Have you ever visited a website, read one or two sentences, lost interest, and left? If you have, then you should understand how most candidates approach your online job posts. The typical candidate isn’t scrutinizing every word of your post from top to bottom; they’re glancing at the first few sentences and, if that hooks them, maybe they’ll keep going. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that they’ll lose interest and move on.
Given the importance of the beginning of your job ads, what type of content should you put there? Ideally, you’d write a few lines that tell the candidate why they’re going to be thrilled when they join your organization. A well-defined and articulated employment brand should explain to prospective employees “what’s in it for them.”
If you don’t have a fantastic employment brand, you’re not alone. In the “Hiring For Attitude” research, we discovered that more than half of HR executives think their employment brand is average or below average. If you fall into that group, don’t fret; just write a few sentences explaining why working at your organization is great and how employees benefit.
What you need to avoid is having an opening paragraph that is unnecessary, company-focused, or task-focused.
The Unnecessary Opening Paragraph
An unnecessary opening paragraph is one that provides information that the candidate doesn’t need or won’t need until much later in the process. Here’s an actual example (with identifying information omitted):
Check out this new opportunity!
Programmer – Intermediate
Job ID # XXXXXXX
Location: West Coast
Minimum Experience: 3 years
Requisition Number: XXXXXXX
Is there anything in those ten lines that would compel a high-performing programmer to apply? And does the candidate really need to know the job ID and requisition number? The company name displays as a logo above the ad, so there’s no need to waste a line repeating that in the opening paragraph. And like so many poorly-executed online job posts, the very first word the candidate sees once they click on the post is “Description.”
The Company-Focused Opening Paragraph
The company-focused paragraph uses the opening of the job post to deliver the bland marketing copy typically reserved for annual reports. Here’s a real example (again with identifying information omitted):
ABC is a global industry leader in the design and manufacturing of XXXXXXX. Our list of customers include some of the world’s most recognized and respected brands, such as XXXXXXX, XXXXXXX, and XXXXXXX, just to name a few. Our commitment to our employees is demonstrated in numerous awards for innovation, environmental sustainability, and corporate citizenship.
Does this company honestly believe that a job-hunting candidate is going to be swayed by this soporific copy? I would consider it highly unlikely that a candidate will read that so-and-so is a customer and think, “Oh my gosh, now I must apply!”
The Task-Focused Opening Paragraph
This kind of paragraph begins by telling candidates which tasks they’ll have to perform if they’re hired. Here’s an actual example (again with identifying information omitted):
XXXXXXX is seeking a .Net Software Developer. This position’s primary responsibility will be to provide technical expertise and coordinate day-to-day deliverables for the team. The chosen candidate will assist in the technical design of systems, build applications, interface between applications, understand data security, retention, and recovery. The candidate should be able to research on technologies independently to recommend appropriate solutions & should contribute to technology-specific best practices & standards; contribute to success criteria from design through deployment, including reliability, cost-effectiveness, performance, data integrity, maintainability, and scalability; contributes expertise on significant application components, program languages, databases, operating systems, etc., and guides/mentors the team during the build and test phases.
Not only does this paragraph elide any evidence of a compelling employment brand, but it’s also written in the blandest terms possible. Phrases like “contribute to success criteria from design through deployment, including reliability, cost-effectiveness, performance, data integrity” are just not persuasive or captivating.
Writing an absorbing job post doesn’t have to be that difficult. Look at your opening paragraph and ask yourself, “If I were an applicant scrolling quickly through a list of jobs, is there anything about the first few lines that would make me stop and want to learn more?”