April 13, 2006   view past issues

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Feature: A Job Posting for Passive Prospects

The Holy Grail for most recruiters is the “passive job seeker.” This person is normally a high quality candidate who is almost always employed someplace else. And there’s the rub. They aren’t job seekers at all. By definition, so-called passive job seekers aren’t even looking for a job. They are, in most cases, happily employed right where they are. So, will these passive people even consider another opportunity someplace else? Of course they will, but only if it’s presented persuasively. In a sense, they are the classic consumer; they have to be “sold” on an employer’s value proposition. That’s way I call them passive prospects.

How do you write a job posting with enough power to influence a passive prospect? First, you have to understand what goal you’re trying to accomplish. Unlike with active job seekers, a recruitment ad that targets passive prospects must be able to convince them to change devils: to go from the devil they know-their current employer, boss and commute-to the devil they don’t know-your employer, a new boss, and a different commute. Your job posting, therefore, has to be persuasive enough to sell the reader on doing the one thing humans most hate to do: change.

No less important, passive prospects never look for a job; they search for an employment opportunity. That means your posting must do more than simply describe the requirements and responsibilities of a particular opening. If you want it to connect with and influence an employed person who has other employers knocking on their door regularly, you must craft an ad that sells all of the following aspects of your organization’s employment experience:

  • the leadership of the company and its vision for the present and future,
  • the culture of the macro organization and the micro-culture of the team or unit where they will work,
  • the open position and the role it plays, directly and indirectly, in the success of the larger organization, and
  • the ancillary advantages the employer offers to its workers (e.g., work/life balance, community support).
  • Unlike the printed page, the Internet provides enough physical space to present such information and more. Indeed, the average commercial job board will permit postings to run as long as 1,400 words-the equivalent of two typed pages-and for passive prospects, you need every syllable. To convince someone to change devils, you must see your posting not as the electronic equivalent of a classified ad, but as an electronic sales brochure. It has to be so informative and so compelling that even the most reluctant consumer will be moved to consider the opening.

    There are two keys to developing such an ad:

  • Format-passive prospects have the attention span of a gnat. They don’t read on the Web, they scan. Therefore, you should lay out your ad in headlines and bullets so that the reader can quickly grasp its key points.
  • Content-passive prospects care most about WIIFT. They don’t want to read about requirements and responsibilities-those are employers’ concerns. They want to know What’s In It For Them.
  • All recruiters are good at verbal selling; they do it every day on the telephone and in interviews. On the Web, however, selling is done with the written word, and many recruiters don’t have as much practice with that medium. For that reason, I’ve developed a template for job postings that arranges the information in the ad to optimize its impact on a passive prospect. The template has five sections described by this acronym: S-ABC-S.


    The first five lines of a job posting are extremely important. Our research here at WEDDLE’s indicates that if you don’t get these first lines right, the passive person is unlikely to read any further. To be effective, the lines must include the following information in the following order:

  • a compelling statement about why this opening is a dream job,
  • an equally compelling statement about why the organization is a dream employer,
  • a salary range; while most passive prospects do not make employment changes for money, they use their compensation to gauge what is important to them: their career advancement,
  • a powerful statement about the organization’s commitment to privacy protection. Since most passive prospects are employed, they need to be assured of full confidentiality.
  • ABC-Advantages, Benefits, Capabilities

    The Advantages section of your posting addresses the responsibilities of a position, but from the WIIFT perspective. It answers all of the key questions a passive prospect is likely to have about an employment opportunity:

  • What will I get to do?
  • Whom will I get to work with?
  • What will I get to learn?
  • What will I get to accomplish?
  • How will I advance my career?
  • The Benefits section of your posting is not boilerplate. It is not information conveyed in legal gibberish or in a long laundry list of HR jargon. Nor is it the same tired, old paragraphs that you insert into every posting. You might be able to get away with that if you’re selling to active job seekers (although I wouldn’t recommend it there either), but if you’re trying to reach reluctant candidates who have other options, you have to create a Benefits section with focused appeal. It must be a tailored presentation that highlights the benefits that are most important to your target demographic. For example, if you’re trying to reach passive prospects early in their career, you might emphasize tuition reimbursement and work/life balance. If you’re trying to reach seasoned workers with a lot of years in the workplace, you might emphasize child or elder care programs. And, as with any good advertising copy, you must both describe the benefit and its value to the prospect. To put it another way, it’s not a Benefit unless you explain what makes it so.

    The Capabilities section deals with the requirements of a position, but again, presents the information from the prospect’s perspective. In other words, it answers the questions:

  • What skills and experience will I need to achieve success in this position?
  • What knowledge must I have to advance my career with this employer?
  • What preparation will enable me to make a significant contribution on-the-job?
  • S-Sign-Off

    Once you’ve gone to all of the trouble of creating a job posting with enough power to sell a passive prospect, don’t undermine your success with an incomplete or misconceived sign-off. This section of your posting is part “call to action for the prospect” and part “return for you on the time and effort it took to write the posting.” Accordingly, it should include all of the following:

  • multiple response options-passive prospects are finicky customers, so don’t force them to use one method (e.g., online) to “buy” your organization. Encourage them to apply any way that’s convenient for them (remembering that passive prospects often don’t have a resume).
  • a referral request-passive prospects know other passive prospects. If your opportunity isn’t right for someone interested enough to get to this point in your posting, make sure that you ask them to pass it along to an appropriate friend or colleague.
  • an opt-in opportunity-passive prospects change their minds. Ask if you can stay in touch with them through a regular e-mail communication that will keep them informed about the developments and opportunities at your company.
  • Selling passive prospects isn’t easy. It can be done and efficiently, however, if you transform traditional recruitment ads online into electronic sales brochures. These alternative postings can set your employer apart and strengthen the persuasive power of its message for top talent.

    Thanks for reading,


    P.S. Don’t keep WEDDLE’s to yourself. If you like our newsletter, please tell your friends and colleagues about it. They’ll appreciate your thinking of them. And, we will too!

    This Issue’s Sponsor:

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of

    Diversity is an important component of any online recruiting campaign. Achieving a diverse workplace is not merely a destination, but an ongoing process. offers a variety of diversity job posting, resume database and branding packages to meet your online diversity recruitment needs. For more information please contact or call us today at (973) 992 7311.

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    America’s Job Bank, a service of the U.S. Department of Labor, announced that it will discontinue operations effective June 30, 2007. According to internal memos circulated to state agencies, this decision was taken because of the high cost of maintaining the job board (which ran $27 million annually) and the existence of a wide range of alternative employment sites in the private sector. (Please see the International Association of Employment Web Sites for a list of some of the best.) Founded in 1995, America’s Job Bank was one of the first general purpose job boards on the Web and, over the years, has been one of the most widely recognized employment sites among employers and job seekers alike.

    The HealtheCAREERS Network, a nationwide network of healthcare-related association job boards, has merged with, a Canadian employment site for physicians, nurses, allied health and other healthcare professionals. According to the sites, more than 8,000 hospitals and other hiring organizations used their recruitment services last year.

    KeyGroup released the results of its survey of the job search plans of currently employed workers. It found that almost 18% of the 1,727 respondents intend to look for a new job this year in order to achieve a better work-life balance. In other words, almost one-in-five formerly passive prospects will now be active job seekers, and the tipping point in their selection of one employer over another will be how well an organization helps people make a life as well as a living. What should you do? First, if appropriate, make a change to the employee testimonials in the Career area on your corporate Web-site. Include at least one testimonial from an employee involved in a job sharing, flex schedule, telecommuting or similar program. Second, include a Work-Life balance channel in the Career area and stuff it with information about the company’s softball team, volunteer work by employees that is supported by your employer, and workers taking time off for education or family affairs. What’s the bottom line? Use your work-life programs to differentiate your employer, but do so by describing how your employees use them, not what they are.

    Stanford University professors Stephen Barley and Charles M. Pigott have written Gurus, Hired Guns and Warm Bodies: Itinerant Experts in a Knowledge Economy, published by Princeton University Press. Their research into staffing firm performance led them to identify a number of factors that employers can use to determine which agencies are most likely to provide the best talent. High performing agencies:

  • enforced formal procedures for selecting contractors and testing their skills,
  • invested in training to enhance the performance of their contractors,
  • maintained contact with contractors while they were working for their clients, and
  • offered their contractors benefits packages and even stock options.
  • These factors produced two positive outcomes: a contractor workforce that did not feel “taken advantage of” and customers that were able to reliably acquire skilled contractors on short notice.

    WEDDLE’s is offering a series of training programs for recruiters and employers.

    Here’s what The Wall Street Journal had to say about a previous WEDDLE’s training program:

    “The WEDDLE’s Seminar has been held in cities around the country to rave reviews; in fact, more than 95% have said they found the seminars to be both very informative and very helpful.”

    Delivered by audio conference (with accompanying course materials), the topics and dates are as follows:

  • April 26th: Best Practices in Sourcing Passive Prospects Online
  • May 4th: Optimizing the Candidate Experience for Top Talent
  • May 25th: The Sum & Substance of a Great Employment Brand
  • June 13th: Building a Corporate Career Site for Top Talent
  • June 21st: Staffing Metrics for All the Right Reasons
  • July 11th: HR Leadership-The Antidote to Management By-the-Numbers
  • All programs begin at 11:00 a.m. EST, 8:00 a.m. PST and last for one hour.

    You can take the courses individually or invite as many colleagues as you would like to listen in. Even better, the enrollment fee is priced for every budget. Just $129 per program!

    That’s hundreds of dollars less than comparable programs elsewhere. In addition, if you:

  • sign up for two programs, the fee drops to just $119 per program.
  • sign up for four or more programs, the fee drops to an unbelievable $99 per program.
  • Registration is limited, so reserve your seats now. To sign up, please call WEDDLE’s at 203.964.1888.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    1. The mayor has asked you to find a new program director for your local park authority. Which of the following sites would help level the playing field in your search for candidates?

  • 2. Your call center supports a company that sells beach essentials, and you need to gear up for summer sales. Where could you go online to kick sand in the face of your competitors for top prospects?

  • 3. Financial planning is increasingly popular among your bank’s customers, and you need to hire several seasoned financial planning pros. Which of the following sites would help you retire this requirement without any problem?

  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2005/6 Guides and Directories


    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – Part time

    Distribution of jobs: National-USA

    Fee to post a job: $175/posting

    Posting period: 60 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    Number of resumes: 25,000

    Source of resumes: Direct from individuals

    Top occupations among visitors: Administrative, Engineering, Information technology

    Other services for employers: Automated resume agent, Banner advertising, Status reports: Postings/banners

    Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: No

    Answers to Site Insite

    1. All but, the site of a European staffing firm.

    2. All but, the site of a company offering “pro engineering and sports handicapping.”

    3. Only; is the site of a civil engineering consulting firm, is the site of a medical search company, and is the site of a facilities planning company that specializes in banks.

    Please Support Our Sponsor:

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of

    Diversity is an important component of any online recruiting campaign. Achieving a diverse workplace is not merely a destination, but an ongoing process. offers a variety of diversity job posting, resume database and branding packages to meet your online diversity recruitment needs. For more information please contact or call us today at (973) 992 7311.