Your job descriptions, as you likely already know, are all but worthless. They are poorly-written technical specs built by lawyers who don’t know much about the job in the first place – and yet, they are the crutch most businesses lean on when it comes to describing the role, the job experience, the location and your employer brand, vision and values.

Put yourselves in the shoes of a salesperson with a history of landing ‘whales,’ or an influential logistics expert, or a VP at a fast-growing startup. These people are the people your company needs, not to fill orders or solve everyday problems, but to help your company bend the growth curve up, those who change the game, who themselves attract talent to surround them.

Not one of them looks at a job description and thinks, “I don’t know this company very well, but this buzz-word salad of a job description has convinced me to spend an hour writing a cover letter and filling out the application and possibly change my life forever.”

That’s what’s at stake. The talent your business needs hates your job descriptions, so you need something more. You need recruiting content that doesn’t suck.

That part should be an easy sell.  Every marketer knows that telling a product’s story helps give people a reason to buy a product, so it isn’t much of a leap to say that getting people to “buy your brand as an employer” is supported by content that gives them a reason to join.

The hard part is knowing where to start, knowing what content you need to build-in order to achieve your hiring goals.

The Who: Finding An Audience for Your Recruiting Content.

audience1Establishing an audience segment is crucial for effective content marketing, but the marketer must play a balancing act between making the segment so small and personalized that they are effectively writing individual messages to specific prospects, and making the segment so big that it is effectively everyone, leading to non-specific messages that lack a compelling reason to move forward.

In this framework, we breakdown the different factors by which you can segment your audience into personal and situational.

Personal factors start at the career area. Content that speaks to nurses won’t be the content that speaks to accountants or IT professionals. One of the biggest disconnects between content and the audience is when the audience sees broadly branded content and can’t see how that brand or brand promise ladders down to their specific career area.

For example, Google’s employer brand likely speaks well to developers and big data experts because that’s what Google is grounded in as a brand. Yet, for a human resources professional, it won’t be clear how Google’s mission statement and employer brand promise connect to HR roles.

Related to that is someone’s basic demographics: their gender, age, location, etc. One of the most popular content campaigns rooted in this space is the “women in STEM” campaign, signifying that many people start in this “personal” area.

The next section is the situation space. This starts with the intersection of career stage and motivation. Research has stated with confidence that the single factor that connects segments of prospects is that of career stage, that an entry-level nurse has more in common with an entry-level project manager than an experienced nurse, primarily because entry-level staff tend to have the same motivations: opportunities to invest in their career and learn the skills to move them to the next level.



Experienced job seekers might have strong concerns about their ability to raise a family while working in a new role, despite career area. Executives or very experienced prospects might be looking toward how to give back, how to mentor, and what legacy they are leaving behind.giphy (82)

If you need to consider the motivations separate from career stage, there are eight primary motivations of a prospect. These include: Performance, Career, Development, Empowerment, Support, Values, Innovation and Status. These motivations are not mutually exclusive, and people can fluctuate their motivating factor depending on how powerfully these are communicated.

They can be communicated singly or as a group. For example, while a company like Goldman Sachs might generally be perceived to promote Career and Status, there is a very clear call to Values-based motivations to apply there. The issue is to focus on those motivations that you can and do support rather than building content for all of them, a pitfall of telling stories that don’t connect or resonate because they are so watered-down.

Finally, the content that will resonate with a given prospect is deeply connected to what stage of the consideration funnel he or she is in.

Some content is designed to attract someone’s attention to the career site, focusing on their position at the top of the funnel. Some content is more powerful when the candidate already knows the brand more. And some content should be focused on moving a candidate off the fence and encourage an application.

The What: Aligning Recruiting Content With Your Hiring Process.

message1Once a target audience has been established, you need to determine what message you want to deliver. More to the point, this isn’t a tagline or a story. This is the idea we intend for the prospect to walk away understanding.

Like audiences, messages can suffer from the Goldilocks problem, being too tightly focused to appeal to many people or two broadly focused to resonate. For the message section, we break down the considerations into three sections: Content Goals, Subject Area and Call to Action.

Content Goals comes from the concept that all effective marketing content boils down to four major reasons for being: to inform, to educate, to entertain and to inspire (sometimes referenced as “EEII” or “E2I2”). The reason people consume recruiting content is no different; it is crucial to identify the goal before building the content in order to focus its tone and message.

Because you have established a target audience segment, you will be better able to decide what goal to focus on. Content focused on prospects at the top of the funnel might need more entertaining content to draw them in, while someone farther down the funnel might appreciate an inspirational reason to apply.

The second factor in building your message is the recruiting content hierarchy. There are the four primary content areas that answer the questions job seekers have when deciding to apply: the brand, the location, the job and the working experience.

If you are opening a new office in a location, or a plurality of your openings are at your headquarters, build content that describes and illustrates what that office is like, as well as walkability/bikeability, parking, food options and other location-specific concerns. Remember that any given candidate will have questions about all four of these areas, so an effective career site will seek to support all of them, regardless of granularity.

This is referred to as a hierarchy because brand, location, job and experience content builds on itself.

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For example, if you are writing about how amazing the experience of working at your company is to employees, but you skip over information about the location, that the job is hundreds of miles away and not work relocating for, that message of a positive work experience is lost.

Finally, we have the Call to Action. In some models, we started with the call to action, but we found that career sites really only had four major calls to action, and that they generally connected to the funnel position: Read more, sign up to join a talent pool, connect with a recruiter, and apply.

These CTAs repeat on career sites over and over, corresponding to the how deeply into the funnel the prospect is. To that end, we started with the audience and their place in the funnel, but indicating an intended call to action was further focused in the message to that audience.

The How: Making Sure Your Recruiting Content Will Actually Work.

content1Once the audience and message are determined, recruiting content must be created through the lens of the brand. This should not imply that the brand isn’t significant, but instead, that the audience and message need to be established before determining how to express it. The impact of the brand can be felt throughout the model, as it should play a role in the motivation and the content area hierarchy.

At this stage, you need to take into consideration tone, brand language, the explicit and implicit brand promises, and aspirational ideal. Content written for Amazon, for example, needs to express the brand’s noted fixation on solving big problems with a peculiar sense of humor. Content written for T-Mobile, conversely, should maintain the snarky and irreverent nature of its very public CEO.


Then, it’s finally time for us to actually establish the content itself. What is the story you will be telling within the frame of the brand that delivers the message to the target audience? Content can be anything from an interview, a day-in-the-life concept, information about all the amenities of a given location, a description about someone who started as an entry-level staffer and rose to a high position, etc. The content is the delivery mechanism to get the right idea into the mind of the right audience, nothing more.


Finally, you must consider the format of the content. A tightly tailored message to a well-understood audience may be best expressed as a blog post, an article, an infographic, a video, an interview, or even a testimonial. Or it might be best expressed through just a select few. The long history of the brand might be best told through a polished and professional-looking video, while a “day in the life” posting might be a long-form article studded with short phone-based video snippets.giphy (83)

Taking all these ideas into account when creating content will initially feel awkward, but you’ll that they reflect the innate thinking of content marketers in this space. Over time, these practices will become innate to your team as well.

When nurture becomes nature, everybody wins. Especially when it comes to your clients and candidates.

Read more at Meshworking from TMP Worldwide.

ellisAbout the Author: As the VP of Inbound Marketing at TMP Worldwide,James Ellis has been a digital strategy thinker of the MacGyver/Mad Scientist school: hacking disparate digital ideas together to serve a strategic business objective.

Whether it was bringing Bucky Badger to the social world or content marketing to the pharmaceutical space, James pushes boundaries regardless of the industry. He currently helps Fortune 500 companies attract and retain the best employees.

Connect with James on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter@TheWarForTalent or check out his work at SaltLab. 

By James Ellis

James Ellis is an authority on employer branding, focusing on companies who think they have no choice but to post and pray for talent. He is the principal of Employer Brand Labs, a bestselling author, keynote speaker, practitioner, and podcaster with a wealth of experience across multiple industries for almost a decade. You can find him on LinkedIn or subscribe to his free weekly newsletter The Change Agents.