Why Your Job Titles Hinder Your Recruiting

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 07/09/2015 in Recruiting articles |

Copywriters know that the most important part of an advertisement is the headline.  The majority of the public reads little else when deciding whether or not they are interested.

Job Posts

Thank you to Neetal Parekh for this Creative Commons image (CC BY 2.0)

Recruiter’s have something that is equivalent to a headline in an advertisement…the job titles of our job posts.  This is the first thing potential candidates see, whether they are browsing our careers page, searching on a job boards, getting results from a search engine or having a friend email them a job of potential interest.  Job titles are the first thing we all see.

Copywriters agonize over their headlines and we should agonize over our job titles, because this will hugely impact whether people click to read more.

Currently, most of our job titles suck.  If you do a search for “java developer” within 20 miles of 55343 (not far from my home on the west side of Minneapolis) you will find nearly two hundred results on Monster and more results on Dice or Indeed.  The vast majority of the job titles just say “Java Developer” or “Senior Java Developer”.

“Java Developer” is 14 characters and adding “Senior” makes it 21 (counting spaces).  Did you know that you have 70, 80, and sometimes more character spaces available to you on job boards and on the ATS.  Now, I would not suggest using it up to the limits.  Search engines do not accept such long titles (and you don’t want to be truncated) and so for maximum universal usability & SEO purposes I suggest using no more than 63 characters.  So most of these job titles have at least 40 characters (double the current size) of unused potential.  But what can we say in our title…you may ask.

Tested Advertising MethodsIn “Tested Advertising Methods” by John Caples, he focuses on four important elements that good headlines have:

  1. Self-interest
  2. News
  3. Curiosity
  4. Quick, easy way

Not all headlines can have all four elements, but what can we take from this?  Well, I can’t see how our job titles could be news-worthy…so that one is out.  But the most important element, John Caples says, is self-interest.

first and foremost, try to get self-interest into every headline you write.  Make your headline suggest to the readers that here is something they want.  This rule is so fundamental that it would seem obvious.  Yet the rule is violated every day by scores of writers.

He further cautions to never use curiosity alone…it must be used in combination with other elements.

How can we do this?  Well, I know that The Nerdery in Minneapolis is a dog-friendly environment…for example.  They have dogs in the office just about every day.  When they have a need of a java developer, instead of using the title “Software Engineer (Java/JVM): Minneapolis” as they do now (with 42 characters) …they could post “Java/JVM Software Engineer in Minneapolis & bring your dog too” with 63 characters.

This may not be a work of copywriting art, but this is a much more powerful title that does two things.

  1. For Minneapolis-based Java/JVM software engineers who have a dog and have always wished that they could bring their dogs to work – this title resonates with them.  It makes them want to see more or just apply right away.
  2. For cat-people, people who don’t like dogs, or people with allergies, they will self-select out.  They won’t apply, because this environment is not for them.  They wouldn’t like it.
Which one was it again? Photo by  Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho

Which one was it again?
Photo by
Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho

To not create great job titles, means to be a job lost in a forest of jobs with the same title on job boards and search engines.  It means being overlooked, as there is nothing in it for the potential applicants to apply or even click the job to learn more about the job – especially for more passive candidates that are just testing the waters.


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