the anatomy of a recruitment ad

The anatomy of a recruitment advert

Judging by all the job ads and status updates we see, it would be easy to assume that recruiters, HR and hiring managers have no basic understanding of human nature – which would be surprising given that the first two groups work in a people-centric job discipline.

More generously, maybe they just don’t understand how a free-market economy works?

Free market economies and humans are driven by personal self-interest.

Adam Smith, he of the The Adam Smith Institute – Britain’s leading free market neo-liberal think tank – described self-interest and business competition as the “invisible hand” that guides the economy.

In other words, if you want people to buy your stuff, you need to appeal to their self-interests.

That’s fundamentally what sales is.

And what a free-market economy is, is lots and lots of businesses all trying to sell their stuff.

Now let’s transpose this thinking to the world of recruitment, where there are lots and lots of job vacancies that all need to attract suitable candidates.

Logically, you’d think the more business-critical of those jobs would need to appeal to the self-interests of their target candidate audience, right?

Next time you look at a job ad, what you’ll see at least 90% of the time, is something that follows this basic template:

1st Paragraph: Lots of rhetoric about how they are a really big/successful/dominant/nice/global/revolutionary company and why they think they’re really awesome. Much of it peppered with words like “dynamic”“market leading”“unrivalled” and “growth”.

2nd Paragraph: A body of text or listed bullet-points that detail some of the tasks the job involves. So, if we take a job ad for an Accountant, they’ll list all the things an Accountant does because, you know, qualified Accountants really need to know what it is they do all day. FFS…

3rd Paragraph: Next we have several sentences about what the candidate must bring in terms of experience, knowledge and characteristics to qualify. The experience/knowledge required is often impossibly narrow. Favourite words in this section are “ambitious”“passionate” and “hard-working”.

4th Paragraph: Here they try to explain what’s on offer to the candidate. Sorry, the potential candidate. At this stage they’re just a reader. Most just cite things like salary, hygiene factors (things like childcare vouchers and nice offices) and how the reader will find the work rewarding on account of how awesome the hiring company thinks they are. Some will even try to squeeze in a few more demands disguised as benefits, like; “You will have many opportunities to demonstrate your talent and drive.” By the way, that last sentence was taken from a real job ad – just in case you think I make this stuff up.

Some will sign-off their job ads with a sentence explaining that because they’re really busy being awesome, they will only respond to those applicants they’re interested in. Which is basically a big ‘screw you’ from them to their target audience.

Are these recruiters, HR people and hiring managers using the concept of self-interest to try to fill their jobs?

Yes, they are.

Their self-interests.

When it comes to doing business in general, and selling in particular, the recruitment and HR community seem to be living in an alternate reality.

A kind of Bizarro World.

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