Browse FAQ Topics

Job Advertising Strategies

  • What if you knew ahead of time whether your job advertisement would succeed or fail?
  • Where are all the good people?
    Research studies show that during the course of a year, only about 18% of currently working people will respond to any sort of job advertising (even if they’re open to pursuing new job opportunities). Depending on when, where, and how you post your ad, you'll reach a small fraction of those 18%. A typical ad might reach 3% of the “peer group” of people working in similar roles.

    Don't worry. The good people still exist. (They did not run off, like in some dystopian Ayn Rand novel). They're just busy working somewhere else and not paying attention to your ad.
  • Why didn’t more people answer my ad?
    At any given time, less than 3% of people working in similar roles will even see your job ad. Even very clever people cannot apply to an ad they did not see.

    Another common cause of low ad response is when ads are not easy to read on mobile devices, or if there is any kind of difficulty in the application process. More than 30% of candidates will drop out of the application process if they find it too much of a hassle.
  • How do I decide where to post my ads? Indeed, Careerbuilder, Craigslist, LinkedIn, or Facebook?
    This may be the simplest answer on the entire website.

    Two thirds of candidates start their job search by typing their desired title and city into the Google search bar.

    To decide where to post your ad, you should do the same thing.

    Type the title of the job you’re recruiting for into the Google search bar along with your city. Look at the first page of search results. Post your ad wherever you see the other ads, because that’s where Google is taking the job seekers.
  • If I can’t spare much time for reading resumes, should I just post on a niche board?
    That’s the backwards approach. If you want to hire the best person for the job, don't narrow your responses; expand them. It’s smarter to choose job boards by finding which ones have the most people in your target audience who have the skills to do the job. Yes, it may take longer to sift through the extra resumes. But that’s the price you pay to get the most qualified available candidate into your open job. (If you’re concerned that you’ll miss the people who visit niche job boards, fear not. Our research has shown that most of the people who respond to niche job board advertising also see the same posting on a mainstream job board like Indeed or CareerBuilder.)

    But why bother reading this when you can see the answer for yourself on the Recruiting Results Predictor? We built it to help you make precisely this kind of trade-off.
  • How do I limit the number of resumes I receive from unqualified people?
    Some people would rather poke their eye out with a stick than plow through 100 resumes. Sometimes these resume-haters let their imaginations run wild. Instead of hunkering down and dutifully reading the resumes, they instead dream up creative barriers to applying like making the candidate submit a business plan or solve a complex algorithm. The resume-hater's dream is that their clever test will knock out only the lazy people with bad resumes, leaving the manager with a blissfully short list of good-looking, passionate, hard-working, determined people (who would happily spend hours of their free time for the pleasure of interviewing with a total stranger who has yet to give them the time of day).

    (Hmmm, that last part almost makes the idea sound rude...)

    What the resume-haters are forgetting is that while they have a “Beware of Dog” sign out front, their competitors have rolled out the welcome mat and are throwing an open house. Making the candidate solve an algorithm, sing a song, or write some poetry is rarely an effective screening tool. Even worse, you have no idea who found the idea off-putting. Your "challenge" just narrowed your candidate pool to an unacceptably small number, and your pool will be made up of the most desperate job seekers, not the most passionate ones. (The passionate ones are busy working somewhere else and have no time for silly games). The most qualified and marketable people with the best skills won’t waste their time on you--they will go interview with your competitors who demonstrate respect for their time.
  • Should job ads be long or short? Wordy or terse?
    Consider your audience. Think about what information the reader would need to consider taking a day off of work to interview with you. (How compelling would a job need to be for you to trade one of your own vacation days?)

    Research professionals prefer longer, more data-rich ads. Sales professionals often prefer more direct, shorter ads.

    Think about where your ad will be viewed. 50% of the traffic on job boards is on a mobile device. How will your ad look on a smartphone?

    Think very carefully about your first three sentences. Do you get to the point quickly? If you get to the point quickly and have crafted an attractive well-written message, the right people will keep reading. But never fluff it up with empty words; make every word count. To read more about empty words in job descriptions, click the button below.

  • Is the caliber of people who answer job ads any better or worse than the people who must be actively recruited?
    Being data geeks, we have studied this question very, very closely. Our own research shows that the caliber of people who respond to direct recruiting outreach versus those who respond to advertising is virtually identical.

    Someone's suitability for a job does not increase or decrease because of their responsiveness to job advertising. The act of directly recruiting someone does not turn the candidate into a super star. (If only.)

    If a particular candidate pool is receptive to job advertising, then direct recruiting may not get you "better" people, but it may help you reach targeted people who have very specific skills. Recruiting may also help you diversify the candidate pool.
  • What’s the difference between an active candidate and a passive candidate?
    This is an artificial distinction of very limited utility. So-called "active" candidates respond to job ads. So-called "passive" candidates don’t respond to job ads and therefore need to be recruited, because if you don’t actively engage them they won’t put their name forward to be considered.

    LinkedIn research shows 18% of currently employed people will respond to job advertising, but a much larger percentage (44%) will respond to recruiting. Our research shows no measurable difference in caliber or quality between passive and active candidates - it’s just their personal choice whether they are in active job search mode or not. (You can read more about the research here.)

    A key point to remember is that once a candidate agrees to an interview, they are, by definition, in an active job search mode, and will therefore be more receptive to other opportunities. And opportunities are easy to come by. Once a candidate applies for one single job, sites like CareerBuilder and Indeed will helpfully send them emails of "related jobs" on a daily or weekly schedule. So does that make the candidate active or passive? Either way, as an employer, you need to move quickly, or you risk losing them to a faster-moving competitor.  
  • Should I ask candidates for cover letters and salary history?
    By and large, candidates already feel like they’re submitting their resume directly into a black hole. The vast majority of employers do not even acknowledge receipt of a resume and most do not have the courtesy to even send rejection letters when a position is closed. And why are employers so rude to job seekers? Because HR departments are woefully understaffed and most employers are inundated with 300 resumes every time they run an ad. Good manners cost good money, and HR departments are just not swimming in budget money.

    Many job seekers make a conscious trade-off to not take the extra time to submit a cover letter and salary history, even if it’s requested. They figure they will invest more time only after the employer shows some interest.

    The hard truth for hiring managers is that unless your organization is so attractive and recognizable that everyone wants to work for you, you can’t put up barriers to the application process. Asking for cover letters, salary history, or anything else, risks repelling great people who might otherwise consider you. (Here at Staffing Advisors, we never require a cover letter or salary history, and we do work very hard to mind our manners.)
  • What is keyword advertising, and is it better than paying to post an ad?
    Keyword advertising is the business model that Indeed uses, and is similar to Google’s core advertising revenue model. Instead of paying an upfront flat rate to post an ad, your ads are posted for free, and you pay a small fee every time anyone clicks on your ad. The business model is invisible to the job seeker. They don’t care how you pay for your advertising. So go ahead and post your ads where the people are most likely to see it.
  • What is the best time of day or best day of the week to post job ads?
    Way back in the olden days (when Bob started in the recruiting industry), recruiters posted ads in the Sunday newspaper, so job seekers would all look at the ads on Sunday. If they were interested, they faxed in resumes on Sunday or Monday. (Yeah, it’s fun to remind Bob that he’s really old.).

    Then, when job seekers migrated to job boards like Monster and Careerbuilder, most ad traffic happened on Mondays just before lunch or just after lunch (because job seekers were away from their desk at lunch, and had no internet access).

    But now, job seekers can search for jobs from their mobile device whenever it’s convenient. About half the traffic on job sites is from people on mobile devices (because you definitely do not want the IT department to see you looking for a new job on your work computer). Some people search for jobs at lunch, some on their commute home from work, and for some reason, late Tuesday is increasingly popular.

    Ultimately it really doesn’t matter when you post your ad, just put it somewhere job seekers will find it, say something interesting, and remove any barriers to application.
  • What is mobile recruiting? Why should I care about candidates on mobile devices?
    Mobile recruiting is commonly defined as the task of making your recruiting efforts attractive and effective on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. In 2014, 50% of traffic on job boards and career sites is expected to be on mobile devices, which has only been accelerating with the advent of job-seeking apps. In fact, career site apps like Indeed have become some of the most popular business applications for smartphones.

    With half of your potential candidates affected by this trend, employers can no longer afford to ignore the impact of mobile devices on candidate behavior. (The impact goes beyond watching people squinting and poking at tiny glowing rectangles - it significantly affects who responds to your job ads.)

    You can visualize the impact on your recruiting efforts in the Recruiting Results Predictor and you can read more about mobile recruiting strategies in our Content Network.
  • Why don't people follow the instructions in my ads?
    People don't follow instructions because answering job ads is frustrating and demoralizing. It feels like a waste of time to most job seekers.

    Most employers no longer acknowledge that they received a resume, and it can take weeks or months to know if you are being considered for a job. Even after a promising interview, some employers won’t show the courtesy to follow-up with candidates. The general lack of courtesy exhibited by most employers has resulted in an entirely unrewarding job board experience for job seekers. So they respond (quite rationally) by spending a bare minimum of time on any particular employer until they receive some sort of response back.

    Bob thinks candidates who "don't follow your instructions" are actually making a wise choice in how to spend their time. Employers, if you want to hire top performers, you need to mind your manners, and remember that hiring is reciprocal. You do your organization a disservice when you ask more of strangers than you are willing to offer yourself.
  • How do I know if my job ads reached the best qualified people in the job market?
    That's an easy question. They didn't.

    No recruiting process reaches everyone, but job advertising is particularly ineffective.  LinkedIn has done some research on this and found that among fully employed people, only about 18% are responsive to job advertising, This does not mean you cannot find someone great with a job ad, it just means that more than 80% of your potential candidates never saw your ad.   

Writing Job Descriptions

  • How does a well-written job advertisement affect recruiting?
    An effective job advertisement enables candidates to imagine themselves succeeding in the job. Savvy, smart candidates with good options appreciate an employer that takes the time to think deeply about a position.

    When a job ad or job description clearly displays a deep level of thinking about their role, top performers are more likely to show interest. When a dull vague job description is posted, displaying no consideration for their time, they don't show interest. Their reasoning is completely logical, "If you have not taken the time to think about your open job, why should I?”
  • Why is it so difficult to write a good job description?
    No doubt about it, writing a great job description is difficult.


    The biggest problem is that job descriptions lack context to people outside the organization. It's called "
    The curse of knowledge." (Seriously. Look it up, that's a thing you can have.) Once you know something (as an insider), it's hard to write from the perspective of someone who does not yet know it (like an outsider).

    Another problem is organizational perspective. The boss might be a bit hazy on all the details of a position that reports to them, so they use "big picture" words that can sound vague to someone not at their level of the organization. The view from 10,000 feet is different than the worker bee view. Seriously, does the TPS report need a cover page?

    Another problem is intentional ambiguity. When hiring managers really do understand the details of a job, some worry that the job description will be used against them later in potential legal conflicts, so they prefer to leave a bit of wiggle room, so they can change the job responsibilities in the future.

    And finally, writing a job description often feels like a mysterious exercise done only to satisfy the HR department, but not to help advance business results. It’s challenging to set clear performance expectations, and to think hard about the knowledge skills and abilities that will drive results. And even if you take the time to get it right, you’ll just have to do it again in a few years, because jobs change, and descriptions become outdated. Eventually, the only part of a job description that feels current is the phrase "other duties as assigned."
  • What questions should you ask yourself to write an effective job advertisement?
    Here are a few questions to ask yourself:  
    1. Why does the job exist? What business goal is achieved by this job?
    2. What does the employee primarily spend their time doing?
    3. What level of decision-making is required in the job?
    4. What would someone find rewarding about the job?
    5. What competencies must someone have to excel at the work?
    6. Why would someone take this job if they’re qualified to work elsewhere? (Or why choose this job above all others?)
    7. What measurable, tangible, concrete results will indicate that someone has done the work successfully?
  • What examples do you have of a good, clear job description?
    Well, gosh, we thought you'd never ask. (Just imagine our website blushing, looking down and kicking the dirt with a boot.) Check out our current searches and take a look at what we've written.  
  • What do candidates look for in a good job description?
    Candidates want to be able to picture themselves in the role and understand why you think the work is important. They want to know what the challenges are. They want to know what’s expected of them, and know enough about the situation to see themselves succeeding.

    Every empty word, meaningless phrase and vague platitude reduces the potential trust you could have been building by writing clear, simple, tangible sentences.
  • Who should write the job description? Someone in HR or the hiring manager?
    It’s a combination of both. HR should provide the framework of what to include, and provide the manager with the questions the job description must answer. The key is making the description clear and interesting. The writing of the description should be done by the person closest to the actual work (e.g. the person who is most clear about the job’s performance expectations.) This is typically the hiring manager.

    Once the job description is complete, some people (mostly bloggers) say the marketing department should write the ad copy, because, hey, recruitment advertising is really just marketing, right? Amiright? Eh?

    OK, maybe it is, but sadly, this "hand it over to Marketing" idea almost always fails in practice. Managers, just write the darn thing already.
  • What if I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for in the role, can I leave the job description vague?
    When you don't know precisely what you are looking for in a candidate, it’s a common mistake to start recruiting and hope to, “Know it when you see it.”

    The problem is that you won’t see it, because the person you were looking for probably won’t apply to your ad.

    When you don’t know what you want, your job advertisement will be filled with impossibly vague platitudes or empty corporate speak. Nobody will know what you really mean, because you don’t know yourself. You’ll exhaust yourself sorting through a mountain of resumes, only to make no progress toward your goal.

    To hire successfully, you must first get clarity about the job, then recruit. And just because we love quotes, here are two: In the words of Sun Yat Sen, “To understand is hard. Once one understands, action is easy.” Or perhaps more to the point, “If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you are doing.” W. Edwards Deming
  • Bad job descriptions and bad resumes are bad for the same reason
    Think of the empty meaningless words you don’t like in a bad resume. Is it full of terms like “self-starter” and “team player,” and lacking in specificity of accomplishments?

    A vague job description is exactly the same. It focuses on cognitive tasks and theoretical personality traits, but not the details of the actual job. Not that the language used is empty or vapid, managers often understand why they put the phrases down, but the reader has no idea what the writer intended to convey.

    Job descriptions need to provide context, to evoke a reaction from the reader. Readers want to know if they qualify, want to know what makes the job interesting, and want to know why the job is important. Vague language lacks the necessary tangibility. As an employee already working in the company, you take the context for granted, but your reader does not have that perspective.
  • How does a vague job description lead to poor performance on the job?
    Lack of clarity about performance expectations is ... ummm, oh darn, what's the word for it?

    Oh yeah. It's not good.

    Vague job descriptions are significantly less attractive to the kind of people you really want to hire - highly productive, achievement oriented people. With a well-written job description, you are more likely to attract people who want to have a big impact on your business results. With a vague job description, candidates will not know what you want from them. And some clever and lazy people may not ask, in the hopes of finding a job that lacks accountability and responsibility.
  • What’s missing from most job descriptions and job advertisements?
    Most job descriptions and job advertisements lack real world examples. Candidates want to understand if they would be a good fit for the job, so they need to understand the scale and complexity of the work. If the job description talks in vague generalities and does not present the performance expectations in a concrete, tangible way, selective candidates won’t engage.
  • What’s wrong with using the job description when posting a job ad?
    Most job descriptions are simple lists of job responsibilities. But for candidates, these lists lack the context of why they will be performing those responsibilities. Top performers want to know why their work is important, and what business impact it has. They want to know that their work makes a difference. A standard job description fails to provide that context.

Interview Process

  • What’s the interview scheduling mistake everybody makes?
    The most common interview scheduling mistake is to wait to block time on your calendar until you receive a good resume. This results in weeks of unnecessary delay.

    When you post a job ad today, I sincerely hope that you are not totally surprised to receive resumes in a few weeks from a few people you might want to interview. (That level of surprise would indicate that you are either incredibly pessimistic, or that you are an actual mystic - perhaps some kind of zen master living totally in the moment, completely free of expectations.)

    For the rest of us, I recommend that you reserve interview time on your calendar weeks in advance. if you do that on the day you post the ads, then in a few weeks, you can promptly offer interview times to the candidates you have decided to interview. Candidates love it because you appear totally organized and very interested.

    Which brings me to the point of this post:

    Q: What did the zen master say to the hot dog vendor? A: Make me one with everything.
  • The manager took weeks to schedule 2nd interviews, and now nobody's interested
  • Should I interview candidates as they respond to the ad, or wait until I have a slate of 6 people before interviewing?
    This is one of those cases where going slower in the beginning can help you go faster in the end. It’s a common mistake to cherry pick a few good looking resumes and rush into first interviews. It often takes time for the full pool of candidates to develop, and we always recommend considering a broad cross-section of candidates who might be qualified. That said, don't use this advice as an excuse to let months go by.

    A full slate of six candidates brings perspective to your decision, and predictability to your hiring. If you can develop that slate within 4 weeks or so, you will be well-served to wait. But if very few people are responding to your outreach, you should probably start scheduling interviews before the good ones get away. (We created a decision tree to help you decide.)

  • Who should interview the candidates and how long should interviews last?
    Typically in a first interview, candidates should meet their hiring manager. The manager’s goal is to make a fair and consistent determination of which candidates merit the further consideration of a second interview. A first interview typically requires 45 - 60 minutes, with the manager asking most of the questions, ideally keeping the candidate talking 80% of the time.

    A common mistake managers make is talking too much. Managers either try to sell the candidate on the position too early, or explain too much about the job. As much as possible, managers should reserve pitching the company until the second interview. Invest your time strategically by limiting the amount of time spent with people you probably will not hire, so you can lavish time on the people who you might hire.

    A second interview typically requires several hours, giving the candidate an opportunity to ask the manager a series of questions. The second interview is a good time for the candidate to meet their future peers and other members of the leadership team.

    Don't rush the second interview conversation, or force a decision too early. Hire in haste and repent at leisure.
  • Should a subordinate ever interview their boss?
    No. Before they accept a new position, many candidates will want to meet the team they’ll be working with (both peers and subordinates). But having a subordinate interview their boss is not useful. Subordinates lack the proper perspective to select their own manager. It’s fine to include subordinates in the process, but it’s wiser to structure the meeting as a briefing instead of an interview. Simply have the subordinate tell their prospective manager about a few of their projects. Both parties get a sense of each other, and it neatly sidesteps the awkwardness of an interview.
  • What’s the ideal structure for a first interview?
    In a first interview, the hiring manager should arrive on time, offer the candidate a beverage, and allow a few minutes of friendly small talk. These small courtesies allow candidates to become familiar with their surroundings and to relax a bit. Because they are in familiar surroundings, hiring managers always have a home court advantage, so they forget that most people need a few minutes to warm up and gauge the situation. After a brief warm up, we recommend the manager ask about 45 minutes of behavioral interview questions, and then allow candidates 5 or 10 minutes to ask a few questions. As a rule of thumb, candidates should be talking 80% of the time, and managers only 20%. Hiring managers often talk far too much in a first interview, and learn too little.
  • Are panel interviews a good idea?
    Some people think panel interviews are very stressful for the candidate, and they are. But many jobs have exactly that kind of stress. Many people take meetings with multiple unfamiliar participants, so in that case, panel interviews would be no different from the job. We recommend panel interviews because, properly structured, they are a very efficient use of time. Panel interviews also allow less experienced interviewers to improve their skills without consequences. You can read more about panel interviews in the Resource Center.
  • How should the second interview differ from first interview?
    The first interview is fundamentally a screening interview to determine who is worth a larger investment of time. The second interview should not be a repeat of the first. It should be a very substantive, 3 to 4 hour conversation where the hiring decision can be made. It should include a rigorous work-sample test. The second interview should also provide ample opportunity for the candidate to ask questions to understand more about the job and your performance expectations.
  • What happens when interviewers disagree about who to hire?
    When interviewers disagree, it’s usually because they did not evaluate the candidates on the same criteria. Ideally, you want to prevent this problem by agreeing upon the selection criteria in advance of the interview. But once the disagreement arises, the best way to resolve it is to get back on the same page. Discuss the hiring criteria point by point. Share how you think each candidate scores on each of the required skills. That way if you disagree, at least you are talking about the same issue, so you can forge consensus more quickly.
  • Why do most candidates do such a terrible job of preparing for an interview?
    Most candidates aren’t very familiar with how to best research a company, and some organizations are not particularly forthcoming with information. Unless you’re interviewing someone for a research position, you need to be careful how much emphasis you put on this issue. It’s unwise to generalize from one data point. Poor interview preparation does not necessarily mean that the candidate is lazy, uninterested, or stupid.

    Would it be equally fair of the candidate to judge you based on your preparation for the interview? (I know, you were just really busy, that’s why you made the candidate wait in the lobby for 15 minutes while you found and printed their resume, and why you had no interview questions prepared in advance.)
  • Is it a good idea to give quizzes and tests before scheduling the first interview?
    No. Testing does have its place in the hiring process, but it’s not at the very beginning. In fact, employers who make candidates invest significant time prior to the first interview are widely considered rude among job seekers.

    Unless you have a very attractive brand (like Google), you will drive away the very people whom you wanted to attract and you will be left with only the most desperate people. Even during the first interview, you need to avoid the brain teasers. Google was once famous for their clever interview questions and for designing complex algorithms for their applicants to solve. But once they looked at their own results, they renounced these methods as useless predictors of job performance.

    We urge employers to include work-sample testing in the hiring process, but only after the first interview, not before. You can read more about testing in the Resource Center.

Screening resumes

  • How important are education and experience in predicting success on the job?
  • What are the most common mistakes people make in screening resumes?
    Managers assume they know more about a person than can possibly be known from reading a resume. Without realizing it, they “fill in the gaps” and assume candidate motivations without any basis in fact. Then they judge the candidate based on the “facts” they invented. (The poor resume should at least be offered a public defender.)

    Managers also incorrectly assume that the candidate possesses no skills or experience that is not visible on the resume.

    The problem here is that the manager and the candidate are not operating from the same frame of reference. The candidate wrote their resume from the perspective of their current job. The employer wrote the job description from the perspective of the job they are offering. Hiring managers are making a significant cognitive error when they assume the candidate’s resume was written with a perfect understanding of the open position to which they are applying.
  • Do the best people have the best resumes?
    Quite the opposite. Many people with unimpressive resumes are more skilled at doing work than they are at self-promotion (or looking for work). Many people with beautiful resumes are merely skilled at self-promotion. (Because if you are not good at doing work, you need to become very skilled at looking for work.)
  • Why do only “bad” people answer job ads?
    It only appears that way, because 85-95% of typical job ad responses are “Not the droids you’re looking for.”

    The reality is that good people answer job ads all the time. The problem is this; when you are reading resumes, and more than 6 out of 7 resumes are not right, it stops feeling like a really fun treasure hunt, and it starts feeling like a chore. Once you are frustrated, exhausted and in a skeptical frame of mind, you start throwing out the good with the bad. That’s a very common mistake busy people make. Resumes don’t show the whole picture, so you need to screen them with an open mind, not an exhausted one...
  • What can’t you learn from a resume?
    Resumes can’t show you if someone is a hard working team player or a credit-grabbing narcissist. Resumes cannot give you any insight into work ethic or cultural fit. But the real issue is this: too often managers hope to learn more from a resume than it can possibly offer. Managers make big assumptions from small details that could have many plausible interpretations. And when that happens, managers interview the wrong people--giving too much credit to a few people and completely ignoring potentially great candidates who just happened to write their resumes in a format the manager was not expecting. LEARN MORE

Negotiating Salaries