It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s the most well-articulated job post in the history of job posts. If it doesn’t match the way job seekers read, it might be overlooked. Almost worse, it could result in a mountain of unqualified applicants.
New research reveals that what job seekers claim about the way they read doesn’t align with what they do, according to Lauren Weber for the Wall Street Journal. Job-search firm, TheLadders, conducted a study on how job seekers read ads. The results showed participants in the survey spent less time reading than they thought, and they didn’t spend as much time reading what they thought they did.
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Eye-Tracking Technology Reveals Patterns
Using eye-tracking technology, TheLadders could determine where participants’ eyes landed on the page, and how long they stayed there. The differences between claims and reality were a bit surprising.
Nearly half of the participants said they spent between 1 and 5 minutes reading a job ad, and 19% claimed to spend as much as 10 minutes. But in truth, they spent approximately 49 seconds before dismissing a job that they didn’t believe was right for them, and only 76.7 seconds on jobs that did match what they were looking for.
What Grabs a Job-Seeker’s Attention
This technology also revealed which parts of a job ad caught the attention of participants. The job’s title was naturally the first thing read. After that, participants read details about the company, salary and information about the recruiter, and then spent about 25 seconds reading the job description. “Skimmed” might be a better word than “read.”
Less than 15 seconds was devoted to learning the job requirements. But TheLadders conceded that more time might be spent re-reading requirements later if the participants decided to follow through and apply for a job.
Knowing is Half the Battle
Knowing what does and doesn’t get attention helps you present better ads. One theory is that job seekers skim and scan because ads are not reader-friendly. When faced with job titles that are more clever (confusing) than informative, large blocks of text that look like one giant sentence, and conspicuously missing details, it’s more likely that the audience will skim and move on instead of giving an ad the attention you hope for.
Salary information is one of those touchy subjects. Omitting any reference to salary almost defies logic, since job seekers will nearly always want to know what level of compensation to expect. But many job ads avoid salary information as if it’s lava, which gives job seekers yet another reason to skim and pass.
If salary specifics seem to remove some bargaining power, Selena Hadzibabic, director of product and user experience with TheLadders, recommends that employers at least consider offering up a range.
The best job ads aren’t just chunks of information. They’re clear, direct, and carefully crafted to grab and hold the reader’s attention. To do this, you have to think like a job seeker.
Make it easier on your audience. If the job description, or any other part of the ad is lengthy, break it up into easy-to-read sections. If you want something catchy at top, use a subhead for clever text and let the job title remain clear.
Job ads are about more than just presenting the stark details and hoping the right applicants find them. They also require working with how your audience reads and what they view as important enough to slow down to absorb. When the job-seeker habits are woven into the ads, employers could gain more applicants. More important, those applicants may be better qualified because they’ve read and know up front what they’re applying for.