Fast Track Recruitment

Does honesty really pay?

Posted by Mitch on 24th February 2015


I recently read a blog on LinkedIn by a young recruiter called Jeremy Pierce, who by the way, I need to add to my list of favourite UK recruitment bloggers.

His blog bemoans the state of recruitment advertising – in particular, how honest most recruitment ads are. Or rather, aren’t.

A few months back I ran what could be described as an honest recruitment ad. Some may say brutally honest.

I did it to see what would happen. Before I tell you what did actually happen, here’s a transcript of the advert:

Field Service Engineer
Thames Valley
£24,000 – £28,000

Here’s another job that’s based out there ‘in the field’. Working on HP and Kyocera desktops and MFDs. Additional experience on Canon and Ricoh might also be useful. Good networking experience with scan-to-email and scan-to-folder would be useful too.

Nothing particularly exciting about that.

We’ll give you a car, a laptop and a phone. Again, nothing special. Nobody’s going to sit next to you in Chievely Services and say “Ooh, nice laptop”. Teenagers won’t nudge each other and whisper “Check out the tech”. Jealous petrol-heads won’t gaze longingly as you pull out of the car park.

Standard stuff really.

We were the first company to offer remanufactured cartridge refills, but we don’t make grand environmental claims. We don’t have great plans for growth. We’re not expanding, not ‘going places’. We’re not planning to get bought by a Californian tech company or float on the stock market. Our ambitions are limited, nothing for the Dragons to get excited about. We want to sell and maintain good kit, to earn good money and to enjoy ourselves while we do it.

Not exactly groundbreaking.

But here’s the kicker. There are 100 of us and more than two-thirds of us have worked here for at least 6 years. Why? Because we leave our people to get on with it.

Radical, and there’s more.

You won’t be writing dull reports or trying to convince customers that our ‘company vision statement’ will change their business. We won’t measure you on how well you’re ‘living the company values’ or what you’ve done this month to ‘build our brand’. We give you a simple job to do. You’re the engineer, you know how best to do it.

This job is all about you. Your personality, your knowledge, your skills, your customers, your results, your decision.

It’s good fun here. Within reason, we work independently – how and when we want. That’s why we don’t leave and that’s why you should join.

Simple really.

So, what happened?

Lots of people on social media (especially Twitter as I recall) regaled me with admiring glances, fulsome praise, retweets and favourites. Many applauded its innovation and wished more ads were like this.

Good stuff so far.

I mean, who doesn’t like being looked at admiringly by your peer group and industry commentators? There’s an entire awards industry that panders to that particular form of narcissism. The trouble was that the people who liked the ad were other recruitment and HR people. None of them were Field Service Engineers.

Which brings me to my point.

The only meaningful criteria that any advert should be judged on is whether it filled the job. And in that respect, my advert failed. In fact, it didn’t even produce one single candidate that was worth interviewing. And so to continue the brutal honesty motif, it would be fair to say that my advert failed miserably.

Maybe Field Service Engineers were the wrong target audience to try-out something like this on. Maybe this candidate type have been dulled by the boring monotony of their job and by all of their previous employers to render them impervious to anything this different.

I suspect the reality is that adverts like this have to reflect a similar approach in all other job adverts and wider employer branding initiatives. That one-offs like this don’t work in isolation.

The bottom line is that any job advert that fills the job has been successful. By the way, that would be the same job as the one advertised rather than the generic fake job ads that some agencies use to collect candidates that they place in different jobs.

So, each time you write a job ad that directly results in you filling that job, forget the awards industry and give yourself your own award, like Friday afternoon off.

As to how honest you are, like most things, maybe a little moderation is needed?


By Martin Ellis on Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Great ad Mitch. If I’d written that, it would have been published.

But thinking about it, selling the concept of enjoyable independence to a bunch of people who probably think they already have it (they don’t get properly managed in the main because they’re remote and they’re managed on a series of KPI’s nobody REALLY cares about - go ask the management).

But stick with it Mitch. Your assertion that most job ads are boring and badly written is entirely correct. We all just have to keep the notion of our audience in our minds as we write them.

By Chris on Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Did your advert elicit any responses from applicants Mitch out of interest? Did you manage to find someone? < how did you source them if so?

Love the advert by the way…..if only…......

By Alconcalcia on Thursday, 26 February 2015

I don’t know where you advertised your particular ad, but would be interested to know. The thing is, putting my old ad agency account handling hat on for a moment, there’s more to it than mere words, although the very fact that you so lovingly created an ad that stands out from the thousands of dull and boring ones is to be applauded.

To me, it’s as much about where you put the ad as what you say. For instance, a survey out today lists Indeed as the top job board in the world in terms of numbers, but every time I’ve looked on there it strikes me as being nothing more than a glorified catch all site that will take any old dross from an advertiser provided they’re willing to pay.

Another interesting stat from the survey was that 32% of sources admit to making no effort to optimise their jobs to be found by jobseekers. That’s right, a third of all jobs at least are shi*t. It’s official. Simply cut and paste a job description, put some nonsense up top about how “Our client are looking..” and hope to God that someone clicks the apply button….

By Alconcalcia on Thursday, 26 February 2015

Part 2 (due to character limit and only being allowed one post per 300 seconds)

My point is that we now live in a world where it is perceived by many that if you shove any old job out onto 100 job boards, you’re bound to get response. After all, you’ve potentially reached out to million upon million of people. But that logic is flawed. At the other end of the scale, those who go to the effort of creating something different like you did perhaps don’t have a decent outlet for it to be seen by the right people. Maybe it just got swallowed up by all the other dross that comes up in search results for Field Service Engineers. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the message.

Wouldn’t it be good if there were a niche job board for field service engineers that only had an audience of a few thousand but you knew that of those few thousand many of them were qualified to do the role you were advertising for? Far better than shoving it on the likes of Indeed or one of the other giant job boards, some of which are simply a mish mash of the good, the bad and mainly the ugly in terms of job content.

It’s a dilemma and a conundrum. All I know is I’d rather people went down the route you chose than the 32% who make no effort at all to be unique or different or interesting. It’s trying to find an outlet that targets your audience rather than takes its chances will all and sundry.

By Mitch on Thursday, 26 February 2015

Thanks Martin.  Creating decent ads is something I think is massively underrated.

By Mitch on Thursday, 26 February 2015

Chris, it got a few responses but none were worth interviewing.

By Mitch on Thursday, 26 February 2015

Alasdair, I only ran it on one of the major boards and it was borne of desperation of having to rely on agencies sending over candidates they hadn’t assessed or had sold the job to accurately, or well.  As it turned out, we got someone from an agency.

Which brings us to the point about why most job ads on the major boards are dull.  Most of them are posted by agencies, many of whom are simply collecting candidate data to use at a future time.  And most of the time they have no commitment from the hiring company to see anyone.

All of which means they have weak job/company info to be able to sell jobs properly and have no idea which jobs to invest money on by hiring a copywriter, because they’re basically playing recruitment lottery.

What I probably should have done is given this copy to an agency specialising in Service Engineers and invited them to email it out to their database.

But then I’d have wanted a reduction in fee, given that I’d provided the sales collateral, and they’d have refused because they could punt out the same candidates to other companies desperate to hire a Service Engineer.

This might be one of those vicious circle things.

By Alconcalcia on Thursday, 26 February 2015

Sounds like it yes. Thanks for the insight.

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