Are Your Job Adverts Turning Mobile Users Away?

By Jonathan Graham - Founder - Lawford Knight

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Attracting Candidates via Mobile

There are many figures quoted for mobile device usage. A national newspaper recently quoted a figure of 5 billion mobile devices by 2020. Cisco also published a report saying that there would be 50 billion ‘things’ connected to the internet by the same year. Mobile devices already outnumber PCs. The figures are astounding and it’s clear that mobile is the connected future. But what is your company doing now to target jobseekers who are using mobile devices? What are your plans for the next few years, leading up to 2020 and beyond? Hopefully your website is mobile optimised, maybe even responsive, as favoured by Google algorithms. Job boards that you advertise on are probably optimised as well but they are just platforms. Are you missing the vital key to success; content?

Job advertisement vs job specification

First of all, it’s important to make a distinction between job ads and job specs. The job ad is likely to be the first point of contact a potential employee will have with your brand. These need to be snappy and to the point. They are advertisements, which usually means you want someone to take an action after reading them. Ideally this action will be to apply for the job. There seems to be a vast difference in the quality of job ads online now, and this must affect response rates. I’m not talking about the number of applications you receive, but the percentage of those applications that match what you are looking for. The best people in the market know their worth in most cases, and will only be enticed by well written and appealing ads.

What tends to pass as a job ad these days is very often a job spec. Job specs are designed to be downloaded or sent to candidates after they have applied for the job. They provide much more information about the role and include specifics and often competencies that the employer is looking for the candidate to have. Companies sometimes use bullet points in their ads, and I would agree that some bullets can be useful to draw attention to really key points. Adding 30 bullet points however, which is certainly not uncommon, defeats the object of using bullets at all. The next section explains why.

How do people consume content?

I read a very interesting article recently which used heat maps to explain how people look at and digest content on websites, and in particular job ads. These maps are made using eye tracking software that picks up where people look on a webpage and for how long. As you might expect, the hottest points were at the top, this includes the job title and the opening paragraph. Most of the information underneath was skimmed if not completely ignored, including all those bullet points. People will happily scroll through content on a mobile device to a point, but hardly ever across, hence the need to have a mobile optimised site and to write content for mobiles. Even mobile optimised content can become too long when displayed on a phone. This is simply because the paragraphs are squeezed into a narrow window therefore making them longer. If you are adding loads of bullets on the end they are not going to be looked at.

Qualifying people out

One explanation for using job specs as job ads is the number of responses that companies receive. With a global audience and aggregators such as, job ads reach a massive audience. In turn, there are lots of applications for roles, often from people who don’t match the requirements. The response to this is often to write long detailed job ads (job specs) with bullet points in abundance. The idea being that stipulating every last requirement should qualify out a number of people who are not right and discourage them from applying. Unfortunately I believe this also discourages really good candidates from applying. If you think about the direction in which we are moving with online content, towards bite-sized pieces that are easily read or watched on mobile devices, then it’s clear to see that jobs specs are going in the wrong direction. There is so much content out there, it is becoming increasingly difficult to be heard above the din. There is no reason why a job ad can’t be two to three paragraphs of really well written content, which will discourage the wrong people from applying yet attract the really good candidates. Shorter ads serve a double purpose. They have a concise, professional appearance and are ideal for mobile devices. You also have to consider the behaviour of jobseekers. Is it more likely that someone is going to look for a job on their work PC, on their mobile during their commute, or at home on their tablet? You know the answer to that. This has to be a consideration in your talent attraction strategy.

So what’s the answer?

The way job ads are written is critical to attracting the right people to your organisation. Structure, tone of voice and any use of bullet points have to be carefully controlled. The way an ad is structured should be consistent across every ad. By this I mean each ad needs to have an identity that fits in with the overall communications approach. This is after all a company communication and therefore should be written to the same high standards as everything else the company produces. Recruiters and marketers should collaborate to come up with a ‘template’ for job ads that everyone has to use. This way, the look and feel will be the same. It sends a confusing message when ads are all different, some with introductions, some straight in with an overview of the role etc. Consistent messaging means a consistently high quality approach in the eyes of candidates. Any brand has to be reinforced many times to be recognised as such, so consistency is an important factor and without it you don’t have a brand.

Work out the really killer points about the role, and incorporate these into the opening paragraph. Remember this paragraph gets the most ‘eye time’ of anything on the page. If it includes the best elements, it’s likely the rest of the ad will be read in more detail. You are competing against thousands of ads so you have to capture people’s attention quickly.

The following paragraph or two can be used to give further information on the role and the company, to drive a response, and to qualify people out who might not be right. It could be as simple as, ‘You will need to have closed deals at more than £4m’, or ‘You should have held a P&L and managed a large team of people’. These are only things that a certain calibre of person will have covered. You are always going to get people applying for roles that are beyond their current experience level, but nothing is going to change that.

In summary

Mobile devices will become more and more prevalent amongst consumers of online content and your attraction strategy must be designed with this in mind. Avoid using long job specs with many bullet points, research shows that people will not read them. Mobile users are happy to scroll down the page, but not across, therefore your site must be optimised for mobiles.

Job specs shouldn’t be used as the first point of contact with candidates. They are useful for candidates who are due to attend an interview, as they often contain details of competencies and further useful information. The job ad should actually be an ad, it needs to entice good candidates and get them to take action, to apply for the job.

Recruiters and marketers should collaborate so that messages are consistent and in line with the overall brand of the company. All job ads should follow a similar format, thereby reinforcing a professional and consistent image.

Remember that heat maps indicate people spend most time looking at the title and opening paragraph. Your opening paragraph should therefore include the information that is most likely to cause a candidate to read on and then to take action.

Thanks for reading. Any comments would be welcomed.

Lawford Knight is a specialist recruiter for marketing, digital and sales roles. We are passionate about recruitment and building long-term relationships with like-minded clients and candidates. Please contact us today to discuss your next hire or career move.


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