How to Make Your Job Ads More Effective

One of my favorite people in the analytics world is Mark Goldberg (now at McFrank & Williams). He called me to talk about the use of data in creating job ads, but ended up impressing me even more by talking about the role of mindset in creating those ads. Let’s look at both tools.

Mindset: Consumer product advertisements talk about the product. Job advertisements talk about the job. Ok, that seems similar, but there is a subtle difference in perspective. Consumer ads focus on what the consumer wants. Job ads focus, not on what the candidate wants, but largely on what the company wants.

Goldberg points out that a simple shift from saying “You need to have these traits” to “You will thrive if you have these traits” moves the focus from what the company wants to what the candidate wants — and that makes for much more effective recruitment.

So even before we begin to think about data or analytics we really have to get our mindset right. Subtle differences in mindset can have a big impact on where we end up.

Data: How do we write candidate-centric job ads? We could hire an expert copywriter but a more interesting approach is to gather data. According to Goldberg, one of the best sources of data is the employees already in the job you are trying to fill. Ask them what traits enable someone to thrive and you can get rich, specific and credible insights.

It seems pretty simple, and yet this simple use of data is usually overlooked.

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What is interesting?

  • As soon as we hear “decisions-based on data” we presume there is going to be some sophisticated math. In fact, what matters is shifting from a world of unstructured opinion to a world of carefully consider fact. This case is a good example of how data supports better decisions, but does not depend on statistics or algorithms.

What is really important?

  • Companies often skip the step of translating the list of what it needs from an employee, to something rather different: a list of what will attract the employee who meets those needs.
  • Talent acquisition departments really struggle to get the funds to do things like experiment with different types of jobs ads. Without experiments it’s hard to learn, and without learning recruiting is never going to be as effective as it should be.
  • Whatever our mindset, we will be more successful if we ask “What data can help us make a more informed decision?” and then seek that data out.

Note to my readers: I’m always interested in innovative firms that signal where HR is heading. I love these firms that are striving to make a difference, but many are startups and a mention does not necessarily mean they’ll be right for you.

About the Author

David Creelman, CEO of Creelman Research, is a globally recognized thinker on people analytics and talent management. Some of his more interesting projects included:

  • Conducted workshops around the world on the practical aspects of people analytics
  • Took business leaders from Japan’s Recruit Co. on a tour of US tech companies (Recruit eventually bought Indeed.com for $1 billion)
  • Studied the relationship between Boards and HR (won Walker Award)
  • Spoke at the World Bank in Paris on HR reporting
  • Co-authored Lead the Work: Navigating a world beyond employment with John Boudreau and Ravin Jesuthasan. The book was endorsed by the CHROs of IBM, LinkedIn and Starbucks.
  • Worked with Dr. Wanda Wallace on “Leading when you are not the expert” which topped the “Most Popular List” on the Harvard Business Review’s blog.
  • Worked with Dr. Henry Mintzberg on peer coaching, David’s learning modules are among the most popular topics.

Currently David is helping organizations to get on-track with people analytics.

This work led to him being made a Fellow for the Centre of Evidence-based Management (Netherlands) for his contributions to the field.

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  • KunbaHR.com

    It is said that the purpose of an ad is two fold – inform the consumer/listener but also touch their emotional nerve. At the end of the day the purpose of every day is to sell something – whether its an item or a job and in order to sell, we must touch our consumer in a way that excites him or her.

  • Chad Hatten Denver

    Interesting read, with low unemployment, ad effectiveness in important