Write the Empathetic Job Postings that Candidates Need in 2020

September 17, 2020      By Katrina Kibben

Ultimate Takeaway
  • The way job postings are written has to evolve to meet the new needs of candidates.
  • Job postings need to be informative, but remember to keep your target audience in mind.
  • Focusing on tangible project and work experience over years of experience can be helpful in attracting the right fit.

There’s a good day, and then there’s a pandemic good day. Let me explain. Every time I start a call, the first words out of someone’s mouth are, “How are you?” After years of networking, my business reflexes automatically say, “Good! You?” That usually prompts a round of pleasantries, and then we roll right into the business topic.

But I have to reveal a little secret. I don’t trust anyone that’s just “good” right now. If you can say you’re good without admitting that anything — the pandemic, the economy, racial injustice, etc. — is getting to you? I think you’re a robot, not a human.

The context of current events, social movements, and health concerns are influencing how people think about everything. Significant life milestones are muffled by the roar of reality, masks, and social distancing. The difficulties of finding a job are magnified as over 35 million people search at once. There’s no moment in our lifetimes that would compare.

We’re six months in, and studies are starting to confirm our suspicions: everything has changed, especially our mental health. Since the beginning of the pandemic, lower psychological well-being and higher anxiety and depression are showing up across every age group. It will be a decade or more before we know the actual impact on our children’s development.

How Does the Pandemic Impact a Job Seeker’s POV?

I imagine any study on the psychology of the job search right now would see an even higher rate of depression and anxiety. When I speak to job seekers, they often say the odds are stacked against them. “Why should I even try?”

It breaks my heart, and I know job postings do little to encourage them to keep going. Most are full of clichés that say a lot without saying anything at all. In some cases, they’re so bad that it feels like they’re mocking us. “Optimistic, fast-paced, hard-working, high-performer” is a real kick in the teeth when you struggle to get out of bed every day. The world has changed, and recruiting should too, especially when we know this world is not being kind to people.

When I teach people how to write empathetic job postings, I insist they memorize only one thing: we write for people, not about work. If we’re genuinely writing for people knowing everything we do about the world today, we will dump the buzzwords. We will go out of our way to be precise. We will try harder.

3 Ways to Inject Empathy into Your Job Postings

  1. Stop using years of experience. There are more talented people on the market looking for new roles than ever before. Don’t limit your talent pool by creating frivolous years of experience. Write about real projects and work experiences that would prepare a person for this role.
  2. Be explicit about location details. There’s a lot of uncertainty about remote work, safety, and kids going back to school. Every topic takes a toll on the job seeker and becomes another variable in their ability to thrive. They are looking for answers. Add content to your empathetic job posting about your workforce’s remote status, the economic stability of your company, and the programs you offer to support teams.
  3. Go the extra mile — especially for high volume, low retention roles. Be extra helpful. You don’t need a laundry list of requirements, so use that real estate in your empathetic job posting to mention a monthly QA session with recruiters or add a tip on how to optimize the resume. Tell people how to succeed, not just how to do the job.

While you still need to follow the rules of writing a great job posting, we always have to consider the context of a candidate’s life. Right now, the world is changing, and it’s influencing every aspect of our lives. Job postings and hiring are no exception to that shift.


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