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The Typewriter & the Job Posting

By Peter Weddle, CEO of TAtech

Remember the typewriter? A mechanical marvel in 1940, an electrical phenom in 1970, and an all but irrelevant throwback in 2021. It is, however, the perfect metaphor for the so-called “best practices” used to develop most job postings today. These gray-headed guidelines worked in 1999 and maybe even in 2009, but today, they’re about as helpful as … well, as a typewriter.

The vast majority of today’s job postings look and read eerily like their predecessors at the dawn of online recruitment advertising. Yes, of course, there has been some improvement – they’re no longer classified ad copy written for newspapers and simply repurposed on the web. But other than that, they bear the markings of a time and workplace that no longer exist.

Those markings are the result of “best practices” developed to help recruiters succeed in the War for Talent. That famous paradigm was first introduced by the consulting firm McKinsey way back in 1998. It described a new development in the world of work: a shortfall in the supply of workers available to employers. As a result, recruiting went from a backwater in many companies to a business imperative as even the most revered brands were forced to compete just to find a warm body to fill each of their open jobs.

That quantitative shortfall disappeared in the pre-Covid economy, but is now back with a vengeance. There is a difference, however, and it’s important. In the first phase of the War for Talent, the shortfall was caused by a lack of workers. Today, the shortfall is due to a decline in participation by workers. Thanks to the Great Resignation (more than 25 million people quit their jobs in the first seven months of this year) and the Great Dropout (my term for workers’ lack of interest in applying for jobs), employers are once again scrambling to find candidates for their openings even though there are plenty of potential prospects in the labor force.

That difference in cause renders most of yesterday’s “best practices” irrelevant in today’s labor market. Those strategies and tactics were designed to poach talent from another organization. That was the only way to fill openings when there wasn’t enough talent to go around. Now, however, there’s plenty of talent, but they aren’t motivated by the marginal improvements one employer offers over another. What’s needed, instead, is an entirely new set of strategies and tactics that are best described as Next Practices.

Next Practices for Job Postings

Next Practices are designed to address the root factor driving the lack of interest shown by today’s prospects: alienation. Not every worker feels alienated, of course, but a great many do. Before Covid, they heard employers scream that raising the minimum wage to $15/hour would bankrupt them, but now they see those same employers pay $16-20/hour and throw in bonuses just to get workers to sign on. Before Covid, they read Glassdoor reviews that eviscerated companies for being horrid places to work and now they’re swamped with brand messages proclaiming the utopia at those same organizations even though there’s been no change in the CEO or their c-suite cronies who determine organizational culture. The net effect of these dissonant experiences is a profound mistrust of employers and a festering cynicism about their willingness to treat working men and women with respect.

Job postings developed with Next Practices address the alienation by putting trust- and bond-building content up front, at the beginning of the posting. Yes, of course, the title and basic description of the job must appear first, but all of those lengthy, detailed “requirements and responsibilities” should be positioned later in the ad, after some trust has been built and at least the beginnings of a bond forged.

How do you build trust and forge a bond? Focus on what prospects want to know. Best Practices were all about giving candidates the information employers wanted them to know about an opening, the assumption being that such detail would enable them to make the right decision (i.e., apply for their job). Next Practices focus on providing the information that prospects are interested in, and that data has one central focus: “what’s in it for them.” How will a specific opportunity help them to advance in their profession craft and trade? And, how will that job make their life better.

To address the first question, a Next Practices job ad will answer five questions:
• What will the prospect get to do?
• What will they get to accomplish?
• What will they get to learn?
• With whom will them get to work?
• How will they be recognized and rewarded?

To address the second question, a Next Practices job ad will detail those aspects of a company’s value proposition that will forge an emotional connection with the prospect. As I described in my post last week, these connectors involve the things people love or in which they are emotionally invested. They might include a prospect’s:
• Children (one connection might be the availability of on-site daycare);
• Hometown (one connection might be paid time off to mentor at a local school);
• Pets (one connection might be pet insurance – in a recent Appcast study, it actually increased apply rates by 37 percent);
• Family (one connection might be death benefits for the surviving spouse or partner of a deceased employee).

Telling a prospect up front “what’s in it for them” – not with traditional job ad content but with the information they want to know – will help to differentiate an employer and its opening from all of the other employers and openings now in the market and, most importantly, reinforce trust and forge a bond with them. Those factors more than any others increase a prospect’s propensity to apply.

Food for Thought,

Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. You can check out his latest book on