"When we're subject to so many marketing messages every day, how do we create an emotional connection with our potential job candidates quickly using only a few words or perhaps even just an image?" That's a good question, and though it was posed by an HR pro following my presentation at the just concluded Twin Cities Human Resources Association Spring Conference on the campus of the University of Minnesota, I couldn't have come up with a better one if I had planted it myself.
To her starting point, yes, we live in an age saturated by marketing messages. In fact, when I asked the audience how many the average American adult sees every day, a gentleman correctly answered 5,000. So it's a very crowded and cluttered buying landscape to say the least.
The good news is you have lots of tools to reach those candidates, but since every one else with a job to sell has those same tools, it becomes more difficult to actually connect with those candidates.
And before you can earn their time, before they will actually read your job description in depth, find out more about your organization in a career site or using some other source, and certainly before they fill out anything via an Applicant Tracking System, you must first get their attention.
How do you do that? With a job posting that says simply "Java Programmer?" No.
I hear hiring managers say with some frequency they are constantly looking for people in a few select positions and career areas. One of those is Java Programmers.
About an hour before my presentation, I went on my laptop, typed in Java Programmer jobs, and printed out the first thing that came up. It happened to be an Indeed.com listing for a position based in southwest Ohio. The posting was placed by a recruiter.
Bearing in mind the fact that when selling something, anything, we should lead with our best stuff, let's see how this recruiting firm did.
The first thing that shows up is the title of the job. Java Programmer. Since there are, unofficially, about a zillion java programmer positions looking to be filled around the globe right now, that doesn't do much.
The next thing that is listed is the recruiting company information, and below that, the contact info. for the individual recruiter handling the job req. That should be the last thing listed, because at this point in the process, it is absolutely of no interest to the candidate.
Now the job description, the secret sauce for why this position will be compelling for a candidate. "X & X Associates has partnered with an Ohio company to help them find quality candidates for their JAVA Programmer position." Could that be any more generic? Any more boring? Any less compelling? And again, notice the job description for the client leads with the name of the recruiting company.
As for the experience section, I would love to tell you it gets better, but alas, it does not. Requirements: Bachelor's degree, knowledge and understanding of data processing and experience creating applications using" .... drum roll please, "JAVA." Wow. I did not see that coming.
I am honestly not trying to disparage the earnest efforts of this particular recruiting company. I am sure they are trying, or think they are anyway. The effort is all throwaway stuff though, and will not result in a pool of the best and brightest. The job posting isn't any different from thousands of others just like it. They haven't created any emotional connection between the company and the candidate.
The job posting isn't different any different from thousands of others just like it. They haven't created any emotional connection between the company and the candidate.
So let's say the copy is actually a little - or even a lot - more compelling. Let's say it does a really thorough job of painting a picture of the position and the company and the benefits and perks. Does that fundamentally change anything? No it does not.
Here's why. Because you cannot reason your way to a sale. You cannot simply give people a bunch of content, a bunch of bullet points, lots of infill, and expect them to translate this information for themselves, and then conclude they will buy what you are selling, in this case a job.
Our brains aren't wired to work that way. Instead, every single decision we make, including whether we will apply for a particular job, is driven by emotion.
You cannot simply give people a bunch of content, a bunch of bullet points, lots of infill, and expect them to translate this information for themselves, and then conclude they will buy what you are selling, in this case a job.
So every place you are interacting - and engaging with - your potential pool of candidates, be it on your own company website, LinkedIn, or anywhere else, you need to be constantly thinking about how to arouse people's brains, pique their curiosity and put them on notice you have something unique to offer. In other words, you need to create emotional connections.
In the first show on this current season of Mad Men, Don Draper is sent to Hawaii to do some "research" for an ad campaign for a large resort hotel on Waikiki Beach. He realizes that between the sun, the sand and the Scotch at the hotel bar, he can shed his skin so to speak, and leave his old self behind on the mainland. For a week anyway.
So when he meets with the client back in New York, he explains that you become a different person when you stay at the Royal Hawaiian. You enter a different state of consciousness. You're not really you anymore. You disappear. He shows the client a print ad with a single set of footprints on a beach and a headline that says, "Hawaii. The jumping off point."
The client's immediate response was something along the lines of, "This is an ad for our hotel and you don't show the hotel. How does that work?"
Here's how that works. Don Draper wasn't trying to reason his way to a sale. He knew the ad would likely run in Life or TIME magazine, and potentially get lost amidst the pages of a dozen other hotel images.
Instead, he was trying to create an emotional connection, using only a few words and a strong image, and then trying to have the audience do the rest of the work, creating and filling in the blanks about what a vacation there might do - and mean - for them. And when they complete the vision themselves, there will likely be a sale.
So before you write your next job description, think less about the specifics of this particular position, and more about the unique culture and opportunities your company or organization provides. What is it about your company that you like? Why do you work there? What is the DNA, the secret sauce of the company that appeals to people? Then use that to inform your description, keeping in mind you have to work hard to earn people's time and attention.
Now, back to our HR friend's original question. How do you do that in just a few seconds? Let's take our Java Programmer position. Perhaps the office environment at this recruiter's client company is very laid back, hip, creative and casual. Let's say in fact dogs are not only allowed, but encouraged, and that every single employee has a dog. So how do you create an emotional connection using only an image and a few words? How about like this?
If you consistently practice the art of creating emotional connections by being different, unique, and authentic in all of your communications and brand touchpoints, you will be rewarded with a stronger pool of candidates who will listen longer and buy (i.e. "apply") earlier.