How to Get Top Performers to Apply for Your Job

Three Surprisingly Underused Strategies for Attracting the Best Candidates.

Most execs and managers don’t spend enough time on their best competitive advantage: acquiring talent. That’s just crazy. While it doesn’t take long for competitors to replicate processes or products, it is nearly impossible to duplicate employee knowledge and talent. By getting top performers to apply for your open positions, you’ll be staying ahead of the competition and helping your bottom line.

Need more convincing? Take a look at these real job-recruiting posts (identifying information has been changed to avoid company embarrassment).

This one seems to be based on the belief that using lots of exclamation marks will capture the attention of high performers:

Sr. Account Manager!!! Digital Media/Media Planning/Buying exp!!! Great salary, awesome company with plenty of perks!!! Downtown Chicago! This will move quickly!! Call me!!!!!

And this kind of job posting just makes readers yawn:

XYZ Group is looking to hire an amazingly talented Data Systems Engineer to join the Data and Intelligence group. Our purpose is the acquisition, storage, classification, processing, and ultimately the surfacing of information to our audiences. You will be responsible for transforming big ideas into real life products using the latest technologies.


Clearly articulates thoughts and ideas verbally and/or in writing
Enhancing and adding new features to existing systems
Have a passion for solving problems for a fast-paced business
Translating functional requirements into detailed design
Develop code using Python and/or Ruby
Data modeling
Develop and maintain http APIs
Provide guidance to other developers in best practices
Participate in our Kanban driven team
Maintain/use our continuous integration and deployment system

Job postings like these simply beg top talent to click away. Better postings are possible! Here are three talent management secrets to writing postings that get the best candidates to apply for your jobs.

1. Tell the applicant why she should work for you.

Too many job postings focus on the job or the company rather than on the applicant. The company bills itself as awesome, and next there is a list of job duties. There is often no mention of why the job would be good for the employee.

To help top talent picture themselves at your company, don’t use the job description as the announcement. To a job-searching employee reading dozens of descriptions per day, a dry announcement may come across like this:

Enriched bleached wheat flour, sugar, corn syrup, niacin, water, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening – contains one or more of the following: partially hydrogenated soybean, canola, or palm oil), dextrose, whole eggs. Contains 2% or less of: modified corn starch, cellulose gum, whey, leavenings (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate), salt, cornstarch, corn flour, corn dextrins, mono and diglycerides, soy lecithin, polysorbate 60, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavors, soy protein isolate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium and calcium caseinate, calcium sulfate, sorbic acid (to retain freshness), color added (yellow 5, red 40). May contain peanuts or traces of peanuts.

Instead, approach job recruiting as marketing—“package” and “sell” your company and the job. Paint a picture of the job and explain how the work could benefit the top applicant, especially how your company will help the employee learn and grow. Applicants want to know your story so they can see how they will fit in. In a sea of dry job descriptions, a well-crafted, engaging posting comes across like this:

If you let potential candidates know what’s in it for them, high performers will click your “apply” button. Here are some more tips for writing good postings:

  • Focus on what the employee will gain.

  • Paint a picture of what makes you different from other businesses—focus attention on what makes your workplace a good one.

  • Get employees involved—what do your current top performers like about working for you?

  • Be transparent and honest—don’t hide the difficult aspects of the job.

Here’s one more set of examples. Would you take the time to apply for this posting?

C#.Net, ASP.Net, and MS SQL. Experience with ASP.Net a plus. Bachelors in Computer Science required. Experience with large database experience a plus. Excellent technical and non-technical communication skills required.

Or this one?

Want to get great experience working in an exciting startup? Want to work directly with the founders of the company? Want to build really cool technology? Want to learn what it takes to succeed in business?

Want to be in a job you love? If you’ve said yes to any of these questions, read on or start the application here:

Not ready to click yet? Keep reading!

This job is a chance to get in on the ground floor—our company was founded a few years ago, and we have a few employees, but we’re growing this year. We design software that helps project managers track and control their time and costs. You would work at our location in north Austin. Come on . . . go ahead and apply! Start here:

2. Offer more information about the job.

In the announcement, include a call to action. Tell applicants the next step you want them to take to easily connect with you.

For example, if you can accept calls about the job, say so:

Want to talk to someone about this job? Just give us a call at (555) 555-5555 and we’ll try to answer any questions you have.

Or, if you can’t accept calls, offer other ways for applicants to find out more:

Click here to view the detailed job description and learn more about the company.

Make sure to keep your commitment by answering those calls or providing in-depth information. There are too many websites where job candidates can post negative comments about your hiring process; don’t risk being the subject of that kind of conversation. The goal is to build a positive hiring reputation, which helps attract more top candidates in the future.

3. Post job announcements strategically

Post the job recruiting information in the right places, where top performers are likely to see it. Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn can help get the word out—you can share information about job openings in your status updates.

For some jobs, Craigslist might be effective—their job ads are free in some locations and low cost in others. Be sure to check your state’s labor department job board, veterans’ boards, and school job boards for free or low-cost placements.  Don’t forget profession-specific sites like Dice for tech, eFinancial Careers for banking and finance, Medzilla or for jobs in healthcare, or Careers In Grocery. You can also post to the usual job boards (Indeed, ZipRecruiter, etc.), but the cost will be higher.

Remember, top performers always have employment options. To attract them, create a picture of what it’s like to work in your company, and focus on the benefits employees receive. Make sure great candidates know how to get more information about your company, and place your postings strategically to reach top talent where they’re ready to act.