During a recent set of episodes of Talent Talks, Jenn Terry (VP of Strategic Initiatives, Joveo) and Daniel Fellows (Founder and CEO, Get-Optimal) discussed how optimized job ads can make a massive difference to candidate experience and recruitment advertising performance.

Many employers fall short of giving job ad content the focus it deserves.

Daniel shared his thoughts on what makes a great job ad, some experiences working with employers and staffing agencies, the need to shift focus from applicant volume to quality, and the role of unconscious bias in job ads across markets.

Watch the videos or check out some of the highlights in the transcript below!

How to Optimize Job Ads: The Most Important Content Asset for Recruiters

Jenn: For those listening / watching that haven’t met you before, can you tell us just a little bit about your background, and a little bit about Get-Optimal?

Daniel: Yeah, absolutely. I’m the founder of Get-Optimal. We launched in September 2019 in London and we are a job ad optimization platform. From my time at Indeed and now at Get-Optimal, we know a great deal about the problem and the global challenges we’re solving with Job Ads.

My background… I suppose I’m just obsessed with technology and solving problems. As a marketer in my previous roles, I use that level of empathy to help people get through big challenges. Recently, in the last two or three years, I’ve become completely obsessed with job ads. It’s a burning desire and it’s a HUGE source of passion.

Jenn: When we get to the nuts and bolts of the situation, the data shows that people are looking at your job advertisements more than any other single piece of content. And most TA leaders just don’t give a crud. So, tell me a little bit about Get-Optimal and what you’re doing to help improve job ads just from the start.

Daniel: You’re absolutely right – the first time a lot of people come into contact with your business is through your job ad. It is the most important piece of collateral if you’re a recruiter. It’s that moment where you can make a huge difference to the perception and the impression on a candidate – who is also a customer, let’s never ever forget that!

We built a 40-odd point algorithm, and all of these elements, which once they’re applied to a job ad, enable a 30% increase in the performance of that job ad. And when we say “increase,” we mean an increase in things like the quality of candidates as well.

Inclusivity and removing gender bias are key components of that. We also enable the job ads to be optimized for SEO (search engine optimization).

We used to have this little sort of trick that we’d use on some of our clients – apologies, anybody watching – we’d go into the meeting, and then we’d ask them all to get out their cell phones, and try and find the last job they posted, without searching by the brand. And we must have done this hundreds of times. No one could ever find the job they were posting. We understand SEO, and in a very moral way, we manipulate those algorithms to make sure your job ads are being seen by the quality of the candidates you need – to propel your business forward.

Jenn: Okay. So let’s unpack this a little bit. Most recently, I was very briefly a job seeker, and let me tell you, thumbs down on that experience. I was constantly surprised at even just the simple things, like spelling and grammar, and just incomplete sentences. So for those out in the field that haven’t seen Get-Optimal before, do you really just take a job description and make sure that it’s optimized for SEO and that there’s no spelling and grammatical errors?

Daniel: You know, it’s a really ridiculously obvious thing, isn’t it? With millions of new people coming on the market, you really need to have high quality candidates applying for your roles and (to your) job ads. And yes, it’s staggering how many job ads we pick up on to optimize for grammar, for spelling, and for punctuation. Just simple, simple things.

They’ve got to care a lot more about this piece of content that they’re posting. They’ve got to have some sort of pride in their job ads. So we, of course, optimize for spelling, the punctuation, and grammar, and you remove the unconscious gender bias, which none of us know, ultimately, is there.

The key thing with Get-Optimal is, we optimize for how candidates search for jobs. So we’re using the data and the insights to investigate the journey of the candidate, because we know that someone that clicks on a final job has gone through a series of searches and has clicked on different jobs as well.

Job ads are 90% science and 10% art. It needs to be well-written, but unless you’ve got these key data points optimized, it’s just a great job ad that ultimately no one’s going to see.

Jenn: What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve seen when it comes to job ads? Because we have different kinds of listeners – employment brand managers, recruiters, and TA leaders. So each of them have a different role in that job ad. What are some of the “uh-ohs” you’ve seen on those?

Daniel: I’m not preaching from any sort of position, because I went through this at Indeed for nine months – it took me nine months to get Indeed’s job ads changed because people didn’t think there was anything wrong with them, even though the average rejection rates for the jobs we were hiring for, internally, were north of 85%.

I had to work with 26 people to change their job ads, and some of these things were just “Let’s put a salary on sales roles,” because guess what? People aren’t going to apply for a role unless they can see the salary range.

Again, they might apply, but they’re completely the wrong band that we’re hiring for as well. I think working with TA leaders like yourself, and HR people every day, they haven’t got enough time in their day to do probably half of their role well. Most businesses that I’ve worked with, they don’t have anybody that’s ultimately qualified to write and optimize a job ad.

So one of the issues is not having the right structure – or the right formation of the team. We know and you’ve told us for centuries that you hate doing job ads, so we’re going to take that away from you – and we’re going to make sure it’s done to the very best. We’re going to give you that time back to go and source and place more candidates.

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Driving Diversity and Inclusivity via Job Ads

Jenn: A few months ago, pre-COVID, right, the market was so tight, particularly in the US, that we might have looked at any applicant as good traffic. That’s changed now, because companies are trying to do more with less, and the more unqualified applicants you get in, the more unqualified applicants your recruiters have to deal with.

I want to talk a little bit about gender bias and diversity in job descriptions. One of my roles at AT&T was around diversity and inclusion for recruiting, and we were always challenged to reduce unconscious bias in the writing – and it was a real task, because we posted a lot of jobs, and there wasn’t really a way to get to a best practice there. Does Get-Optimal handle that portion of it?

Daniel: One of the reasons for setting up Get-Optimal was just that inertia, that frustration, that companies go, “It’s fine. We’ll do our bit, we’ll take something off, we’ll put it in our slogan, or it’ll be one of the five pillars we’re working towards.”

On the other hand, you’ve got people that actively really want to make a change – and they can’t do that. Warren, my CTO, and the team have built our gender decoding tool, and what that does is, it removes any gender bias.

And again, this is never anybody’s fault, because it’s unconscious bias. If you’ve been trained to think in a certain way, you look at the diction you know, it’s what people are doing repetitively. That’s exactly the same thing with gender bias as well. Hopefully, we’ll start learning about it at a younger age, in education, and in everyday jobs as well. So eventually you don’t have to worry about that.

And also, our data has proven that gender wording commonly employed in job ads maintains a gender inequality in very traditionally male-dominated occupations. Across our client group, we had about a 22% increase in female applications on using our tool. To be honest, that was as good as any deal I’d ever closed, because it’s happening!

Optimizing Job Ad Content for Different Job Boards and Search Engines

Jenn: Should we do something different for Monster versus Indeed – or is it all the same?

Daniel: In terms of the data available, it’s all incredibly, incredibly similar.

Search engines, which is what they are, work on the premise (that) it’s based on content, and it’s based on relevance. They want to return whatever that candidate is searching for, whether it’s a warehouse operative role, or an account manager role, or district nurse, they want to return that search in as quick a time as possible based on the intelligence they’ve got: what job have I done previously, where do I live, gender, where have I worked before, what are my salary expectations?

So again, it’s about optimizing your job ad once, and then ultimately, it’s about publishing it across a number of different platforms. If you look at job boards – the Monsters of this world, or people like Reed in the UK – they’re stripping out all of their antiquated technology stack, and they’re integrating internal search functions, smart matching, and they’re all copying Indeed’s two-pane display as well.

Optimizing Job Ads at Scale

Jenn: We know that the knowledge-working jobs, the hard-to-fill engineering, math, and science positions that are always hard to fill, that continue to be hard to fill, haven’t gone away necessarily. We’re still trying to fill those as recruiting leaders.

While that’s happening, and other high volume openings are down in other places, it seems like a lot of TA leaders are doubling down on getting to best practices. So if I’m a TA leader, and I’m interested in optimizing a group of job ads, they have opportunities to do that on both small or large scales, right? People could do a handful of 100 jobs or 20 jobs or whatever, or they could do all of their jobs. You have some flexibility in that space. Is that a fair statement?

Daniel: Yeah, absolutely. We try and address all of the requirements of all of our customers on www.get-optimal.com. You can buy 15, 25, 35 credits, that was really built for the mom-and-pop shops that were asking us to do two a month, or five a year as well. But then for our more enterprise-based clients, we have a subscription service which runs over a 12-month period where you can optimize 500 a month. SMEs are doing probably 50 a month as well. So it hugely varies.

Obviously there’s no point optimizing, “these five, I won’t worry about those five.” That’s not a solution. We’re very flexible in terms of what we’re doing, in terms of pricing.

But when you’re measuring the success of working with Get-Optimal, you can measure the quality of the green-flag candidates coming into your pipeline, and we had a 77% increase in green-flag candidates coming into our largest client over Q2, which is fantastic.

Also – you can measure that from a diversity point of view, how much time you’re saving, whether you’re a business owner like myself, or whether you’re generally managing a big team across multiple countries and you’re maybe doing 250–500 job ads a month. We can save you tens and hundreds of hours each month.

Jenn: Well, thank you! This has been a ton of fun, and I appreciate your passion for a topic that I consider very important. For those that are viewing or listening out there in the world, I would encourage you to check out Get-Optimal’s website.

I would also just throw a shout out to the mission of reducing gender bias. I think that even if that wasn’t on your radar before you started watching this episode today, maybe you walk away with it on your radar.