600% Increase In Employee Applications

Ep. 62: 600% Increase In Employee Applications

BCC 61 | Employee Applications

So now you’re looking for people to join your company. You need employee applications, but you just can’t seem to get the right kind of applicants in. Worry no more as Ryan Englin and Jeremy Macliver share their insights on the hiring process. Ryan and Jeremy discuss several key points that can help boost the number of applications and get the right people through the door. Listen in and learn how to fine-tune your hiring process with these useful insights.

600% Increase In Employee Applications

Welcome back to another episode.

Welcome back. I am looking forward to this one because I have a question that I am seeing come up continuously in the session room. I’m excited to ask this and we’re going to know what we need to do to get people to apply for our job. Before you answer this, I want to clarify it. I don’t want people. I want the right people.

Now you’re setting the bar.

I don’t need robots or people that are under this minimum wage and they don’t even want a job. They’re just trying to keep it going. How do I get good people to apply for my job?

What you’re saying is they can’t just fog the mirror. They’ve got to be able to do the work.

Do the work, do the work well, fit my company and be that person I’m looking for. I want it all.

That’s one of the things that I feel a lot of employers have done wrong over the last few years. They’re so desperate to hire that if a person shows up, has a pulse, can fog a mirror, they’re in, let’s do it. Three weeks later, you’re like, “I don’t understand why this project is over budget. I don’t get it.” I think there’s so much that doesn’t happen in the qualification process. Often, we’re desperate to hire people quickly, that we think if we slow down the process and get to know them a little bit better, we’re going to hurt our results. It’s what it comes down to.

We have to start thinking about this job post as an ad, so people will start applying. Click To Tweet

When it comes to getting people to apply, there’s one thing. I wish I could give two takeaways in this one, but it’s going to be one thing, and maybe you get some other takeaways in here. The thing you post on the job boards, stop thinking of it as the job description that HR gave you or that your lawyer gave you, or that you downloaded from your association.

Those job descriptions are internal documents to help you define the role inside your organization to hold people accountable. What you got to start thinking about is that thing that you post on those job boards that you put on your website, that is an advertisement. Ads are exciting and engaging. They draw people in. They’re attractive and you’ve heard me say it before. We got to start thinking about this post as an ad. When we can think about it as an ad, people will start applying.

I like what you’re saying. I’m going to need some more clarification on it. Of course, we would never say, “I’m looking for clients that have more than $100,000 in income, living in a house that’s $350,000 or more, drive two vehicles. If you’re not that, please don’t call me.” I’m like, “That makes sense but how do we do that?”

The analogy I like to think about it is a car commercial. We’ve all seen some advertisements for a car. Picture that we’ve got a Corvette convertible on the Pacific Coast Highway and that’s the commercial you’re watching. What is it? It’s a couple driving the car, seeing the ocean in the background, and having a great time. Take that and put it against an advertisement that was the maintenance schedule. At 250 miles, you got to bring it in and make sure you broke it incorrectly. At 3,000 miles, you’re going to want to rotate the tires and change the oil. At 10,000 miles, we’re going to charge you for this extra service that you weren’t planning on when you bought the car. Imagine if that was the advertisement. How many cars do you think they would sell?

Not very many.

That’s what we do all the time with our job ads, “Must be able to lift 50 pounds. Must have reliable transportation. Must be able to turn a wrench, whatever it is. No wonder these things don’t work. I want you to stop thinking of your ad as that maintenance schedule and start thinking of your ad as driving down the PCH, having a good time, wind in the hair, and enjoying life. That’s what’s going to attract people to you.

One of the first things we like to do when we work with a new client is we tell them, “Here’s the deal. I know you got an HR department and you got HR people. Let’s take recruiting away from HR.” I know some people are not going to like this. You might not like it, but let’s take recruiting right away from HR and let’s give it to the marketing team. What do you think that would do to that ad that you post?

BCC 61 | Employee Applications
Employee Applications: We’re so often desperate to hire people quickly that we think if we slow down the process and get to know them a little bit better, we’re going to hurt our results.

That is interesting. I could see the marketing team taking that on. They could make it fun if they could but let’s get real. We’re all blue-collar. It’s not that cool. It’s not driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in a Corvette.

In the construction space, they have these apprenticeship programs. I don’t know about you but I hear like, “I spent a lot of money and a lot of time building this apprenticeship program and I can’t get anybody into it.” What’s the coolest part about an apprenticeship program? I see the social media ads sometimes, “Earn while you learn.” You might have seen that one where it’s like, “This is Billy. Billy went to a four-year college, and he has $150,000 in debt and he can’t find a job now. This is John. John went to an apprenticeship program, earned while he learned, makes $80,000 a year as an electrician, and has no debt. He just cut off Billy’s electricity. 

The apprenticeship programs are so valuable. Whether it’s in construction or as a contractor, home services, whatever it is, these apprenticeship programs are impressive. You can take somebody straight out of high school and in four years, get them the equivalent of a four-year degree in their trade. They’re making $60,000 to $80,000 a year with zero debt. I don’t know about you but that sounds pretty sexy to me. That sounds pretty much like driving down the PCH in a convertible.

You said home services. How many home services companies have an apprenticeship program? Is that the only trick? Is there something else that we could do?

There are other things. This is a serious question. How many people do you know that they want to hire somebody entry-level and keep them there? They don’t want them to get better skills. They don’t want them to be more productive. They don’t want to be more profitable. They just want them in entry-level and keep them there.

I don’t know anybody like that.

I don’t either. How cool would it be to say, “Here’s the deal? Maybe you’ve got 1 or 2 years of experience.” Let’s even take a semi-experienced guy because not everybody’s going to look for a guy that’s totally green. We take a guy that’s maybe got 1 or 2 years of experience. He’s probably not going to do it your way but you’re going to coach him. You’re going to train him on it. Whether you have an apprenticeship program or not, you’re going to take him at this, “He’s still learning level,” and you’re going to turn them into a journeyman inside of 3 or 4 years just because you invest in your people, just because there’s an opportunity to create this career path, just because the work is such that he’s going to have to get better at his trade. He’s going to have to get better at his craft.

People don’t leave jobs; they leave managers. Click To Tweet

Most people that go into the trades want to get good at it. You probably do already have this in place, but imagine your organization had a well-defined career path for people. By well-defined, I mean there are four bullet points. You’re going to do this for a couple of years, then you’re going to do this for a year, then you’re going to go get this certification and then you’re a journeyman. You’re making $60,000 a year. That’s attractive to a lot of people.

A lot of my teams use the accountability chart. They use that for what you’re talking about, “Master these? Why don’t you get these? Take rocks to learn the next level up as you’re developing. When that opening comes, you’ll be prepped and ready.” That’s their master plan. Super simple, super fast. They already have it because they already had to do that to get aligned so the team was all rowing in the same direction. You mean that by an apprenticeship program, it’s not this federally registered. I was like, “This is going to be a big deal.”

Maybe. If you went through that route and you spent the money to get this federally accredited apprenticeship program, you best damn give that to the marketing team if they can figure out how to get you an ROI.

We got learning and development. We got apprenticeship programs that this marketing team can do. What else is going to make it cool to come here? “We fix people’s toilets” is not that cool.

That’s great because my next story is going to go right in line with fixing toilets. We said it before. People don’t leave jobs. They leave managers. Imagine your job ad talked about what it was like to work with you or to be on your team. What if it painted the picture that the grass is greener? Most job seekers are thinking like, “It looks pretty cool over there but I don’t know. Maybe it was growing over a septic tank. Maybe that’s why the grass looks greener. It’s toxic.”

What if it wasn’t toxic? What if you had good hiring managers that invested in their people and communicated well? The truth is you probably have some. You might even be one. Imagine that your ad talked about that. The reason that people are looking for a new job is they want a new manager. What if your ad talked about your manager? What if the ad talked about who you’re going to work for and how you guys communicate? That’s attractive because nobody else is doing that. Everybody else has given me the same old song and dance, and then throwing me into an environment where I’m disregarded.

That’s definitely something where I see a lot of good people in the trades, hard workers, care about each other. They’re out there working hard doing whatever they’re doing, but they’re passionate about their people. I could see that being a huge thing to talk about what it is like there. That’s pretty cool.

BCC 61 | Employee Applications
Employee Applications: The idea that if you get creative with the job title, you’re going to stand out is true. However, you have to remember that job boards are search engines. And if someone isn’t searching for that job title, you’re never going to show up.

There’s so much more like, why do people stay? One of the things that I tell people to do when they’re writing a job ad is to give it to one of your top performers and ask them if they’d apply there. “Would this be attractive to you? I want more of you. We all want more top performers.” Give it to them and say, “What am I missing? What is it about being on our team do you like?” Let’s include it. This isn’t something you have to do in a vacuum. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Ask your team to help. Your people that are productive, guess who they like working with? Productive people.

Birds of a feather flock together.

There’s a ton of opportunity in the ad. We’re talking more at a conceptual level. I do want to give some very specific tips that you can take away, but I do want you to think about this as an advertisement. Get your team to help you. Give it to the marketing team. Spice it up. Have fun with it but don’t oversell yourself. That’s the other thing. That’s my warning. If it’s not legit, don’t put it in there. Other than that, have fun with it. Be different. Give it to your marketing team.

We don’t have to say we’re the Disneyland of concrete pouring?

If you are, awesome. Are we going to have churros and cotton candy on the job site? I’m all in.

No, we got to work hard. It’s early in the morning. Be real. There are some real things that you got going that are good. I love that. Let’s hear something. You piqued my interest. I want to hear some practical tips and get down into it. Let’s hear those.

Here’s the first one. I don’t want to be absolute but everybody has made this mistake. Do not get clever with your job titles. Don’t get creative with them. We had a client and this was being creative, field technician. I was like, “What the heck is a field technician?” They’re like, “I wanted to go short as I could because I wanted the best chance of my job ads being seen.” I was like, “You’re getting a little clever here with this so you can game the system.”

We don't want just more applications. We want the right people. And qualification questions are really going to help with that. Click To Tweet

One of the things we did was we went and did a Google search and a job search for field technicians. We wanted to see what came up. This was a refrigeration guy, by the way. All of page one are field technicians and IT guys. All they were are IT guys. He thought he was being clever and he was going to game the system by putting in a field technician to cast a wider net. He ended up getting lost in a sea of IT guys. A refrigeration tech and an IT guy are worlds apart.

We went and as simple as we did, we put refrigeration in front of it because that’s what it was. All of a sudden, we started getting applications that were the right applications. This happens more in the tech space than it does in the blue-collar space, but I still see it every once in a while, where you get fancy with these titles because they’re cool and they’re hip. It’s like Master and Commander of the Unicorn Army, and you’re the customer service agent. Let’s not get crazy creative with our job titles because no one is searching for them. No one is searching for your crazy creative job titles.

The idea that if you get creative with the job title, you’re going to stand out is true. However, you have to remember that job boards are search engines. If someone isn’t searching for that job title, you’re never going to show up. Call it what it is because your technicians, your craft workers, your laborers, they’re searching for those words. If you’re looking for welders, put welder. Don’t get all fancy with what that means or what you think might be creative. Just put welder because that’s what people are searching for.

The title is a big one. That’s probably the biggest mistake we see happen a lot. We’re not clear in the title. We either got clever or we got creative, and that never works. That’s one of them. Do you remember how I said give your job ads to your marketing team? The marketing team understands this thing called search engine optimization. They’re creating content for your website that the search engines can pick up so that you can be found. What did I say about job boards? They are search engines. If we are not optimizing our ads before we post them on the job boards, they can’t be found.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to take the title and make sure you repeat it. It depends on how long your ads are. There are some technical requirements but I say 3 to 4 times inside of the ad, repeat the job title. Get clear on what that title is. As I said, refrigeration field technician. When you’re writing the ad as a refrigeration field technician versus as a technician, if you’re going to write that and talk about what it’s going to be like to be there, search engine optimize your job ads. Your marketing team already knows how to do this. If you give it to your marketing team, they’ll be able to help. That’s another one that we see that is helpful in getting people to apply for your jobs.

Do you have a third for us?

I’ll come up with a third one. Here’s the other one. Now, you’re going to show up in search results. People are going to be able to see your job ads and they’re excited. You get a lot more views. Typically, views are going to equal more applies. It’s going to happen. We’ve done all of this to create extra traffic for our ads, and now we start getting all these garbage applications. We’re like, “I already don’t have time to hire people. I definitely don’t have time to deal with all of these garbage applications.”

The job boards have this. If you’ve got an applicant tracking system, they have this. You want to make sure you take advantage of any of the qualifying questions that the job boards give you. I’m not talking about name, address and phone number. I’m talking about the ones that say, “Do you have this certification that we need? Yes or no.” If the job is mobile and we’re not going to give you a truck, we might ask, “Do you have reliable transportation to get to the job site?”

BCC 61 | Employee Applications
Employee Applications: It’s not just about the views and the number of applications; it’s about getting the right applications.

These qualification questions are critical to making sure that you’re getting high-quality people. We don’t just want more applications. We want the right people. These qualification questions are going to help with that. I don’t know of a single job board that does not allow this or that doesn’t have it. The one place that you can’t do this, or most people don’t do it is on their own website. If the only place you’re posting your job ads is on your website, you’re probably not going to see a lot of people or a lot of traffic. If you are posting them on the job boards, take advantage of those qualification questions. It’s not just about the views and the number of applications. It’s about getting the right applications.

We’ve got three helpful tips there as we bring it over to the marketing department and create a marketing version of it. We definitely have learned that we all have good things about our company that we should be sharing out there and making sure that that’s communicated as we build our employee brand. With that, what is one action that they should go do after reading this?

Go rip the job description out of HR’s hands, go give it to your marketing team and say, “Fix this for me.” The other thing is somebody will be like, “I don’t have a marketing person to go to.Go to one of your employees and ask them. One of them that you like or one you want to keep or you’d love to clone and say, “Tell me what’s it like to work here. Describe it for me.” Let them talk and write some notes down. Worst-case scenario, you might have to make some adjustments. The more you can make your ads sound like the people that you want to hire more of, the more you’ll attract the right ones. That’s what I would do. I would go clean them up right away and get them posted.

Everybody go out there, look at your ads, and make sure they’re coming from a marketing perspective. If you don’t have an HR and a marketing team, at least make sure that you’ve changed the hat that you’re wearing when you’re writing and reviewing them to be in more of a marketing hat. Bring in some of your key employees to ask if they’d be attracted to it, and then use some of the fundamental principles that we talked about there around marketing.

A lot of good things here. I don’t want to overwhelm everybody, but start thinking about those posts as ads and that’ll help you change the type of applications you’re getting and the type of people that you want to talk to.

Thank you all for reading and see you on the next episode.

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