Are You Losing Potential Stars by “Burying the Lead” in Your Recruiting?

Don’t “bury the lead” in first-stage recruiting; you may lose potential stars.

Your company may be limiting its recruiting success by not articulating clearly enough — and early enough — its most compelling attractors for job candidates.

Here’s what I mean: Once your recruiting team identifies an open position, no matter how extensive or how limited your recruitment “advertising“ budget, your company commands a wealth of content-rich opportunities to put its best foot forward in getting the word out to potential candidates about the vacancy.

Falling back on bland job announcements

These platforms include, although they are by no means limited to:

  • Position-available notices on Monster, CareerBuilder, Craigslist, and the other job-posting “majors;”
  • Announcements in trade organization media;
  • Scores of online vertical and professional specialty job boards; and,
  • Your own enterprise website and social media assets.

Many of these engagement platforms are available at no cost to your recruiting team beyond your commitment of labor in identifying the appropriate ones and framing the employment opportunity evocatively.

So why do companies often fall back on bland and formulaic language in the job announcements that customarily appear in these first-stage outreach platforms, including their own websites and associated social media resources?

When they do this, they may be missing an opportunity to frame an available position in concrete, inviting terms and, just as importantly, in the real-world context of their corporate cultures. What’s more, job announcements, when broadcast efficiently, can reach many more individuals than those in their intended target communities. So the language you use in position descriptions can play a role in encouraging word-of-mouth attention and regard for your company culture beyond candidates who are specifically qualified for the job you’re announcing.

Why stick to the standard position description formula?

In our work, we regularly encounter organizations that can point with justifiable pride to vibrant corporate cultures and highly engaged workforces. Yet they still lapse into an HR-speak idiom when announcing an open position.

In our experience this often happens when a team’s early-stage recruiting focus is still “warming up” on auto-pilot, and conceiving the challenge of triggering the initial wave of candidate responses to an opening ..

Article Continues Below
  • Too broadly (e.g., “We’re always among the usual apply-here destinations for graduating engineers”); or,
  • Too abstractly (“They respect our corporate values”); or,
  • Too reductively (“It’s a tough economy and people need jobs”).

Some companies embrace this approach out of habit, or indifference, or in a misplaced stab at efficiency. And more than a few of them expressly justify it, because they assume that they can dazzle promising candidates during the interview process, after rigorously weeding out the marginal prospects at the resume stage.

But why risk losing potential winners who decide not to apply because your too-vanilla up-front announcement doesn’t trigger mental images of a vibrant organization, or one that mirrors their own aspirations about the kind of job they want?

Culture, values are the heart of your story

In the journalism realm, inadvertently withholding the most compelling elements in a story until deep in the article is called “burying the lead,” and doing so is usually a guarantee that readers will give up before reaching the heart of the story.

Make no mistake: your workplace culture and values are at the heart of your story. Today you have a wealth of resources at hand for couching every job announcement in the inspiring, right-brain context of what it’s like to work at your company.

In the old days, you couldn’t often trigger these responses with a want ad, and the habits of mind formed in yesterday’s world of classified ads may be lingering under the surface in our work practices today. But consider this: are you unconsciously undercutting your recruiting strategy by sticking with a habitual formula whose time has passed?

Bob Duffy is founder and principal at Insight Consulting, LLC, which specializes in corporate culture, research, and brand development. His teams have worked with the ITT Corporation, Verizon Communications, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Navy Recruitment Command, and the U.S. Army Reserve, among many others.

A committed advocate of brands based on shared values and substantive intellectual capital, he holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The Catholic University of America and the University of Maryland.

Topics