September 7, 2006   view past issues

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Feature: The First Four Lines

Job seekers are investing more time in their visits to job boards. According to a recent survey we conducted here at WEDDLE’s, most visitors now spend at least twenty minutes on these sites, and more than a quarter (27%) actually spend thirty minutes or more. The good news is that most of this time is devoted to looking at the job openings we post on the sites. The bad news is that our ads aren’t always viewed in the same way.

Job seekers, of course, are not generic beings. They fall into one of two populations-active or passive-and it’s that status which determines how they look at job postings. Active job seekers will consider any and all ads-those that are well written and those that are not. They will ignore unclear descriptions and uninviting value propositions and apply anyway. Passive job seekers will simply ignore poorly written job postings altogether. They represent more of the top talent that organizations most want to recruit, so they have too many choices to spend their time plowing through job postings with all of the excitement of a brick.

How can you be sure that your job postings capture the attention and pique the interest of passive job seekers? Understand and respect the characteristics that define and set them apart.

  • Active job seekers are, by definition, actively looking for a job. Most are determined and even aggressive in their pursuit of employment opportunities. They need to find work, so in most cases, they will seek employers out and overlook any shortcomings in their job postings.
  • Passive job seekers aren’t job seekers at all. More often than not, they are already employed; to be recruited, therefore, they must be persuaded to move from their current employer to another. No one seeks the disruption such a change will cause, however, so passive prospects put it off by holding job postings to a very high standard.
  • What is that standard? Passive prospects have the attention span of a gnat. They expect to be informed and captivated in a very short period of time. In practical terms, that means you must work magic in the first four lines of your job postings. That introductory text must transform a person who isn’t looking for a job and doesn’t want to change employers into someone who is at least willing to read further. The rest of the posting must convince them to become active, but the first four lines create the suspension of inactivity that makes such an outcome possible. To put it another way, well written introductions shift passive prospects to “active-ready” job seekers.

    To achieve that high standard, the first four lines of a job posting must include the following four elements in the following order:

    1. A powerful, compelling statement about why the opening is a “dream job.” Passive prospects are willing to make a change in employers, but only if they believe they will get to do interesting work and interact with talented peers.

    2. An equally powerful and compelling statement about why your organization is a “dream employer.” Passive prospects don’t look for a job; they seek opportunities with employers that will encourage and support their best work and advance their careers.

    3. A statement regarding the compensation the opening provides. A salary range is sufficient, but such terms as “competitive” and “commensurate with experience” are not. Most passive prospects don’t work for the money; they work for the intrinsic satisfaction they derive from doing interesting work for a supportive employer. In our culture, however, money is a measure of how much that work is valued, so they will not make a move unless they know there is a financial advantage to doing so.

    4. A statement that underscores your employer’s commitment to protecting candidate confidentiality. Since most passive prospects are employed, they are risk averse in the job market. They can only be engaged if they are convinced that their identity will not be revealed at any point to anyone outside your organization.

    All of that is what you should say in the first four lines. How you say it is equally as important. For maximum impact on passive prospects:

  • Be concise and use short, hard-hitting statements. The goal is not to describe your entire value proposition in the introduction, but rather to elicit an emotional response-to get a reluctant reader to make a spur-of-the-moment decision to read on.
  • Use the second person, wherever possible. It’s much more effective to tell someone “You will get to do this” or “You will be able to accomplish that” than to speak in the impersonal third person with phrases like “The successful candidate will have experience in this” or “Applicants must be able to do that.”
  • Avoid inside jargon that is unique to your organization as it will make prospects feel like outsiders. Instead, use words and phrases that reflect the values and culture of your organization that were most appealing to its highest performing employees when they were recruited.

    The sequence or order in which these elements are presented will also influence their effectiveness. Traditionally, the search engines for job databases at job boards produce search results that list openings by the title of their posting. (See my August 24, 2006 column for an introduction to writing powerful titles for job postings.) More recently, however, a small, but growing number of search engines are also providing the first several lines of each posting. By organizing your ad to begin with what passive prospects want, you lead with your strength. You tell them up front what’s in it for them, and that’s the way you transform them from passive prospects to “active-ready” job seekers.

    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 published some important tips for business travelers heading into the peak fall travel season. To get the best rate for your hotel room:

  • call the hotel’s local number, not the 800 number of its centralized call center and
  • call right after 6 p.m., when most hotels delete their no-shows and start looking to fill up their vacancies.
  • To cut your bill a bit, negotiate your services-parking and even telephone rates are often more flexible than the hotels make them appear. And, to get a room when the hotel is saying it has no vacancies, tell the manager you’re willing to take an “out of order” room. Such rooms may have irregularities as simple as a stain on the carpet or a chair that needs repair, and if you’re willing to overlook them, you may be able to get yourself a room when officially there aren’t any available.

    Fast food chain KFC released the results of its study of the lunch time habits of U.S. workers. It found that less than 10% of the surveyed employees take a full 60 minutes for lunch. Three quarters of the respondents, in contrast, said that their productivity goes up after they take a noontime break, so what’s causing this behavior? While overworking supervisors modeling bad behavior undoubtedly have an impact, employees themselves are often also to blame-over half (56%) said they use their lunch time to run errands or to play games and shop online. What’s to be done? Don’t try and impose a policy regarding lunchtime activity-it’s unlikely to work-but do regularly educate your employees on the benefits (to them) of taking a break to eat a healthy (i.e., non-fast food) midday meal and, maybe, even get a little exercise.

    The National Sporting Goods Association announced the launch of its JobCenter. The site offers job postings, a searchable resume database, and an automated resume agent for employers. Regular posting fees for a single opening are $195 for association members and $295 for non-members; until October 15th, however, the site is offering a 25% discount on this and other posting packages. The association’s members include sporting goods retailers and wholesalers. Postings typically cover a range of career fields, including accounting/bookkeeping, warehouse operations, training, and sales, so even if you’re not recruiting in the sporting goods industry, the site may be able to connect you with some of the talent you need.

    Korn Ferry International, Inc. conducted a survey which found that companies led by CEOs who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces outperformed their peers in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index over the past three, five and ten year periods. On average, their performance was 20 percentage points better than companies run by CEOs without prior military experience. What does that mean for recruiters? Military experience is by no means a cure-all, but it can indicate the presence of attributes that will enhance individual performance, at the CEO level and at every level beneath it in the enterprise. Service in the military develops and hones a person’s sense of responsibility, their comfort with teamwork and working under pressure, and their ability to contribute in a diverse culture.

    WEDDLE’s is pleased to announce the impending publication of its 2007/8 books. They are completely updated and expanded editions of its three signature titles:

  • WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet. Called the “Zagat of the online employment industry” by the American Staffing Association, it provides full-page profiles of 350 of the best job boards in a range of occupations, industries and locations;
  • WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Directory of Employment Related Internet Sites. The “address book of the online employment industry,” it lists over 9,000 sites and organizes them by the occupational fields, industries and geographies on which they focus; and
  • WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guide to Association Web Sites. The key to the “hidden talent market” online, it details the recruiting resources and capabilities that are provided at the Web-sites of over 1,900 associations and societies.
  • These books will not be available to the public until December. WEDDLE’s newsletter subscribers, however, can order them now and be the first to receive them when they are shipped in late October or early November. All three books have exactly the same price as their 2005/6 editions. To place your order, 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 new school year has started, and your bus company is having a hard time maintaining its vehicles. Which of the following sites would keep your recruitment process humming with mechanics seeking employment in your area?

  • 2. With the fall football schedule about to kick off, your cable company is scrambling to meet new customer demand. Where could you go online to get a clear picture of the cable technicians that are currently available in the job market?

  • 3. Your comptroller came back from summer vacation a week ago and quit. Which of the following sites would pay off fast with a full inventory of qualified replacement candidates?

  • (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 – All

    Distribution of jobs: National – USA

    Fee to post a job: $0.25-$0.40 per click

    Posting period: 60 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: No

    Number of resumes: N/A

    Source of resumes: N/A

    Top occupations among visitors: N/A

    Other services for employers: Banner advertising, Status reports: Banners/postings

    Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: Yes

    Answers to Site Insite

    1. All but, the Web-site of a car maintenance franchise company.

    2. Only and is the site of an online store for business products; CableConnections is the site of a store for tech professionals.

    3. All of them.

    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.