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Why your job advert is a problem & what to do differently

I have a mantra that flies in the face of everything you ever learned about recruitment. It’s simple. “One Job. One Applicant. One Interview. Done.”

Sounds weird right? But when you stop and think about it, this approach makes a lot of sense.

Traditional veterinary recruitment (is broken)

Traditionally businesses divide the hiring process into two stages. Recruitment - where we cast the net far and wide when promoting a vacancy so we get lots of potential applicants. And then selection – the process of whittling down the applicants to the desired individual.

But based on the general level of team engagement (which is low) and staff turnover (which is horrifically high in veterinary practice) I’d say there is compelling evidence that this approach is not yielding good results. In fact, I’d go further and say that this approach is largely responsible for a lot of the staff issues practices face each day.

So let’s take a look at one of the first things that most people get wrong - the job advert.

Dare to be different

A few months ago, a vet came to me with a problem – they needed to hire an experienced team member who would take on the mantle of developing the nursing team and drive standards forward in the practice.

My client had experimented with sending out a job advert and guess what? Nothing was happening. No responses. No CVs. Nada.

After reviewing the advert, I could tell it looked a lot like everyone else’s – a generic, jargon strewn, snooze-fest that didn’t really reflect the practice or the role very accurately. It was as if she had copy and pasted everyone else’s safe and sensible advert style.

A basic rule of advertising is to stand out, not blend in, so I am always baffled as to why so many job adverts look identical. And, in a market where jobs are plenty and candidates are few, it’s no wonder this approach got no takers.

A change was required.

After a brief consulting session, where I interviewed my client in depth, we created a very detailed 'person profile' and used that to write a second advert with language that ‘spoke’ only to someone who fit this profile. This time round, I encouraged the practice to include accurate descriptions of what the place, people and job were really like. Honest things. Things that, in truth, made them feel a little bit queasy. I also helped them to write with character, to use their unique voice. All things that help you to stand out from the crowd.

I recall a great example a few years ago when I encouraged a client, who put the fact that he couldn't hold on to his staff members for long down to being a "leathery, cantankerous old codger”, to put that exact phrase in his job advert. It worked brilliantly and we were able to help him hire someone with equally thick skin.

Publication day

My client was apprehensive, but keen to give this approach a go (and thankfully, due to being lovely, no cantankerous personality references were required). Having explained that she should not expect a deluge of CVs I encouraged her to hold firm and not panic. So we published. And waited… and squirmed... and waited some more… and sure enough, after two weeks, a CV appeared – a very exciting CV indeed.

Fast forward through the subsequent steps of this unique recruitment process (I won’t bore you with the details right now), and our applicant passed with flying colours and was hired. Now she’s setting up the training program so the practice can develop it’s own vet nurses, a great result that will help this practice grow more smoothly in future.

Your takeaways

Recruitment, or more accurately, poor recruitment, is the cause of almost all of your HR nightmares. From not having enough staff to fill the rota, to having the wrong people who are damaging your culture. So what is there to lose by trying a scientific, detailed and systematic approach to try to get better results?

If this sounds attractive then your first step is to create a detailed person specification for the job. What does that person need to do? What skills must they have? What values must they hold dear? What attitude do you need them to bring to work each day? There are a lot of questions you should be able to answer and in doing so you can create an ‘avatar' of the ideal candidate.

Once this is complete, your next step is to get creative and write your job advert. When you do this, forget what everyone else is writing in their job adverts, and write only for the benefit of your avatar. By doing this, two magical things will happen.

  1. You’ll stand a far better chance of attracting only those people who are a good fit for your practice culture and have the skills required to do the job.

  2. You’ll actively put off all the ‘tyre-kickers' and misfits for your practice. The people who if you give them a job today will undoubtedly cause you pain down the track.

I encourage you to start to thinking of your recruitment process as a laser-targeted head shot, rather than a poorly aimed shotgun blast. Piece together your ideal person then go fishing for them with a job advert designed to be irresistible.

Have an awesome week.

Dr D.

PS - If you are recruiting now or soon, then please join me for a free training webinar outline the four other huge mistakes vets make when hiring. It's 1 hour, it's free and it's available right now here. Click to join the class.

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