A Job Listing Should Be Like a Love Letter
BY Jeff Haden
You're not looking for generic employees. So why are you writing generic job listings?
HR managers will tell you there's nothing easier right now than attracting a passel of candidates for any job. But it's as hard as ever to find that one great person. It doesn't have to be that way, says John Younger, founder and CEO of the recruiting company Accolo and the new listings site HireMojo. Younger talked with Inc. about how to craft the perfect job posting. For starters, Younger says, you have to get personal. --as told to Jeff Haden
You say the vast majority of job postings are terrible--and terribly ineffective. Why? Generic job titles and standard lists of qualifications, responsibilities, and duties don't work. Imagine if your online dating profile said, "Must be this tall, must earn this income, must own this kind of house and car...Please apply here!" Great.
Yet that's how most job descriptions are written. You aren't hiring the entire world. You're hiring one great person--so you need to communicate to that one person in a way that makes him or her really want to be part of your team.
So it's a love letter. Absolutely. A great job posting is a personal letter to one person. Write a generic description, and you'll hire a generic person. The best approach is to say to that one person, "We don't know you yet, but we know you will love this job."
I'm not sure I could write a love letter for, say, an accounting position. Actually, it's a lot easier than cobbling together the bland, boring stuff most people write.
Before you start, answer four questions: 1. What is the real business need the right person will solve? 2. How will we quantitatively measure success so we can recognize a top performer? 3. What are the common attributes of our top performers--hard skills, soft skills, what they do in their free time? 4. Why would the right person want this job?
Answer those questions, and then it's easy to create a job posting that will attract the ideal candidate.
Put that into practice for me. Say you need a chief technical officer. CTOs already know what CTOs do. What they don't know is why they should care about your job: emotionally, aspirationally, and functionally.
Always be brutally honest. If your employees work long hours and weekends and love it because they thrive on intensity, enjoy working with a dedicated team, and want to make a lot of money, go ahead and say that. Say, "You will love it here because you will..."
Don't fill the posting with must, must, must. The right person isn't looking for "you must." The right person is looking for "you will."
Presumably, some of the best candidates are employed--and aren't looking. We call that the Accolo Theory of Relativity: We're all temporaries; it's just a matter of degrees.
Once, we were finding a CIO for a major multinational. We described the style of management, the size of the staff, the size of the budgets managed, current and future initiatives, how success was defined, and why the right person would love the job. In less than two weeks, we found the individual who was hired.
He wasn't looking for a job. A friend noticed the posting. The candidate applied because he thought, Wow, this sounds exactly how I would describe my perfect job.
So a friend of the candidate did the hard work. Is that common? Friends don't forward generic job postings, but they will forward a job posting that sounds perfect, even if their friend already has a job. A great job posting can go viral--in a very targeted way.
The goal is to cast a net that is incredibly broad in terms of broadcasting the opportunity and incredibly fine in terms of connecting on a professional and personal level with the perfect candidate.
Remember, you don't need dozens of respondents. You need just one.
JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden