Ouch! I find myself in a split between joy and unrest. Can you see it? Quite a painful posture, such a split. Especially if the stretch is somewhat out at the age of 46. Why am I in this awkward gymnastic position? Because more and more vacancy texts are written by text professionals. On the one hand, there is the joy I experience: organizations finally seem to realize that investing money (or time) in a well-written job description pays off. On the other hand, there is unrest. Because I notice that not every text professional realizes that (and why) writing a vacancy text is a profession in its own right. What exactly is that about? I put 5 bottlenecks in a row, along with the solution.
More hiring text professionals
In recent months I have seen them appear more and more in my timeline: copywriters who proudly tell about the vacancy text that they were asked to write on behalf of. My primary reaction? Great joy. How cool is it that an organization engages a text professional to have their vacancy texts written. Until recently, this was usually left to an HR employee, recruiter or administrative assistant. Each and every one of them are skilled forces, I believe, but in a completely different area. We know that writing is a profession, and writing job advertisements is part of that.
Added value vacancy texts
So it seems that organizations (finally) realize that a well-written job description adds enormous value to the recruitment process. And it was high time. The vacancy text has been the most used tool in labor market communication for many years, and until recently the most underestimated.
That first observation is a hard fact: the vacancy text has long been the most commonly used means of labor market communication. Especially when you realize that every vacancy is published online about 7.5 times, on your own (jobs) website and job boards, for example.
The fact that it is heavily underestimated as a means of communication is based on my findings. I’ve been focusing on job postings for about 20 years. The last 11 years it became a real obsession/specialization. And based on customer conversations and the necessary research results, I cannot draw any other conclusion. For example, an analysis by Vacature Improver in 2019 showed that 86% of the vacancy texts score unsatisfactory. Furthermore, it is no secret that vacancy texts ‘excellent’ when it comes to woolly language, clichés and itchy terms such as ‘informal’ and ‘conform to the market’.
I think it is a wonderful development that more and more employers and intermediaries are hiring text professionals to write their vacancy text(s). I realize that it is probably also a necessary evil: clients have their backs against the wall, because the current labor market is heavily overstretched. At the end of June there were 467,000 vacancies open. Or is that a lot? Well and or not: in 2 years time the number of vacancies has more than doubled.
Anyone who now wants to reach, seduce and activate the best candidate in the market must really pull out all the stops. So it’s not surprising that there are now houses are given away. And some employers, like BP in DPG Distribution, even throw with starting bonuses up to € 1,500. Also, more than 1 in 3 professionals are approached every quarter by (often eager) recruiters for a new job. Sourcing pressure reached another record high in Q2 2022 at 37.9%. The focus on strong(er) vacancy texts is therefore a logical consequence.
Necessary or not, job postings are finally getting the attention they deserve. And text professionals are widely asked to work on it. When I see copywriters posting a link to their written vacancy texts on social media, I can’t help but click on it. At least a thousand vacancy texts and 3 books on the subject rolled off my keyboard. So feel free to call me a professional. And after reading quite a few vacancy texts from professional copywriters and copywriters, unfortunately I have to go straight in…
I regularly see vacancy texts in which things are not going well. Okay, overall the vacancy texts are written very neatly. In other words: sentence constructions are correct and grammar and spelling are correct. And that is of course a plus. Since the average vacancy text was written by non-text professionals until recently, the textual errors still flew around your ears. Whether it was a dt error or the common ‘lookup’ and CV (in capital letters). What also seems to be improving now that text professionals are writing more vacancy texts: attention is paid to a nicely written intro and the texts contain a clear call-to-action.
So it’s going pretty well. What are my pain points that are causing me to end up in the split? Those are exactly the points that make writing vacancy texts a profession in its own right. Roughly speaking, I am talking about 3 things: the corporate and employer brand come together in a vacancy text, legislation and regulations must be taken into account and you must strive for the lowest possible conversion (‘as low as possible?’, I hear). you think Yes, I’ll come back to this at point 2).
Vacancy texts are slightly different from other (commercial) texts. Copywriters sometimes take this insufficiently into account, resulting in these 5 mistakes:
1. The ego of the client is central
This is of course never a good thing, because the target group should be central in every text. This is doubly the case with a vacancy text. Especially in this overcrowded labor market. Yet I regularly see the ego of the client, especially in the form of a lengthy company profile that is only about what great products or services the company wants to sell.
Big fail, because a vacancy text is not a commercial text where the sale of a product or service should be central. You do want to ‘sell’ the vacancy, as it were. Drives then play an important role. Speaking of which: working atmosphere scores among the Dutch working population has been in second place for years in a row when it comes to what counts during the search for a job. Based on that knowledge, it is therefore better to describe what it is like to work somewhere instead of expressing what the company does. And no, terms such as ‘in this dynamic organization there is an informal working atmosphere’ do not cover the meaning.
2. The text is written for Jan and everyone
Many text professionals are used to achieving the largest possible reach with a text: everything revolves around the highest possible conversion. That’s a bit different with a vacancy text: yes, the click on the call-to-action button is the end goal here too. But of course it also matters who clicks that button. Sometimes you aspire to click from a very result-oriented sales manager with experience in the energy sector, who lives in the Arnhem area and is available 28 hours a week. Another time, you want a hands-on warehouse worker to respond who is available full-time, willing to work in shifts and living in the Rotterdam area. And next time you want to tempt an experienced system administrator to click. One who works and thinks at HBO level and who feels at home in a holocratic work environment.
An application for the part-time vacancy of sales manager by the warehouse employee (or vice versa) would be a waste of time. In other words: pre-selection in the vacancy text is extremely important. Just shouting out some function requirements is not the solution. The key lies in subtle things including sentence length and tone of voice.
3. The text excludes people
That may sound double, because I said at point 2 that preselection is so important. Nevertheless, legislation and regulations and inclusive communication play a major role in vacancy texts. The fact that you do not write: ‘standing your ground’ is probably a buyer. But know that it is also better to stay away from typical Dutch expressions such as ‘you don’t let the cheese eat your bread’ or ‘you don’t let yourself be discouraged’.
What I see going wrong the most is ageism. For example, you will be asked for a ‘starter’ or ‘young dog’. Even more often I see something like: ‘you have 2 to 4 years of work experience’. What is allowed when it comes to age discrimination? You can write about a starter position, ask for a young dog mentality and it is okay to state the minimum number of years of work experience (if that is job-relevant).
4. A ‘competitive salary’ is offered
What I also come across: ‘a salary in accordance with the collective labor agreement’ or ‘salary that matches your knowledge and skills’. Ouch again! Don’t do it and just be clear about how much money someone earns. There is a good chance that you would like to, but your (internal or external) client is arguing against it.
You may find this ammunition useful: 78% of candidates say they are less likely to apply if the salary is missing in the job description, 26% drop out if the salary is vague and research shows that you receive 27% more applications for vacancies if the salary is stated. I listed more such convincing facts in an earlier blog.
5. It’s a one-way street
‘During the job interview we want to find out whether you’re the right fit for us’ or ‘If we’re enthusiastic, we’ll offer you a contract’. Say what? Any application process should be a two-way street. And if blockades have to be erected in 1 of those 2 directions, it is more on the side of the employer.
Give the applicant free rein, lay out the red carpet and if necessary: praise him/her/them on that road. In a labor market where there are more vacancies than unemployed people, you really don’t get there with an ego trip. Quite apart from the fact that millennials are done with hierarchy.
Those were just 5 findings that put me in that complex split attitude. Do you ever write job descriptions? Who knows, the solutions I propose will help you. If you implement those solutions, you can save me from the pain of the splits and only the joy remains. Won’t you do it for me? Then do it for yourself: by mastering the separate subject of vacancy texts, you can write better vacancy texts for your (internal or external) client. I say: that’s win-win.
Source: Frankwatching by www.frankwatching.com.
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