Writing to Attract Talent: Q&A with Copywriting Expert Joanna Wiebe

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Copy Hackers’ Joanna Wiebe shares tips for writing job postings and emails that will persuade your ideal candidate that they want the job.

Joanna Wiebe, copywriting expert and founder of Copy Hackers

Photo: Copy Hackers

Joanna Wiebe is a copywriting expert and co-creator of Copy Hackers, a copywriting resources center and agency that publishes e-books, newsletters and video courses that teach – yup – copywriting. We hopped on a call to discuss why you, as a recruiter, should learn basic copywriting skills, how to research talent so you can write more effective job postings and emails, and the number one mistake you might be making when writing to candidates.

“Stop trying to sit there and write. Go listen.”

Why should recruiters learn copywriting skills?

Because you’re invested in connecting a prospect with this thing you have to offer – a great job, a great company to work for. You know there are people out there, and you really want to connect them with the opportunity. It’s just a matter of learning the essentials of copywriting and persuading with your words so you can lure those candidates to apply on your roles.

Whats a first step recruiters should look at to write better copy?

I like to say that if you’ve got research in one hand and formulas in the other, then just put your hands together and that’s the beginning of creating copy.

Up front, copywriting is a lot about research. It’s learning about your prospect, your ideal candidate, that’s the most important thing. Who are they? What do they care about? How do they feel today, and what do they want tomorrow? What do they know, or think they know right now that’s getting in the way of getting what they want? Find out what these people talk about, what they say they want from a job.

That’s the research – listening to people talk freely about what they’re thinking and feeling, why they’re struggling and about their job or their manager, about what would make them switch to a new job. All that stuff is online. Obviously, Glassdoor is a good place to look because it’s filled with reviews. You want to make sure what people are saying is unfiltered, not super-edited like in a blog post or on Twitter. What’s important is the actual language that your ideal candidates are using. You can even take your phone, go sit where these people are and turn on your recorder. You don’t have to guess what to write. Just go eavesdrop and repeat back on the page exactly what you heard. If people say they want X, then just write it on the page.

“Just go eavesdrop and repeat back on the page exactly what you heard.”

Can you share a good, multi-purpose copywriting formula for recruiters to use for their job postings, emails to candidates, or careers website?

The most common copywriting formula is AIDA: Attention, interest, desire, action.

You’re first going to get people to notice you – grab their attention. It doesn’t mean you have to shout, you just have to join the conversation that’s already happening in their head. So you have to know what they’re thinking, which is where the research comes in. If you know they want money, lead with money. If they want a diverse employer, lead with that. Hold their attention – keep them interested – with all the other lines that follow. Keep giving them a reason to want to read more, which leads into desire. Desire could mean talking about the really great things about the job or employer. And then end with the call to action.

That’s the most standard formula for laying out your messages and the ideal starting place no matter what you’re writing. There are other formulas; we just did a gigantic post with every copywriting formula ever created.

What is the most common persuasive writing mistake?

Putting yourself first – talking about “we”. That’s the number one mistake, and most smaller businesses and HR-type areas of a website are guilty of it. If you’re writing to persuade, it needs to be all about your prospect – “you” – and what is cool and different enough about what you’re offering for them to want to say goodbye to life as they know it and move into a new life with you.

Your prospects are motivated by selfish things – we all are. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just the way we’re built. So strike the word “we” from your copy until you’re absolutely certain they’ve bought into your value proposition, what makes you cool and different, why they should say goodbye to life as they know it and move into a new life working with you. Then you can start leading with “we”, talking about your business and corporate culture.

A great quick tip is rewrite your email or your job description so that the first word of every sentence is “you”. You don’t need to actually send it like that, but if you can rewrite your copy so that the first word in every sentence is “you”, then you know you’re talking about the candidate, not your business.

“A great quick tip is rewrite your email or your job description so that the first word of every sentence is ‘you’.”

Should recruiters think about search engine optimization (SEO) when writing job postings?

Always start with the user. I have found, again and again, that if you write your copy in the prospect’s natural language, the words they would actually say – this takes us back to doing your research – that’s the same kind of language they use when they’re searching. Those words are close proxies for the keywords you want to optimize for.

You can also write more. Long content performs well in search engines. But what I would say is never sacrifice a clear message your user will love for a message that a search engine might reward.

Is copywriting hard?

It doesn’t have to be. Stop trying to sit there and write. Go listen. Be a copy editor rather than a copywriter.

For loads of articles and resources on how to write persuasive, conversion-oriented copy, check out Copy Hackers.

Christian De Pape, Recruiting Social’s Head of Marketing and Content
About the author

Christian De Pape is Head of Marketing and Content at Recruiting Social. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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