Fighting talk

Fighting talk: how words can help you win the great talent scrap


It’s happy days for job candidates. Unemployment levels in the UK and US are at record lows. Over two-thirds of businesses globally are facing a talent shortage. Almost half are intending to increase advertising for their job vacancies. The pickings are rich.

So what to do if you’re one of the employers embroiled in this tussle for talent? Well, if salaries and benefits are no longer helping you to stand out, there’s one thing that might: your words. Here are five ways to make language your secret weapon.

1) Put the ‘what we’re all about’ front and centre

Things like your culture and values, your personality and purpose. According to a recent LinkedIn report, 75% of people research a company’s brand before applying. And the top obstacle for candidates when job hunting is not knowing what it’s like to work somewhere. So make sure they get a real sense of you from the first few lines they read — wherever that might be.

Here’s a great opener from the careers page of a major UK employer:

‘If you want to leave work every day knowing what you’ve done really matters, you’re in the right place.’

That’s from the NHS, which may be one of the world’s top 10 employers but still took the time to tell a compelling story about what it’s like to work for them.

2) Try the three-click test

Your ‘About us’ page might fizz with personality and trumpet your mission. But how about your vacancies page, or your application portal? By the time candidates get there, has your fizz fizzled into generic corporate-speak? Has your mission gone missing?

To make sure your brand is woven into every line a potential candidate might read, take the three-click test. Pick somewhere they might first encounter you (perhaps your LinkedIn bio), and follow their journey for three clicks. How does your messaging hold up?

You might not be able to overhaul every page on your website straight away (although we can help with that). But try to make sure that your candidate’s journey from the first encounter to the last line of your application form embodies your brand.

Making your application experience a consistent and positive one really is worth it. Research shows that over 60% of people will tell friends and family about negative experiences they’ve had applying for jobs, and 27% will actually discourage other people from applying.

3) Make your job adverts about them, not you

Of course you want certain things from your perfect candidate. But try to talk just as much about what you can offer them. Maybe the role comes with private healthcare. Or days off to volunteer for a charity. Or free breakfast. Whatever it is, make sure you’re shouting about it.

But don’t just list the perks. Try to get to the heart of why they might be important to somebody, then write about that. So rather than ‘we offer flexible hours for a better work-life balance’, try, ‘you can fit your work around family dinners and bedtime stories.’

If you’re struggling to get to the root of what a candidate might care about, just imagine them asking, ‘so what?’ and keep going until you hit on the real benefit.

‘We offer a mentoring scheme.’
‘So what?’
‘So you can learn and get advice from someone with lots of experience.’
‘So what?’
‘So your performance will improve.’
‘So what?’
‘So you can get to where you want to be in your career faster.’

4) Don’t catfish your new hires

In other words, make sure the culture, values, personality and purpose you promised are there when they walk through the door. The People Insight Retention Report found that employees’ top reason for staying put is company purpose. While Glassdoor’s Economic Research study found that employees rate culture and values as much more important for job satisfaction than money, benefits and even career opportunities.

Part of giving your new hire the brand your promised will of course be down to how the organisation is run. But the language you use is just as important: what you call your meetings, the words you use in your contracts, the presentations you give at team away days. All of your linguistic nooks and crannies.

Netflix are great at this. Their ‘culture’ page talks extensively about trusting their employees. And that trust is clear to see in every corner of their business’s language. Take their expenses policy. No reams of fine print about what you can and can’t claim for. Just five words: ‘Act in Netflix’s best interest’. Their vacation policy is just as trusting: ‘Take vacation’.

5) Take this advice as a starter for ten

There are plenty more ways to make words part of your talent-winning arsenal. You could create new language for all of the stages of your hiring process. Or train your teams on all things internal comms. If you’d like our help with either of those things (or anything else), drop us a line. And if you’d like to hear us chatting more about this topic, head over and watch our webinar.

In the meantime, once more unto the breach. We wish you luck.

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