Recruitment rocks! It is an amazing industry that gives you the opportunity to better understand how people work, it helps hone your communication skills and is constantly evolving, so that you are constantly learning.
My particular interest is in “Talent Attraction;” what attracts an applicant to apply, what makes them read on, what motivates them, what language do they speak and how do they want to be spoken to?
Great recruiters excel at building relationships and developing trust through communication, by being authentic and honest. Good communication is critical to building meaningful relationships, & it often starts with great copy!
Back in 1996, we lived and died by our small semi-display ads in the Evening Standard, and our weekly quarter, or half page in Drapers Record. Each and every advert counted and you earned your right to advertise, and as such you chose your words very carefully.
The online advertising world has created a fairer, cheaper, more meritocratic way of attracting applicants, and a whole new industry based on social recruiting was born of out it, but it has also highlighted how poorly some recruiters communicate, how little they understand people and how lazy some of them are!
Out of interest I did some research into how companies from across the world are engaging with their applicants, and I specifically looked into the quality of their recruitment advertising. I wasn’t entirely surprised by what I found but it did make me think, why the hell are some of the worlds most innovative brands starting their job adverts with the following?
“We have a great opportunity,” “We are a leading…” “This role…”
“You will be ….” “You’ll have” etc, etc.
Agencies more often than not start with
“My client…” “This is a great chance…” “We are currently recruiting…”
Worse still a great percentage started with no pre amble at all, and simply posted a job spec…yawn! Approximately 85% of job ads sat in these 3 categories.
I am sure every recruiter has received copy writing training, but here is a potted version of what I have learnt in the last 20 years.
1. Storytelling is central to human existence: Fact
Stories help us make sense of things. Data can persuade but it doesn’t inspire. A job spec is factual but dry. You need to create a compelling story that fires up the imagination. Persuasion by story telling enables the individual to understand whether their personal goals and ideas are aligned with your corporate vision. You need to emotionally engage with your audience, hold their attention and utilise verbal cues to help them understand
“Why?” – What inspires your business to do what it does, what is its purpose and why do you and the people around you feel so passionate about the brand? (Shout out to Simon Sinek)
2. Job specs and poor copy are white noise: Fact
To be frank if you are too lazy to write proper copy then you deserve to receive poor calibre applications. It takes a little effort to construct a believable story that will captivate the imagination of the audience but it is so worth while. You need transform information into meaning, something the candidate can connect with, something that shouts “THIS IS WORTH YOUR TIME!”
Fact: Be authentic and honest
Yes your copy needs compelling characters and relatable plots, but it also needs to be authentic and honest. Don’t lie, you will be busted!
It’s not just a sales tool, its part of the need to educate and inspire the wider audience. Companies evolve, businesses change and you need to shape the perception and attitude of the brand for the external recruitment market.
What words embody what you do and how do you wish to be perceived?
Honesty and transparency are essential, a job ad can give the candidate a peek behind the curtain of mystery, that will enable them to see your organisation as work in progress. Don’t be afraid to share that work in progress.
3. Start a movement
You can amplify your message through social media but first think about the story you want to tell.
It’s easy to build a following through story telling, but what is your story?
Is it a hero’s journey? Used extensively in folk stories, a difficult journey, defined by overcoming risks and obstacles to achieve great heights. The journey continues and needs a new hero that can demonstrate courage, resourcefulness and an ability to overcome adversity.
Your narrative is written to draw in the audience, allowing their imagination to cast themselves as the hero, or as part of a winning team, subsequently becoming part of the story.
Alternatively, build your story around a core message that is central to your story. Use other stories and metaphors to explain what the company’s purpose is, where is has been, what it has learnt and where it is likely to take them. With the benefit of hindsight and experience the company becomes an enabler of dreams.
Or, can you demonstrate brand flexibility unrivalled by many. A predictable story that unexpectedly flounders and starts again. Energised and triumphant. A story of failure, going back, re-assessing, innovating and success, and not afraid of failure.
All of these stories need a hero, a hero of yesterday, today and tomorrow. You need to make the candidate feel like they are the hero of the story.
4. Know your audience
An advertising hack that could prove a useful tool when creating copy is to produce a “CANDIDATE PERSONA TEMPLATE”
In order to know how to speak to your audience, you first need to know what language they speak. Using a template will help you understand what it is that you are looking for and help you decide on what language to use.
Who are they? Where do they work? What do they want to achieve? What are their challenges and desires? What sort of characteristics and personality do they have ?
Write a quote that describes them in one sentence. Once you have completed your persona template write your narrative with them in mind.
5. Don’t be too busy to write good copy
You do not save time by publishing poor copy, you are wasting time and you will never attract good candidates, its brand harming and pointless. Invest a little of time at the beginning of the hiring process to understand your audience and tailor your copy. Keep it open, honest and interesting and the quality of the applications you receive will improve, and you will start develop a talent brand.
About the Author: Abigail Klapp is a Talent Acquisition Expert that works across industry sectors, arming employers with the language and tools of attraction to future proof their talent attraction model.