June 2019 – Using your job ad as a vetting tool

Recruitment can be a funny activity. You can advertise a particular role one month and receive hardly any applicants, yet you can advertise the same role the following month, change nothing and be inundated with people. We have seen this time and time again and it is equally frustrating and bewildering.

We recently had an opening in our own office, for a position that could either go to someone who was experienced, or alternatively, could go to someone who had the desired attitude, skills and motivators we look for, but without the accompanying experience.

The ad calling for experience received 55 applications. There were some ok candidates, but no one that really grabbed us from the get-go. The alternate position, with a slightly less stringent list of requirements, received a whopping 272 applications!

We thought this would be the case, but as we indicated earlier, you can never be too sure. Expecting to receive a high number of applicants, our vetting process commenced before candidates even applied. At the very top of the ad, in bold font was written: “MAKE SURE YOU READ THIS AD IN ITS ENTIRETY”.

Obviously, we hope that candidates are going to read the ad they are potentially going to apply for, but in actuality, hardly any do. At the bottom of our ad we instructed candidates to answer 3 basic questions:

1. You have to watch a movie on repeat for 24 hours, what do you choose?
2. In your opinion, who has been the best actor to play James Bond?
3. You can have any car in the world for free, what are you going to pick?

We didn’t care what particular response candidates provided, but we did care if they gave no answer at all. Firstly, it demonstrated to us that the candidate possibly has issues following directions. They may also have a low level of attention to detail. Both of these we see as being important qualities within the recruitment arena. Possibly, the candidate hasn’t read the ad at all and is just throwing out applications willy-nilly, in the hope that something sticks.

Of the applications we received in the first 10 days, around 1 in 10 actually answered the questions. These statistics improved the longer the ad ran, increasing to around 1 in 4 providing responses. It still left us with around 50 to 60 applicants to review, but it dramatically reduced the workload and not surprisingly, the candidates left were much more aligned with the type of person we were looking for, and it showed in the roles they had held.

The next time you are advertising for a position, consider a slightly different approach to the construction of your job ad. A lot of ads are only focused on telling candidates about the role, selling them on the company and encouraging applications. That is still very important, but if it sounds like the ideal role for everyone, you end up with potentially a huge amount of candidates, who you then have to individually fully vett.

Adding another purpose to the job ad and having it form part of the vetting process, rather than just simply attracting applicants, may help you identify talent in a much easier and quicker way. Our ad was designed to point out candidates who appeared able to follow directions and with an appropriate degree of attention to detail. These are just two of the many soft skills that contribute to a productive team member, at least in our eyes. Other soft skills include:

Clarity, Confidence, Respect, Empathy, Listening, Verbal communication, Non-verbal communication, Written communication, Constructive feedback and Friendliness.

Conflict management, Delegation, Listening, Active Listening, Collaboration, Cooperation, Coordination, Idea exchange, Mediation and Negotiating.

Curiosity, Self-management, Decision-making, Calmness, Optimism, Open-mindedness, Analysis, Self-confidence, Organization and Self-motivation.

Analysis, Lateral thinking, Logical reasoning, Initiative, Persistence, Observation, Persuasion, Negotiation, Brainstorming and Decision making.

Divergent thinking, Inspiration, Imagination, Reframing, Mind mapping, Insight, Innovation, Experimenting, Questioning and Design.

Work Ethic
Integrity, Responsibility, Discipline, Initiative, Dependability, Commitment, Self-motivated, Professionalism, Teamwork and Time-management.

Interpersonal Skills
Empathy, Humor, Mentoring, Networking, Sensitivity, Patience, Tolerance, Public speaking, Positive reinforcement and Diplomacy.

Time Management
Goal setting, Prioritizing, Self-starter, Planning, Decision making, Focus, Delegation, Stress management, Coping and Organization.

Empathy, Selflessness, Agility, Listening, Humility, Cultural intelligence, Authenticity, Versatility, Generosity and Trust.

Attention to Detail
Critical observation, Listening, Organization, Scheduling, Analysis, Introspection, Memory, Acuity, Recall and Questioning.

Which of the above soft-skills are important to a role you might be looking at recruiting in the near future, and how could you work that into your job advertisement, so you can start vetting candidates immediately?

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