|Tuesday, 22 February 2011 15:04|
When speaking to graduates, companies need to adopt a tone of voice that’s more arresting than grey corporate-speak: here, Nick Padmore looks at the differing approaches of two eager recruiters
Graduate recruitment’s a tricky business. Whether you’re offering a job in something trendy like retail, or something a bit more grown up like accountancy, your audience, for the most part, is the same: a 21-year-old who’s spent the last three years in a haze of alcohol, strobe lighting and loud music. You’re offering an opportunity for these people to dress up neatly and then do what they’re told from nine to five.
It’s a hard sell, and it gets harder. The graduate who’d be a perfect fit for retail company A might not fit in, culturally, at retail company B. Which leads me to a question:
What do the Spartans, the Romans and Aldi have in common? (Bear with me.)
Answer: they’ve all used codes to get what they want. The Spartans carved messages into strips of leather. Those messages could only be read by wrapping the leather around a particular (and unique) piece of wood. The Caesar cipher was a gobbledegook message that could be decoded by shifting each letter a certain number of places down the alphabet.
Today we have Aldi. A not-particularly-exciting supermarket chain with a top-notch graduate recruitment programme and a pretty darned good recruitment ad (the first word cloud) to back it up. The ad is good because it uses a code. By that, I don’t mean something confusing and cryptic. I mean a particular way of doing things – a way of subtly dropping hints for people to pick up on.
The Aldi ad challenges grads to forget what they’ve learned about writing a CV, and try something a bit different. They’ve written it to sound like something someone at Aldi would really say. They’ve ditched all the clichés, like ‘highly motivated’, ‘passionate’, ‘dynamic’ and ‘interpersonal skills’, and replaced them with simple words like ‘looking’, ‘really’, ‘need’. ‘Really’ is a particularly human word, mostly because there are so many corporate-sounding alternatives (significantly, highly, greatly). The word ‘boardroom’ pops up too as a metaphor for what they could’ve called ‘career progression’. And if you look hard enough, you’ll even find unexpected words like ‘zeal’, ‘wish’, ‘needle’ and ‘haystack’.
It’s a brilliant way to vet candidates. Those who pick up on the game Aldi are playing prove they’re pretty switched on. And if they write back in the same tone, the same code, they’d probably be a good cultural fit too. Those who respond with a letter about how dynamic they are just aren’t right for the job.
The other ad (word cloud two), from recruitment company Elemense, doesn’t bother with a code. It’s the same old job ad fare. I doubt people at Elemense really say ‘deliver’, ‘fulfilment’ and ‘via’ all the time (unless they’re talking to their boss). I especially hope they don’t say ‘utilisation of the Resource Administrator support administrative functions’. (A theme in their ad is using nouns where verbs would be much clearer. ‘Utilisation of ’ could have been ‘You’ll use’, for example.)
Elemense have done as much as they can to prevent even an ounce of personality from finding its way into the ad. So there’s nothing for grads to riff on. Have a look for the words ‘we’ and ‘you’ in their word cloud. You won’t find them. But you will find a pretty big ‘Elemense’. And a pretty big ‘candidates’ too. This is the relationship they’ve set up with their applicants: we are a company, not real people. You are a candidate, not a real person.
Let’s go back to Aldi. Fair enough, the word ‘Aldi’ is pretty big. But the biggest word in the cloud is ‘you’. Next biggest is ‘we’. There’s even an ‘I’. Aldi don’t know anything about their applicants, but their applicants know a lot about Aldi. So why waste time harping on about how wonderful they are? Instead, they’re more interested in the reader. Their ad says ‘you really need to be brighter, sharper and more selfassured to stand out’.
In the end, I’ve got a heck of a lot more sympathy for whoever has to sit down and go through all the CVs and cover letters at Elemense. But at Aldi, half the job’s already done. Because if grads can crack the code and show they understand what sort of person Aldi are looking for, they’re likely to be pretty good at dealing with whatever the world of work throws at them too.
Nick Padmore is a writer at language consultancy The Writer (thewriter.com)