Attract the Best Talent by Writing Outrageously Creative Ads

By Barry Deutsch

[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]I[/dropcaps]f you’re only seeing the bottom third of all possible candidates, that’s who you’ll hire, even if you’re great at using all the other techniques we’ve mentioned, such as defining superior performance or conducting a performance-based interview. As a manager or executive, don’t assume that your current man running on up arrowcandidate sourcing programs are adequate to find the best people. A good sourcing program is a critical component of an effective hiring program and it needs to operate on several levels. Attracting the interest of top people right from the start is the key to eventually getting the right person into the job. Our experience in conducting hiring process audits over the last 10 years has shown that most companies are only using at best 20% of their internal candidate sourcing capability. Many of the techniques for acquiring top talent are simple to implement and do not require a large investment of time or expense.

The best candidates don’t look for jobs in the same way typical candidates do. A new job for a top candidate is always a strategic decision based on an opportunity for personal growth. For the typical candidate, the primary motivating need is to get another job. Most sourcing programs don’t take this difference into account, and as a result never attract enough top candidates. Managing motivation is a critical aspect of every successful search assignment. You must focus on the needs of the best to attract a bigger pool of talented candidates.

The primary method of getting the attention of top candidates is through writing outrageous and compelling marketing statements (we don’t call them ads since we’re going to use them on an escalating level that transcends simple classified job advertising).

Here are the five key ingredients to writing outrageous and compelling marketing statements that will dramatically increase your pool of candidates:

1. The Doing

Get as much action into your compelling marketing statement as possible; focus on what the candidate will have to do once they’re hired. This is the heart of your compelling marketing statement – setting up what you expect the person to accomplish. If you make the “doing” sound exciting, you’ll prompt all of those qualified candidates who aren’t actively job-seeking to sit up and take notice. (You’ll also discourage people who don’t want to work very hard.) If you want to motivate people to excellence, devote at least 50% of the ad to the “doing”. Add lines like this to your compelling marketing statements: “Get set to rebuild a electro-mechanical consumer product line with lots of potential, but little direction.” or “Take over a customer service department of 10 people that needs an energizing force and a new direction.”

2. The Becoming

Use your imagination to paint a clear and attractive picture of how the person can grow and develop over the first year. Give them something to reach for. People stay at jobs when they can see a compelling future. Often they’ll take less of a salary increase: The career opportunity more than compensates for an additional 10% salary. The “becoming” needs to be mentioned subtly in line with some salesmanship about the company. For example, “Become an e-commerce guru as you lead the launch of our state-of-the-art Internet application.” Here’s another, “Enhance your UNIX Systems Administrator skills as you take on one of the biggest IT challenges to come to Austin.”

3. The Having

Don’t pack your compelling marketing statements with lists of requirements, skills, academics or duties. These are a big turn-off and exclude the best from even applying. Not surprisingly, unqualified people, who often only read the title, apply in great numbers (Do you get too many responses?). “Experience” is a poor predictor of on the job success, so minimize this in your ads — no more than one general sentence. Something like, “Send in your resume if you have a few years in our industry, solid academics, and a track record of building awesome teams” works best, we’ve found. Keep this part simple and vague.

4. Outrageous Titlesbizman with pen

Use interesting and exciting titles for your positions. Be a bit creative here. Instead of “UNIX Administrator” use “UNIX Guru”. Instead of “Sales Manager”, use “Sales General” or “Decorated Road Warrior”. An “Inside Sales Person” could become a “Tele-sales Wizard”. This causes candidates to read the advertisement or compelling marketing statement to learn more.

5. Qualify Candidates Right from the Start

At the end of your compelling marketing statement, ask the candidate to submit a one-page write-up of their most significant comparable accomplishment (or add this request to an auto-email response). This is a more meaningful way to filter candidates. The quality of the accomplishment is more predictive of success than all the degrees and experiences in the world.

You can also take this document and pass it out to all your employees, asking them to forward it to individuals who might like to hear about the compelling opportunity in your company. Using this compelling marketing statement will dramatically boost your internal employee referrals. We’ve always felt that the greatest source of new candidates can come from your existing group of employees. Your best people already know other great people. Unfortunately, most companies don’t give their employees a vehicle (such as the compelling marketing statement) to distribute to people they know. When your employees start emailing this compelling statement of work, you’ll be amazed at how many great candidates start raising their hands to be considered for the position.

This compelling marketing statement you’ve just written can be used far beyond simply placing the ad in the newspaper or on-line. Once you’ve prepared this document, you can send it to a specialty trade organization, user forum, or other special interest group, both on-line and off-line. We call this approach “Sourcing by one degree of separation”.

Final Thoughts

According to Dana Borowka, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC (, hiring the right people is key to future growth. If you would like additional information on hiring, please click here to see an article on this subject.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and Impact Hiring Solutions to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014

Barry Deutsch, MA is a well-known thought leader in hiring and peak performance management. He is a frequent and sought-after speaker for management meetings, trade associations, and CEO forums, such as Vistage International, formerly known as TEC, a worldwide CEO membership organization of more than 15,000 CEOs and senior executives. Many of his clients view him as their virtual Chief Talent Officer. Vistage International named Barry “IMPACT Speaker of the Year”… Barry is also frequently asked to present IMPACT Hiring Solutions award-winning programs on hiring, retention, and motivating top talent and leverages a vast knowledge base of 25 years in the executive search field, with a track record of successful placements in multi-billion dollar Fortune 100 companies, entrepreneurial firms, and middle-market high-growth businesses. He has worked closely with thousands of CEOs and key executives to help improve hiring success, leverage human capital, and raise the bar on talent acquisition. Barry earned his BA and MA from the American University in Washington, D.C. Prior to his executive search career, Barry held positions of responsibility in Finance and General Management with Mattel, Beatrice Foods, and Westinghouse Cable. Barry is a co-author of the book, You’re Not The Person I Hired. You can reach him at

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, & our website:

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

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