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Writing a Love Letter to Talent [& Why We Have Weird Job Postings]

Manager of Talent & Perks at HNI 

We’ll own up to it: our job postings are kind of strange. Check out our careers page, and you’ll see what we’re talking about.

We get questions and comments from applicants all the time on this. Some positive… some a little bewildered.

So for the record, we wanted to clarify why we take this approach, and why we recommend to our clients that they do the same.

The message the traditional job posting is sending

Talent_MagnetThe war for talent is heating up. People with in-demand skillsets typically have plenty of choices about the organizations they will give their blood, sweat, and tears to.

But the typical job posting doesn’t reflect this shift. It’s usually written with an eye on compliance, containing sections like:

  • Essential functions
  • Job duties
  • Minimum requirements

Yes, these are important components to include in the formal job description kept for the employee file. But they are not often the “pick up line” you want to lead with when you have the chance to make an impression.

The glaring thing that’s often missing is WHY the applicant should want the job. Instead, the postings point out reasons why the applicant might not be good enough. They tell people all of the reasons why not to apply and screen people out, rather than trying to draw them in.

Casting a broader net to lure in talent 

When you have a few seconds to try to capture the heart and mind of a potential employee, do you really want to open with “Must be able to lift 20 pounds?”

And if you’re saying you want only applicants with a Masters’ in Astrobiology -- could you be missing out on that up-and-comer with a unique background but great on-the-job exposure?

Unless you’re Facebook or Google, most organizations don’t suffer from a barrage of talent trying to get in the door. [Do YOU have a flood of applicants that are a perfect cultural match for your organization? Didn’t think so.]

At HNI, our goal is to entice people to throw their hat in the ring and narrow the pipeline down from there. Some of our best hires had backgrounds that weren’t 100% cookie cutter – and we might have lost them if we hadn’t cast a broader net.

What we're really doing: Writing a love letter to our future employees

Internally, we sometimes refer to our job postings as love letters. We know that our prince or princess charming is out there, and we want to paint a picture of our opportunity in a way that speaks to them.

We want them to read our posting and picture themselves in our role. We want them to have a vision of themselves just crushing it, fitting in with our culture, and doing the best work of their lives at HNI.

We don’t want to weed anyone out too early that wants a shot at joining the team. To that end, we post broader / more flexible descriptions of our “requirements.” Sure, we might kiss a few frogs along the way, but that’s what our hiring process of phone screening, conducting an assessment of work style, and interviewing is designed for.

Screening for cultural fit first – not skills

What our postings DO screen for (in lieu of a dossier of “essential functions”) is cultural fit. We’re looking for team members who are BOLD, DIFFERENT, CLEAR and SOCIAL and who are attracted to the vision that we share with them.

The way we write these doesn’t resonate with everyone – but that’s okay. We want people who react to this non-traditional approach and see it as a breath of fresh air. Who when reading it, say ‘Yep, that’s me.”

This cultural fit is more difficult to find than any skills. Skills we can teach – attitude and outlook are a little more difficult to shape.

Be different, or be invisible!

A little something extra can go a long way when trying to stand out to talent. It can feel intimidating to try something different – but the payoff is there.

What have you tried in your organization to attract talent? Where are you finding the best applicants? Share your tips, thoughts, and questions in the comments!


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Topics: Leadership / Strategy