Getting fewer candidates by using the wrong words

Ces mots qui n’invite pas les candidats à postuler

Writing a job offer means writing a piece of text that will convince people to apply for a job at your company. However, it’s not quite as simple as choosing the right words to show off the position and the company culture. Results from a recent study carried out at the University of Ghent by doctoral research student Aylin Koçak and professor Eva Derous show that certain words can have a fairly negative impact, even going so far as to dissuade qualified candidates from applying.

This study aimed to evaluate the effect of words on candidates through an experiment where candidates were shown job offers and asked whether they wanted to apply for the job. According to Aylin Koçak, the author of the study, certain words had a negative impact on the willingness of the candidate to apply for the position. In business psychology, these “dissuading” words are called “negative meta-stereotypes”, or essentially the stereotypes that people think others have about the generation they belong to. For example, job offers mentioning the word “flexible” are less frequently applied to by people over 50, suggesting perhaps that this group considers itself (unfairly) to be less “flexible” in terms of working conditions.

The current job market

By now, the term “the war for talent” is not an unfamiliar one, having been cursed and slung around HR departments all over Europe. Finding new and qualified talent is becoming increasingly difficult, meaning generic and unattractive jobs offers that may have previously worked are now no longer fitting the bill.

Using particular words can further exacerbate the problem, especially from the perspective of companies being more inclusive by reducing hiring bias. For example, the study showed that requiring a “leadership” ability in the job offer has a negative on the number of women applying for the job.

Back to the basics

A common mistake in job offers is, rather than describing what the job entails and how the candidate would work within the company, writing about the ideal candidate and all the traits that person should show. It’s fairly rare that a candidate would match all described traits, meaning that some candidates simply won’t apply as they feel that they won’t get far in the process.

Instead of stating that a candidate should show leadership traits, it is better to give examples of how they would apply this in their future job (thus also giving them space to show how their experiences are relevant). Instead of asking people to be punctual (one would think this to be a universal requirement of all job offers?) demonstrate where punctuality is relevant in the context of the job.

Finally, a shorter job description is still a better way to go. Avoid the laundry list of traits and requirements, and ask questions and dive deeper during interviews or subsequent rounds. As always, the tools and features of Beehire can help you do this while focusing on an excellent candidate experience.

Source: De Standaard – March 2nd 2023

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