Hiring: Crafting a posting that attracts the desired candidates, Part 1

Hiring. You have the opportunity to add to your staff. You want someone great, who fits with the organizational need and culture…and you’re at a loss. The task can seem daunting. Before you get to the part of reviewing applications, interviews, hiring decisions, and on-boarding, you have to conquer the job posting.

One of my research projects in graduate school used text analysis to determine an organization’s commitment to a particular value. Looking at position descriptions for the same position across multiple companies in the same industry, I drew two separate comparisons. In the first comparison, I explored what a company’s position description communicated versus the values espoused on the same company’s website. In all cases except one, there was a discrepancy between the position description and the main company message.

The second comparison was between the actual postings. Being familiar with the industry, I knew I was comparing apples to apples in terms of the position descriptions chosen for the research. And in comparing those apples, a noticeable difference emerged. Investigating a company’s commitment to diversity showed that nearly all of the postings mentioned diversity as a value. However, how it was communicated seemed to reveal so much more. Many used a standard diversity clause, likely copy/pasted from their Equal Opportunity Employment department. But those who truly sold the value integrated it throughout the posting. They wove a picture of a cohesive staff building on each person’s unique strengths. They wrote of a global landscape from which their clientele came. And they spoke of the need for understanding and communicating through differences. Now doesn’t that portray a different environment than a standard sentence such as “we are committed to diversity in its many forms”?

I tell my staff that everything matters when hiring a new team member, from the initial application, to how they answer the phone when we try to schedule an interview, to whether they listened to the directions provided in that phone call. Everything matters. But the flip-side is true as well. Everything also matters when you post for that new position. So what can you do?

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Values Identification

Determine what values you want to communicate to the potential team member. (Note, these are organizational values, not position requirements.) The values you espouse will help in weeding out people who may not support those same values. If you know what you want, you will be able to attract others who align with those same values.

Values Prioritization

Prioritize which values are most important and give them the appropriate space on the page. As in the example from my research, if you espouse a diverse workplace, do more than put the one sentence at the bottom. Speak to the complexity of the team, the diverse clientele, and a global landscape. If you rely on boiler-plate language, you will likely attract applicants who have a boiler-plate approach to that value.

Advertising functions on the primacy and recency effect. If, for example, you are purchasing television commercial space, you will pay more for the first commercial of the break and the last commercial of the break. This pricing structure is built on research that shows people are more likely to see and remember an commercial in the first position (primacy–happening first) and the last position (recency–most recent) in the break. You need to think the same way about your position posting. People will put a higher value on what you put first and what you put just above the “how to apply” section. Though the middle is important, think of which values you want to highlight the most and where it makes sense to put them on the page.

For example, maybe teamwork and clear communication are your two highest-prized values. It makes sense to open the posting weaving teamwork throughout and close the posting, just above the “how to apply” section, with clear communication. Why those positions? The communication value stated just before someone sets up to communicate with you makes sense, and will ring as important in their mind. Opening the posting with teamwork will help to automatically filter out those applicants who know they function better independently–saving both you and the applicant time.

Cut the Unnecessary Jargon

Once you have written the values, re-read them from an outsider’s perspective. Do they make sense? In a recent conversation with a colleague, I talked about being part of a church plant. Those of us in the evangelical church culture know what that means. But when I received a confused response, I thought about it from her not-in-a-church perspective. My visual brain immediately saw someone standing in a plant at a church. Literally, I was in a church plant.

If you are not seeking an insider, cut the jargon. You can’t expect them to understand what you are talking about if they are outside of the organization. However, if you are seeking someone with industry experience, using appropriate jargon can help filter out those applicants who do not understand it. If it is common jargon, it should be known by an applicant with industry experience.

Hang in There

It may seem daunting, but once you get this down, job postings will not only become easier to write, you will find that you receive a higher percentage of applicants whose values truly do align with your organization. And isn’t that what we’re really looking for?

Got a question? Let me know! You can leave a comment below or send me an email at jennifer [at] groundswellministries.org

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