Attract Reluctant Applicants by Compiling Your Selling Points

Many organizations struggle to get enough high-quality applicants. While corporate websites, job boards, and events generate lots of flow, most agree that the quality is lacking in a vast majority of applicants.

The culprit might be how organizations sell their opportunities. A quick scan of major job boards, print advertisements, and corporate career sites reveals that organizations rely on ordinary, bland recruiting materials and dull position descriptions to attract talent.

It is evident that little emphasis is placed on making the recruiting pitch truly exciting. The lack of effort is indicative of an often oversubscribed premise that the talent you are after already knows how great you are as an employer, so you don’t need to spark their interest in your openings.

It’s a premise that is rarely true, unless you happen to work for a small handful of rather elite companies. If you don’t, there is an alternative approach that accepts recruiting as a form of sales and dictates that recruiters become more adept at articulating differentiated “selling points” (i.e., a value proposition).

Compile a List of Your Selling Points

It seems like such an obvious step, but only a small percentage of recruiting leaders invest significant time in establishing points of differentiation with talent competitors and distributing them to those in the recruiting process to establish a shared mindset.

This list helps to ensure that on the off chance such talent does encounter your message via any channel in use, your opportunities will stand out from all of the others competing for their limited attention.

Consistent, compelling messages have a better chance of being recognized, so selling points must permeate everything that touches the recruiting function, including:

  • Position descriptions
  • Corporate background profiles
  • Recruiting collateral
  • Corporate website (all aspects, not just the career site)
  • Press releases and media kits
  • Recruiting process communications (including the all-important offer letter)

Consider other important steps, described below, to help leverage such selling points to attract high-quality applicants.

Develop a Comprehensive List of Possible Job Application Factors

Before you can successfully make a sales pitch that would attract the very best, identify what specific features the best potential applicants expect in a good job and in a great company.

I call these selling points “job application factors” because they are the factors that drive the very best candidates to take the time to actually suffer through applying for a position.

Methods for identifying such factors include holding focus groups with your own best employees, asking applicants during interviews, asking new hires, and compiling a list of other firms’ selling points. Remember to scan position descriptions from competing firms to document things such as tools used and the scope of competing positions.

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Develop Your Selling Points

You might think that you’re done, but unfortunately, developing a pitch around selling points that your organization cannot live up to is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. With that in mind, the next step is to pare down your list of ideal factors into a list of selling points that your company can actually deliver on.

While you may perceive that your company can execute to a particular point, it is much better to test than assume. Assemble a test panel in specific job families to review the ranked list of factors, then assign a rating of how well your organization delivers on each point. Develop those selling points that rank high in terms of attractiveness and rate high in terms of execution.

Company-wide features might include:

  • Being listed on “best place to work” or employer of choice lists
  • A culture of innovation and risk-taking
  • A culture that celebrates diversity
  • Firm/industry stability and programs that enable job security
  • Growth rates
  • Environmental record
  • Product standings, including any awards won
  • Specific values and culture statements
  • Great training and educational assistance programs
  • Exceptional pay and benefits
  • Lifestyle benefits (on-site gym, concierge service, free snacks)
  • A willingness to help with immigration issues for new hires
  • Excellent relocation assistance
  • Low employee turnover rates and high employee satisfaction scores

Job-specific features might include:

  • A well-respected manager (honest, listens to employees, involves them in decision-making)
  • Challenging projects are available to those who want to grow
  • Opportunities to work with well-recognized clients
  • Strong employee development programs
  • An opportunity to work in a cohesive team with an excellent track record
  • An opportunity to help people
  • Sufficient travel opportunities
  • Access to the latest technology and equipment
  • Award-winning or leading products or services
  • Modern facilities
  • Stable business unit with no recent layoffs
  • Flexible work options are both available and are frequently used

Location features might include:

  • A low cost of living
  • Excellent schools and family-friendly environment
  • Short commute times and multiple transportation options
  • Great recreation and sports facilities
  • Great weather and clean air
  • A low crime rate and a “civil” community
  • An environmentally conscious region
  • Low local tax rates
  • Good restaurants and shopping
  • Located close to attractive major metropolitan areas
  • A stable economy and reasonable opportunities for employment for family members

Embed Powerful Selling Points in All Recruiting Materials

After identifying which of the desired job application factors are actually present at your company, and in a particular job, refine the definition, provide real examples, and embed them in every form of communication that touches applicants and candidates.

This will ensure that you produce recruiting materials and position descriptions that are significantly more compelling. Incidentally, if potential applicants routinely perceive that your firm has “negative” factors, directly counter each of them in your recruiting materials.

Final Steps

Before taking any of your selling points live, test them again to make sure they are as powerful and as convincing as possible. You don’t live in a vacuum, so continually compare your factors to the ones contained in the collateral of your closest talent competitors in order to ensure that your firm’s recruiting materials remain superior. Throughout your recruiting process, gather feedback on your selling points and refine them as necessary.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.