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Weddle's Syndicated Content:

Lead With Your Strength

The most important part of a recruitment ad is the first five lines. Top talent has the attention span of a gnat. They seldom read an entire job posting or print ad unless they are quickly convinced it's worth the time to do so. That's the reason you have to lead with your strength.

Top talent - those "A" and "B" level performers who make such an important contribution to organizational success - have choices. In many cases, they are already employed, so their first option is to stay right where they are. And, of course, they are regularly contacted by other employers and recruiters, and that persistent demand gives them additional options, as well.

What makes them consider one position and not another? Not surprisingly, a key factor is the nature of the job. Many of the best performers are always on the prowl for a new and more interesting challenge. They aren't looking for a job, however; they are searching for a career advancement opportunity - a chance to realize more of their potential in their profession, craft or trade.

The second and equally as important factor in engaging a top prospect is also not a surprise. It's how well a career advancement opportunity is described in a recruitment ad, whether that ad is posted on a job board, a social media site or an employer's corporate career site. Even a great opportunity will be ignored if it's ineffectively portrayed, while even the most hard-to-fill vacancy will draw top talent if the ad describing it is well written.

What's the definition of a well written ad? Simple. It's one that gets read. All the way through.

How do you get people with short attention spans to do that? You have to catch their attention and pique their curiosity quickly and right from the start. You have to present a persuasive case for your opportunity in the first five lines of the ad.

You don't have to be a poet to achieve that kind of power in that small a space, but you do have to use words andstructure to their best effect. Basically, you have to optimize your ad's content in the right format.


The first five lines must include four elements, in the following order.

  • A description of the job
  • A description of your employer
  • An indication of the potential financial opportunity


  • An acknowledgement of top talent's special situation.

Let's take a quick look at each of them.

A description of the job. This initial description of your opening must be more than simply a short recitation of its requirements and responsibilities. To engage a top prospect it has to sell as well as inform. Therefore, craft a statement that has the power to portray your opportunity as a genuine dream job.

A description of your employer. Top talent doesn't look for a job; they look for a career advancement opportunity. That means the culture and values of your employer are as important as the vacancy, itself. Therefore, craft a second statement that is equally as powerful as the first and portrays your organization as a dream employer.

An indication of the potential financial opportunity. The research confirms that top talent doesn't work for money. They do, however, use money to measure the significance of a career advancement opportunity. Therefore, avoid using bland terms like "competitive salary," and instead, provide a salary range for the position (which will still give you room to negotiate).

An acknowledgement of top talent's special situation. Many if not most top performers are employed, so they have something to lose by considering your opening. That reality makes them risk averse. Therefore, close the first five lines with a convincing statement regarding your organization's commitment to keeping your interaction with them completely confidential.


It's challenge enough to get the content of a recruitment ad's first five lines right. What makes it even more difficult is that people do not read on the Web. They scan. If you put your well written content in the thick, pithy paragraphs of prose, their impact will be greatly diminished and possibly lost entirely.

What should you do?

Format the first five lines in a hard-hitting headline and bullets. That way the reader can quickly scan the content and still absorb the value proposition contained in your message. They can flit over it quickly and still be affected enough to read on.

Whether it's intentional or not, many of today's recruitment ads are written for a "generic" job seeker. To win the War for Talent, however, they must instead be directed at "A" and "B" level performers. And, they must compensate for the inattention of that talent by leading with your strength - the most compelling aspects of your employment opportunity.

Thanks for reading,

Visit my blog at Weddles.com/WorkStrong.

December 2011
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