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Looking to hire a human? Write a job listing for humans.

After being employed with the same company for seven years, I found myself ready for a change. As a result, I spent a majority of 2017 in the job market reading hundreds of job listings. Well, it might be more accurate to say I read a few job listings and skimmed a ton. I might have appeared engaged with my myriad of browser windows and tabs open. For the most part, however, I was bored out of my gourd.

Being exposed to such dry reading just didn’t seem fair to me. After all, I had already come to accept the harsh realities that my résumé, the one I crafted and fine tuned for hours to uniquely represent me out in the world, had a mere 6 seconds to impress any fellow human that might actually look at it. Surprisingly, though, I found very few job posts that made me want to read to the end. As it turns out, these companies only had 6 seconds to impress me, the jobseeker, as well. Here are some phrases that encouraged me to move along believing there’s nothing to see here:

“The ideal candidate is required to…”
 “Serious applicants will…”
 “Applicants must meet all of the above listed requirements…”
 “Other duties as required…”

Job listings should be at least as engaging as the résumés you want them to attract. In fact, the data shows that corporate jargon and formal “candidate” language used in job listings slow down hiring time. So, how can you improve your job post to attract high quality applicants?

Think about your job listing as an advertisement.

Advertisers never say “The ideal customer must buy and appreciate the product.” Advertisers speak to us as humans. They are not afraid to use informal language in their message. They attempt to engage with us and connect what they have to our specific needs. In job listings, however, we seem committed to formal language and impersonal objective writing.

Why is this so difficult for companies? In my two decades of school, if I learned anything, it is that we don’t use “I” and “we” in formal writing. We make objective statements. We offer facts not opinions. Oops, there I go again. What I meant to say was, when using formal writing, the researcher must make objective statements and present facts, not opinions, to prove the thesis. Are you still there? Did I just distance myself from you?

Herein lies the conundrum. Generally, we agree (and many laws demand) that the hiring process should be objective, consistent, and fair. This naturally leads us to think we need objective formal writing in our job listings. It seems counterintuitive to suggest we can use subjective writing in job listings, which invites connection and engagement, while staying committed to an objective hiring process. Perhaps it is this simple. We confuse writing objectively with objectively measuring our writing.

Textio’s predictive engine is learning from over 350 million job listings with their hiring outcomes. One of the factors that separates high performing job listings from lower performing listings is a balance of ‘we’ statements that describe your company and ‘you’ statements that directly address job seekers. Great job listings achieve two goals, two very objective goals. First, they clearly describe the job and any important hiring qualifications. Second, they tell people why the company is a great place to work. Listings that do both of these get the most attention from job seekers. Listings with strong ‘you’ phrases have higher engagement. Subjective writing that includes connecting to the reader with personal language and offering your opinion of why your company is a great place to work can still meet objective hiring goals.

So when it’s time to write your next job listing, how will you engage the reader in 6 seconds? Personally, I would rather read an invitation to go on an epic road trip than read a manual full of driving regulations. Here’s to writing engaging content that connects to fellow humans!

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