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Writing a Job Description That Attracts Ideal Candidates [8 Tips]

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Writing a Job Description That Attracts Ideal Candidates [8 Tips]

As a direct response copywriter, I specialize in making readers take a specific action. I write a variety of copy, including articles, landing pages, sales emails, and job descriptions.

This article will walk you through an approach to job descriptions that allowed me to double my conversion rate of visitors-to-applications in less than a year. You’ll learn the strategies and best practices I used to grip candidates, exciting them enough to take action.

What is a job description?

A job description is a document written by an employer that lists the tasks and responsibilities of a specific role along with the skills and experience needed to qualify for the position.  

1. Study your target candidate.

Many studies show that people buy on emotion first, and then rationalize their purchases using logic.

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Applying for a job, in that sense, is a lot like making a purchase. Pressing the “Apply Now” button is an emotionally charged decision.

When writing your job ad, tap into those emotions by learning everything you can about your target candidate (i.e., the person you want to be interviewing). What are their professional goals and values? What makes them happy?

Example

Create a target candidate persona or a composite of your ideal employee. (Download these buyer persona templates to get started.)

Use the information you find to make potent promises that your target candidate wants to hear and, more importantly, you know you can keep.

Are you hiring for a role in content marketing? Consider aspects of your existing marketing team that you want to see reflected in your new hire.

  • What are your current employees’ career goals?
  • What do they enjoy most about the company?
  • Which areas of expertise do they lack that your candidate can provide?

These are all valuable pieces of information that can help you craft a corresponding job description and ensure your potential candidates would be a fit at your organization – both culturally and professionally.

2. Optimize the job title with keywords.

Every day, the job hunt leads millions of people to search millions of keywords. This makes SEO very important to the recruitment process, especially when writing job ads.

In your quest to be unique and desired, don’t make up a new, creative name for an established role. In other words, don’t call your open content marketing position an “Attention Ninja” or “Audience Crafter.”

Example

For a role in content marketing, title your job exactly what you’re looking for, such as content marketing manager. If you’re in the B2B space with clients all over the world, for instance, add a few more adjectives: “Global B2B Content Marketing Coordinator.”

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Keep in mind that the experience level of your ideal candidate can change the words they use when looking for jobs online.

If you’re hiring for a mid-level content marketer, for example, consider words like “strategist,” “specialist,” or even “manager.” Is the content you produce part of a much larger digital marketing operation? If so, include that in the title.

Post the position under a recognizable, keyword-friendly title, as that’s what candidates will be searching for.

3. Start with a company summary.

Open your job ad’s main text copy with a “Company Summary” paragraph. But don’t simply paste your business’s “About Us” boilerplate description into your job listing.

Your “Company Summary” should help to put the job for which you’re hiring into context for the applicant.

If your company sells security software, for example, it won’t be enough to simply state your company name, when you were founded, the types of software packages you offer, and where you’re located.

Your applicants will want company details specific to the team they’d be joining.

Here’s an example of a company summary for a made-up software development company looking for a content marketing specialist to join its team.

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Example

Security Software Co. is a Boston-based software developer that puts today’s most pressing ecommerce security challenges at the heart of its brand. We turn the best cybersecurity technology into trusted solutions for the small online business, and after a decade serving more than 70 clients, we need someone to help us tell the stories that matter most to our customers.

If you summarize your company in a way that resonates with your ideal candidate, you’ll set yourself up to dive right into the job description itself.

However, keep in mind that this doesn’t stop at the second paragraph following the company summary above. Describe your open position using subheads, or sections, in this order:

  1. Benefits
  2. Requirements
  3. Responsibilities

4. Concisely describe the job’s benefits.

Every ad must start with a concise description, or overview, of the role. It should be snappy and compelling – just be sure to complement that with the big-picture benefits as well.

General Electric did a nice job describing the benefits of their roles in the commercial below, as part of an amusing series to help the company shift its brand. Listen to how the person in the blue sweater describes their new position:

People inherently want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Appeal to that desire by helping candidates envision the impact of their work.

If you’re hiring a software developer, explain how their work will impact your customers. Will it help them beat traffic? Will it help them communicate better with their family? Will it help them get clean drinking water every day? Be specific. The more specific you are, the more compelling your message will be.

Here’s how our fictional organization, Security Software Co., might describe the benefits of working as their newest content marketing specialist:

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Example

As the Content Marketing Specialist for Security Software Co., you’ll create articles, infographics, and eBooks that build an engaged audience. Your goal will be to drive thousands of people to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn. Your success will expand Security Software’s global reach – helping millions of parents protect their children from online predators – while simultaneously developing your personal brand as a foremost expert in our space.

5. Summarize the benefits package.

Now that you have the candidate’s attention, draw them deeper into the ad with a section dedicated to the other benefits: your company’s benefits package.

According to a 2021 Indeed report, 83% of employers say their companies have become more transparent about compensation and perks in their job descriptions.

Instead of simply listing your perks, use examples to help candidates envision the benefit.

Example

At Security Software, we ask a lot of our employees, which is why we give so much in return. In addition to your competitive salary, medical/dental/vision plan, and matching 401(k), we’ll shower you with perks, including:

  • Dress: Wear anything you like to the office – and be as comfortable at work as you are in your own living room.
  • Flexibility: Two days a week, feel free to skip the commute and hit your deadlines from home.
  • Food: Save hundreds of dollars on food each year by using our well-stocked, healthy kitchen.
  • Wellness: Stretch away the stress every morning in our in-house yoga studio.

6. Keep the job’s requirements clear and realistic.

This section will be your ad’s most sterile, so don’t close with it. Stick it in the middle, sandwiched between two sections that highlight promise and opportunity.

Keep your list of requirements only as long as it needs to be. You don’t want to scare great candidates away with trivial prerequisites. You also don’t want to engage and inspire unqualified people with a shortlist.

Example

To be considered for this role, here are the skills we’re looking for:

  • At least 3 years in a similar role with comparable goals and responsibilities (security and/or software background, preferred)
  • Bachelor’s degree in English, Marketing, Communications preferred
  • You must be an excellent writer, someone who understands how to frame a message in a clear, concise, and compelling way. You must also understand the mechanics of an efficient, effective marketing automation campaign.
  • This is an autonomous position, so you should be self-sufficient and self-motivated. It’s also a creative role, so you must be able to gracefully receive criticism and feedback about your work.
  • At least 3 years in a similar role with comparable goals and responsibilities (security and/or software background, preferred)
  • Bachelor’s degree in English, Marketing, or Communications preferred
  • You must be an excellent writer, someone who understands how to frame a message in a clear, concise, and compelling way. You must also understand the mechanics of an efficient, effective marketing automation campaign.
  • This is an autonomous position, so you should be self-sufficient and self-motivated. It’s also a creative role, so you must be able to gracefully receive criticism and feedback about your work.

7. Use strong verbs to describe the job’s responsibilities.

Responsibilities are the job but they can also generate excitement and promise in a passionate candidate.

Begin each bullet point of your job responsibilities with a unique, yet, fitting verb. For example, the role doesn’t “manage” people, it “shapes” them. The role doesn’t “oversee” projects, it “enables” their success. See the difference?

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One word can offer a fresh perspective, altering the reader’s frame of mind.

Example

As Security Software’s sole Content Marketer, you’ll meet the initiative’s strategic needs on your own, experimenting, learning, and adjusting as you go. Throughout your journey to grow our brand’s audience and reach, you’ll be responsible for:

  • Sculpting informative, entertaining, digestible articles that audiences can’t stop reading.
  • Designing beautiful, rich infographics that are as engaging as they are shareable.
  • Publishing easy-to-skim, value-driven eBooks for download in exchange for business-email addresses.
  • Crafting persuasive, laser-focused landing pages that compel your target audience to take one valuable action.
  • Purchasing targeted ad spend on well-performing social media platforms.
  • Pulling prospects through each stage of our marketing funnel, gradually warming them up for a productive conversation with sales.

8. Remove bias from your ad.

Believe it or not, your job description can show bias and alienate great candidates. How? Through the use of jargon, gendered language, culturally-specific expressions, and insider language.

For instance, terms like “aggressive,” “guru,” “fearless,” and “killer instinct” may seem harmless but they carry a masculine bias and can affect your candidate pool. Using Americanisms like “up your alley” can also confuse applicants whose native language isn’t English.

The Indeed report also found that 30% of employers surveyed have prioritized inclusive job descriptions. You can do so by leveraging tools like Textio that analyze your job description and make recommendations to help you craft a bias-free listing.

The Final Product

Here’s what our example job ad for Security Software Co. looks like when stitched together:


Content Marketing Specialist

Security Software Co. is a Boston-based software developer that puts today’s most pressing ecommerce security challenges at the heart of its brand. We turn the best cybersecurity technology into trusted solutions for the small online business, and after a decade of serving more than 70 clients, we need someone to help us tell the stories that matter most to our customers.

OVERVIEW:

As the Content Marketing Specialist for Security Software Co., you’ll create articles, infographics, and eBooks that build an engaged audience. Your goal will be to drive thousands of people to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn. Your success will expand Security Software’s global reach – helping millions of parents protect their children from online predators – while simultaneously developing your personal brand as a foremost expert in our space.

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BENEFITS:

At Security Software, we ask a lot of our employees, which is why we give so much in return. In addition to your competitive salary, medical/dental/vision plan, and matching 401(k), we’ll shower you with perks, including:

  • Dress: Wear anything you like to the office – and be as comfortable at work as you are in your own living room.
  • Flexibility: Two days a week, feel free to skip the commute and hit your deadlines from home.
  • Food: Save hundreds of dollars on food each year thanks to our well-stocked, healthy kitchen.
  • Location: On the days you are in the office, get here quickly thanks to our highly accessible central location.
  • Wellness: Stretch away the stress every morning in our in-house yoga studio.

REQUIREMENTS:

To be considered for this role, here are the skills we’re looking for:

RESPONSIBILITIES:

As Security Software’s sole Content Marketer, you’ll meet the initiative’s strategic needs on your own, experimenting, learning, and adjusting as you go. Along your journey to grow our brand’s audience and reach, you’ll be responsible for:

  • Sculpting informative, entertaining, digestible articles that audiences can’t stop reading.
  • Designing beautiful, rich infographics that are as engaging as they are shareable.
  • Publishing easy-to-skim, value-driven eBooks for download in exchange for business-email addresses.
  • Crafting persuasive, laser-focused landing pages that compel your target audience to take one valuable action.
  • Purchasing targeted ad spend on well-performing social media platforms.
  • Pulling prospects through each stage of our marketing funnel, gradually warming them up for a productive conversation with sales.

APPLY NOW


This ad, for all intents and purposes, is a generic example. It’s designed to illustrate, at a high level, the techniques that make candidates feel something when they read a job ad.

Nonetheless, it’s important to first use your knowledge of the role for which you’re hiring to create an accurate ad – one that reflects your company’s culture and specific needs.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in Sept. 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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MARKETING

8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

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8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

As email marketers, we know we need to personalize the messages we send to subscribers and customers. I can’t think of a single statistic, case study or survey claiming an email program of one-to-everyone campaigns outperforms personalization.

Instead, you’ll find statistics like these:

  • 72% of customers will engage only with personalized messages (Wunderkind Audiences, formerly SmarterHQ)
  • 70% of consumers say that how well a company understands their individual needs affects their loyalty (Salesforce)
  • 71% of customers are frustrated by impersonal shopping experiences (Segment)

But what marketers often don’t understand, especially if they’re new to personalization, is that personalization is not an end in itself. Your objective is not to personalize your email campaigns and lifecycle messages. 

Rather, your objective is to enhance your customer’s experience with your brand. Personalization is one method that can do that, but it’s more than just another tactic. 

It is both an art and a science. The science is having the data and automations to create personalized, one-to-one messages at scale. The art is knowing when and how to use it.

We run into trouble when we think of personalization as the goal instead of the means to achieve a goal. In my work consulting with marketers for both business and consumer brands, I find this misunderstanding leads to eight major marketing mistakes – any of which can prevent you from realizing the immense benefits of personalization.

Mistake #1. Operating without an overall personalization strategy

I see this all too often: marketers find themselves overwhelmed by all the choices they face: 

  • Which personalization technologies to use
  • What to do with all the data they have
  • How to use their data and technology effectively
  • Whether their personalization efforts are paying off

This stems from jumping headfirst into personalization without thinking about how to use it to meet customers’ needs or help them solve problems. 

To avoid being overwhelmed with the mechanics of personalization, follow this three-step process:

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  • Start small. If you aren’t using personalization now, don’t try to set up a full-fledged program right away. Instead, look for quick wins – small areas where you can use basic personalized data to begin creating one-to-one messages. That will get you into the swing of things quickly, without significant investment in time and money. Adding personal data to the body of an email is about as basic as you’ll get, but it can be a start.
  • Test each tactic. See whether that new tactic helps or hurts your work toward your goal. Does adding personal data to each message correlate with higher clicks to your landing page, more conversion or whatever success metric you have chosen?
  • Optimize and move on. Use your testing results to improve each tactic. Then, take what you learned to select and add another personalization tactic, such as adding a module of dynamic content to a broadcast (one to everyone) campaign. 

Mistake #2. Not using both overt and covert personalization

Up to now, you might have thought of in specific terms: personalized subject lines, data reflecting specific actions in the email copy, triggered messages that launch when a customer’s behavior matches your automation settings and other “overt” (or visible) personalization tactics.

“Covert” personalization also employs customer preference or behavior data but doesn’t draw attention to it. Instead of sending an abandoned-browse message that says “We noticed you were viewing this item on our website,” you could add a content module in your next campaign that features those browsed items as recommended purchases, without calling attention to their behavior. It’s a great tactic to use to avoid being seen as creepy.

Think back to my opening statement that personalization is both an art and a science. Here, the art of personalization is knowing when to use overt personalization – purchase and shipping confirmations come to mind – and when you want to take a more covert route. 

Mistake #3. Not maximizing lifecycle automations

Lifecycle automations such as onboarding/first-purchase programs, win-back and reactivation campaigns and other programs tied to the customer lifecycle are innately personalized. 

The copy will be highly personal and the timing spot-on because they are based on customer actions (opting in, purchases, downloads) or inactions (not opening emails, not buying for the first time or showing signs of lapsing after purchasing). 

Better yet, these emails launch automatically – you don’t have to create, schedule or send any of these emails because your marketing automation platform does that for you after you set it up. 

You squander these opportunities if you don’t do everything you can to understand your customer lifecycle and then create automated messaging that reaches out to your customers at these crucial points. This can cost you the customers you worked so hard to acquire, along with their revenue potential.

Mistake #4. Not testing effectively or for long-term gain

Testing helps you discover whether your personalization efforts are bearing fruit. But all too often, marketers test only individual elements of a specific campaign – subject lines, calls to action, images versus no images, personalization versus no personalization  – without looking at whether personalization enhances the customer experience in the long term.

How you measure success is a key part of this equation. The metrics you choose must line up with your objectives. That’s one reason I’ve warned marketers for years against relying on the open rate to measure campaign success. A 50% open rate might be fantastic, but if you didn’t make your goal for sales, revenue, downloads or other conversions, you can’t consider your campaign a success.

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As the objective of personalizing is to enhance the customer journey, it makes sense then that customer lifetime value is a valid metric to measure success on.  To measure how effective your personalization use is, use customer lifetime value over a long time period – months, even years – and compare the results with those from a control group, which receives no personalization. Don’t ignore campaign-level results, but log them and view them over time.

(For more detailed information on testing mistakes and how to avoid them, see my MarTech column 7 Common Problems that Derail A/B/N Email Testing Success.)

Mistake #5. Over-segmenting your customer base

Segmentation is a valuable form of personalization, but it’s easy to go too far with it. If you send only highly segmented campaigns, you could be exclude – and end up losing because of failure to contact – many customers who don’t fit your segmentation criteria. That costs you customers, their potential revenue and the data they would have generated to help you better understand your customer base.

You can avoid this problem with a data-guided segmentation plan that you review and test frequently, a set of automated triggers to enhance the customer’s lifecycle and a well-thought-out program of default or catch-all campaigns for subscribers who don’t meet your other criteria. 

Mistake #6. Not including dynamic content in general email campaigns

We usually think of personalized email as messages in which all the content lines up with customer behavior or preference data, whether overt, as in an abandoned-cart message, or covert, where the content is subtly relevant.

That’s one highly sophisticated approach. It incorporates real-time messaging driven by artificial intelligence and complex integrations with your ecommerce or CRM platforms. But a simple dynamic content module can help you achieve a similar result. I call that “serendipity.”  

When you weave this dynamic content into your general message, it can be a pleasant surprise for your customers and make your relevant content stand out even more. 

Let’s say your company is a cruise line. Customer A opens your emails from time to time but hasn’t booked a cruise yet or browsed different tours on your website. Your next email campaign to this customer – and to everyone else on whom you have little or no data – promotes discounted trips to Hawaii, Fiji and the Mediterranean.

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Customer B hasn’t booked a cruise either, but your data tells you she has browsed your Iceland-Denmark-Greenland cruise recently. With a dynamic content module, her email could show her your Hawaii and Mediterranean cruise offers – and a great price on a trip to Iceland, Denmark and Greenland. Fancy that! 

An email like this conveys the impression that your brand offers exactly what your customers are looking for (covert personalization) without the overt approach of an abandoned-browse email.

Mistake #7. Not using a personal tone in your copy

You can personalize your email copy without a single data point, simply by writing as if you were speaking to your customer face to face. Use a warm, human tone of voice, which ideally should reflect your brand voice. Write copy that sounds like a one-to-one conversation instead of a sales pitch. 

This is where my concept of “helpful marketing” comes into play. How does your brand help your customers achieve their own goals, solve their problems or make them understand you know them as people, not just data points?  

Mistake #8. Not personalizing the entire journey

Once again, this is a scenario in which you take a short-sighted view of personalization – “How do I add personalization to this email campaign?” – instead of looking at the long-term gain: “How can I use personalization to enhance my customer’s experience?”

Personalization doesn’t stop when your customer clicks on your email. It should continue on to your landing page and even be reflected in the website content your customer views. Remember, it’s all about enhancing your customer’s experience.

What happens when your customers click on a personalized offer? Does your landing page greet your customers by name? Show the items they clicked? Present copy that reflects their interests, their loyalty program standing or any other data that’s unique to them?  

Personalization is worth the effort

Yes, personalization takes both art and science into account. You need to handle it carefully so your messages come off as helpful and relevant without veering into creepy territory through data overreaches. But this strategic effort pays off when you can use the power of personalized email to reach out, connect with and retain customers – achieving your goal of enhancing the customer experience.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Kath Pay is CEO at Holistic Email Marketing and the author of the award-winning Amazon #1 best-seller “Holistic Email Marketing: A practical philosophy to revolutionise your business and delight your customers.”

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