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Job Postings That Attract Top Talent

If you want to bring high-caliber employees to your organization, follow these five rules for writing job postings that will grab the attention of top candidates.

By Peter Weddle

There are just five rules to writing a compelling job posting that will seduce even the most passive high-caliber candidates. These rules are crucial to successful recruitment advertising, whether you are posting your openings on an association career site like this one, a commercial job board, or a social media site.

Why are these rules so important? Because top talent, is different from everyone else in the workforce; these people are almost always employed. To recruit top talent, you have to convince them to do the one thing people dislike the most: change. Your ad needs to persuade your target audience to turn away from the devil they know—their current employer, boss, and commute—to the devil they don’t know—a new employer, a different boss, and an unfamiliar commute.

Rule 1: Turn titles into magnets. Job postings are not position descriptions; they are electronic sales brochures. Their purpose is to sell top candidates on the opportunity inherent in an opening. The "sale" will not happen, unless your posting hooks readers right away. So, give your job posting titles a magnetic pull by using the three most important triggers to action among top talent, separating each with a dash:

  • Location. Top talent want to work where they live, so begin the title with the postal code abbreviation for the state where the opening is located (e.g., CT).
  • Skill. Top talent want to see themselves in the job, not some HR job title (e.g., Associate III), so next add the skill they would use to describe themselves (e.g., Sr. Marketing Pro).
  • Sizzle. Top talent are herd animals, so ask the top performers in your organization why they came to work there and use that factor as the concluding element in your title.

Consider this example of a good title: “CT—Sr. Marketing Pro—Great team of coworkers.”

Given the gnat-like attention span of top talent, you must convey your message in the blink of an eye.

Rule 2: Develop content for them, not you. “Requirements” and “responsibilities” are employer-centric words. They say nothing important to top talent. These prospects are interested in the same information, but they want it presented in a way that indicates what's in it for them. To make your content talent-centric, share what candidates will get out of the opportunity and what it will be like to work for you. Your job posting should answer these five questions:

  • What will they get to do?
  • What will they get to learn?
  • What will they get to accomplish?
  • With whom will they get to work?
  • How will they be recognized and rewarded?

Rule 3: Sell first, explain later. Your target audience has a short attention span, so it is critical that your job posting leads with your strengths. first, open with an enticement: a hard-hitting paragraph that summarizes why the position is a rare opportunity. then, demonstrate to prospective candidates why the opportunity is their dream job with a dream employer by providing the details of what’s in it for them.

Rule 4: Use a format that gnats would like. Given the gnat-like attention span of top talent, you must convey your message in the blink of an eye. these candidates are not typically active job seekers, so they are not willing to plow through the thick paragraphs of a typical job posting. the most they will do is scan your content, so make it easy on the eye. replace prose with headlines and bullets, so prospective candidates can quickly get a picture of the position and decide if it is right for them.

Rule 5: Get them to act, even if they don’t apply. Writing a job posting for top talent, including passive, high-caliber candidates, is an investment of your time and talent, so make sure you derive a meaningful return on that effort. the optimal response, of course, is an application, but if that does not happen, make sure you have a fallback. offer your readers another way to act on your opportunity: give them the ability to refer the opening to a friend or colleague. why? because top talent knows other top talent. also, invite them to join your network of contacts so you can keep them informed of other openings in the future.

Unfortunately, most job postings today are a modern medical miracle: a cure for insomnia in 500 words or less. to avoid this fate, write your job postings using the five rules for seducing top talent. the best candidates will be much more likely to fall for your opening if you do.

Peter Weddle is the author of more than two dozen employment-related books, including A Multitude of Hope: A Novel About Rediscovering the American Dream and The Career Fitness Workbook: How to Find, Win & Hang Onto the Job of Your Dreams.