9 things to do differently if you’re struggling to find the right candidate (or any candidates) for your job

What to do if your job ad doesn't get the response you're looking for

It’s a difficult time to recruit staff for just about every not-for-profit organisation.

The Australian job-market as a whole is tighter than ever, with record-low unemployment. That means fewer people than ever are looking for a job – and job vacancies are up 95 per cent in the last three years.

The NFP sector is faring no better: the latest figures from ACOSS show a huge 75% of NFP sector leaders say it’s become more difficult to attract and retain staff in the last year, and 47% of leaders saying staff turnover rates in their organisation are also too high.

It’s becoming commonplace to hear feedback from NFP sector CEOs like:

“Recruitment is very hard at the moment, difficult to attract qualified and experienced staff.”

or

“It’s diabolical to recruit in WA right now.”

In this sort of macro-economic environment, recruiting great staff is not easy, whatever the role.

But that doesn’t mean recruitment or HR teams are powerless to do anything about it. In fact now is the time to be spending more time and effort than ever before to craft a job description and a job ad that will generate applications. Afterwards, you should ensure that you provide a healthy working environment for your employees and avoid instances of discrimination. If there are employees who just got fired, they may need help in overcoming premature job termination.

Whether you’re recruiting a GP for a country town or a middle manager in the middle of Sydney, there are many things you can do to increase the number and quality of applications for your job ads.

So if you’ve tried to fill a role and haven’t found the right candidate – or perhaps haven’t found any candidates at all – here are the top nine things we recommend you consider changing:

1. Allow the job to be either partly or fully remote

Not everyone knows this yet, but jobs that are either fully remote or even have a partial remote component get a lot more applications than entirely in-person jobs.

On EthicalJobs.com.au, fully or partially remote jobs get a whopping six times as many applications (on average).

Of course not every job can be done remotely, but many jobs can be to some degree, from fundraisers to finance managers, admin assistants to CEOs.

And many organisations are finding that even some frontline workers like psychologists, social workers and GPs can work partly remotely via “telehealth” tools like Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams.

So while it might not be easy to convince your organisation that a job currently done in person could be done remotely, if you’re not able to fill the role as it is, then that may be the easiest way to get a lot more applicants.

If you don’t usually recruit remote staff members you might need to update your recruitment process and also your job ads and interviews, but that work will pay dividends.

2. Show the salary range on the job ad

It sounds too simple to be true, but on EthicalJobs.com.au, jobs that show a salary range get an average of 39% more applications than jobs that hide this information from applicants.

So if possible, it’s best to disclose the salary on the ad. The bottom line is that some jobseekers won’t apply for a job if they don’t know how much it pays.

And be as specific as possible – a 2016 peer-reviewed study of 283 jobseekers found the more specific the salary information on the job ad, the more likely candidates were to apply.

More advice on how and why you should disclose your salary range here.

3. Try a different job title

The job title is probably the most important part of a job ad – it’s the first thing a jobseeker will see, and the main thing that will cause them to read your job ad (or not).

So take a hard look at the job title you’re using and ask:

Does it clearly describe the role? And is it a title that the target jobseekers will recognise?

Here at EthicalJobs.com.au we’ve found that readvertising roles with a slightly different title had a huge impact on applicant numbers.

When we changed the title of our “Team Coordinator” role to “Administration Coordinator”, we saw an increase in applications of up to 500%!

That’s probably for two reasons: 1) admin-related roles are generally very popular on EthicalJobs.com.au; and 2) “Administration Coordinator” was much clearer for jobseekers regarding that responsibilities of the role compared with the less-widely used title “Team Coordinator”.

Also consider whether the title could be more descriptive of the role.

We see so many generic “Case Worker” or “Disability Support Worker” roles. More descriptive titles like “Case Worker – Newly Arrived Migrants” or “Support Worker – Adult Autism Services ” will make a role stand out by engaging the right jobseekers– those who are interested in the particularities of the role.

And while a “Social Media Coordinator” or even “Social Media Manager” might do the exact same work as a “Communications Officer”, the different job ad title will attract very different applicants.

More advice on changing up your job ad titles here.

4. Work on the short summary

After the job title, the short summary is the main thing jobseekers will use to decide whether or not to read your job ad.

And we still see job ads with summaries like:

You will ensure quality services and positive outcomes are achieved.

or 

Monitor and moderate user-generated content.

A summary like that does your for-purpose organisation no favours in trying to attract purpose-focused jobseekers.

Instead of just describing the tasks of the role, try using the short summary to describe the purpose or impact of the job and/or the purpose of your organisation. Purpose and meaning are the key things that are going to attract jobseekers to click through to read your job ad and then apply.

5. ‘Feature’ your job

When advertising on EthicalJobs.com.au, consider ‘featuring’ your job ad – this makes it stand out at the top of any search results it appears in on the site. It costs one extra job ad credit to feature your ad, but the extra cost is often worth it.

Because featured ads appear at the top of any matching search, featured jobs get 140% more views and 145% more applications (on average) than regular job ads.

6. Add more detail to the job ad about your organisation’s purpose and impact

A good job ad is not a list of tasks and responsibilities expected of the position.

Rather, a good job ad is a marketing document for the role and for your whole organisation: you need to present yourself in the best possible light in order to stand out from the crowd.

If you didn’t get enough good applications, we recommend making some changes to your job ad before re-advertising it:

  • Does it explain what your organisation does, and why it exists? (ie: what is the problem you’re trying to solve?). From our surveys we know the most important thing for jobseekers using EthicalJobs.com.au is ‘working at an organisation that’s focused on social or environmental impact’. (You can read more advice on how to find your ‘why’ here.
  • Does it explain what impact the role will have? Our surveys also show that another one of the most important things for jobseekers is ‘a role that’s focused on social or environmental impact’.
  • Is it clear what the main responsibilities of the role are? Or, are there too many responsibilities listed? Not every responsibility needs to be listed in the job ad – that’s what a position description is for!
  • Is the job ad too short or too long? Both can turn jobseekers off. Generally the longer the ad, the more time jobseekers will spend looking at it (which is a good thing). But if you’ve pasted your whole, multi-page position description into the job ad, that’s probably over the top, and you should consider a shorter ad with the full PD attached as a separate document.

7. Explain the perks of the role and of your organisation

Many job ads don’t consider what a jobseeker might be looking for from a job at your organisation, beyond a pay cheque and a car space.

Your job ad is the place to explain all the ‘perks’ of working at your organisation – though many ads don’t include these crucial selling points.

When it comes to additional perks, we know that the most popular job perks that jobseekers are looking for are (in order):

  • Flexible work hours
  • Option to work from home
  • Training budget and personal development days
  • Office with natural light
  • Paid time in lieu for extra hours

So if you’re able to offer any of these perks, don’t hesitate to put them front and centre in your job ad.

8. Clarify or remove some key selection criteria

Being transparent about the criteria you’ll use to select a candidate is one of the best and most common things you can include in a job ad or position description.

But unfortunately many organisations go over the top with selection criteria, adding in too many, or making them too difficult for many candidates to meet.

Research shows that women in particular are unlikely to apply for roles if they don’t meet 100 per cent of the selection criteria – so consider removing some criteria if you can.

In particular, these are three common selection criteria that may not be as essential as you think:

  • Having a tertiary qualification – While some jobs like Nurse or Social Worker clearly need a specific qualification, many jobs really don’t. For example almost 10 per cent of US CEOs have not completed a university degree!
  • X years of experience” – For less-senior roles, consider if you would accept someone who’s highly capable and passionate about your organisation’s work, who could be trained once they’re in the role.
  • “Detailed knowledge of . . .” – Does the person really need a high level of knowledge about your sector or your clients? Or could being a quick learner be almost as good?

9. Make it easier to apply

According to companies like Bradsby Group, many jobs require applicants to ‘jump through hoops’ just to express interest. That might involve asking a candidate to respond to every selection criterion, or getting them to fill out a long, mult-part form.

Be aware that every extra question you ask, every extra task you set, even every extra click you require from a candidate to navigate to the application form, can reduce your application numbers.

The corollary is that cutting down on what is required to apply – reducing the number of questions, simplifying your application process and scrapping the “response to key selection criteria” – will likely increase the number of applicants.

Even if you’re not able to implement all of these tips, by using even just a few of them you’ll undoubtedly see some positive results. You’ll be giving your organisation the best opportunity to not only receive more applications, but attract the best possible applicants for your roles.

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