The Recruiters Guide to Optimising Job Ads

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Smart ecommerce retailers enjoy healthier profits by employing conversion rate optimisation techniques on their websites. Smart recruiters could do well by following suit.

If you’re new to the term ‘conversion rate optimisation’, its essentially getting more people to do the thing you want them to do. In retail terms, getting more people who land on a product page to place the item in their basket and pay for it.

If you flip the retail scenario over to recruitment, browsing shoppers are your candidates, buyers are your applicants and product pages are your job ads. From all the jobs on the display, you want the jobseeker to select yours. The transaction, in this instance, is made with the CV.

Of course, it’s clearly not just about the volume of applications, relevancy is crucial too. So you also need to ensure an accuracy match between the ‘buyer’ and ‘product’.

So how do you get more relevant applicants to apply for your jobs?

The Ad Content

The most important element for aiding conversion is the content of your advert. It makes the ‘sale’.

Focus on the information important to jobseekers – the three most important criteria for job seekers are 1) the job title 2) the location and 3) the salary. It’s essential you consider all three; without them you’ll struggle to get the conversion.

So this means no in-house job titles – use standard, recognisable titles. Not only will they turn up in searches, it’ll give the jobseeker a clear idea of the responsibility level and position within the company.

With locations, nothing frustrates a candidate more than to see multiple locations on an advert. You may think you’re increasing your chances of applications by having your ad show up in a variety of candidate searches, but in reality you’re just introducing doubt into the jobseeker’s mind. Where exactly is this job? Do I need to travel to all these locations? Every instance of doubt reduces your conversion rate.

When it comes to salary numbers are always best, not ‘negotiable’ or ‘competitive’. People want to know how much they’re going to earn. Are you going to go to the effort of applying and interviewing only to find the job pays less than your current role? No.

Benefit not feature-led text – anyone that’s ever written successful sales copy knows this rule – its about them not you. Tell them what the job will do for them. What can they get from working at your company? Opportunities, renumeration, culture, progression, empowerment. Start your job ad copy by addressing their needs. Using your opening couple of paragraphs to talk about what your company does is a wasted opportunity to make a quick, positive impression.

The Ad Design

Whilst the content makes the sale, the design of your ad creates the first impression and promotes movement through to the next stage.

What does the appearance of your ad say about your company? If your ad is designed and branded, rather than just text, what impression is it conveying? Professional? exciting? innovative? cheap?

Include a strong headline – not always used on job ads, but common place on high converting commerce sites, a headline can be used to tell the visitor exactly what you can do for them. You have a fraction of a second to grab their attention – the headline will stand out on the page and if written well will entice them to read on rather than hit the Back button.

On retail sites and online banks, Trust Marks (e.g.padlock security symbols, Association membership logos) are used to reassure the visitor the site is safe and trustworthy to use. Does the same work for recruitment? Its worth a test. Try adding your Investor in People logo, membership badges for industry bodies, and any awards you have won. Giving a little insight into your company’s heritage could demonstrate your stability and pedigree to a potential recruit.

Use a strong, clear Call to Action – I can’t possibly overstate the importance of the call to action element in any page design. You’d be surprised how often this is overlooked. If you want the visitor to do something after viewing the page, then make it blatantly obvious what to do next and how to do it. Invariably this involves a button, so make sure it really stands out on the page. The wording is crucial. Don’t use dull text like ‘Next’ or ‘Application Form’, tell them what to do – ‘Apply Now’.

There is a whole load of science behind the use of imagery to aid conversion, but let me distill it down to this: people respond well to images of real people.

If you’re using photos in your company’s job advert, don’t use stock library images. Nothing says impersonal like cheesy grins on besuited models. If you want to use visuals in your ads, use photos of your real staff. Show me the people I’ll be working alongside.

Test it

I’m confident that applying the advice above will help increase both the volume and the relevancy of your applications. But don’t just take my word for it, test it. If the job ad is up on your site and gets a decent volume of traffic, try using an A/B testing tool like Google Website Optimizer to measure it.

If your advert is on a job board, try running two versions of your ad at the same time and see which performs better. It’s not quite as scientific, but will give you a good idea of whether it’s worked.

Conversion rate optimisation is not just for the likes of retailers like Amazon. It can be applied to any industry or business model that involves an exchange of information or a transaction. The smart ones are doing it already. Be the smart recruiter.

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Gary Robinson is a UK digital marketer, who fell into this tech world by accident and decided to stay and play. That was 1999. He's still here. His current loves are conversion optimisation, mobile and tinkering with new technology. He also has a fondness for coffee.

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