A Typical Job Ad Situation
You get requests to fill a role from managers, and you think “we can totally fill this role with a nice time to hire.” After all, the organization does spend a nice amount of money on a shiny ATS (Applicant Tracking System), and you are confident that you’ve done a great job at crafting a job advertisement that is eye-catching. And you post your job, hoping to wake up to a full pipeline of talent. 24 hours passes. Nothing. 48 hours passes. A few candidates trickle in, but they are automatically screened out due to your “knock out” questions. On the fourth day, another candidate arrives, but this one is demanding to work fully remote. After the 5th day, you are starting to panic? You consider spending your evenings and weekends doing your own outbound sourcing on LinkedIn, but honestly, you’re not sure where that time is going to come from. You were hoping to have some results to show progress with your job ad before the next Talent Acquisition standup meeting, but that fantasy is fading quickly. Desperate, you start to sponsor the job ad, which successfully increases the job ad views, but not the applicants.
What went wrong?
Your Job Ads are not working because the tech is not configured properly, the job ad is not optimized, and because you are not matching your talent acquisition strategy with the needs of the market.
In this post, we explore why it’s unreasonable to expect Applicant Tracking Systems to work recruitment magic, how to ensure your jobs are not being excluded or demoted in candidate search results, and what you can do to dramatically increase your chances of having a more robust candidate pool.
Don’t Rely on Your Technology to Fill Open Positions
It may seem counterproductive, but there are good reasons that your technology is the reason for recruitment failures. When we say don’t rely on the tech, we mean that you should not assume that just because you have these great technologies, you will automatically be more effective at attracting and acquiring new team members. What you must consider before posting that job ad are:
- Employer Brand: Be cognizant of language and messaging used in the job ad. It should match what is circulated online in official organization PR communications, websites, and social media, and match company visual aesthetics as best as possible. If possible, customize the company careers page to match the company branding perfectly, and present examples of your company’s culture in those media, wherever you can. For example, if you are advertising in the job that the company has tam offsites or company holiday parties, show images of them on Instagram, the careers page, on Glassdoor, and elsewhere. Make sure it’s approved before posting, by those authorized to speak on behalf of the organization.
- Job Description: Ensure your job description is not plagiarized and is reflective of the actual job being performed. Discern in writing between required qualifications and additional or desired qualifications, and the definition of performance on the job.
- System Configuration: Don’t accept the configuration of your ATS when you signed up for the service. Look for opportunities to set up features that come with your subscription including email and text templates, candidate workflows, scheduling, and visual aesthetics. Automate as much as possible, and determine what metrics to use for benchmarking performance, and what should you watch to see if something is going wrong. Do this before posting jobs.
- Diversity of job sites: You should post your job on the biggest job sites on earth. This is given. You should also make sure that your job ad is also posted to local job boards (such as universities, supplier or partner job boards, trade organization job boards, etc.), and job sites that are specific to the role and industry. For example, AngelList and Dice.com are popular job sites for the tech industry. Dice.com is generally a paid-only service. You should also check into expanding the diversity of candidates – there are job sites and candidate matching services that locate minority, women, veteran, and disabled candidates to boost and enhance your candidate pool.
Fix What’s Broken and Move Your Post to the Top of the Search Results
What many folks don’t know about posted job ads, is just that they are online advertisements. This means that search algorithms on the job site (and in the ATS) govern where that post will land on the search results. These algorithms look for keywords, the usability of the posting site, the availability of key job search information, and compliance with strict posting guidelines. If you are using job sites to post directly, then ignore the rest of this section. However, I don’t recommend this, as it leaves room for unintended variations in the job, generally costs more hours and money over time than free posts syndicated from a single sourced applicant tracking system, and becomes unwieldy to manage timely candidate responses. If you’re still reading, the important takeaway is to do the investigation needed to ensure that your ATS job ads are being syndicated to as many free job sites as possible. When writing your job ads, keep in mind that the algorithm makes go-no-go decisions to include your job ad in syndication “runs” (when XML files including your job ad specifications are sent to job sites for distribution). To check to see if failure to syndicate is why your jobs are not showing:
- Perform a search to locate your job on the job sites. Execute in an incognito tab in your browser to ensure that you’re getting the same user experience as a candidate.
- Reach out to your ATS provider’s customer support. Inquire into the syndication status of your job ad.
- They will likely let you know that it takes up to 24 hours for the initial syndication to display the job. If it’s been that long or more, they should be letting you know why it may not be showing on the destination job sites.
- For each job site in which you are having syndication issues, you will likely have to contact customer service to confirm the issue if your ATS support did not. Once you correct the issue, reach back out to your ATS support to have the job added back to job site syndication. This is particularly true when the job was not distributed due to violations of job site posting guidelines.
- Confirm that the job is being syndicated to all the job sites which your ATS sends the job to. Also, double check your posting configuration to make sure that your desired job site in question is actually selected in the ATS as a distribution channel for the job.
- Perform another search online to find your job.
For a deeper dive into job syndication and what not to do if you want your job to be picked up by job sites, refer to our past post Ten Job Syndication Commandments, which will outline ten mistakes that job marketers (yes, that is your role 😅 so long as you are managing the first leg of the candidate management process) make.
Top Candidates Found Your Job Ad. Now What?
Now that your job ad is syndicated across all the appropriate job sites, and you are getting much greater views from potential candidates, how can we position this ad to get the highest conversion to qualified applicants? Here are 10 ways to increase views-to-applicant conversion.
- Limit your “knock out” questions. There are some things which are not negotiable in hiring candidates: work authorization, punctuality, and certifications required to start working on the job. Those qualities which can be further expanded upon, in hiring as in most people affairs, context matters!
- Match competitors’ benefits. Understand that the moment discerning candidates reach your job ad, they will be looking out for how well your company’s benefits compare with the other companies in which they are looking into working. A study by Glassdoor shows that 63% of Job Seekers are looking for benefits in Job Ads. It takes time, but if you want the greatest competitive edge, design a holistic Total Rewards Strategy that is in alignment with your company’s values and direction. There are the core benefits (health, vision, and dental), and then there are the other benefits which signal the financial health of the organization (such as retirement plans, wellness programs, and ERGs). If you match employee contributions and your competitors do not, you may appear to be the better option.
- Offer eye-catching perks that are role specific. While we encourage you to offer a Total Rewards program that is fair and inclusive, we also think there are specific perks that can be offered based on the role. According to Glassdoor’s Employment Confidence Survey, about 60% of Job Seekers report that benefits and perks are a major factor in considering whether to accept or not a job offer. Of course, if you choose to take this route, you would also offer comparable perks to the other roles in the company. One example of a role-specific perk is company hackathons for your devs or sponsoring study material and certification fees for bookkeepers or accounting clerks moving up to CPA roles in the company.
- Include your core values, mission, and vision. We know that you want candidates who embody your values and will have an appreciation for your mission and vision. We also know that candidates resonate with job ads more, when they see these aspects of the organization included in the job ad. According to Glassdoor’s research, 77% of respondents would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job there. However, we don’t know which will resonate with any given candidate the most, so as a safe bet, include them all.
- Position the job as a growth opportunity, not a destination. In your Job Summary, explain the trajectory of the role, whether that be in succession to management at some point, or a future with administrative tasks released and more responsibilities and development.
- Explore the possibility of full remote work. If you are hiring for a role that is primarily administrative, explore the possibility that the job may not require full work onsite. COVID-19 did shift the paradigm in favor of employers who are open to offering remote and hybrid work opportunities and are rewarded for communicating it in the marketplace for talent and skills. Just between June 2019 and June 2021, job searches for remote opportunities grew 360% and this number continues to rise.
- Include your statement on commitment to diversity and inclusion or at the bare minimum, a commitment to inclusion. According to Glassdoor’s research, 76% of Job Seekers and Employees report that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers, also 32% of Job Seekers and Employees would not apply to a job at a company where there is a lack of diversity among its workforce. In many ATS apps, this can be configured to be included in all job ads. If not or if you are posting directly into a simple job site without this feature, include it directly in the job ad. Candidates want to work at a place where they are included and valued, and this signals to them that they will be welcomed by the time of application on forward.
- Include pay information, and don’t lie or embellish. Many companies choose to add the pay rates. It’s a new best practice. According to Glassdoor, for 67% of Job Seekers, salary is the primary factor when looking at Job Ads. If you do not include the base compensation, potential candidates may assume that you have something to hide, and if it is showing as too high above market rates, they may also become suspicious. Candidates can smell desperation and will refer back to the pay history listed openly on sites such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn for your company. This information is either collected from past job ads or from volunteering anonymously by current or former employees.
- Keep it short and use plain language. You may think this runs against the idea that we should be using keywords to optimize the job ad for search algorithms, but it is actually in alignment. Keeping it simple allows the reader to remain interested, especially when they are short on time or have many other job ads to review before making application decisions. This also applies to the applications. According to LinkedIn, shorter job posts receive 8.4% more applications per view than average. If you don’t have very many qualifying questions in your application, consider using an easy-apply feature built into most of the top job sites to attract candidates on-the-go.
- Provide the exact location for the commute, if traveling to the workplace is required. If other travels outside of the primary workplace are required, be transparent about that as well. Candidates may be checking your location against their home address for commute times, the price for daily gas and tolls, and may make their decision to apply or not to apply based on this information. This is not in your hands. However, what you can control is whether their decision to not apply is based in part by the information not appearing on the job ad at all.
Finally, you should set expectations with the hiring managers and decision makers. They should not be expecting the consistent quality of hires with very short times to hire, unless a significant amount of resources are moved to the effort, and aligned with the market demands. It’s just not reasonable. Track performance using a quality ATS so you’re not muddling through spreadsheets, and perform quality checks on the candidate pool. Retool your job ad or application if you are seeing bottlenecks at the point of applying. Keep in mind that organic inbound candidate applications are just one fundamental tactic for sourcing candidates, and should be paired with nurture campaigns, social media marketing, strategic job ad sponsorship, and internal/local agency/business group referral programs as part of the Talent Attraction strategy.