If you have not read it, I recommend reading “The Psychology of Persuasion” by Kevin Hogan. It is a book that many marketers would be familiar with and the content is backed by scientific studies.
One of the sections of the book is about the power of words. The most powerful word that can be used is someone’s name. Although this is not useful in job posts, it is useful in any and all direct communications like email or phone. You don’t want to say Mr. or Ms. Rogers. You want to use his or her first name. Also, research has shown that if you use a person’s first name at the very beginning or very end of a sentence, the likelihood of persuading the person is dramatically increased.
The second most powerful words are please and thank you. We are taught from an early age that we will get something if we say please and if we get it we should say thank you. Therefore, using these words has a strong impact. As recruiters, we probably should be using please more often in our job posts. We also should be using please and thank you more in our conversations with candidates.
The fourth most powerful word is “because.” There was an experiment done by Ellen Langer, a Harvard social psychologist, in 1977. She asked for a favor of people waiting in line to use a library’s copy machine. She would say “excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the machine because I’m in a rush” and the other half of the time she left out the word because. When she used the word “because”, 93% let her cut ahead. When she did not include the word “because”, only 60% let her cut ahead. 33% more with just a change of a single word.
This section of the book then concluded with thirty-two power words that sell. Among them was the word “you.” Often in our job posts and other communication, we seem to try to soften it by saying applicant, job seeker, or some such thing. We should be using the word “you” more. This speaks directly to the reader, instead of some generic category (i.e. applicant or job seeker).
Other words that were included in the 32 included fun, exciting, happy, and joy. All powerful emotions and feelings you could have regarding the job itself or the company’s environment. A word of caution though, we can’t just sprinkle these into a job post or email and think nothing of the actual job or environment. The vast majority of people in the job better say their job is a lot of fun…if you are going to claim the job is fun. This is not just fluff. The word has power because it is believed. If you claim fun and the person is not having fun when he or she is hired into the job, the disappointment will be all the greater.
Among the 32 words, the list included trust, comfort, and security. This points to a deep seated need people have…to feel safe. Again, we can not misrepresent…but some managers are like what Simon Sinek describes in his book, “Leaders Eat Last.” He also had a TED talk called, “Why good leaders make you feel safe.” If you have this kind of safe environment, this is something that will help sell the job. If it is highly competitive and/or the manager throws people under the bus so fault never lies with him or her…it would be better to not use these words at all.
Another few of the 32 words listed were value, proud, benefit, and vital. I believe these words could be incorporated into job posts as well. People want to feel they are of value and would like to be proud of how they are benefiting others. People want to feel that what they are doing is vital. This is another classic need and these are the words that have been found to carry power – probably because of this need.
Lastly, another word with power is the word “easy.” Jobs may not be easy, but if we can make the application process quick and simple…we could say it is easy to apply. I can already feel the power of that phrase…easy to apply. If it is easy, then why not? One of the barriers is the complex and time consuming application process. So if it is easy and say so, you will get more applications.