The Goldilocks Problem With Job Posts

Was Goldilocks onto something when she tried three different chairs, three separate bowls of porridge, and three distinct beds to find the one that was“just right? I’ve discovered in my conversations with decision-makers that they often share a very real concern with our fairytale protagonist.

When faced with candidate selection, we want to hire someone who is “just right.” Which leads to the question: What is the fastest, most effective way to find candidates who are just right?

We also have to ask: Is it possible to have too many candidates for a position? And how many are too few?

Headlines scream at us to face the facts.

In a recent article by Finances Online, 42% of companies say one of their biggest priorities is investing in tools that help to speed up hiring. Meanwhile, a G2 article tells us that companies lose as many as 89% of potential candidates due to a prolonged screening process.

While much virtual ink has been spilled writing about the tactics and technologies that are shaping our world of recruitment, we lose valuable time and candidate interest when we forgo making the right first impression.

Goldi didn’t settle for what would get the job done. She wanted the one that was “just right.”

The Elusiveness of “Just Right”

LinkedIn studied 4.5 million job posts and found that shorter job posts received more applicants than their longer counterparts. Those shorter posts, between one to 300 words, should include information about compensation, qualifications, and daily responsibilities.

Not sure how many words that is? Guess what, you just read 277 words. Are you interested in finding out more? Your “just right” candidates will be, too.

To make this actionable, let’s take a look at two very popular approaches to filling a candidate pipeline.

Just about everyone, including corporate recruiters, agency staff, and senior leaders have this one thing in common: they all gather referrals. Now, given the retention rates of hires made when using this approach, it deserves its time in the spotlight.

However, when employing this approach to fill the top of the funnel, coupled with the goal of making a strategic hire quickly, the “just right” approach seems to elude many referrers.

It typically goes something like this: The executive recruiter sends out the job description to people in their network and to those whose online profile suits the job, as well as tapping into their formal or informal referral program. Most likely, there’s a brief note attached along with a well-worded call to action to “you or someone you know.”

The downside is that while these programs and personal messages can be useful, they are also inconsistent. When you want to fill your pipeline with as many qualified people as possible, many of the people we know and the people they know are incompatible with what we need right now. There’s a long list of reasons that this happens. It could be the compensation, diversity targets, timing, or simply that they are happy where they are.

This slows down the filling of the candidate pipeline, or the candidate pipeline gets filled with people who aren’t “just right,” and the recruiter now has to comb through resumes and contact referrals, which eats up their already pressed-for-time schedule.

A second go-to strategy is the job posting.

How quickly can you post the job? (If I had a nickel for every time a hiring leader said this to me.) In an effort to be responsive, not much thought goes into the internal process of “get the job posted.” Many dedicated recruiters fall into this do-it-fast trap.

It becomes a throwaway step. Consider that after the flurry of activity necessary to get to this point: hand-wringing budget conversations, position description written, rewritten, and approved. Likely, a compensation analysis followed by another set of long approval processes, all of it bringing us to the point of sharing this amazing opportunity with the world, and what do we do?

We post a list!

The standard template goes something like this: A company headline — the big why or company tagline — and a list of benefits. Then add a laundry list of tasks and responsibilities. And finally the required knowledge, skills, and abilities.

These status-quo job postings fall somewhere between ho-hum and looking like everyone else. Making messages all about you does little to ensure that your candidate pipeline is filled with the most qualified people.

Can this approach work, nonetheless? Sure. But it’s like the too-hot porridge or too-soft bed. The mechanics aren’t wrong, per se, but they don’t get it “just right.” Even if you think there’s value in this approach, 72% of hiring managers say they provide clear job descriptions, while only 36% of candidates say the same.

And given what we know about decreasing attention spans, what percentage of candidates are actually reading the entire job post? The reality is you have only seconds before a potential candidate decides whether your job is for them.

It’s Not About You

It’s important to put job seekers at the heart of your message effectively and efficiently by making your post easy to read, easy to refer, easy to respond to.

Doing so will give you a competitive advantage. And so without any additional spend on technology or special tools, you’ll be able to stand out in a crowded space with a message unique to you. To accomplish this, you’ll need to go beyond citing compensation, qualifications, and responsibilities by explaining what people really want to know — the impact they are going to make by working with you, as opposed to your competitor.

For example, a typical job post for a customer success manager will include a responsibility that will read: Responsible for responding to customer email inquiries in one business day. By making a change to the way we are communicating this responsibility, we can make a greater impact on readers by saying: Our customer success managers are paramount to our ability to delight our customers. Your ability to answer questions, respond to concerns, and escalate matters as necessary will play a key part in our ability to continue delighting them.

Focus on your biggest differentiators and connect the dots for job seekers. Show them how the role connects to your company’s big why. You shouldn’t make them do this work and no, it’s probably not as obvious as you may think.

At the same time, it’s important to use language with the reader in mind. By writing in a more human and personal way people can easily see themselves or their friend in the position. Since people will quickly self-select in or out, the results are timely and compatible with referrals because people like to refer their friends to jobs when they sound similar to how they talk about themselves. When we talk about our jobs with our friends, we naturally talk about our impact; we don’t rattle off a list of tasks.

Ultimately, whether you’re pulling people into a recruitment process with referrals or relying on a job post to spread the word, using a message that centers on candidates is an adjustment you can make today without spending a penny.

Doesn’t that feel good?