Creating Effective Job Adverts

One of the questions we get asked a lot at Honest Work is what the conversion rate is for job ads. In other words, how many people typically apply for each job?

The honest answer to that question is, it depends. It depends on a lot of factors. We’ve seen job posts with as few as 100 views but with dozens of applications and some posts with tens of thousands of views and zero applications.

Today we’re going to dive into why one of the most viewed, and most appealing adverts on the Honest Work platform has a whopping total of zero applications.

This postmortem is being published with the explicit permission of the company and advertiser.

Here’s the original post as it first appeared on Honest Work:
Brightcove Advert

On the surface, everything about this job suggests that it should hold enormous appeal to the Honest Work audience. The salary is broad but generous, they are explicitly stating they welcome applications from folk of all levels of experience, based in Central London, using Golang which, according to the latest Stack Overflow Development Survey is the third most wanted programming languages, and a range of perks and benefits that are arguably more generous than most employers (health insurance, pensions, flexible working, etc.). So far we have a list of wonderful reasons to encourage great applicants to apply, so why is the job advert failing?

About Us
I’m sure the Brightcove product is a straightforward premise to those that already work there. To someone on the outside however, the explanation of who the company is and what they do, is too lightweight.

When I think “leading online video platform” I think YouTube and/or Vimeo so who are Brightcove and what makes them different? In other words, why should I be interested in your company and what reassurances can you provide that your company has a bright future ahead of it.

You absolutely want to avoid providing lengthy, tedious tomes about your business, but when advertising a job, it never hurts to assume your audience know nothing about you and therefore you should jump at the opportunity to capture their interest early.

Our Team
The fact that Brightcove have provided any context at all on the team you will be working with is a positive step. Frustratingly, most advertisers fail to provide this incredibly helpful context. The only improvement required here is real transparency around the team size. Mentioning that you’re a “small team” is fine but if you’re a large corporation, a small team could consist of 20 people. If you’re an early stage startup, a small team could consist of 2 people. Be specific and be transparent.

Our Technology
At one point we seriously considered making it a requirement for employers to stipulate their tech stack when advertising on Honest Work and the only reason we decided against it is because we didn’t want to limit ourselves to just hosting developer vacancies! If you are advertising a developer role, the tech stack is essential. People want to know what they will be spending their time using, what other tech they might have the opportunity to explore, and so on.

You
Now we’re diving into a wishlist of ideal criteria they want applicants to meet and this is the most likely element that is affecting the lack of applications for this job.

Brightcove started with a powerful message by stating they are hiring for Golang Engineers of all levels but have fallen for the all too common trope of specifying a minimum number of years of experience that potential applicants must bring to the table. This potentially has a negative impact for a number of reasons.

  • If a candidate has anything less than two years of experience, they are going to be extremely reluctant to apply as they technically fail to meet the very first requirement.
  • If a candidate has an enormous amount of experience, say an engineer with over 20 years of experience is reading this post, the stipulation of 2+ years of experience is likely to be off-putting as it implies that the opportunity is below their level of ability.

In fairness, there’s not really anything else in the requirements that is potentially as off-putting as the previous point however the lengthy list of requirements could have easily been replaced with a significantly more powerful and compelling element where Brightcove could have provided detailed context of the type of work they expect applicants to take on during their time at the company.

Given the role is open to people of all levels of experience, this could have been an immense opportunity to provide a couple of hypothetical ‘applicant personas’. Paint a picture of the type of work I would be expected to take on, the results you would expect me to deliver, and do this for a couple of different experience levels.

Ultimately you are advertising a vacancy that is appealing to adults first and foremost and typically these adults are pretty smart. If, instead of a menu list of requirements, you made it explicitly clear what I would be doing if I were to be offered this opportunity, your typical applicant is smart enough to self-select themselves out of the process if they feel they don’t have the experience or ability to do that job well.

Advertising such a broad salary range is a double-edged sword. On one hand it makes absolute sense to ensure the role appeals to as broad a range of applicants as possible, on the other hand, the selection criteria for an applicant seeking a £40k salary is likely to be extremely different to the selection criteria for an applicant seeking a £120k salary. The two options to address this is to either explicitly state those criteria in the job ad (again, applicant personas can help here), or to simply create two different job adverts.

Before sharing this blog post publicly, we provided all of this feedback to the hiring team at Brightcove and they have now created an entirely new job advert based on the feedback above.

Check it out here and let us know your thoughts on twitter!

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