Describe Opportunities, Not Requirements

This was actually going to be a very simple article that made the point that 75% of your advertising copy should emphasize opportunities, not list requirements. Most advertising misses the mark on this basic concept. When your ads describe opportunities, you attract the best. When they describe requirements, you attract the rest. Take your pick. Here’s why this is such an important concept: Requirements-intensive ads are used to filter people out. Opportunities-focused ads induce people to explore. I was then going to elaborate upon this point, and finally prove it by showing two ads side-by-side, clearly indicating this difference. Everyone would instantly see why you need to describe opportunities, not requirements, in order to increase the number of top people applying to yours ads. Then I was going to convince you that you also need to make sure your online job descriptions reinforce this same theme?? opportunities instead of requirements. I was then going to urge you to make this change now, since it’s absolutely the best thing you can do now to improve the quality of your candidate pool. Finally, I was going to end the article with some clever call to action, as I am prone to do. But as stated in the opening sentence, I’m not going to do this. Instead, I’m going to use the same opportunity vs. requirement point and weave it into a discussion of metrics and why thinking out of the box is so important. Here’s how I’ll make this rather incredulous leap from the tactics to strategy (and hopefully beyond): Just about everyone complains that they’re not seeing enough top people. Are you aware that this is a metric? (Not the “complaining” part, the “not seeing enough top people” part. The complaining part is actually the measuring instrument.) The purpose of metrics is primarily to monitor the status of a process. When the process isn’t working, the idea is to change the process as soon as the metric indicates you’re no longer within an acceptable range of performance. So if you’re not seeing enough top candidates, you need to alter the process until you do see enough top candidates. You know you’ve achieved success when you stop complaining. Then go on to your next biggest complaint and do the same thing. This is actually a simple form of Pareto analysis. If you can improve the process once, you’ll be a Six Sigma brown belt. You’ll get a black belt if you do it twice. (I suspect it will take more than twice, but I’m making a point, not trying to list prerequisites.) Let’s show how the metric “not seeing enough top people” can be used to drive improvement by looking deeper into the process:

1. You need to determine if your advertising copy is really any good. Read it. If it emphasizes requirements instead of opportunities, it isn’t. 2. Is your advertising visible? Test this now by putting yourself in the shoes of a top candidate. Can you, the “top person,” quickly find the ad near the top of the first page listing? If not, get it moved. Is the title compelling enough to be read? If not, make it compelling. For example, instead of “Marketing Manager” try “Launcher of New Wireless Devices.” Visible but boring titles are invisible. So are invisible ads with fun titles. Is the copy designed to convince a top qualified person that they must apply? If not, make sure the copy describes opportunities, not requirements. Also, check out your listings to make sure that someone searching for your job can use the best functional titles and keywords to find your ad. Spend time on this. This will help you get better results from the new ad revamping process. 3. Make sure it’s easy as heck to apply. Again, try this out yourself. Then, even if you require a candidate to complete a questionnaire, lead in with a inducement. For example, “Please don’t stop. Tomorrow will soon be here. Since you’ve made it this far, please complete this one last step. It will help us quickly identify the candidates we want to invite in for interviews.” Next, check out your web stats to see if the volumes and opt-in rates at each step are satisfactory. Use these metrics to gauge your progress as you change your advertising. This last step is a good example of how metrics should be used for process control rather than reporting. 4-9. Can you rank order resumes effectively on something other than skills? You need to be able to call the best candidates within hours after applying. This is critical, since they won’t be around too long. Some options to consider include the Engenium search engine built into RecruitMax’s and Virtual Edge’s ATS. Also evaluate the new multi-step bio-data product that ePredix is developing, designed to minimize opt-outs. A newbie to consider is Behavioral Description Technologies’ online behavioral interview. I was introduced to this at ER Expo 2003 West in San Diego, and it seems to hold real promise in this important area. 10 and beyond. If after all this you’re still complaining about the quality of your candidate pool, more work remains. First, you’ll need to expand the number of advertising channels you use, to see if other boards or media programs are more effective. Then repeat steps similar to 1-9 above. If this still doesn’t work, you’ll need to expand the number of sourcing channels you use. Some obvious choices include your Employee Referral Program, military and college recruiting, networking, and career events. Once you decide to use another sourcing channel, you’ll need to optimize and fine-tune it to maximize its performance. This means that you’ll need to first develop metrics for each channel. With this base, you’ll then be able to implement a measurable process improvement program for each channel. All of this will certainly keep you busy. However, optimizing each channel this way is how hiring can be made into a formal business process.

I started this article off by saying that the focus of all of your advertising and job descriptions should be on opportunities instead of requirements. I’ll end it the same way, with an example. Which job is more appealing? How many of you might even consider moving? Job 1: Field Sales Representative

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“We’re a 20-year-old NYC office products company seeking a self-motivated sales person with 3-5 years experience. A degree is essential. We offer a competitive compensation and benefit package. [Add another paragraph or two of other requirements and boring stuff.]” Job 2: Take a Bite Out of the Big Apple

“For 20 years, we’ve been helping salespeople achieve their dreams. While we’d like a few years of sales experience, more important is the heart and desire to be as good as you possibly can be. At our company, it’s not really about selling our nifty office products; it’s about becoming part of the hottest sales team in America’s city. [And then another paragraph of why this job is worth a few minutes to apply.] You probably never thought the Big Apple could taste this good.” Offer opportunities, don’t list requirements. It will make all the difference. (As many of you know, I host a series of monthly online discussion groups on corporate metrics and developing new recruiting techniques. As you can tell from my articles these tend to be free-wheeling discussions that cover the gamut from strategies to practical advice. The Corporate Metrics Group is restricted to those in corporate recruiting management. The Recruiting Techniques is open to everyone. Email me at if you’d like to join one of these groups. If you’ve already joined you’ll be getting the next agenda shortly.)

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


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