November 16, 2011
By Peter Weddle for BioSpace.com
When the director of the movie “Snakes on a Plane” thought about changing its name to “Pacific Air Flight 121”, the lead actor Samuel L. Jackson threatened to quit. When asked why, he said, “Snakes on a Plane, man! That’s the only reason I took the job. I read the title.” He could have just as easily been describing the power of job posting titles. They may not cause people to take a job, but they do get them to bite on the ad.
Job posting titles are important because they are what a candidate sees first when searching a job database on your corporate career site or a job board. Unlike with a print publication, the posting itself is invisible until they click on the title and open up the ad. In other words, candidates on the Internet must make a conscious decision to look at your content, and their evaluation is based solely on the information that’s provided in the title.
To be effective, a job posting title must both inform and pique the curiosity of the reader. That’s true of all job seekers, but especially those who are passive. To motivate them to read on, a title must provide:
• enough fact to enable them to determine that an opening is relevant to them and
• enough sizzle to entice them to invest their time and attention in reading the ad. And, it has to do all of that in the 35-50 characters typically allocated for a posting title.
The Elements of a Good Title
A job posting title with bite has three key elements that form the acronym LSS.
The L stands for location. Most people want to work where they live so in almost every case, location is a key criterion in a person’s decision about whether or not to read on. Generally, speaking the postal code for the state in which the job is located is sufficient for U.S. based openings. However, when posting on a geocentric niche board or on your own corporate career site, you’ll get a better yield if you use a specific city or town.
The first S stands for skill. Unfortunately, many recruiters use a job title for the title of their job posting. Job titles, however, were developed for internal human resource management, not for external recruitment advertising. There’s not a human being on earth who thinks of him or herself as a Systems Analyst III or an Associate Step 2. The key to this element, therefore, is not to describe the job, but instead, to feature the skill the candidate will use to perform it. That’s something they either possess or don’t, and thus is a far better way of indicating what your organization expects from applicants.
The second S stands for sizzle. Job seekers, in general, bust especially passive prospects have the attention span of a gnat. So, it’s very important to pique their curiosity with a word or phrase that is out of the ordinary and either thought-provoking or intriguing enough to get them to stop and focus on your ad. The sizzle should always be true – this is not the place to play P. T. Barnum – and always related to your organization’s value proposition as an employer.
How do these elements fit together? Typically they are simply separated by dashes. For example, one of the best titles I ever saw was posted several months before what everyone thought would be the computer crisis of Y2K. It read: WI – C++ Programmer – $1.2M bonus.
The job was posted by a firm in Wisconsin that was worried it would lose its IT talent to other employers desperate to address the computer change-over for the new millennium. Its response, which it also used to lure talent away from those same competitors, was to promise the members of its IT Department that they would split a $1.2 million bonus if they stayed with the company.
No less important, this same employer had developed that sizzle by doing its homework. It had pulled together a small group of its best IT performers and asked them a single question: “Why did you come to work here?” Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a single answer, but there were two reasons that did stand out.
One was financial, which was why the company decided on highlighting the $1.2 million bonus. The other, however, was quality of life. This employer was located in upstate Wisconsin where there were a lot of outdoor activities to enjoy. So, what did the company do? It posted the job a second time, but with a different title. It read: WI – C++ Programmer – Great Fishing.
A job posting tile can seem like a trivial thing to worry about, especially with so many people in transition these days. The best talent, however, always have choices, so a title must be written for them. It must have both enough information and sizzle – enough bite – to convince them your posting is worth their time to read and consider.
Thanks for reading,
Visit me at Weddles.com
Peter Weddle is the author of over two dozen employment-related books, including WEDDLE’s 2011/12 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet, The Career Activist Republic, Work Strong, Your Personal Career Fitness System and Recognizing Richard Rabbit. Get them at Amazon.com and www.Weddles.com today.
© Copyright 2011 WEDDLE’s LLC. All Rights Reserved.