We are in the middle of a global skills and talent shortage. In fact, by 2030 KornFerry project that there are going to be nearly 100 million jobs that cannot be filled because there will not be enough people with the skills to do them. 54% of organisations globally struggled to fill vacancies last year due to these workforce dynamics and it is only going to get worse. Despite this practical reality, it amazes me that the overwhelming majority of organisations still insist on advertising vacancies in the same way they have always done. This way of course, is basically just a copy and paste of a job description along with a generic paragraph describing the company. This is not an adequate approach when the onus is on the company to stand out from the crowd, to attract talent from a limited talent pool.

Why would the candidate want to apply?

The biggest change needed when it comes to job advertisements, is the fundamental shift in emphasis to focus on the applicant and not the company. The tone of nearly all job adverts is selfish in nature. The entire tone of the advert is focused on “we want”, as opposed to “we can offer”. The advert typically follows a three-stage format. Stage one is self-promotion of the company, something along the lines of “we are two hundred years old and specialise in blah blah blah”. Stage two is to list out the duties a person would be performing and stage three is a list of the skills the person must have. All pretty standard right? You have told the person there is a job, it is doing xxx and the person must have xxx required skills. However, there is one major problem with this. You have forgot to tell the candidate why they should want to apply for the job. The potential applicant has been told there is a job, but not why they should want to apply to it.

Start with a hook point

Instead of starting off by telling a potential applicant “who we are” or “what we want” companies should first start with what they can offer. This approach leads to significantly higher levels of candidate engagement. This completely transforms the type of applicant who applies for a job. When a firm is saying we have a job, people apply simply because they are looking for a job, they honestly don’t care about anything else, they are looking for a job and you have one. But they honestly don’t care whether you or someone else offers them a job. They just need a new job. When a firm is saying here is what we can offer you to grow your career, people are applying because they want to secure that specific opportunity, as they would like to seize the career path you are able to offer. There is a huge difference between “We would like to hire xxx to work for us and perform these duties for us” and “Are you an xxx who wants to grow in to something more awesome and senior over the next couple of years. If you are, we would love to be able to help you develop those skills”.

Drop the long list of duties

Ok, once you have the hook point down, the next thing that needs to be done is to get rid of the long list of generic duties. Unless, you are looking to hire people who have never done the job before, the relevant applicants already know what a person in their respective field does. A customer service person is not going to be surprised that they must deal with customer queries. A salesperson is not going to be unaware that sales presentations will be part of their job. It adds no value at all. Instead of listing duties, a company should explain the challenges and problems that they would like the applicant to help solve. This is critically important, because “purpose” is proven to be the best way to engage employees. Everyone wants to feel like what they do matters. So, by presenting the position in a way, that the customer service person is not merely handling complaints, but they are empowered to improve customer experience by coming up with new ideas. This changes the dynamic of the proposal significantly.

Your qualifying criteria is probably stupid  

Finally, it is important to put only truly required qualifications on the job advert. If you are looking for a qualified accountant, then they must have an accounting qualification. However, they do not have to also hold a degree in accounting or finance. There are plenty of people working for the Big 4 accounting firms who studied history, science, and other unrelated subjects before embarking on their accounting career. Does your salesperson have to have had 5 years sales experience? If your sales team on average sell $500,000 a year and an applicant has 2 years’ experience but has sold $5m a year, are you not going to interview them? Of course you would. Drop the unnecessary requirements as they stop applicants, especially high performing applicants from applying. High performers are those who accelerate up the career ladder faster, as they have higher ability, but it also means they have less years’ experience. It is the quality of the experience not the number of years that matters.