Job postings are not only an important first point of contact between candidates and companies, but are also of crucial importance in the recruiting process. Potential candidates often decide within minutes whether a position could be of interest or not. If, after the title, the answer is already no, then the desired talents simply click away. For companies seeking out great employees, they are practically lost. A new study has now investigated which factors and subtleties can really affect the success of job postings – with interesting results and recommendations for practitioners.

Formulating a job posting is (not) an art. Ads should contain at least these five points:

  • a concise introduction of the employer
  • a description of (actual) roles, activities and responsibilities
  • (realistic!) qualification requirements
  • benefits and incentives from the employer
  • organisational information (eg. how job seekers can apply)

Of course, some individuality in addition would not hurt.

Job postings in times of mobile recruitment

A trend that really deserves to be mentioned is the growing importance of mobile devices. Linked to this are smaller screen sizes, shortened view times and even shorter attention spans when candidates skim jobs rather than research and target specific positions. Correct wording is more important than ever.

Fit must be made from the start

The job posting is one of the first points of contact where applicants evaluate whether a position would suit them. There are several levels of fit.

There is the fit between the skills of the applicant and the job requirements (person-job fit).

There is also the fit between the needs of the candidate and the environment (person-organisation fit). What is meant here, for example, is working based on trust rather than on a time clock, for people whose desire to be autonomous and independent at work.

Fit in job posting

Both levels of fit are important and have a positive effect on various professional aspects such as job satisfaction or commitment (see also Kristof-Brown et al., 2005). However with limited space and limited time, which focus achieved better results in mobile job postings?

A brand new study asked this exact question. Researchers from Canada and the USA found an internationally established partner from the consulting industry and were able to tweak job postings in order to test their hypotheses in the field. The different display variants were released on a major Canadian online job board.

In the first condition, the focus was on the fit between person and environment. This included, for example, “you will have the opportunity to work on a variety of different tasks […]”, which aimed at the variety of tasks as a context variable.

In the second condition, emphasis between skills and specific activities were formulated such as “candidates with excellent speaking and writing skills […]”

Needs match attracts high potentials

Some interesting findings with highly practical relevance: job postings that were optimised for person-organisation fit achieved significantly more ad views and received more applications. The recruiters of the consulting firm found that candidates who had applied for jobs with this condition had resumes that were significantly better suited.

Interestingly, this effect was not the same for all positions. For positions that were classified as less highly skilled jobs (administrators vs engineers) it was the reverse: here candidates who had applied for a job posting optimised for the person-job condition were classified as more appropriate.


As with any study, we can also show and complain about the methodological limitations (eg. are the dimensions of the person-job fit and person-organisation fit really clear cut? / How valid are CV-judgements?). But the results have mainly practical recommendations for action: particularly in the high potential domain, it seems it is better to optimise on the environment rather than skill requirements. Although the job posting is only the first step to find really suitable applicants. If this is already sabotaged by long essays or unintelligible, meaningless or bizarre job titles, then the search for the best and most suitable candidates is futile.