A job ad transformation which brought a 3-fold increase in the number of applications.

Work
2019 Mar 19
By Kristína Radová

It's not surprising that businesses want to hire best people for the job. What is quite shocking, however, is that most of them still do it the old-fashioned way. But there is a better way.

There seems to be a prevalent misconception. That listing all the criteria a person needs to meet in order to qualify, is a good way to ensure that only the most well-suited candidates will apply. This story offers more surprising twists than one. Apart from dismantling the presumption of the more criteria, the better, it's also the ease with which impressive results were achieved. 

The massive change in the number of job ad applications was the result of nothing more than well-thought-out interventions and an engaging copy, which didn’t cost a single dime in additional costs. The results themselves offer another very counterintuitive finding. 

The challenge

In 2018 one of the top two telco companies in the country struggled to hire more call center operators. Since the majority of candidates they hired, came from the job posting site, the main problem they identified at the time, was that the current job posting wasn’t getting enough attention. 

We were asked to rewrite the ad so it would get more people to apply for the job and were given the liberty to change the copy whichever way we saw fit. 

First we needed to understand the situation and all its intricacies. 

When you’re a job seeker skimming through many job postings, unless the headline peaks your interest or addresses your concern, you won’t click to see the rest of it.  So to make someone send in their CV, first you need to capture their attention

Hook 

The first thing to consider was to identify the key appeal for a headline, so that more applicants would click on the headline and actually get to see the ad.

The original headline featured the name of the position and also a fixed monthly salary (which wasn't motivating in comparison with the competition given the position) + performance bonus + variable allowances. We decided to get rid of it, so that people wouldn't be put off by the low fixed monthly salary and ambiguous bonuses. 

The second headline modification we proposed was removing  “Call centre operator” and replacing it with the Endowment effect  “Imagine your salary had no limit”. 

The endowment effect is very powerful when it comes to money. Merely making someone imagine they own something can be as powerful as actually owning something; because we are extremely loss averse the notion of losing what we feel like is already ours is a strong motivator to act. 

Let’s suppose after these interventions more people were interested and clicked on the headline. 

That's only half the battle; we needed to engage and make them feel like it's a great position to apply to. To be able to do that, first we had to answer the question:

Who is my audience? 

We identified a person interested in working as a call center operation probably won't be a high achiever seeking visibility, nor someone looking to climb the corporate ladder. It’s more likely to be a person with lower ambitions, who prefers more of a routine kind of job and less pressure and responsibility. 

We also considered they might also not be highly motivated when looking for a job - thus wouldn’t spend 5 minutes reading everything, they would more likely scan the ad looking for find the right info.

Simplify

We figured, short and sweet, is harder to skip. Though we couldn't really change the structure, (due to the limitations of the site), we made the job posting shorter by only filling in mandatory fields. 

We cut out the field about bs benefits, which were dragging the ad down instead of lifting it up. We also took away the field containing job requirements. 

The last thing, in terms of shortening, was modifying the level of achieved education necessary for the job. Prior to the change even the people with bachelors and masters degree were listed as suitable candidate which might deters less educated folks. We changed it so the college education was no longer listed. 

You might be thinking: if you cut down the requirements, what will your filter be? Won’t you get more irrelevant candidates?

We weren’t worried. We knew there were better ways to get better suited candidates to join.

Specify

The most important concept of all that we use no matter the project is Uncertainty

We are all used to push forward benefits of our products or services. But what if all it took to get someone to send in a CV was to eliminate uncertainty at crucial moments? So it made sense to begin with that.

Our key question was:

What are the uncertainties potential applicants might have regarding the position and the hiring process?

Knowing our target audience influenced the way we thought about and addressed their uncertainties. We knew there were things about the position a high achiever might strive at, but a low achiever might find challenging. 

A person interested in a job of a call center operator might be worried that they would have to learn everything fast and on the job, that the initial training would be too hard and the job itself too stressful. 

Another set of uncertainties might be related to bonuses themselves; people might worry they would have to work very hard to earn them, and in environment of high workload and rude customers... all of these could discourage them from sending in a CV. Quite a look to unpack, huh?

One thing we had to tackle head on was the uncertainty regarding salary. 

It was tricky since the performance bonus was the interesting part of the job, but might also act as a deterrent. We needed to get a across that one can earn decent money with just a little bit or work.

To achieve that and to eliminate a bunch of other uncertainties we used a testimonial of the team member which talked about how gradual and custom-made the initial training was and how easy it is to earn good money with just a bit of extra effort. 

This tapped into the power of Social proof. Under the circumstances of uncertainty an assurance from someone on the job is viewed as more credible as just making audacious general claim in the job ad. 

We used Loss aversion and Contrast to capture attention.The hook at the beginning of the ad pointed out that working a job with a fixed salary with no bonuses could mean losing a third of what they could earn with a bit of effort. 

We offered reassurance about how easy the recruiting process was by using words associated with easiness (just, easy, simple…). 

Once worries were off the table, we needed to figure out how to communicate what the position could mean to a person in an convincing and engaging way. The main focus was to pivot away from what the company wants in terms of criteria in order to qualify, to what the position could mean to our target audience.

“The initial training will prepare you for everything. Don’t worry, we will adjust its pace for you, so you can learn everything without unnecessary stress.You will become a skilled communicator which will help you shine in social situations way outside of work.”

So what are those surprising twists we promised in the beginning? 

Not only the new job ad tripled the number of applicants also the quality of applicants went up. We didn't add any additional requirement, we took them all away! 

Understanding who you’re talking to and what it could mean to them will get you more of the people you aim to engage. 

If you want to learn about many other counterintuitive findings, which using the right combination of behavioral principles brought, check also our other blogs. 
 

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