RecruitCon 2018 Speaker Explains How to Add the ‘Wow Factor’ to Your Job Posts

In a recent episode of HR Works: The Podcast for Human Resources, Elena Valentine, CEO of Skill Scout, offers advice on how to add the “Wow Factor” to all your posts. A workplace storyteller and design researcher, Valentine spends her days leading the team at Skill Scout to bring jobs to life on video.


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Note: This episode was recorded live at BLR’s RecruitCon conference in Nashville, where Valentine presented on the topic of visual job postings. RecruitCon 2019 will take place in Austin, Texas, next May. Learn more at
Steve: We’re all posting job openings, and our postings are competing with hundreds of others to grab the attention of top candidates. How do you fight through to be sure your posting gets in front of the kinds of candidates you seek and then entices them to respond? Today’s guest, Elena Valentine, has advice on how to add the “wow factor” to all your posts.
A workplace storyteller, #HRAgainstLame, Movement Builder, and design researcher, Elena spends her days leading the team at Skill Scout to bring jobs to life on video. Every workplace has a story to tell about the team, skills, environment, and output. She is passionate about bringing company and candidate stories to life as a way to make meaningful hiring connections. She believes that empathy is the foundation for change, and clear communication and storytelling are key to making that change stick.
As CEO, she wears many hats but really geeks out on new media—for example, virtual reality, point-of-view videos and silent storytelling, partnerships, and building Skill Scout’s diverse workforce. By the way, listeners, we’re live at BLR’s RecruitCon convention in Nashville, where Elena is leading an intensive workshop on how to effectively use photos and videos to create visual job postings.
Elena, welcome to HR Works.
Elena: No, thank you; I’m excited to be here.
Steve: We’ve all been posting jobs for years now, and you’d think we’d have that figured out, but you say no. What’s wrong with today’s typical job postings?
Elena: Today’s typical job postings don’t show what a job is like. It makes it very difficult for a candidate to really understand not just that role but also what it would be like working for that company. Thereby, it’s about really pushing HR and companies to think about how they can communicate differently and inspire their next generation of employees.
Steve: You’ve said that postings have to feature the three A’s: attributes, anxieties, and aspirations. Can you tell us a little bit about those three?
Elena: Yes, absolutely. We kind of call them the triple A’s of storytelling. Regardless of whether this is a written job post or a visual post, there are three things we want to consider when it comes to what our audience, aka our candidates, is thinking about.
Attributes. Basic who, what, when, where, why? Where am I going to be working? Many job posts already hit off that already. It’s kind of the basics, but then the anxieties and aspirations are some of the key things that most job posts don’t address. Anxieties is really asking yourself the question “What are a candidate’s concerns?”—which really is thinking through what the challenges of this role would be in working for this company. That could be anything from how long am I standing every day? How long might I be working? How intensive will these projects be?
And then, aspirations, which is my favorite part, certainly. It’s really asking yourself the questions “What do my candidates aspire to be? What do they aspire to be in my company?” What that pillar is getting to is around how we are sharing the growth opportunities and the career trajectories of these candidates to give them a very clear and transparent pathway of what it would be like to grow with our company and their career. That’s what we call the triple A’s.
Steve: That’s very helpful. You’re also an advocate for using lots of photos and videos in their postings. How do people use that to enhance those postings?
Elena: Absolutely. Two key mottos: One is you cannot be what you cannot see, which is why we started Skill Scout in the first place, because seeing is believing. So often, we all lack access and exposure to understanding what these roles are really like.
If a photo is worth a thousand words, a video is worth, what, a hundred thousand words in a minute? So the idea is that we want to push HR to see video as part of its creative toolkit to showcase what these roles in company culture would be like. There’s also some fancy science to this and data that exist.
We are visual learners—all of us. We retain 65% of what we see and hear versus what we read. Our brain dedicates 85% to just processing visuals alone, and it helps again to kind of imprint memories of be it your company or your role in a candidate’s mind. But also, just based on the data, job posts that have visual ads are viewed three times longer, the viewership is increased by 50%, and they’re attracting higher-level-quality candidates.
Now, you have this opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competition because this is a very strange percentage: Only 1% of current job posts have any visuals at all. One percent. Even just being able to add any kind of visual to your job post differentiates you from the other 99%.
The other really interesting tidbit is thinking that 13% of our companies are showcasing employee testimonials of any kind, which means just by being able to showcase authentic employee stories—again, whether that’s a photo, video, or not—is really helping you stand out from the competition and helping really address some of these candidates’ anxieties and aspirations.
Steve: That’s great. You listed earlier some of the common problems with typical postings; what mistakes do you most commonly see employers making?
Elena: They’re basically taking a document that was kind of a legalized document and assuming that can be appropriate for a job ad. Those are two very, very different things. I understand the role of what an internal job description is about. We have to organize, we have to structure what that looks like, but how we are able to effectively inspire candidates—it typically falls really flat.
A lot of what we see is that most job postings are written in a very inhuman way. Humans are hiring humans, but we certainly aren’t communicating with them in that way. It becomes something that’s way too long, or we see 18 different bullet points of everything they would be doing and packing everything into one job description; no wonder they can’t find the right talent.
We have the purple squirrel issue here, which is kind of the mascot of a Recruitcon. Interestingly, I feel I am not hating on the written word. There are many, many companies that can use the written word to create some of the most fantastic job postings, but what I am critiquing is what the typical approaches have been to how we do them.
Steve: All right. You’ve got a list of clichéd terms that you think posters should avoid. That’s like rock star, ninja, team player, self-motivated, and fast-paced, so if you avoid all of those, what do you say you’re looking for?
Elena: I think what I’ve meant regarding some of these cliché terms is that you want to be able to create a job description and a job title that people are actually searching for. When you’re creating a job title like “I want a social ninja,” who is looking up a social ninja? Nobody. Call it something that people are actually using. That was part of what I was saying about the “rock star” and “ninja.”
But then, let’s look at all of the words that are completely played out. All right, yes, everyone wants a team player; everyone wants someone who is self-motivated or fast-paced. I think what I want to encourage HR to think about, is how does that manifest itself? Don’t tell me you want a team player; tell me what that looks like at your company.
Either that’s something you write in a very short phrase or it is something that you visually show. It’s getting to figure out what the physical manifestation of that looks like in that company. Don’t just give me a word that everyone else is using because it’s really cute and really easy to put on.
Steve:  You’ve characterized job postings as bait; would you like to elaborate on that?
Elena: Yeah. Trying to catch the right fish, you need good bait, and good storytelling and a good video are great ways to lure the right candidates to you. That’s a lot of how we’re trying to position these HR leaders. You got the fish hook, and you know how to use it, so you just need a good worm. And so we want to teach them how to really get that good worm.
The HR Works conversation will continue with Elena Valentine in part two of this article series. Stay tuned!