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The Structure of Your Job Ad Plays a Bigger Role Than You Think

by Feb 6, 2013, 6:00 pm ET

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 2.58.08 PMAs a marketing person for a somewhat large (200 recruiters nationally) staffing firm, one of my biggest difficulties has always been ensuring consistency across the board. When it comes to things like brand standards, policies, messaging, etc., it can be difficult to police all of it so that the company image looks unified on a national front.

Thanks to my terrific marketing team across the country we have been able to manage all of this relatively easily, but the one thing that seemed to always escape our grasp was quality control of our job ads.

Up until this year, we never really had a policy on ad format. It was simply up to the recruiter to write and post their ads. Our guys didn’t necessarily write poor ads, they simply lacked a level of formatting consistency across the brand.

We spent the first few weeks of January doing a complete overhaul of our ads, explaining the importance of SEO, working out an ad template, and removing any usage of superlatives in job titles.

We saw immediate results.

Our concentration on SEO helped our ads get found more on Indeed.com and other job sites, as well as organically on Google.com. Our ads were more aesthetically pleasing and easier to scan and because of that we saw users applying to more jobs. And our job titles were descriptive and helped convert more applications. In the month of January after our ad overhaul we more than doubled our application rate. We saw a dramatic spike in traffic to our home pages from people clicking through from our ads, and our website bounce rate dropped off the table, going from 44% to 23%, meaning when people came to our site, they stayed. This is all due to getting serious about a format to our job ads.

My advice to you is to do your research on which formats work best for your area of specialty, and constantly tweak and improve them to get their maximum level of efficiency. Try A/B testing to see if one format yields better results than the other. With the algorithms search sites like Google or Indeed use nowadays to provide the best possible results for the users, posting ads really has become a science. The era of post and pray is dead and gone; it’s time to evolve!

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.

  • Keith Halperin

    Thank you for the article. Let me see if I have this correct:
    You work for a somewhat large (200 recruiters nationally) staffing firm, that presumably gets paid on a commission basis. Now, there’s been a great deal of discussion that the true value in 3PR firms is basically in pulling passive candidates deep from within companies and selling them on the client’s position or quickly providing otherwise-findable candidates very quickly in an emergency-hire situation; IMHO using them for other things is a very expensive waste of money, as there are much more cost-effective alternatives.

    You mention running job ads, and enough ads that you feel need to standardize their look and feel. ISTM that you’re either using these ads to fill your own or your clients’ jobs; and neither one points toward the high skill-level of your recruiters, or the value of using your firm. So, what am I missing here?

    Cheers,

    Keith

  • http://www.ere.net/author/justin-miller/ Justin Miller

    Keith

    I get that you’re the ERE troll and like to try and pick apart all of my articles (you literally have commented negatively on every single one) I suggest that you just not read my posts anymore because you clearly don’t like what I have to say.

    Anyways to answer your point. They job is to fill the hard to fill positions, but believe it or not, often times we do have success posting jobs and pulling in candidates we may not have had a previous relationship with. We also leverage social media to go out and find people that aren’t looking but we can sell opportunities to by inviting them and sending them links to jobs they might be a fit for. And yes, as a company and marketing manager I would like if the look and feel to our company is consistent across every spectrum. We work in IT so most of our clients are lead developers and not experienced in the nuances of what makes a great candidate for a particular position. Also at some point we need to find candidates, so job ads are a natural way of attracting people we aren’t already working with in our network or haven’t found through our sourcing department.

    I love how you try to change the subject by railing against recruitment firms as opposed to talking about what this post is actually on, which is the importance of figuring our what job posting format works best for you. I know you think that because you’re a contract recruiter you’re better than people who work for an agency but I need to tell you, you’re not impressing me and I’m pretty sure you’re not impressing anyone else that reads your comments.

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  • Richard Araujo

    @ Keith,

    Normally we’re in agreement and I can see how you made the jump you did here, but I think you made a bit too long of a leap in this one. I would expect an agency to post an opening as there’s always the chance someone qualified might spot their ad and not mine for whatever reasons. I think it’s up to corporate recruiters when they employ agencies to do a quality check to make sure they can submit some proof of a plan, including alternative sourcing routes, and viable candidates coming through those channels to ensure they’re not duplicating a process you can internalize for pennies on the dollar you’d end up paying them. All the author seems to be doing here is addressing an aspect of this particular sourcing method, not saying it’s his company’s only sourcing method. And the marketing aspect of what we do is something people should pay closer attention to on the agency and corporate side.

  • http://www.ere.net/author/justin-miller/ Justin Miller

    Richard

    Exactly! I’m not saying we simply throw out ads and wait for candidates to come in. There’s a whole wealth of operations our staff does to provide our clients with candidates you wouldnt find on a job board. The only point I was making was if you’re going to put out a job ad, it’s not something you should take lightly. If you haven’t already there should be some time and effort dedicated into figuring out a format and system that will yield the best results.

  • http://www.thezenith.com Irma Davidson

    It’s a great article that makes an excellent point: Too many companies pay too little attention to how their ads come across and ads can be incredibly impactful. Thanks for reminding us of this very important recruiting fact.

    As for the staffing firm placing ads, finding a fitting candidate is like finding a fitting spouse. You have to use many different approaches to be effective.

  • http://www.neorecruitermom.com Shannon Wagner

    All information available on the internet about your company as an employer, including the layout of your postings, is part of your employer brand. Consistency is vital.

  • Keith Halperin

    @ Justin. I’m sorry you feel that way. I’m not a “troll” lurking under the ERE bridge to gobble up the hapless “Billy Goats Gruff”. I’m out there for all to see- I might be in the top 5-10 ERE contributors as far as overall submissions including comments are concerned. Also, when I see an article/comment I agree with and/or is well written: I praise the author, where there is something unclear: I ask questions about it, and when I disagree with or find an article poorly written, I critique it- but I try to critique the ideas and not the person (at least not directly).

    I don’t critique posting well-crafted job descriptions for a great many (perhaps most) positions. I also think it is very useful to have a standardized, high-quality look and feel to them- I think most JDs and postings should be submitted to Marketing to make them as good as they can be. What I DO object to is for any 3PR doing these things in return for a 15-30% fee. Why? Because the clients can get these done just as well for MUCH less. Examples:
    1) You want your job posted and sent out? I know a company that will do that on the major board (maybe the niche ones, too) for around $100 more or less. (Haven’t talked with him in awhile.)

    2) You want:
    a) the kind of folks you can get off the CB, Monster, or DICE or through internet searching? Well, I know an outfit that will work on up to 15 reqs at a time and provide up t0 225 resumes/week for $225.
    b) solid phone sourcing? You can get that done for under $2,000/mo. and if they can’t find it Maureen or Irina (through the internet) can for a lot less than you’d pay a contingency firm.
    c) An org chart filled out? Heard about a firm that will do that for $10-$20.
    d) LinkedIn Profile (you find or they find)contact info? I know an outfit that will do up to 100 profiles/contact infos for $150, then $1.50 each.

    “I know you think that because you’re a contract recruiter you’re better than people who work for an agency.”
    Actually, pretty close to the opposite is true- I think that the BEST 3PR recruiters are better at building meaningful, long-term relationships with candidates/hiring managers, getting very happily-situated candidates to listen to the value proposition, and closing them on marginal or sub-standard offers than I’ll EVER be. That’s OK, because I’m not paid to do those things. These elite 3PRs are worth every bit of 30% fees and more. At the same time, these elite 3PRs aren’t paid to get the people who respond to ads or you can find on boards. IMO, if a 3PR is getting its candidates off boards and/or ads, it’s relying on customers’ ignorance of better and more cost-effective alternatives, such as I mentioned above.

    BOTTOM LINE:
    If you aren’t prepared to pay 30% to have some recruiting done, don’t have a 3PR do it, because you can get it done as well or better, for MUCH less.

    Finally, Justin: I don’t need to impress anybody except my clients, and I guess I am, because I’m still contract recruiting after 19 years….

    @ Richard: I definitely agree “when they employ agencies to do a quality check to make sure they can submit some proof of a plan, including alternative sourcing routes, and viable candidates coming through those channels to ensure they’re not duplicating a process you can internalize for pennies on the dollar you’d end up paying them.” I do have to respectfully disagree though about “would expect an agency to post an opening as there’s always the chance someone qualified might spot their ad and not mine for whatever reasons.” IMHO, you shouldn’t pay a contingency fee for someone who would respond to an ad. I would make (and have made) an exception if there were a non-responsive (after repeated attempts) board candidate, but you could get them interested- that’s happened once in my career.

    Cheers,

    Keith

  • http://www.talenttalks.com Kelly Blokdijk, SPHR

    Justin – I agree with your points about well-formatted, well-written and otherwise attractive and relevant ads drawing more views/applies, etc. I truly believe far more effort needs to go into “marketing” positions as a career opportunity for top talent vs. (what I refer to as) a list of demands that only the most in need of ANY employment would respond to.

    Based on your article, it appears that the assessment timing of your ad upgrades took place as of January. Is that correct? If so, I’m curious if your firm previously tracked ad response rates during this part of the year in years past or if the comparison was just comparison from recent months.

    The reason I would be interested in knowing those stats is to gauge whether there is or is not just a natural increase in traffic due to job market seasonality and typical fluctuations in hiring patterns.

    I was also wondering if the ads your firm places reveal the identity of the employer (as in working on behalf of that client with full disclosure to prospective applicants) or if they simply to attract them to your agency? In my experience, blinded ads or those posted by staffing industry firms without a specific employer named, generally seem less appealing to those searching. I would imaging A/B testing between those types of ads would support that concept.

    Thanks,
    Kelly B @TalentTalks

    Finally, Keith has been a long time contributor and active member of the ERE community and certainly is not a troll. Rather than viewing his (or others’) comments as overly critical, I tend to appreciate anyone taking the time to read and provide feedback on my content whether I’m in agreement or not with their point of view or visa versa.

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  • http://www.ere.net/author/justin-miller/ Justin Miller

    Hey Kelly

    All good questions. I should’ve been more clear, when I said we more than doubled our application rate, we doubled it compared to our previously highest month (since we started tracking through Google Analytics) which was back in October, so it wasn’t a comparison to December 2012 if that’s what you were thinking.

    Also, since contingency IT recruiting is so competitive we do not reveal the client’s name in our ads, but we do try hard to provide a descriptive bio of the company that will give the candidate a good idea of who they’re dealing with.

    And about Keith, I hear you, please read my comments in other posts with people who disagree with me, I never have a short fuse with them. Keith is different because every single post I write or read on here has at least one snarky comment where he often time reaches to make a negative point. To me, that’s different than simply offering a different opinion, that’s just to antagonize, which the internet has affectionately called “trolling”. If you disagree, I’m sorry.

  • Keith Halperin

    @ Kelly: Thank you.
    @ Justin: I’m sorry you feel I have something against you personally; I don’t. I’m also sorry you don’t like the style of my commentary, which is designed to get people to think and feel strongly about recruiting-related subjects, and sometimes to amuse. I have praised and thanked many ERE authors and commenters, and look forward to including you in that group, too.

    Happy Friday,

    Keith