Search Savvy: Jobs postings are ads

Jul 17, 2014

And since they are, follow these eight tips to improve their effectiveness.

What is a job posting? C’mon, think about it. It’s simply an advertisement. Aren’t you advertising an opening that you want to fill? And like any advertisement, you must catch the eye of the consumer. Peak their interest. Instill a call to action. If you read the morning paper, glance at a billboard while driving, or surf the Internet, everyone and their brother is trying to direct your attention to their product or service. One thing common to all advertisements is the need to be succinct and concise. Get to the point quickly! State your case and show off your wares. The brevity and direct approach of most ads is not so much that the consumer may only have three to 5 seconds to scan your billboard ad while traveling 80 mph on the proverbial superhighway. Rather, it’s to capture the consumer’s attention, impregnate the product or service in their mind, and make them think (whether now or later), “Hey, remember me?” So what’s the parallel with filling an open position? Again, c’mon! I gave you the answer in the first paragraph. You are advertising an open position and your ad is the position description you post on whatever medium you choose. You are attempting to entice the consumer, or should we say candidate, to consider applying for your job opening. OK, so let’s view your ad/position description from an advertising perspective. Your target population is individuals open to considering a career move. But wait, isn’t it a select few of this total population? Sure! You only want the best available candidates to respond to your ad. So how do you attract “the best of the best” while at the same time discourage those individuals not qualified for your need? It all depends on the specifics of your position description. In my involvement in the A/E industry, I too often have the unpleasant experience of dealing with clients who don’t or won’t invest the time required to properly develop an attractive and targeted position description. It is way too frequent the answer to, “Do you have a position description?” is “Oh, someone with a background in X, Y to Z years of experience, and a P.E.,” is for example the response for an engineer position. This puts the recruiter, whether internal HR or an external recruiting firm, in a tough position. What choice do they have other than to enhance the position description on their own? The result is the usual outline that reads like a laundry list of generic phrases that describes the “unobtainable” candidate and likely attracts the opposite of what you need. Rest assured, there are as many opinions on what makes an attractive and productive position description as there are grains of sand in Destin, Fla. There is likely good advice to be plucked from each one of them. It’s up to you to garner the best advice that fits your requirements and culture. Following are a few tips I recommend to my clients:
  1. Do craft a written position description developed directly by or with the detailed input of the hiring manager.
  2. Do have a descriptive title that indicates the job level and type of work, for example Senior Landscape Design Architect. Don’t use ambiguous HR terminology like Architectural Associate Level II.
  3. Do include a statement about the company’s mission and culture. Don’t be reluctant to use words such as amazing, exciting, remarkable, aggressive, or passionate.
  4. Do create a list of responsibilities that succinctly answers the question, “What will I be doing day-to-day?”
  5. Do use action words at the beginning of your responsibility statements, such as: create, develop, design, review, determine, complete, communicate, or present.
  6. Don’t mix “must have” requirements or experience with preferred requirements or experience. If you believe the requirement is a “must have,” stick with it and don’t compromise. It’s OK to state if the candidate does not meet all the “must have” requirements, they need not apply.
  7. Do personalize the description by using the words “you” and “your”.
  8. Finally, do include a compensation range. Applicant surveys consistently show this is the number one item that candidates want to see in a positon description. The inclusion of the compensation range can significantly increase the responses in your targeted population range.
Keep in mind that you are advertising your opening and your ad is the position description. As a final test, put on your consumer hat. Read your ad. Would it catch your interest? Does the title and opening company statement make you want to read more? And, most importantly, do the responsibilities and requirements instill the intended call to action – submit an application? Pat McGee is the director of executive search consulting with ZweigWhite. Contact him at This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1064, originally published 7/21/2014. Copyright© 2014, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.