You have to know your audience if you’re going to drop a joke, especially in job postings and on stage. I’ve learned the hard way that this especially applies in the world of HR and recruiting. My most recent lousy joke was in a big conference room in January, pre-COVID. I was presenting on the topic of personalizing your automation and said something along the lines of, “I don’t want to read anything that sounds like an HR weenie wrote it.”
Crickets. Calling a profession a bunch of weenies isn’t funny. I even saw a few cringes. Lesson learned: that joke is permanently retired. The cringe is not what we’re going for here.
In my defense, I’ve seen it go worse. I’ve been in a room where literally half the audience fled because the joke was that bad. I understand you want to make people laugh, but there’s a fine line between hilarious and humiliating yourself.
Creative, but creepy, job postings.
That’s what happens with job postings, too. I watch teams fill in the blanks caused by a lack of clarity with creativity with the most random ideas. While those job postings are entertaining, it’s not for the right reasons.
I had a retail client who did this. He left me with a story I’ll tell as long as I work on job postings.
I met, let’s call him Bill, at a recruiting conference. Bill was hiring Sales Associates for his retail hunting store and wanted to write something that would stand out. I believe the first time we spoke, he added a great southernism to the end: “I want to stand out like a sore thumb.”
A few weeks after our chat, Bill sent me an email. He created a new job posting and wanted to see what I thought of it. I opened the attachment, then immediately started to giggle.
The first sentence read, “I like big bucks, and I can not lie.”
As I tried to compose myself, and an answer, I had another good laugh. “Well,” I said, “this is how I think of it.” Then, I created this chart to explain that the small section where they overlap represents the very few people who enjoy both so much that it would convince them to apply. While I’m a big fan of Sir Mix-A-Lot, I can not lie: When a job post shows up with this weird little phrase and the big words in your face, you get…
… off that damn website. [Yes, I wrote that to the tune of the lyrics.]”
Nailing The First Sentence: What To Say
Including creativity that’s completely irrelevant won’t make candidates apply. They GTFO of there. [Google it if you don’t know the acronym.] Creativity only works if it attracts the right audience. If they don’t think it’s interesting, they aren’t interacting.
So what do you say in the first sentence when you’re trying to get their attention? Start with clarity, then work on creativity.
Tell applicants explicitly who they help every day in the first sentence. I call it the job pitch. In every job, you will help someone do something. Explain it. It’s as simple as this—impact matters.
It’s not complicated, and it doesn’t need to be creative. This sentence needs to be concise and convince candidates to opt-out if they’re not qualified or interested in this type of impact.
Here are a few quick examples:
As our customer service representative, you’ll help our customers make decisions about their financial future.
As our marketing manager, you will run our email program to generate more sales.
Want to write great job postings? Clarity over creativity will always make your job posting more effective- and that’s the real definition of exceptional after all.
Katrina (Kat) Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive, unbiased job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.