I recently saw some advice to hiring managers that went like this: writing a job ad is like making a hamburger. The meat is a list of job duties which you probably have lying around already and the bun is an intro and outro line that you add to make it all make sense. When you need to hire, slap your patty in a bun and throw your hamburger on a job board and bingo bango, you’re on your way to a great hire!

Now I might not need to go on about how hiring people is the most important thing ever, but maybe I at least need to say that THIS LAZY, SLAPDASH APPROACH TO HIRING STINKS!

With advice like that from “experts” in the field, it’s no wonder that hiring is broken. It’s no wonder that people spend hours wading through terrible résumés when all they’ve done to set themselves up for a great hire is flip a hamburger patty.

Why you really can’t follow that advice

Some really smart people have figured out that there are seven categories (seven whole categories!) of information that candidates consider before choosing a job:

1. job characteristics
2. organizational characteristics
3. recruiter behaviors
4. recruitment process characteristics
5. perceived fit
6. perceived alternatives
7. hiring expectancies

Sounds complicated, right?

The good news is that while every one of those categories is really important to candidates as they choose their jobs, they are important at different times in the process.

Specifically, there is one category of information that is most important to candidates at the very beginning, when they’re looking at job ads. It’s called perceived fit and it refers to “candidate perception of how well their goals, values, and ideals suit the job (person-job fit) and organization (person-organization fit).”

In simple terms that means that when a candidate is first considering whether to go for your job or not, they are mostly considering whether their goals, values, and ideals suit your job and your organization.

They’re asking themselves, “I really like positive people and having fun at work – are these positive people who have fun?” or “I need my work to make a difference in people’s lives – does this organization really care?” or “Learning and advancing are super important to me – do these people create opportunities for growth?”

So if you are following the old hamburger advice – bun, duties, bun – you are not actually providing information about the #1 thing that potential candidates care about at that time.

The hamburger job ad

The typical hamburger job ad goes like this:

We are the best organization ever and we are looking for someone to manage our file folders. As manager of our file folders, you will:

  • file red folders on Monday
  • file blue folders on Tuesday
  • file green folders on Wednesday
  • file mauve folders on Thursday
  • take all the folders out and start again on Friday

The successful file management candidate will have:

  • eight years of file folder management in our industry
  • a series of random personal qualities such as dynamic and results-oriented
  • and the desire to work in our unfavorable conditions (fast-paced, low-budget, whatever)

If that sounds exactly like you, please contact us and we will decide whether to contact you back.

Most of the ads on job boards right now are like this. Aside from the fact that these ads are incredibly boring, their main practical deficiency is that they give few if any clues to perceived fit.

They don’t help a candidate assess whether their goals, values, and ideals line up with yours.

And since we know that perceived fit is the characteristic that candidates most care about early in their job search, we have to conclude that these job ads stink.

[By the way, candidates are super interested in job characteristics like duties and compensation; they’re just more interested in those things later in the recruitment process.]

What to do instead

Unless you can afford to have recruiters chasing qualified people around for you, you are probably depending on your job ads to pull in good candidates. If that’s the case, candidates who don’t apply to your job ad are…well…not candidates.

The job ad’s purpose is to compel people to apply to your job or else you won’t even be able to consider them. We’ve long forgotten that a job ad is an advertisement and if it’s not showing off your unique goals, values, and ideals, it’s failing at its purpose.

Even if you don’t have budget for fancy professionals to write your ads, you can still create one that shows off your unique goals, values, and ideals.

The tone, language, and content of your ad should all point towards your true culture (and I don’t mean those dusty words above reception; I mean what you actually care about).

Talk honestly about what you’re trying to achieve, what your employees value in their work, what you do more and better than any other organization, and what it’s really like to work with you.

Thanks to those smart people I mentioned before, we also know that candidates will use even small clues to make inferences about fit. For example, if you have a picture of diverse people on your careers page, they might infer that you value diversity. If you have humor in your ad, they might infer that you have a fun and humorous culture. If you use sleek fonts and design, they might infer that you are progressive. Even little clues can mean a lot at this stage.

So stop giving candidates a giant hamburger of duties and start giving them your goals, values, and ideals so they can opt into jobs that fit and opt out of jobs that don’t. Get creative and get real.

And if you want some help or a great example, not to brag or anything, but our clients have told us we’re actually pretty good at turning plain old hamburgers into works of art.