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The Voice: Don’t write like Human Resources, write like a human being.

Editor’s note: As a change of pace from our usual blog posts, we invited one of our advisors, Matt Charney, Executive Editor of Recruiting Daily, to write a post for Word Nerd.

Recruiters always complain about how they have so little time, and so much to do, but when we rush through job posts, copying and pasting previous job posts, using some boring template or simply posting some unformatted list of bullets that HR sent over after approving the job is likely creating more work than it’s saving you.

Photo of The Voice judges Blake Shelton, Alicia Keys, Miley Cyrus, and Adam Levine

You’re in a talent competition. The Voice that you use matters.

We hear a lot about brand voice, or company culture, but if you’re using some bulleted list or an HR document, you’re not conveying anything except that your “opportunity” is, in fact, just another job at just another company — after all, your job posts look and sound (the rare time candidates bother reading them) like everyone else’s. That’s not going to win you any talent competition. There is a reason why too many bullet points have been shown to turn off candidates.

Just like on an online dating profile, you want to convey a sense of swagger while standing out from the crowd and getting potential employees interested enough to at least click and consider expressing interest. No one makes an emotional connection with company acronyms, industry keywords and bulleted lists. Textio finds that formal language like “ideal candidate,” makes positions fill more slowly than simply addressing the person straight on, by simply saying you will have these responsibilities.

Photo of Christina Aguilera with her hand over her mouth sitting in judge chair on The Voice with text overlay "OH DAMNNN"

People just click through and keep on looking for a sexier fit, a better match, or at least something that sounds different or interesting — and you’re left wondering why those paid job boards or online media buys do such a bad job producing applicants. Well, any content marketer can tell you: the medium is important, but the message is everything.

If recruiters invest time in doing job postings the right way, it’s going to more or less do most of the work for you, and a well-written posting will convert visitors into candidates even without changing channels, strategy or spend — seriously.

Of course, with candidates becoming increasingly selective or cynical (at least the ones you can place), that’s much easier said than done. While recruiters are still blasting postings (often through automated distribution to make sure that those sh*tty job posts get ignored on as many sites as possible) and sending mass blasts to candidates, job seekers aren’t still sitting around submitting resume after resume. Nope. They’re reading company reviews, asking their network about what working at your company is really like, and spending much more time on research and due diligence before ever expressing any interest to an employer directly.

Photo of Adam Levine with his eyes closed sitting in a judge chair on The Voice with text overlay "I'm a good thief!"

Of course, the most crucial decision point determining whether that candidate converts or not comes when they hit their final stop. It’s the most impactful stage in their career purchasing process: the job ad.

Because even if they’re on board with your brand, that “apply now” button is almost always attached to an open position posting — and if that posting sucks, there’s a good chance that candidate won’t click through at all. ATS and HCM systems aren’t the only factors implicit in applicant drop off — the inordinately high bounce rate of traffic to public job postings (estimated between 92–96% as an aggregate average) suggests that crappy content is equally responsible for many employers’ candidate conversion challenges.

3 Keys To Writing Killer Job Ads

Photo of Rihanna sitting in judge chair on The Voice with text overlay "I DON'T LIKE YOU RIGHT NOW!"

But if your job postings suck, don’t worry — there are a few keys every recruiter should remember to stop turning off top talent and start seeing a spike in qualified, interested and available applicants.

Even if you aren’t a writer, here are a few minimum qualifications for great job ads that actually work — and a handy checklist to consider the next time you’ve got to post a position in public.

1. Be Human.

Ask not what the job seeker can do for you; ask what you can do for that job seeker. Because they want to know what’s in it for them — particularly if, like so many candidates these days, they actually have options (and could care less what your company needs, frankly).

That’s why instead of focusing on a bulleted list of responsibilities or a laundry list of strict minimum requirements that can scare seekers away (adding “or related field of study,” for instance, can do wonders for application flow), try telling your story in real, accessible language that conveys your personality. Especially when you are in a company with multiple kinds of roles make sure your words speak to the candidate directly. Words that draw in a retail employee are proven to turn off IT people, and visa versa.

Photo of Shakira sitting in judge chair on The Voice with text overlay "You're performance was as refreshing as a tangerine ice-cream."

You want to come across as a human, not Human Resources — and the best way to do that is to sound like someone a candidate might actually want to work with, and tell the story of your company and how this role fits in, not daily responsibilities or duties. If you’re clear about what your company is and what you value, such as inclusivity, over and over again, data shows that you will fill roles faster.

If you want to find culture fit, you’ve got to do more than just stick up stock photos or talk about how cool you are — that really comes down to style, and if you can’t convey your personality in a posting, then you can’t convey culture fit. But you sure can make some very slick, very expensive videos up on your careers YouTube channel — but we all know no one actually watches those.

But if you can show a candidate what their life in your company can really be like beyond just the work in a job description, well, you’re actually creating competitive differentiation, not just more crappy careers collateral.

2. Get Down To the Details.

Sure, starting with silly boilerplates about your company and how awesome it is seem like a good idea, but the big picture isn’t really what candidates care about in a job description — they want to know specifics of the role and its responsibilities. While too many companies are either too broad or gloss over the actual daily grind in favor of pretty pictures and prose about perks.

Conversely, many recruiters go into way too much detail about responsibilities, outlining every. single. thing. the candidate will have to do, even if they’re minor duties or potential one offs. Instead of listing everything the candidate will do in a job, focus on the most important responsibilities they HAVE to do or will be accountable for.

Emphasizing less, not more, leads to more effective candidate self-selection, with many choosing to opt out if they have a clearer view of whether or not they’re actually a fit for a few key things instead of a potential match for a laundry list of “nice to haves” that could easily be eliminated — along with many unqualified applicants, too.

Alternatively, you don’t want to scare away qualified applicants who remove themselves from the running because they don’t exactly match the dozens of requirements listed on a posting, but in reality, could easily excel at the job and have the requisite skills and experience, but maybe don’t meet every “preferred” qualification you have listed and opt out, figuring they don’t have a chance. Using strict words in your job post will make candidates count themselves out. A high density of words like highly intelligent, high performer, super smart, are shown to make roles fill 11 times more slowly.

Must have, not nice to have — these are the real minimum qualifications recruiters should worry about.

3. Size Matters.

If you’re still reading this, then you’ve got a longer attention span than most people. But don’t assume a candidate is going to take any longer than a few seconds to review a job posting. Concise sentences and job posts have been proven to attract more job seekers.

Photo of Gwen Stefani sitting in judge chair on The Voice with text overlay "I WISH COULD PUT YOU GUYS IN A BLENDER AND MAKE ONE PERSON"

Like a recruiter viewing a resume, they look for the bolded words, skim the bulleted list and whether or not there’s a placement possibility.

This takes 7–8 seconds, on average, so getting candidates means getting to the point. The worst thing you can do in that brief window of opportunity is sound like every other job description out there.

Which is the entire point, really.

Matt Charney is the Executive Editor for RecruitingDaily. Follow him on Twitter Matt Charney or connect with him on LinkedIn

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