job
The ‘Profit Motive’
There are many reasons people change jobs, but they all boil down to the profit motive.
In essence, people profit by moving from a bad job to another job (all jobs look better when you need to leave your job quickly) or profit by moving from a good job to a better one.
Dull (person specification) jobs only attract applicants looking for another job, these applicants have generally not read much if any of the advert, and usually they hedge their bets by applying for every job with their target job title, since every job could be a career move when you have to change jobs. These applicants are not easy to place and our clients can spot them a mile off.
If I was a hiring manager advertising dull job specs as job adverts, I would be suspicious of the motives of anyone who applied – it might be why the worst kind of interviewer aways starts with “why should we hire you”
Job seekers are sophisticated buyers
We live in an age of abundance, and the internet has enabled anyone with the time to become a sophisticated buyer.
These days, we can spend hours on websites checking lists of features, crosschecking prices, location, delivery (etc. etc.) and still not hit the buy button.
Top candidates who are looking to upgrade from good to better jobs are the most sophisticated of buyers
We all know what top candidates look like – they talk comfortably about their work and aspirations and have credible career histories that display upward trajectory with no glaring red flags.
The best candidates are looking at job alerts, they’re just not applying unless they find jobs that represent career moves.
Top candidates are the most sophisticated of buyers, they are reading their job alerts, but rarely apply. They are looking specifically for roles that represent career moves, and won’t compromise, as they’re not desperate to leave.
Before they apply they need to be sure there is upside to leaving their current role – tangible improvement such as job stretch, personal growth, bigger challenge, recognition, bigger impact etc.
They’re also analysing the tone and language of job ads – looking for potential red flags, such as incongruencies, micromanagement, poor DEI, leadership arrogance, credibility, cultural superficiality to name a few.
You don’t have long to capture most job seekers attention when they’re reading job alerts. When you’re receiving anywhere from 20+/day you skim the opening two paragraphs and move on. It’s very similar to skim reading an inbox of CVs – when faced with a huge number of CVs our first action is to disqualify the weaker candidates, as we know that with volume there must be some outstanding ones in there somewhere. Same goes for job seekers. They skim then delete.
The 3 pillars of good job advertising – A well written job advert can save you weeks of candidate outreach
1. Have I “Buried The Lede”? Have I focused on what is good about the role?
2. WIIFM – can the reader see how this would help them? Or is it just another job advert?
3. Tone & language – is it positive?
Have I “Buried the Lede?”
“A lede is the introductory section in journalism and to bury the lede refers to hiding the most important and relevant pieces of a story within other distracting information. In journalism, the introductory section of a news story is intended to entice the reader to read the full story.”
Unfortunately, most job adverts spend 3 minutes explaining stuff you don’t care about, 3 minutes telling you stuff you already knew, and 10 seconds on the meat that’s essential to making an informed decision.
For each role a candidate persona should be created. It should ask questions like: who is our ideal candidate? How do we describe this role in a way that encourages applications? What Is important about us and this role for potential applicants? what do they need to know to make a decision?
An example – The financial situation, or market position is not a priority for the engineering team, they mostly want to know what about the tech stack, and what they’ll be doing.
An example – Commercial focused teams are usual not interested in the tech stack but are interested in the market position.
The best job adverts find the right balance of information, displaying what is important to the prospective applicant, in a prominent position – as close to the opening statement as possible.
I have a client who recently posted a dull job advert that totally Buried The Lede then commented that none of the CVs wowed them after disqualifying all 43 applicants.
This was their Software Engineer job advert.
We've just raised $25 million in Series B funding from Octopus Ventures and Eight Roads to fuel our next phase of growth. Read about it here.
We're Mention Me and we stand for a better way of doing marketing, one that is built on trust.
And it’s working, our unique Referral Engineering® approach has delivered more than 4.5m referrals totalling USD $1.5bn in revenue for 450 brands, including Charlotte Tilbury, Farfetch, Nutmeg, Pret a Manger and Puma
Most Software Engineers don’t shop around much, have zero interest in specific brands and usually not much interest in the financial situation of the jobs they are looking at.
My client had focused on telling the wrong story, and it showed in their applicant numbers, which were zero. Job seekers didn’t read past the second paragraph, and if they had, it was more of the same anyway.
They wanted to use the same opening paragraphs for the Site Reliability Engineer role below – despite getting zero applicants for the Software Engineer role – instead we changed the narrative and wrote something that would excite any technical candidate.
We're looking for a Site Reliability Engineer to join our (SRE) team here at MentionMe.
Hundreds of brands and thousands of customers rely on our platform, and we want to improve how we deliver our products globally, 24/7/365.
We process thousands of requests a second - you can read our scaling up for Black Friday on our engineering blog - and our platform keeps growing - we're storing billions of rows of data across AWS RDS MySQL, ElasticSearch & Google BigQuery.
Our tech stack is primarily a Symfony & React application deployed on AWS ECS on Fargate; the platform is reliable and stable - giving us a great launching off point for our future ambitions which is where you come in
In one paragraph we’ve communicated the scale of the platform and user numbers and insight into its present and future state, the scope of the role, the tech stack, we’ve given the role purpose, implied how important the job is and we started and finished the paragraph humble.
In short, we got any self-respecting SRE excited, because we used concrete not abstract language. We omitted the dull brand guardian marketing statements, and somewhat obfuscated the product itself as we’ve learnt most engineers don’t like this type of product, so instead we focused on what would excite them.
We gave top candidates enough information to keep reading and make an informed application, of course it can’t appeal to everyone, but it’s raised our chances of attracting top candidates who applied because of the scope of the role, in addition to the candidates who applied because they need to change jobs.
Leadership love candidates who arrive intrinsically motivated by the actual role i.e. what they will be doing rather than the product – anyone can like a product, it does not mean they will stay engaged.
WIIFM (what’s in it for me)
Have I converted it from a person specification to a job advert?
Job specs are not job adverts. Job specs are internal documents designed to communicate what roles the departments need to hire. They are generally part department requirement, part person specification – i.e. what skills they think the candidate would need to help the company achieve their goals?
Reasons to apply are always omitted from job specs – you can spot copy & paste job specs a mile off. Nobody applies
It’s our job as recruiters to take that job spec and then qualify it with our client to find out what isn’t on it. This is the best way to get the WIIFM, as often our client’s time is full of thinking what they need rather than why should someone want this job. We have to work out what is good about the role based on what we now know and then create a job advert that represents a career opportunity – if we can!
Our objective is to try and answer the candidates questions before they’ve even asked them. And the WIIFM is different for every single role.
The rule of thumb is context – draw as detailed a picture as you can of what it’s like to work for your client and what the role is looking to achieve to be deemed a success. Within that, is there room for personal development? Upskilling? Career progression? A bigger role?
Try and place this information as close to the top of the job advert as possible.
CONTEXT IS KING (avoid the vague) be blunt if you have to.
What is the A > B (what is the role looking to achieve) avoid task lists – that’s not a career move, it’s a boring list of tasks.
Always (if you can) use big statements to start – make readers join the dots immediately
Get them excited! Or at least interested…
Yes: We’re looking to redesign our front end completely this year (A>B)
No: We’re looking for a Front End Engineer with 2 years experience to enhance our platform.
Yes: We’re looking to break up our monolith this year into microservices, we are at the beginning of our journey and you would be joining a team of three highly experienced SREs
No: We’re looking for an SRE with two years kubernetes experience to join our close-knit team and enhance our platform.
Yes: Currently our team is 7 devs, of varying experience we’re looking for a senior engineer who would enjoy mentoring more junior colleagues.
No: We need a senior engineer who likes solving problems to join our tight-knit team.
Where would they fit into the team?
Yes: We’re looking for our first automation test engineer to join our QA team of 3 manual test engineers. This is an important role within the team and they would be looking for you to mentor them in the ways of automation.
No: We’re looking to hire an automation test engineer with solid testcafe to level up our QA team.
Yes: We’re using testcafe right now, but we’re also aware there are other competitive products out there and we’re always looking to explore better ways of working.
No: Must have 2 years testcafe experience.
The do’s & don’ts of words and tone
Avoid uninspiring task lists/bullet points – these are best suited for robots not a knowledge worker and should be reserved for junior jobs with no experience who don’t know what the job involves; for experienced hires you are telling them stuff they already know. You’re also describing a role where there is no future and nothing to achieve or aim for – no visible success or recognition – top candidates want to see the big picture – A > B, and apply for jobs for the outcome, and the associated achievement and job satisfaction.
Avoid starting sentences with imperative statements – you will, your responsibilities, play your part, we expect etc – it smacks of micromanagement; this is the opposite of collaborative.
Avoid prescribing personal characteristics “must be team player, intelligent” etc – at best it’s discriminatory, at worst it’s a red flag for a lack of talent density in the team – i.e. the team lacks this characteristic = dull team
Avoid lateral moves (if you can) Tech Lead > Tech Lead / SDR > SDR. if you can’t then your advert needs to be double good, as the best candidates prefer to move upwards.
Avoid the statement “What’s in it for you” if you have to make this explicit statement then you’ve failed – the job ad should implicitly display what’s in it for the applicant – as close to the top of the advert as possible.
Avoid subjective statements such as “come and work with the brilliant ” are they brilliant? Are you qualified to know whether they are brilliant? They might be an A-hole to work with, or merely competent. The best candidates expect to form their own opinions.
Avoid “Bonus points for”– it’s smacks of narcissism and implies there have been lost of applicants and also that you should be lucky/grateful to win the prize (the job) Even the most accomplished candidates won’t apply if it feels like they there’s a lot of competition.
Avoid discourteous statements such as “due to the high number of applicants, we can only reply to successful applicants” etc. – people won’t apply.
Avoid statements that devalue the role – a particularly bad example is “We still need a number of to help us do blah blah” – this makes the role sound unimportant – everyone wants to feel like valued, not a bum on a seat.
Avoid “We now require” – it’s just bad.
Avoid vague statements such as “Come and join our team” – who’s in the team? How big is it? What’s the talent density like? It asks more questions than it answers.
Avoid stating the obvious – “Are you an experienced Software Engineer in Test who is passionate about building wonderful user experiences used by millions of people around the world?”
Avoid cliches – close-knit, like a family etc. etc. – people don’t want to be part of a cult.
Avoid superlatives – they’re difficult to prove
Provide context and describe successful outcomes – what the applicant could achieve – create purpose, show them how they would be involved at the top of the paragraph
Show them what it’s like to work there
It should sound like an invitation to take part in something exciting
Use supportive, collaborative and inclusive language
Thank you to Craig Kelly for providing the article!