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The Two Worst Words in Recruiting

The Two Worst Words in Recruiting
By Peter Weddle,

Every recruiter uses them, usually without thinking twice. These two words appear in recruitment ads and job postings on corporate career sites, job boards and social media sites. They are as comfortable as our fuzzy slippers. And, more than any other facet of the candidate experience, they turn off top talent. What are these words? Requirements and Responsibilities.

As we all know, when you strip recruitment down to its bare essentials, it is an exercise in sales. Recruiters must convince reluctant consumers - the people we call passive job seekers - that they should "buy" their organization's value proposition as an employer. And, the challenge, of course, is that passive job seekers aren't job seekers at all. By definition, they are at best curious window shoppers.

Sure, we want to sell active job seekers, as well. But, they usually have no alternative to our offer. Window shopping candidates, on the other hand, almost always have at least two options. They can accept our offer or they can (and often do) stay right where they are ... with their current employer.

That reality means we have to be at our persuasive best if we want to capture the top talent our organization needs. It's not unreasonable, therefore, for us to look to some of the principles of effective sales for help. And, among the most revered of these axioms is this: You have to relate to your customer so your customer will relate to you

Without that connection, it's much harder to convince someone to do the one thing we humans most hate to do: change. We're trying to convince people to switch from the devil they know (their current employer, boss and commute) to the devil they don't know (our employer, a new boss and a different commute). To do that effectively, we have to give them the sense that we understand and respect their needs and concerns.

Use the ABC Template to Connect With Candidates 
The best way to connect with candidates in a job posting or recruitment ad is with vocabulary. Instead of using words that resonate with us, however, we have to make our case in the language of our potential consumers. We have to choose terms to which the best talent will relate. 
That's why the two worst words in recruiting are "requirements" and "responsibilities." They are terms only employers could love. They tell a candidate what we think is important about our opportunity, not what they want to know. The signal we send, as a result, is that we couldn't care less about what matters to them. 
Some will argue, of course, that this is merely a matter of semantics - meaningless distinctions among words. It isn't. Those words indicate a perspective and that perspective counts, at least to people with options. They simply won't be bothered to consider an alternative employment opportunity unless they know first that the new organization cares enough to try and connect with them. 
How do you convey that outlook? Instead of Requirements and Responsibilities, use the ABC Template to describe what's in it for them - what your opening will do for their career. Organize the body of your ad or posting into the following sections:

  • Advantages: What will a new hire get to do, learn, and accomplish, who will they work with and how will they be recognized and rewarded.
  • Benefits: What aspects of the employer's culture and values will enable the new hire to thrive at their work and make a valued contribution.
  • Capabilities: What skills, knowledge and experience will prepare the new hire to excel on-the-job and continue their career success.

The best talent has choices, so make sure your recruitment ads and job postings use a vocabulary that will sell them on your opportunity. Communicate with them in their own words and focus your message on "what's in it for them." 
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