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How to write your best job post ever: Part 2

Last week Textio showed why you should care about writing good job posts. TL;DR — the language you use has measurable impact. People take six seconds on average to read a job listing. The data shows that your words determine whether your next superstar employee decides to apply or pities your poor writing and moves on.

On any given day, there are more than 3 billion job posts online. Textio’s database alone has over 70 million listings, along with information on how they perform — and more listings are being added every day. There’s a lot of noise for applicants to wade through. That’s why the first step of writing a good listing is to attract high-quality candidates to your post.

I’m going to share three key methods for attracting strong candidates that I’ve learned from using Textio:

  1. Achieve the optimal length
  2. Use direct language
  3. Maximize your first impression

1. Attack of the Franken-listing

Lots of companies take a mad scientist approach to their job posts. You use an old listing as a starting point. Your supervisor adds their two cents. The recruiting or brand or legal team adds some company-specific language. The result? A Franken-listing with a couple more arms and legs than it really needs. Sound familiar?

This is not great for the reader. Studies show that it’s actually physically painful. Okay, not really — but Textio’s data shows that long listings statistically cause a big drop off in the number of applicants.

There’s actually a sweet spot for length that’s between 300–700 words:

Horizontal line with red, orange, yellow, green and dark green regions indicating performance of number of words between 70 and 980, the carat indicates 610 in the dark green range

Green areas indicate strongest hiring performance

Long listings statistically cause a big drop off in the number of applicants.

Keep in mind that this data shows what’s performing well right now. Only with machine learning and a stream of current data (hint, hint: what Textio has) can you conclusively say how applicants will react to a listing in today’s market. In fact, Textio has found that within the last twelve months, the highest performing job posts have gotten even shorter.

2. Say what you need to say

Have you ever read something that made your head hurt? This example from Purdue’s writing lab sums it up:

Example of wordy sentence: "balancing the budget by Friday is an impossibility without some kind of extra help.", example of a concise sentence: "Balancing the budget by Friday is impossible without extra help."

What Purdue University calls “conciseness” plays out in Textio’s data as well. Let’s say you manage to keep all of the extra chefs out of the kitchen. It’s still possible to bore your reader to sleep. Your job post is an advertisement and you have six seconds to literally sell someone on the job. How can you use the fewest words to sound the most interesting?

The most concise job posts work the best:

Horizontal bar chart indicating average sentence lengths and how difficult it is to read sentences of that length, 13 words is best up to 29 which is very difficult to read

On average, the best posts today have 13 words per sentence. That’s shorter than the average sentence for written English, but at least you get twice as many words as the average billboard ad.

Just as language is constantly changing, so is the optimal sentence length. Textio’s data shows that job seekers react better to shorter sentences now than they did at the beginning of 2016. For goodness sake, they’re looking for a job! Each unnecessary word is just one more reason for your reader to stop reading and move on.

3. Keepin’ it clean

As we’ve covered so far, there are few things more important than an applicant’s first impression of a listing. One of the biggest factors of that first impression is bullets.

There are so many different ways to slice and dice how bullets affect your applicant pool that Textio published a separate blog post on the topic. (Pop quiz — are men or women more likely to a apply to a heavily bulleted listing? Find out at the link above.)

On the whole, Textio’s predictive engine currently shows that the best listings contain about one-third bulleted content. But just like the other factors we’ve discussed, this number isn’t static. Textio’s data shows that job listing with even fewer bullets are performing better now than they did in 2016. Optimizing your listing for what’s performing well in today’s market will result in the best possible hiring performance.

Line with colors indicating what % of content should be in bullets, the carat indicates 38% in the dark green range for strong performance, the scale is from 0 to 100

Green areas indicate strongest hiring performance

What matters today

The key word is today’s market. Only with massive amounts of data can you predict how your posts are going to perform before they’re published. The ideal counts and ratios for overall length, sentence length, and bullets have all changed since last year. And job post writers, take note — the trend is that shorter is better. As a whole, applicants prefer even more concise listings.

As a whole, applicants prefer even more concise listings.

Textio has found that listings optimized for these factors do better across the board, filling faster and attracting more qualified applicants. Try editing your listings with this in mind now! And tune in next week — we’ll be discussing how to engage with users once you’ve persuaded them to stick around.

In case you missed the other parts in our series, you can find them here: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

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