We’ve all been job seekers at some point. So what resonated with you most as a job seeker?
It probably wasn’t a checklist of qualifications pulled from the job description. The best job posts invite candidates to consider their career experiences and goals — and how the role could help make their lives better. The purpose of a job post is to help candidates envision themselves in a role. And that requires putting yourself in the candidate’s position.
“A job post should contain content that helps people identify the experiences they've had in their career that would qualify them for the role,” says Katrina Kibben, CEO and founder of Three Ears Media. “When a candidate looks at a job posting, they should be able to dream about how their life could be better.”
For job seekers, scrolling through hundreds of job posts per day is exhausting. But incorporating narrative elements into your job postings makes them stand out from the crowd and helps candidates imagine themselves working at your company. Here’s how to write job postings that cast candidates as the hero of your company’s story.
Unleash Your Inner Writer
To write a great job posting, you need to tell a story. But recruiters and HR professionals may feel stymied by the need to be creative. “There’s often a block between your brain and your hands,” Kibben says. Think about the audience for a job post: candidates. What do they need to know about a job before deciding to apply?
“Write what you would say if the candidate asked you questions about the job,” Kibben continues. “What you know about the job is exactly what candidates need to know.”
The best way to generate content for a job posting is to talk to people currently holding the role. “Go out and talk to people, because they will tell you exactly what to write,” Kibben says. “If you talk to more than five people who have this job, trends will become apparent, and you'll start understanding the story.”
Understanding the ins and outs of the role will help you anticipate questions from candidates. And drawing from employees’ stories will help you create a job post that resonates with the right candidates.
Honesty and authenticity are critical components of a great job post. If job seekers see a job role that seems too good to be true, they will recognize that it probably is. You don’t want to advertise an experience that you can’t offer.
Kibben advises asking people in the role two essential questions. “The most powerful questions you can ask are, ‘Why do you stay?’ and ‘Why would you quit?’” she says. Every job comes with pros and cons. Own both, and show candidates exactly what employees in that role love about it and why they’ve stayed with it.
This ensures that the experience you advertise matches the actual employee experience. But it also serves to screen candidates out. “You want people to opt-out,” Kibben says. “A great job post doesn’t attract everyone — it attracts the right people who are willing to endure the bad parts to experience the things your employees love about the job.”
Sharing nuanced and authentic stories helps you attract people who know exactly what they’re getting into, but plan to stay anyway. And finding the right candidate is essential for retention.
Save Your Creative Bandwidth
Creating a brand new job posting for each job opening is nearly impossible for high volume employers. Luckily, it’s not a great practice, either. Trying to generate 100% new material repeatedly will inevitably lead to burnout.
“You can tell stories through your job posts without adding a lot more to your plate,” Kibben says. She suggests using job post templates to guide your stories while preserving your valuable creativity.
“Try using a 70/30 model where 70% of the job post is very templated, and 30% is nuanced to the role,” she says. That 30% should be tailored to the specific experiences and skills that support your current employees’ success in the role. This will help candidates see themselves as the main character in the story by recognizing elements of themselves in those employees.
This template should serve your purposes until it doesn’t. Jobs evolve, and so should job posts. “It’s time to completely refresh a job post when it stops attracting the right people,” Kibben says.