Earlier this year, as has become something of an annual ritual, the HR and recruiting industry’s pundits (yes, they really exist) released their predictions of talent trends in the year to come.
While these are often as stagnant as the industry they’re covering, aside from borrowing heavily from the same mantras as most Silicon Valley startups with the same promises of being more social, mobile and local, one of the most prevalent predictions on these lists stands out as particularly persistent in these previews, one that’s inevitably always included in these forecasts of the future.
These “thought leaders” look into the mists in their crystal ball and see a vision of the future that’s so obvious these oracles must declare, with absolute certainty, that “job descriptions will cease to exist!”
Then, as if to mock that same prescient certainty, they don’t. Instead, they survive, year after year after year. Despite some obvious flaws of the formats involved in both sides of the recruiting equation, the gap never seems to narrow, and things never seem to change.
The Candidate Hierarchy of Needs: A Recruiting Pyramid Scheme
The lowest order in terms of motivation for any job seeker has to be salary. While compensation is foundational and obviously of some importance, it’s also the factor that’s the easiest to actualize and adjudicate accordingly.
Try putting the actual salary range of a position on the post instead of that nebulous “Depends on Experience” and voila! the majority of your applicants will at least know how much you’re willing to pay prior to investing time in the position.
Assuming that your job is not unpaid or a front for some sort of shady operation like human trafficking or drug smuggling (in which case, your employer brand is probably pretty intriguing), starting at salary just makes sense. Promising adequate or even fair pay for a candidate’s work should never be the principal motivator you’re playing to as a recruiter.
Put simply, cash should never be your “ace in the hole.” If that’s the most enticing thing you’ve got to offer, it’s time to rethink the role. Try talking to some other people who already do the job and ask them why they like it.
Try gaining insights into the personas and professional aspirations (and actualizations) of the people who enjoy doing the job, and chances are, those will align with the same things that are likely to resonate most with the candidates you’re looking for. They’re also likely to overlap with what you, as an employer, are looking for when you’re looking for candidates.
Third party recruiters and staffing agencies tend to be the ones whose job ads are built around the bottom line, focusing on salary as the biggest incentive that a position has to offer. “Java Developer – $90,000+!” is a great indicator that the person posting the job doesn’t have any idea about what the people doing that job either really do or really care about.
They don’t get the distinct differentiated drivers of the candidates they’re looking for, which means that they’re not doing anything but throwing shit to see what sticks, as the saying goes.
Always Practice Safe Reqs
Putting An ‘I’ In Teamwork
Accomodating Special Needs
A Growing Concern: Aspirations & Self Actualization
So, what’s left? You’ve got an ad for a new job that tells a candidate they’ll be paid fairly for their work, they’ll be given a great set of benefits and both the job and company are secure. You’ve shown them the amazing team they get to work with and how they’ll fit into that team, and why as individuals, their work is going to make a meaningful difference and actually matter.
If you said all that and called it a day, you’d already have a really compelling job ad, but Maslow’s final tier on the road to fulfillment is the silver bullet: “self-actualization.”
This is the ultimate goal of psychological development, the last step that’s achievable only when all basic and mental needs are essentially fulfilled and the person’s focus can turn towards potential.
Research suggests that when people lead lives that differ from their true nature and capabilities, they are less likely to ever find happiness or meaning than those whose aspirations and abilities align with what they’re actually doing with their lives and goals.
In a job ad, offering this greater fulfillment to a prospective candidate can be tricky. A majority of job ads fail in the perceived balance of power each portrays. Despite the current hiring market becoming much tighter and with certain skill sets so in demand that the few candidates out there who have them can more or less write their own check, it’s important to remember that the balance of power has shifted.
But you look at any job board there’s this weird, “You should be thankful we deign to allow you to even look at this posting,” holier-than-thou hubris that’s blatantly obvious from the language choices that seem almost designed to crush the souls of anyone but the most mindless of drones and the most desperate of candidates.
But for some reason, this has become the accepted convention for the weird mashup of cut and paste job descriptions most employers post externally. They’re part internal HR document, part externally facing hyperbole with a few spurious superlatives, and the combination of the two is almost unreadable, which is why no one bothers to actually read them in the first place, most times.
Instead of using overt language that sounds cribbed from some Dickens novel or like those fat cat capitalists you see in Industrial Revolution era cartoons of classism, let candidates know what’s in it for them – not you.
What experiences will they have that will allow them to develop and grow as individuals? What new skills or training in new areas will you provide them with? Will they get a mentor or the chance to mentor other employees and create more meaningful interactions and workplace relationships? Will they have the autonomy and authority to have the freedom they need for true creativity and innovation to happen?
This final tier is future facing, but is imperative for any truly great job ad.
If you can hint at a brighter future for potential new hires, and show that this job is just the first step on a career path that’s satisfying and rewarding in your company, then you’ll hit the tipping point for attracting the talent you really want, not just the ones who happen to come across it on some job board or career site somewhere. You’ll soon see a brighter future for your abilities to get the right target to go ahead and click that big red apply button – and actually finish the application, too.
On the recruiting hierarchy of needs, that’s as close to self-actualization as you can probably ever hope to achieve.
Read more at The King’s Shilling.
About the Author: Matt Buckland is Head of Talent at Forward Partners an investment studio for early stage UK ecommerce startups.
Based in Hoxton, London, Forward Partners combine investment with practical hands-on expertise and insight. He also blogs at The King’s Shilling.