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Good Recruitment Ads Don’t Work

By May 29, 20143 Comments

Seemingly impervious to the recent Auckland cold snap, Jon has once again handed over the whiteboard market to me as he heads down to Queenstown for the long weekend.

Regular readers of the Whiteboard will know of Jon’s propensity to support innovation, disruptive ideas, and l’enfant terribles within the recruitment world. Unfortunately, I’m not Jon. Previously the most cynical member of the Rice team, I now sit mid-table, following the appointment of the new boy earlier this year.

Like many recruiters, crafting a new job ad doesn’t always fill me with the joys of spring. In our industry, writing role-specific job ads often replicates what our clients have already done. We try to do things slightly differently here at Rice Consulting and think we cast the net wider than most when it comes to sourcing channels. We run ads, we run networking events, we’re active across all social channels, we even write a blog that some of you may have read. When it comes to Job board advertising, we use it as a channel to capture the well-regarded “returning kiwi” audience, and also to keep our brand front of mind with passive candidates.

Staring at my employers login page of Seek a few weeks ago, I had a Michael Douglas/Falling Down moment. I thought perhaps a bit of honesty in a generic job ad would be appreciated. My target audience were experienced recruiters. I figured we all knew the score. We’ve all stared, glazed-eyed at the screen, scratching our heads for bullet point number three. So I wrote an ad with no “spin”; I avoided those stock phrases we all use; I even tried to inject some tongue-in-cheek humour into the copy. The full version can be viewed (until the 8th June at least) here.


From a branding perspective, the result was fantastic. Nearly one thousand views on Seek (our ads average around two hundred), nearly fifty likes and sixteen comments when shared on LinkedIn, and countless tweets and retweets on Twitter. However, in terms of actual CV and candidate generation…..

Sixteen applications started. That’s 1.68% of views. To be clear, this isn’t Sixteen CVs. This is sixteen people curious enough to click the “apply” button. Actual CVs received was in single digits, and I’d be hugely surprised to make a single placement from these. Don’t worry – I’ve already fed this back to all respondents.

Perhaps this was indicative of the market. Maybe we’re all happy where we are and it’s time to remove the sign from the door and pursue that dream of obtaining my BA in the History of Contemporary Dance. Before purchasing tap shoes, I decided to run another ad. This one was to be intentionally dull. The results can be seen here.


The results: 171 views in 3 days, with 7 applications (representing over 4% of views). And I’ll place at least one of these candidates. Now admittedly, this was a hugely unscientific approach, but thinking back, I’ve noticed a similar trend with every “edgy” ad I’ve ever written.

So maybe we’ve got too clever? And maybe we’re trying appeal to ourselves, our superiors or the cool guys in marketing wearing the bowling shoes and black-rimmed glasses. We’ve seen some interesting stuff from internal functions already this year. This week PWC Australia have gone down the JobGram route, and I’d be interested to find out how effective these campaigns have been.

Whilst creating a strong employer brand seems to be money and time well spent for the corporates, when it comes to us agencies, our candidates appear to view us a route to employment, with scant regard for anything we try to do over-and-above a paint by numbers job ad.

As much as writing creative copy keeps me entertained, it doesn’t seem to pay the bills. Unimaginative ads – soulless as they may seem – take less time, and frankly, have delivered a better ROI. Anyone else agree?


Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Mark says:

    Agree to some degree – however nothing replaces good old fashioned head hunting – how many super stars actually go looking for a job on Seek?

  • Lisa says:

    Yes I agree sir. I too have fallen into the trap of ‘people don’t want to see the same old same old – they want something different, funny, more intellectually challenging in an advert’…but despite persisting many times over the years, I have realized – actually people don’t – they want what they know, simple. Keep the clever repartee with a wine/beer in your hand!

  • Kerry says:

    Yes I agree – although I find when I am quite passionate about the company and the position I am recruiting for is quality, it comes out in my ad writing and I get the response I want from people who will be the perfect fit.

    Myself – I would have applied to your first advert and left the 2nd one alone – I think it is a personality and like minded sense of humor – however I guess people take the job hunt and recruitment process as a thing which should not be enjoyed at any point! – something we should all think about on our next client visit or candidate interview maybe!