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Job Titles & Headline Statements: Be Noticed, Stand Out From Competitors, Increase Response

by
Jeff Perry
Sep 23, 2009, 5:30 am ET

hands-photoShopping for a car? Need groceries? Want new clothes? Looking at trying a new restaurant? Whether we are actively searching for a given product or not, we form opinions and make decisions based, at least in part, on the marketing messages we receive about them.

The world of employment advertising is no exception. Attractive logos, extensive benefits packages, flexible schedules: all these can be used to make an impact on job candidates and affect how many people read and reply to your postings. When considering how to initially attract readers to your employment ads, the key opportunity may lie in your job title and/or headline statement. These prominent statements give advertisers the chance to attract the attention and readership of job seekers, and motivate them to respond.

According to marketing legend David Ogilvy, five times as many people read a headline as do the entire ad. Therefore, without a strong headline statement, your ad may be skipped entirely. Another source (copyblog.com) says that while 8 out of 10 people will read a headline statement, only 2 in 10 read the entire ad. By designing a strong, compelling lead-in, you’ll increase the number of candidates who do go on to read your ad, and apply to your job, while your competitors’ ads get skipped over.

Creating Job Titles or Headline Statements

What makes a good title/headline?

You’ll most clearly know you have a good headline statement when candidates you interview tell you so. Your message will get candidates thinking, wanting to know more, and ultimately, responding to your ad. Headline statements are about positioning and most tout the strengths of the position, opportunity, situation, and/or company. When done well, the statement will differentiate one job or company from another.

How can you create a great headline statement?

A good headline depends on identifying what all the strengths of the opportunity are, choosing the strongest of those, and then communicating that in a well-crafted phrase. To start the process, ask and answer the following questions:

  • What are the key positives prospective candidates must know about your company and/or job opening?
  • What makes you (or the position) different and/or notable?
  • What do your current employees like about working at your organization?
  • What tone in a headline statement best fits your image/culture? (Cleverness, Humor, Formal, etc)
  • What are your competitors saying in their ads?
  • After compiling the above, what single key advantage do you have that should be front and center?

Key Areas

There are a number of key areas around which headline statements can be built. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Awards won/recognition given
  • Strength of the company – stability/longevity/culture
  • Strength of the product
  • Needs/wants of the candidate
  • Dollars and cents
  • Quality of location/atmosphere
  • Culture/mission of the organization
  • Quote from employee(s)
  • Play on words

Here are two examples of headlines positioning the advertiser as an “Award-wining” employer:

Want to join a company that was awarded more Media and Methods portfolio awards than any other company last year?

Join a company recognized by Fortune magazine as one of the most admired food companies!

Stability and longevity of your organization can be very attractive to job seekers. If it works in your favor, consider using it:

Since the opening of its first franchise in 1940, International Dairy Queen, Inc has established itself as one of the world’s best-loved brands of food and dairy treats

Or, a more concise example:

Customer Service Rep – 110 year-old company and stronger than ever!

(Note: this ad received 73% more views and more than twice as many applies as competing ads simply titled Customer Service Representative.)

Just as Saturn pioneered the no-haggle pricing that customers enjoy, they position this as a benefit to their salespeople. This tackles several areas (strength of the position & culture, wants of the candidate – i.e. not having to haggle as a primary duty) with one headline:

Auto Sales – “No haggle” sales philosophy!

Another car dealer stands out by promoting the strength of the product:

Sales Career – fastest growing product in the U.S.!

Case in Point

One advertiser was receiving a low response to a posted ad and sought assistance. The job title? Inside Sales. We didn’t need to probe much further for the reason for their low response – the title generates no interest or differentiation.

After a few questions about the organization, the title was revised to highlight their company culture:

Inside Sales – Family-owned, great work/life balance!

The results? During the two-week period prior to the title change, the ad received 132 views. During the two-week period after the change, 290 people viewed it. That’s an increase of 220%! Clearly, job titles matter.

What Do Your Employees Say About You?

In business-to-business dealings we often use testimonials because often what your peers say carries more weight than what a Sales Representative says to you. The testimonial not only speaks to your product or service, but also to the belief the person giving the quote has in you. It’s no different with prospective employees — they want to know what their prospective peers say about the organization. Using employee quotes can have a powerful affect on candidates.

The culture at Eide Bailly has directly influenced my ability to succeed. I’m trusted in my work and have the freedom to make decisions. — Shannon (with the Firm 12 years)

Eide Bailly, a Top 25 CPA firm, uses quotes like this in its recruitment advertising. So, does it work?

I used to think (using the quote) was a little hokey… until I tried it in an ad. I received more comments regarding the employee quote we used. One person even wanted to meet the person who was quoted. The comments I received ranged from ‘the reason I applied was because of the quote from your employee’ to ‘that quote made me want to find out more about your company’. With that in mind, I would say that using quotes can really add an element of personalization and differentiation to your ad, as long as your company is depicted accurately by the quote. –Lauri Dahlberg, PHR, HR Manager

Using a quote from an employee can be a terrific way to pique interest and get more candidates in your pool. By using this or some of the other techniques pointed to above, you will increase your chances of attracting talent that otherwise might have overlooked your opportunity.

Tone

In addition to the key areas to build your title around, you will want to consider the tone of your headline as it relates to your image and/or culture. The tone can be:

  • Serious
  • Fun, playful
  • Inquisitive (ask questions)
  • Creative/outside the box

You might think a legal publishing firm would project a staid, stuffy image. To combat that, one advertiser has used the fun, play-on-words headline: Do Your Career Justice. Now they don’t sound so stuffy after all — right?

Which large bank do you think uses the headline: Success Comes in Stages (hint: stagecoach)? Another case of a play-on-words, which in this case, ties into a company symbol and shows a sense of humor that others in banking do not.

Getting Non-conventional

Some advertisers use a traditional approach and embellish it such as: Auto Sales – Capitalize on the hot new Saturn products! Others scrap the conventional angle all together. A district manager at one of the country’s largest financial and insurance services companies, says, “I try to consider the basic facts about the opportunity, and then highlight a selected part which the reader might find especially intriguing.”

For example, while his competitors use traditional (i.e. boring) titles, the district manager mentioned above uses the headline: Take Charge of Your Career Selling Products Everyone Needs! While his competitors’ ads lead to pre-conditioned or limited ideas about insurance sales, re-framing it with a headline statement presents a positive and informative picture. This brings results.

The district manager says, “I often ask responders what caught their attention in my recruitment ad. More often than not they reply, ‘The headline, that got me thinking…’ When I hear that, I know I have a good headline.”

Another recruiter in the Financial Services field presents his job as a “Small Business Opportunity.” His title reframes the posting and turns it from a “job” into a different kind of opportunity, one that attracts entrepreneurial people.

Why Re-invent the Wheel?

In addition to brainstorming new ideas, don’t overlook past ideas that can be re-worked. It can make the job of finding new headlines easier and be as effective (or more) than dreaming up new ones. Also, you can possibly piggyback on the branding message of the company.

For example, you may have heard the Saturn tag “A Different Kind of Car Company.” Recently, one Saturn group conducted a search for a sales team — two individuals to share the role of one sales position. It’s a different approach to a traditional role. Their headline?

A Different Kind of Car Company — Again

According to Lou Adler, you have 10 seconds to capture readers’ attention. A strong headline statement that helps you stand out and strongly positions the strengths of your opportunity will help you capture that readership and deliver candidates.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Ernie Moore

    I could not agree more! How do you sell management that is okay to use something other than the “Job Title” and “Job Description”?

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  3. Skye Callan

    Thanks for the article Jeff! These are all great points.

    I especially like how Saturn positioned their “no haggle” sales philosophy in their recruitment advertising.

  4. Ross Clennett

    Well done, Jeff, this is an article with real substance. It is very depressing looking at all the mediocre job ads that simply regurgitate a job description. I have always found employee quotes to be especially effective, yet rarely mentioned in any recruitment advertising articles of workshops, so kudos to you for highlighting how effective it can be.

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  6. Wray Broskow

    Some search engines tell us they use algorithms to correlate the headline with the key words entered by the job seeker. This means that extra words in the headline cause ads to appear below ads with simpler headlines. When a job seeker does a search that results in multiple pages of results, an ad with a simple headline may appear on the 1st page, while an ad with extra words may appear on page 2 or later. Obviously, ads that appear on the first page have an advantage. We did some tests that proved this to be true. Has anyone else heard about this?”

  7. Jessica Cullings

    I hear the same things from the job boards…”don’t put unnecessary words in the title when you post or it won’t come up in the search engine” However, I work in an industry that is cut throat for top talent and in our prime, I feel like the only thing that made us different on those boards were the extra “umph” in the ad headline. So the fact that it came up as 3rd in the search instead of first made no difference to me. Feel like the A players are going the extra mile. I belive today, that if someone is looking, then they are looking at all the ads that correlate to their field no matter how long ago it was posted and no matter what the title is but I also agree that they probably actaully take the time to read ones that have the more interesting titles; moreover, making a fantastic eye catching title all the more worth it(although I still wish that the update feature on the job boards updated the posting date like it used to because I think any ad posted today’s date is always going to get priority attention no matter how many words are in the title.)

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  9. Jason Ferrara

    I couldn’t agree more with writing compelling headlines – mastering that skill is useful in all areas of business, including job advertising. I especially like the examples (Inside Sales – Family-owned, great work/life balance!). They are great examples of delivering a clear job title (“Inside Sales” – the type of thing job seekers and search engines look for) in addition to the richer and more descriptive phrase (“Family owned, great work/life balance!”). The second phrase tells a quick story and gives context as to the company – a company’s employment brand. Employment Branding is especially important in today’s climate. The way you position your organization and its benefits in many ways is what separates success form failure. The original post gives good advice. Dig into your headlines, polish them up and make them work hard to communicate for you.

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