A Crash Course in Persuasive Writing for Your Talent Acquisition Team
So much of recruitment happens in writing. But who’s teaching your talent team to write? These basic persuasive writing techniques will get them started.
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How much of your talent acquisition happens in writing? A lot, right? Job descriptions, job postings, career pages, calendar invites, LinkedIn updates, Facebook posts, Tweets, Instagram captions, InMails, reach-out emails, scheduling emails, keeping-them-warm emails, offer emails, and negotiation emails. That isn’t a conclusive list, either.
There’s a lot of writing that happens when you’re hiring. So who’s teaching your talent team to write? If their task is to enlist talented people to join your company and guide those individuals through your recruitment process, who is teaching your team to write persuasively?
Let me take a second to point out that, though it can seem distastefully synonymous with “manipulation,” the word “persuasion” isn’t about exploitation. Simply, it means helping someone make a decision:
Cause someone to do something or believe something through reasoning or argument. Provide a sound reason for someone to do something.
Persuasion is about providing information in a way that the intended audience understands. So, persuasive writing in talent acquisition means knowing who the target candidate is, getting them excited about your company and their potential role in it, and giving them the information they need to make the right decision – for themselves.
You can get behind that, right? Fantastic. Persuasive writing is definitely worth learning for anyone involved in hiring. While gaining the skill takes time and practice, the following few techniques will get your talent team started.
Focus on benefits, not features
A feature is a statement of fact. For example, a description of a perk your company offers:
With our remote work program, you can work from home three days a week.
A benefit, on the other hand, answers the question, “what’s in it for me?:”
With our remote work program, you can skip the commute and work from home – spend fewer hours in traffic and more time with your family – three days a week.
See, we humans are motivated by two things: 1) increasing pleasure, and 2) reducing pain – a behavioral concept known as the pleasure principle. It’s not the remote work program itself that is appealing, it’s the opportunity to spend less time in traffic and more time with loved ones. What kind of pleasure does your target talent seek, and what kind of pain are they trying to avoid? Those questions warrant investigation. But time, trouble, and identity are all pretty universal areas of importance.
For good measure, here’s another side-by-side example. First, a feature-focused statement:
As a talent acquisition specialist at ACME Inc., you’ll work with our new applicant tracking system to import resumes, sort candidate data, and generate reports.
And second, a benefit-focused approach:
As a talent acquisition specialist at ACME Inc., you’ll spend less time managing software and more time pursuing talent. Our new applicant tracking system lets you import resumes with one click, find data easily from an intuitive dashboard, and generate reports effortlessly (no more spreadsheets!).
Scarcity means something is in short supply. If you’ve ever sought an out-of-print book on Amazon, ordered a dish flavored with truffles at a restaurant, or taken an Economics 101 course, you know that scarcity drives up value. A candidate isn’t going to consider a job opportunity unless they think it has value – more value than the role they are in right now, or more value than the other opportunities they are considering.
Now tell me, does this statement reveal scarcity?
Your health spending account benefit at ACME would be worth $8,300 a year.
Unless you’re an expert in health insurance plans (I’m definitely not), you probably won’t have the background to know. See, to communicate scarcity, you must provide context. You can make a comparison, provide a contrasting example, or describe the circumstances:
The average health spending account benefit is worth $4,900 a year, but your benefit at ACME would be worth $8,300 a year – one of the most generous offered by any employer in the Pacific Northwest.
Urgency means something requires immediate action. Your roles need to have been filled yesterday, right? Urgency motivates your candidate to want it right now, and to act on it right now. Consider the difference between this statement:
New employees get a 0.02 percent stock option.
And this one:
New employees get a 0.02 percent stock option, but this might drop down to 0.01 percent for new hires after June.
The second statement provides a deadline and warns that the opportunity loses value after that date. Really, that’s the key to creating urgency: evoking the threat of loss. People are more motivated to avoid loss than they are to pursue gain, a concept known as loss aversion. So how do you communicate urgency to your candidate? By telling them what they could lose, and when they would lose it.
There you go, that’s your crash course in persuasive writing techniques for talent acquisition. There’s plenty more to learn, but this will give you and your team a good start. And hey, bonus points if you combine all of these concepts for maximum effect. Soon enough, you’ll be taking typical boilerplate like this:
Join our growing company and award-winning team as we strive to reach our goal of becoming the first-ever $1 billion company in the industry.
And spinning it into recruitment messaging like this:
Be part of the team that won 23 industry awards in the last five years (more than double anyone else). Be there when, by the end of 2017, we pop open the champagne to celebrate becoming the first-ever $1 billion company in the space. Be able to say that your contribution was critical to that success.
It’s not hard. Just start practicing!
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