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Walk a mile
E is for Experience; recruitment writing, pt 13
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
That’s how 1984 starts, the classic dystopian novel by George Orwell.
What does it make you think of?
I don’t know about you, but thirteen to me is both an unlucky number and an improbable one for a clock to strike, evoking curiosity and trepidation.
It makes me want to read on.
George could have instead written an opening like “it was a dark and stormy night”, to evoke a sense of darkness at night, during a storm.
I gather that cracker is often derided as the worst opening line of all time, not just for the words, but for how it’s a representative experience of the entire book.
Some people love it.
For me, it’s up there with
“My favourite client is an innovative market leader”
“To apply, send an up-to-date CV, and cover letter, stating your current salary to firstname.lastname@example.org”
“If you haven’t heard from us within the thirteenth strike of the hour, please assume you were unsuccessful”
Or even “We don’t discriminate on the grounds of….”
What do you think a dream candidate experiences when they come across them?
Especially one that is selfish and feels like they’ve no reason to consider a new role yet happens across yours by happenstance.
The irony is that if you dig into the websites of agencies and employers that write these words, they’ll often extoll disruptively good candidate experience, values alignment and culture fit.
But what do their words and behaviour show, and how is that experienced?
Flipping it around, the questions might be “What can we do to create the best experience for the high-performing person we want to employ at this step in our recruitment process? What can they benefit from? How can we make their journey more palatable? What are we missing?”
As smoothly as these questions roll off the tongue, it’s not just the steps taken, but the ones before, in-between and after too.
While it doesn’t just benefit your next employee, it benefits everyone - your other candidates, you and your stakeholders.
Of course, there’s no need to gaze so navelly if you hire people well enough.
But, if your adverts aren’t working or if your process doesn’t fill vacancies, you can either work on things in your control or accept those that aren’t.
What you shouldn’t do is blame candidates, agencies or the market if your own affairs aren’t in order.
Having a recruitment process whose consequence is both good candidate experience and serves to better fill your vacancies – that’s something in your control.
It starts with putting yourself in the shoes of your candidates and giving them what they can benefit from.
Do this through your words, show it through your actions.
How about considering the situation of the “successful candidate”?
What if they are likely to be happily employed, sceptical of a move and have no interest (yet) in updating their CV or writing a cover letter?
If you require an updated CV, and they don’t have the time, what are the chances of this candidate (who you’d love to employ) not applying, and how would you ever know?
What if you offered an informal call or to answer any questions before an application?
(Research shows that offering multiple means of getting in touch improves response rates)
What experience might they benefit from in the opening salvo of what might be an advert, message or website?
What reasons can you give them to build trust, commit to your process and see it through?
Do they want to be told something is a brilliant opportunity, or shown why it may interest them?
What if they’ve wasted many lifetimes going through never-ending interview processes, and might just benefit from knowing what your process is?
Why couldn’t you highlight your interview process in your advert?
What if they needed an accommodation?
Perhaps they’re ND, have a disability, struggle to find childcare at short notice. Who knows what’s going on in their lives where minor amendments can find suitable gains?
Rather than say “we don’t discriminate of the grounds of” (discrimination is illegal for protected characteristics in the UK - what are the reasons it needs to be said in an advert?), why not instead show how you are inclusive and accessible… which IMO, is what the points above contribute towards.
That’s just for advertising.
What if you provided interview questions in advance of interviews?
This is currently advised as good practice in the UK for autistic candidates. Does it give an unfair advantage to people that don’t need this accommodation? If not, why not allow everyone the same access?
My answer is it doesn’t give an unfair advantage. It allows everyone to fairly evidence their capability on a more even playing field.
How might that affect the experiences of you and your candidates?
What if you clearly managed expectations?
What if you highlighted bottlenecks and delays, rather than not saying anything?
“There won’t be any news this week as Gary is unexpectedly away from the office. Can I come back to you on Monday? How are things with you by the way?”
What if you answered questions before they were asked?
The list is endless, and it starts with establishing what your successful candidates could experience.
For an example of how it might come together, here is the basic structure of my job board adverts:
Attention – the hook that will appeal to a carefully established ‘right candidate’
Ikigai – why they might be interested in further investigation, what they can expect from an employer they might benefit from working for
Definition – a line or two on what makes the company the company; two to three lines on what the role is and its context; no more than three minimum viable requirements the successful candidate should have.
An invitation to talk to or email me, with any questions or accommodations that may help. No need for a CV if it isn’t to hand.
“All applications will receive a reply within three days.”
The boring bits: what you can expect from me; what the interview process is, with any notable points; time frames.
This is a loose structure and will vary in length, detail and style depending on who it’s for.
While some people confuse me as a dedicated Headhunter (I’m an appropriate-multichannel recruiter that does headhunting), I make half of my placements from advertising. Yet many of these adverts produce hires that weren’t actively looking. A good benefit of an effective advert that puts the reader’s experience first?
Walk a mile in your candidates’ shoes…. and they’ll be a mile behind without any shoes. Or something like that.
p.s. the last line in 1984 is “he loved Big Brother”.
And that’s the end of the story.
And then there were none.
And that was that.
And so it goes.
All was well.
Bonus points if you can name any of these books from their final lines.
P.p.s. While you are here, if you like the idea of improving how you recruit, lack capacity or need better candidates, and are curious how I can help, these are my services:
- commercial, operational and technical leadership recruitment (available for no more than three vacancies)
- manage part or all of your recruitment on an individually designed basis for one client
- recruitment coaching and mentoring
- recruitment strategy setting
- outplacement support
Just hit reply to check if my approach is right for you.