How To Write A Job Posting That Attracts The Best Candidates

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey of job candidates, a “bad job posting” is the third most cited factor that causes job seekers to have a negative perception of a company.

a bad job posting turns off job candidates

So if job postings are so important, why are most of them so boring and terrible? Probably because most of us have no idea how to write a good job ad.

Well, we’re in luck because a new study by Professor Schmidt and colleagues examines how to write a job posting that attracts the best candidates.

How a job posting can communicate fit

Research by Chapman and colleagues has found that a person’s perception of fit with a job and the organization are some of the strongest predictors of job search outcomes.

A person can fit into a job and an organization in two main ways:

  1. Needs–supplies fit: the fit between the physical and psychological resources the job/organization supplies (e.g, skill variety, autonomy, and promotion opportunities) and the needs of the employee.
  2. Demands–abilities fit: the fit between the skills, knowledge, and abilities the employee has to offer and the demands of the organization/job (.e.g, communication abilities, motivation, and willingness to work on a team).

The researchers randomly changed the wording of 56 real job postings to emphasize either needs-supplies fit or demands–abilities fit: how much information in the job ad was about what the job/organization required of you versus what the job/organization offered to you.

how to write a job posting to attract the best candidates

The 56 job ads were viewed 18,047 times and attracted 991 job applicants.

How candidates perceive fit from a job posting

Job candidates were asked to rate how well they perceived needs–supplies fit based on a job posting using items such as: “This job will would enable me to do the kind of work I want to do”, “I would fit well within this organization’s culture”, and “My values and personality are what this organization is looking for.”

Job candidates were asked to rate how well they perceived demands–abilities fit based on a job posting using items such as: “‘My knowledge, skills, and abilities match the requirements of the job”, “My education and experience would allow me to perform well in this job”, and “‘My knowledge, skills, and abilities will help this organization succeed.”

Which type of fit best attracts candidates?

On one hand, emphasizing needs-supplies fit in a job posting may attract higher quality job candidates because needs–supplies fit is more appealing than demands-abilities fit to most people. On the other hand, emphasizing demands–abilities fit may attract higher quality job candidates by providing information that discourages unqualified applicants from applying.

The results revealed job postings that emphasized needs–supplies fit attracted:

  • a higher quantity of job applicants to ad views
  • a higher quality of job applicants (measured by resume scores and the likelihood of being interviewed) especially for high-demand jobs

The proportion of the highest rated job candidates applying to the job postings with needs-supplies fit information was almost three times the size of the proportion found in the job postings with demands–abilities fit information. Looks like a clear winner to me.

The takeaways

Schmidt and colleagues theorize that information about demands-abilities fit in job postings might signal to job candidates that the organization prioritizes employees’ productivity, whereas information about needs–supplies fit might signal that the organization cares about employees’ well-being, which attracts a higher quality of candidates who choose to select into the recruitment process.

Organizations spend a lot of time, and money, trying to make sure their company site and social media presence reflect their culture in order to attract job candidates. But they’re probably overlooking one of the easiest, and cheapest, ways to hire for fit: including information about needs–supplies fit in your job posting to attract a higher quality of job candidates.

Is your job posting attracting the candidates that you want? Let me know in the comments or tweet @ideal.

Share on LinkedInShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone
Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices in data-based recruitment. She writes about research and trends in talent acquisition, recruitment tech, and people analytics.
Ji-A Min