Job Descriptions Are Boring – The 'Art' of Engagement

As the influence of consumer experiences on candidate behaviour continues to increase, companies need to adapt their talent acquisition strategies accordingly.

These days, the “set-it-and-forget-it” approach to hiring has become a difficult temptation to resist. The internet has made it possible to cast an incredibly wide net with minimal effort – recruiters can simply slap together a job description, launch some digital ads and post it to some notable online job boards, then sit back and wait for the applications to roll in.

If this arrangement sounds too good to be true, that’s because, for the most part, it is. As any seasoned recruiter will tell you, a massive initial candidate pool in no way guarantees a successful outcome for a given campaign. In other words, the fundamental issue most recruiters face today isn’t a lack of applicants, but a lack of right-fit applicants, which ultimately runs counterproductive to the hiring campaign’s time and cost efficiency, as well as employee retention and productivity in the long term.

In order to improve talent pool quality, you first need to understand how today’s candidates typically approach the job application process. Here are some tips and tactics for running an effective talent acquisition programme in the digital age.

More Informed Candidates Equal More Right-Fit Hires

One of the fundamental issues recruiters face is a lack of “considered” candidates – or candidates who have the necessary amount of information to self-determine whether a given position is a good fit – which can largely be attributed to both the traditional, passive approach to hiring and shifting consumer preferences and expectations.

According to Nathan Perrott, Director of Technology and Candidate Solutions at AIA Worldwide, approximately 65% of career site sessions don’t begin on the homepage of an employer’s website – that means they’re likely arriving to the job description page via a paid advertisement, job board listing or organic search. In other words, for the majority of candidates, a text-based job description will be their first (and possibly only) impression of the company’s brand. The only problem is, it’s incredibly unlikely that they’re actually going to read it.

AIA recently conducted a survey across 12 million application outcomes based on an average job description length of 522 words. Reading at 200 wpm, it would take approximately 157 seconds to get through the entire thing. When you consider the average human attention span has fallen to eight seconds (compare that to nine seconds for a goldfish), and that people typically only last between 10-20 seconds on a given webpage, it’s easy to see how this can be problematic for recruiters relying primarily on text-based job descriptions for talent marketing.

AIA’s research supports this notion – 58% of job seekers in the study found the employer and applied for the job on the same day. “What alarms me the most is that more than 44% of the completed applications we looked at came from candidates who interacted with nothing other than a job description,” says Perrott. “And they’re not even reading it – they’re simply hitting the apply button and moving on to the next one.” As a result, recruiters are having to sift through a veritable sea of applicants in order to identify right-fit talent, which can slow down the hiring process and place undue strain on company resources. Moreover, as the percentage of wrong-fit hires in your talent pool increases, so do the chances that one (or more) will end up receiving an offer, which can lead to an increased rate of attrition.

Perrott explains, “If we want to see better recruitment outcomes, we need to compel these candidates to become more considered – that means providing them with the information they need to self-vet, but doing so in the most seamless and compelling manner possible.”

Cutting Through the Digital Noise

Clearly, recruiters have an extremely limited window within which to convey the vital information that candidates need to make good application decisions. Getting creative with your media choices can have a seriously positive impact.

By taking a page out of digital marketers’ book and creating a fully thought out content strategy specific to their target audience, recruiters can leverage dynamic media like interactive quizzes, employee-generated stories/testimonials and project case studies, which are both more engaging and relatable. This not only increases the chances that the candidate will take the time to complete the action, but also that the message will be received. The point is, recruiters need to get their audience to engage with their company’s brand in the broadest possible sense so they’re looking at the big picture – not just the job description.

Employer branding videos are particularly impactful, especially in comparison to text-based job descriptions – in Hubspot’s 2016 Consumer Behavior Survey, video was the most “thoroughly consumed” content type by far.

Take AIA’s “Together We Are Thales” employer brand video (produced for Thales) as an example.

The video uses music, graphic design and branding to convey key pieces of information to recruits, including its culture of teamwork and innovation and the wide breadth of Thales’ operations. The impact was clear: a 37% increase in career page visit time, an 8% reduction in bounce rate, a 60% uptick in the number of applicants with an engineering background and – best of all – 100% of positions filled.

A Tangible Return On Your Efforts

Three, the UK’s fastest-growing mobile network, can attest to the impact clear messaging and a cohesive brand marketing strategy can have on recruitment outcomes. After experiencing high turnover rate among retail employees during the first three months in post, the company decided it was time to rethink its talent attraction strategy. Three teamed up with the experts at 33 to implement a number of messaging adjustments, and AIA to deploy website UX, SEO and contextual content delivery enhancements.The job descriptions, powered by AIA’s TalentBrew software, now tell a much more compelling story using contextual employee stories to help build a better picture of cultural fit.

Additionally, Three utilised LaunchPad’s on-demand video interviews to extend this focus on authenticity and branding across the entire application process – the video format enabled the company to paint a much clearer picture of the role, both in terms of expectations and skills required, helping to differentiate the company’s brand as an employer rather than a consumer-facing entity, thereby increasing brand awareness and the number of positions filled by right-fit candidates.

At the end of the day, digital consumption has fundamentally altered candidate expectations and preferences, and recruiters need to respond to these changes if they hope to see a positive return on their recruitment efforts going forward. That said, there’s a silver lining here – for those willing to try new things and get creative, the opportunity is ripe for the taking.

If you’d like to learn more, I’ll be hosting a webinar on January 25, 12:30pm-1:30pm GMT
with Giles Kinrade, Resourcing Manager at Three, on how solid UX design, dynamic content and innovative technologies can help companies overcome the challenge of attracting and engaging right-fit talent in the digital age. RSVP below!