A great job posting offers tremendous ROI because most of them are mediocre.
While they're often viewed as a tacked on to-do, you should see every posting as a sincere opportunity. Spend time on getting them right and you'll get better people applying. If you’ve ever felt the weight of hiring, you’ll know what an advantage that is.
You’ve already seen the classic advice. Wade Foster wrote a helpful overview that will give you a solid foundation. As a complement, here are a few creative, unconventional things to try.
Leverage the Perk without Peer
A universal improvement for job postings is giving people a glimpse of who they’ll be working with.
A great team will tip the scales. They are the perk that cannot be purchased, and the best people are well aware of this fact.
Neat to see a job ad that lists the other people you'll be working with. You don't see this very often: https://t.co/pa13XXPpSh— Jason Fried (@jasonfried) June 2, 2015
We recently took inspiration from Nathan Kontny of Highrise—whose posting is mentioned above—and began including a “Who You’ll Work With” section at the bottom of our listings.
As a personal touch that’s rarely applied, it stands out and adds the human element in a meaningful way. Below is an example from an editorial position on our marketing team:
We wanted to communicate that applicants would be making headway with a diverse set of folks who are deeply invested in their work. These are people who expect a lot but who have a lot to offer in return.
Although it’s difficult to precisely measure the impression this will leave, the early reactions we saw were positive.
Here are few suggestions should you want to give this a go yourself:
- Focus on which responsibilities this person will share with each teammate, and how they’ll work together. For simplicity’s sake, highlight the three or four people they'll work closest with.
- Speak highly of your peers, but stay humble. Place emphasis on their experience and why it’s rewarding to work with them.
- Include at least one person in a leadership role. To go above and beyond, have someone under the team lead contribute to their description.
Let Your Writing Speak for You
A common remark made by writers is, “You can get to know me better by reading my work.”
It’s true. When it comes to learning about someone from afar, reading through thoughts put to page is one of the best ways. This also applies to teams.
Curious candidates will check out the company’s writing, but you can do one better and feature relevant articles in your posting. You’ll see above that we linked to blog posts in our bylines, but they can be included in any appropriate location.
What works best is a “pillar” piece, or something you’ve written that confidently represents the team’s values, candidly shares how you work, or affirms your commitment to excellence.
Here are a few examples:
- The Unsider’s Perspective (a personal take) – Our engineer Steven was kind enough to write about his experience as the newbie at Help Scout, and what it was like transitioning to an insider.
- Keeping Our Overachiever Culture (company wide) – Our CEO Nick Francis wrote about keeping a minimum viable headcount by only hiring people who punch above their weight. This principle directly affects our hiring and culture.
- How to Write with Substance (role specific) – Here’s one that applies to a specific department, the publishing team in this case. This piece works well because it shares our beliefs on the importance of clearly written prose.
While the “innate goodness” of any piece does matter, don't forget to consider essays that speak to the delightful people, processes, and practices within your team.
Although you shouldn’t publish something just to use it in a job posting, a pillar piece is easy to recognize. If you get excited to include a certain article—in fact, you feel including the article immediately improves the posting—then you know you have a pillar piece on your hands.
Know and Speak Their Language
A smart approach, especially if you haven’t hired for a specific position before, is to speak with someone who currently has (or has held) the role. Listen closely to what they say, down to the exact words and phrasing.
For the editorial position, I spoke with two Managing Editors and a Director of Content about what they truly loved about their work. What got them excited on those slow mornings when the second cup of coffee just wasn’t cutting it?
Clear trends emerged: they each thrived on being the nexus, the glue that held a publishing team together. The reasons, and especially the patterns in language they used, were not things I could have guessed on my own.
Once I knew what they cared about, I could speak directly to people who would thrive in those same positions. You’re not looking to tell people what they want to hear, but to communicate honest aspects of the role in language that will resonate.
Use More Inclusive Language
Inclusivity is a satisfying mix of the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.
While it’s fair game for a job posting to eliminate the wrong type of person for a position (not enough experience, etc.), miscommunication can cause qualified people to self-select themselves out.
Here’s a look at how we close off our job postings:
Help Scout supports workplace diversity and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, military service eligibility, veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status, physical or mental disability, or any other protected class.
Several candidates have told us they felt more comfortable applying because of this statement.
“Didn’t need to be said” is often the reason it’s absent, but remember that outsiders looking in don’t know you, your company, or the people you work with.
The next step is being attentive to language used within a posting.
Thoughtful phrasing is no semantic triviality. Especially in tech, many find it refreshing to see the tired clichés (“rockstar,” yawn) exchanged for more encouraging and inviting language.
The intention of every posting is to hire the best person for that job. If people feel excluded, they won't even apply to begin with, and that’s a substantial loss.
Attracting talented people starts with communicating that there is meaningful work to be done. Extraordinary people won’t take ordinary jobs.
We all understand this, but too often we forget that a job posting is the first impression. Don’t let excitement to fill an open position result in wording that sounds lazy, selfish, overused, or out-of-touch.
You can do better than that.
Write your postings for the best candidates, and the best will come to you.