Tyron Giuliani
Oct 26, 2015

Agencies: Rethink your JDs if you're serious about top talent

Agencies need to use everything at their disposal to attract people who are otherwise likely to gravitate towards other industries. So why is so little attention given to job descriptions, asks Tyron Giuliani.

Tyron Giuliani
Tyron Giuliani

Have you noticed that the pool of talent for the advertising and media industry is getting shallower? The industry is certainly losing out to tech start-ups, app ventures, consulting firms and new media companies. “Traditional” advertising and media companies haven’t quite caught up with the fact that they need to sell themselves much better than ever before.

Talent sourcing and hiring needs to use a multi-channel approach and must stand out as one of the most important business considerations for everyone in the organisation. Out of all the facets of a hiring strategy, one that is the most basic and can have a dramatic effect on the success of your strategy, is the humble job description.

When using a recruiter, a job board or an internal HR, the only collateral coming from your agency to that potential next hire is that job description (JD). Look at your current JDs. Would they inspire your target person to Google your agency or to look for your work online or even think, “…hey…this JD doesn’t match their reputation at all!” Even with the knowledge of your organisation, if you found they didn’t inspire you, imagine how potential candidates are reacting.

It may be time for a complete JD overhaul. Your JDs need to deliver insight via a story. Shine a light on the usually unrecognised or rarely written-about value of the role and the agency. Connect it to people wherever possible.

Lack of interest in a role is generally the result of the value of the role being unrecognised by a potential candidate. Either they don’t recognize the true root of the cause of their “problem” in their current situation (by storytelling you can highlight a contrast to show how your agency is and would be for them), or they underappreciate the cost of the status quo or the benefits that a career change can mean for them. 

Use stories and insights to sell your shop and differentiate yourself from the hundreds of other openings in the industry. If you can’t reveal the value, you will be forced to compete with every other standard JD. Commoditising your JD and having it seen for the “check list” that it is, will arouse no emotional response at all.

As a final point, along with creative insightful stories, keep these factors in mind when creating your next JD:

  • Length is important. Too long, and you lose interest. Too short, and no insights are given. Research gives 800 words as the optimal length.
  • Using too much passive language. Passive verbs have a sense of formality and can indicate formality and rigidity at your agency—that’s not a good thing.
  • Not enough verbs. A lack of verbs tends to result in not enough detailed information about the responsibilities being shared, and this reduces the number of people applying.
  • Not enough bulleted content. A large part of engagement of a JD is to do with the visual layout. Try to have 30 per cent of your content in bullet form.
  • Use more ‘You’ statements in your JD. Try including more phrases like ‘your passion’, ‘you must care for...’ ‘you will be asked’, etc.
  • Sentence length. The most engaging sentences are on average between 13 and 17 words long. Break longer sentences into shorter ones.
  • Keep corporate clichés to a minimum: No need to talk about “mavericks” or the need to be an “out of the box” thinker.
  • Avoid repetitive wording—it reduces engagement. New phrases are likely to catch the reader’s attention and increase engagement.

Tyron Giuliani is industry partner, advertising and consumer team, at Optia Partners


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