We get it. You’re in this game because you love people, not staring at a Word doc agonising over apostrophes. But bear with us. When you’re talking about communicating in a socially-distanced world, writing is your fastest track to building relationships.
It’s about communication, yep, but perhaps more importantly it’s the best way to show your ideal candidates that you’re the right place for them. That’s a secret power you can use to your advantage – if you can pitch your copy well, you'll give people an instant impression of your company culture, what you care about and how inclusive you are. Yes, yes, but how do you do that? Glad you asked.
Here are five surprisingly simple techniques you can use right now.
Connecting with your potential candidates, that’s the point here. But what happens if you’re, say, a 36-year-old recruiter trying to get in front of 17-year-olds? The first thing is to really get to know who these people are. Like, really. Try this: if your audience was boiled down into just one person, who would that be? Give this person a name, age, gender, hobbies, thoughts, feelings, fears and motivations. That will make it far easier to write intuitively for them - in much the same way as you’d speak to them face to face.
It’s a bit counterintuitive, but it’s true. Wheeling out your fanciest words and jargony-est phrases do the opposite of what you think. According to one study out of Princeton University, writing with a thesaurus makes you appear less expert, not more. By contrast, simple, clearly-expressed ideas and information make you look like you’ve got a handle on things. So, get clear on what you’re trying to say, then say it simply. Run it through a readability analyser, and try to hit around an eleven-year-old reading age. That’ll mean sticking to shorter sentences, using common words and throwing jargon in the bin. Bonus: writing simply is easier and nicer to read. Double bonus: simpler writing is inherently more inclusive. You’re more likely to attract brilliant candidates who have English as a second language, learning disabilities or lower literacy.
Imagine being at an intimidating networking event and, from across the room, you hear someone dropping some local slang from your hometown. You and that person: instantly connected. You can replicate that warmth and familiarity in your writing too, just by writing like a human speaks. Tell stories, crack jokes, use those contractions (like, we’re instead of we are, for example). You get the idea. Following natural speaking patterns will make your writing easier and more fluid to read, and also help your candidate feel more comfortable with the idea of working with you.
Your text should let people zoom through without stopping. And you know what breaks that flow? Numbers, acronyms and symbols. People have to use a different part of their brain to understand them – it literally stops them reading while they translate between those different parts of their brain. So instead of e.g., write for example. Swap 1 for one and banish %, & and +.
C’mon, you’re a rebel. Break some grammar rules. As long as you’re sure your reader will find it easy to understand, go for it. Write half-sentences if you want. Start sentences with prepositions, say while instead of whilst, write use instead of utilise, and only add commas that make the text easier to read. If you’re consistent throughout all your copy, you’ll make it clear that it’s an intentional branding choice, not just a typo.
The way you write your job ad or follow up email is all part of the recruitment puzzle. Getting it right starts with really understanding the type of person you’re hoping to attract. Then you can set about using that insight to bring the good stuff - moving away from the formal, jargon-filled text, and towards simple, human writing that cares more about readability and connection than being slavishly correct. Because after all, the point of all this is not to show how good you are with a comma, but to grab candidates by the hearts and get them into roles they’ll love.
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