Less talk, more action attracts applicants

hands on laptop

We recently completed research to understand what attracted students to jobs, and what ‘signals’ the job advertisement gave about the potential job experience. Signals that align with job seekers’ interests enhance job attractiveness—that attractiveness works to increase your pool of applicants. In “Signaling ‘student-oriented’ job opportunities enhances job attractiveness in work-integrated learning programs” (Drewery, Pretti, & Church, 2020), we looked at signals beyond the basics like pay and location. Once these basic requirements of the job are fulfilled for the student, what determines the job’s attractiveness?

  1. Symbolic aspects of the job: including the opportunity to learn new things, to make a positive impact, and to the extent to which experience is connected to the students’ academic pursuits and prospective career paths.
  2. A commitment without a plan: In job postings, a commitment to these symbolic aspects without a detailed plan to follow them through did worse than the control group that has neither a commitment nor a plan—noting skepticism of organizational “promises” without a clear plan of action.
  3. A commitment and a plan: First, not only did students anticipate a better experience with a commitment and a plan to follow through on that commitment (think specifics on onboarding, skill development, mentorship, goal setting, etc.), but they were also more willing to exert effort to apply in response to the job (increasing the quality of their application).

The bottom line: Providing meaningful work and outlining how you’re going to do that in a job advertisement can give you a competitive advantage if you’re still developing your overall employer brand recognition, or you’re working with a less-than-desirable salary budget.