A typical job advertisement would likely advertise the qualities that an employer seeks in prospective candidates – academic degrees, qualifications, years of work experience, among others.
But new research slated to appear in the Journal of Business and Psychology, found that a few minor changes in the wording of a job advertisement can make a big difference to the size and quality of an applicant pool it attracts.
The team found that tweaking job advertisements to talk about “what the organisation can supply to meet an applicant’s needs” (what they termed N-S, needs-supplies), can receive three times more good candidates than if an ad talks about “what abilities and skills the organisation demands of candidates (what they termed D-A, demands-abilities).
The researchers started by manipulating the wording used in 56 actual job ads, to emphasize D–A or N–S fit, and collected data collected about applicant quality based on ratings of the resumes submitted by 991 applicants.
They found that the emphasis on information about the N-S fit than on D-A fit in job advertisements not only attracted more applications to the job, but the applicant pool attracted was also of a significantly higher quality.
“Ads focusing on what employers can provide job seekers – like work autonomy, career advancement and inclusion in major decisions – result in better employee-company matches,” said David Jones, associate professor of business at The University of Vermont.
Part of the reason many employers run D-A-heavy ads, he explained, was that people writing them often had little training in this area, had specific skill gaps they needed to fill quickly, or relied on headhunters who might focus on clients’ needs more than the applicants’ needs.
“It’s not surprising that it’s filled with D-A statements because they want someone with a specific skill set that they don’t have to spend a lot of time training and who can start day one.”
However, Jones cautioned that N-S statements should only be included in job ads if they are true, or the plan could backfire, resulting in disengaged employees and a low employee retention rate.
“If you create what is called a psychological contract where the applicant has an expectation of what is going to happen as an employee and then it doesn’t, the people you hire are less likely go above and beyond and are more likely to quit much sooner than they otherwise would.”