Turn Post and Pray into Post and Placement

Apr 28, 2011

I often run across criticism of the recruiting practice dubbed “Post and Pray,” the method of posting online job ads with the hopes the right candidates apply. This practice comes under fire since it is viewed as the lazy approach to recruiting with little to no control over who applies.

Many of you may be thinking at this point, “I have no need to post jobs! I do everything through cold calling and referrals.” Relax — while that may work for you, it may not be the best approach for everyone else. Recruiting offers no perfect source or method to fill positions. In my opinion, to run a successful recruiting desk, it is important to utilize a combination of multiple recruiting methods, both proactive and reactive.

Posting online job ads have many advantages. Job seekers who apply have the opportunity to read through a job description (hopefully well written!) so they typically are already interested in your job when you receive their resume.

The following job posting strategies, approaches, and techniques will help optimize your job ad exposure resulting in both a higher quantity and quality of online applicants. 

Optimize Your Job Title

Go to leading job boards, Indeed, Monster, or CareerBuilder. Too many job descriptions contain generic titles such as “Senior Scientist,” “Business Analyst,” or “Software Developer.”  Type in “Sr. Scientist” on Indeed and you will see hundreds of job postings with this exact title. When I see a generic title, the first thing I want to know is what kind of Senior Scientist or Business Analyst is this? What is this position working on? Posting a generic job title will just yield a generic and non targeted set of applicants who respond.

The job title is the first thing job seekers see in their search results. An interesting and specific job title will result in a click on the job ad, the first step. Major job boards also score search results based upon the job title so it’s important to write a keyword rich job title and maximize this space. Monster allows for up to 50 characters so, like a tweet, it’s important to make the most of this space. Think of your job title as SEO for a job posting. Be sure to incorporate keywords associated with technologies, activities, and other specific qualifications.

Refresh Your Jobs

Another SEO-like way to optimize job postings is to regularly refresh every few days to a week.  Ideally, you can work with job slots which allow you to update, modify, or redo your job whenever — and for free. Monster and Dice among other boards offer job slots.

You can simply tweak your job ads every few days by making slight modifications to the job titles and the job location. So for example:

  • Sr. Scientist, Downstream Purification, Monoclonal Antibodies – San Francisco, CA 94101

refresh to:

  • Sr. Purification Scientist, Recombinant Proteins – San Francisco, CA 94105

Refreshing your job ads will ensure your job ads get to the top of the job boards and on page 1 of search results.

Your Job Description

Job descriptions should be well written, interesting, and thorough. They should focus more on the background of the position, projects, and responsibilities and less on the requirements.  Basic stuff!


You will generate the most applicants and best results by posting within the major markets. Jobs posted in LA, San Francisco, Boston, New York, and Chicago will yield far more applicants than jobs posted in Anaheim, Sacramento, Providence, Scranton, and Normal, IL. If you have a job in Scranton or small market region, post your job in the closest large market city where you will be able to attract candidates from within the largest talent pool. Just be sure to disclose in your ad that your position is not in the big city listed and that a relocation package may be offered, as is done in the following example –

Receiving Resumes

I highly recommend making use of an Applicant Tracking System which receives resumes from the candidates who apply for your position. Each position should contain its own apply URL so resumes received are automatically added to your ATS and sorted for the correct job.

A well designed ATS will also be able to automatically score how well applicants match up to the job they apply for. This way you can quickly get to the best applicants first. This will save you valuable time if you receive a large response.

Ask a few screening questions when candidates apply. Applicants who are a fit for a position choose to answer questions with complete and thorough answers. Completed questions contain valuable information about an applicant, better than a cover letter, and can be shared with a client.

Tracking and Metrics

Using a short URL, for example,, it is possible to track back each time an applicant clicks your job and each time an applicant applies for the job. You can use this short URL on a multitude of online sources including free job boards Indeed or SimplyHired; major job boards Monster, CareerBuilder, Craigslist, or Dice; social media Sites LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, and even niche job boards 37 Signals, Stack Overflow, TechCrunch, or Biospace.

Choose the Right Boards

You should also be able to measure which job boards are producing the most candidates and even the best candidates. If one board is yielding more applicants or better applicants than another, you know where to best invest your advertising resources. Other metrics to consider are the amount of clicks/applicants. If you get too many views but not enough applicants, you may want to rewrite your job ad.

You should also evaluate which job boards average the highest traffic and unique visitors and compare the traffic against cost per posting. Top boards include Craigslist, Monster, LinkedIn, and Indeed. Job Board Scorecard is a great resource which compares these metrics.

Posting for Placements

Posting optimized job ads is a recruiting practice which should be used in conjunction with passive direct sourcing techniques, networking for referrals, and database searching. It’s nice to know that while you are sourcing through LinkedIn, Jigsaw, and other passive approaches, your job ads are running in the background producing candidates. They even run on the weekend when you are enjoying precious time off!

Continue to work hard and source passive candidates. Then develop an optimized job posting strategy. Determine a comfortable yearly or monthly budget, choose a few top boards, set up the place you will receive incoming resumes (hopefully an ATS), and measure your results.  Candidates sourced from job posting response should account for half of your placements. It works for me!

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