The Ultimate Guide to Attracting and Hiring Outstanding People to Grow Your Training Business

by Alex Lockey

Bonus Material: Ultimate Hiring Checklist

If you're a forward thinking training provider who wants to upgrade their hiring processes for the long term then you're in the right place.

Even if you have limited internal recruitment experience or budget, you can start hiring high quality, motivated people to join your teams.

These are the same tactics I’ve used to make 100s of successful placements in the training sector.

With these tactics, you could lower your cost per hire by x10.

Grab my swipe file here to see examples of adverts you can use:

Download The Ultimate Hiring Checklist

Now, read on to find out more about the simple step by step strategy you can use.

Keep in mind that time is the enemy of the hiring process so implement fast and keep a good cadence of communication in your hiring process.

The Ultimate Guide to Attracting and Hiring Outstanding People to Grow Your Training Business

Hiring is a courtship. There are basic tenants that you should adhere to throughout the process. Treat people (after all, applicants are people) how they want to be treated, maintain good communication throughout, be honest and be respectful of everyones time.

Think of it like dating if it helps.

Here’s what it looks like:

Ask most training organisations how to go about hiring and they’ll probably say the following:

  • Write a job description and post the same text as a vacancy on your website
  • Advertise on Indeed plus 1-2 other paid sources when Indeed sends you 100s of low quality applications
  • Give it to Tom, Dick and Harriet - 3 agencies - who repeat step 2 for you and email blast their 10 year old database

This works but it costs you time, money and the respect of your prospective employees. It’s 2020. You have an employer reputation to uphold that can be dashed with a few Glassdoor reviews.

Every. Communication. Counts. Bad recruitment practices are like dying by 1000 paper cuts. One hurts like hell but you can get by. 1000? See ya! The right people are your most important asset.

Every time you waste advert real estate with another boring boilerplate advert or send multiple sales people to represent your opportunity in the marketplace, you’re detracting from your offer.

We used the tactics in this guide to generate 100s of successful placements, referrals and happy customers.

For over 3 years, we’ve worked with some of the leading training organisations in the UK, matching quality people with teams where they can have the greatest impact. Less than 1% came from paid advertising.

Over that time we’ve learned a valuable lesson: Less is more.

More adverts, more applications, more agencies. It’s worthless if it’s low quality.

What’s important is that you attract the right people at the right time.

As we’ve refined our processes over time, we’re able to do this. Like a tap that you turn on and off.

The result? Efficient recruitment where we have a 100% fill rate and 95% retention after 12 months. The match is our focus so we are able to guarantee our process for 12 months without using any external insurance like other firms do.

What did we do?

The 3 steps to Attracting and Hiring Outstanding People to Grow Your Training Business

There are 3 steps for you to execute this successfully:

Step 1 - Define your requirements and talent pools

Step 2 - Develop congruent advertising assets and messaging

Step 3 - Employ basic search methodologies and deploy talent magnets

Bonus: I’ve put together a checklist to accompany this guide that you can use to improve your talent attraction and hiring. You can access it for free here

Step 1 - Define your requirements and talent pools

If you’ve ever been burdened with a debt, it feels overwhelming. Sage advice will tell you; start by paying down the biggest and hairiest debt incrementally, then move on to hairy monster number 2 and so on…

Which missing piece is holding back your organisation the most? 

Point your resources at it, fill and move to the next. Don’t fall into the trap of doing it all at once or you’ll get overwhelmed. A good foundation has a compound and network effect as you’ll see below.

Keep the following rules in mind when considering the next hire:

  • Start with the WHO not the WHAT. Jim Collins’ will tell you to get the right people on the bus. Define your company values and consider who you need. It’s easy to forget this if you’re scanning for qualifications on a CV.
  • They must be better than you. In some meaningful way, the hire must be better than you at what you’re hiring for.
  • Don’t do this on your own. We’re all prone to biases. Define the hiring criteria as a group.

Now, you have some crib notes;

Now, rather than rushing straight into writing an advert it’s important to write your job description first and also agree on the essential and desirable criteria you’re looking for.  It is also a good time to forecast your budget for remuneration, review benefits and decide on target timescales.

Writing the Job Description

Job descriptions help you to articulate the most important outcomes needed from an employee.  They give a sense of where a person fits into a department and organisation as well as being a guideline for other employees on role and responsibilities.

Other benefits include:

  • You have internal agreement on the scope and responsibilities of the position. i.e. everyone on the same page prior to assessing candidates.
  • Informs your recruitment strategy and aids your HR department to develop this
  • Form the basis for your training needs analysis
  • Acts as part of your attraction strategy when sourcing
  • Can help to guide your interview and assessment process
  • May aid you on a legal grounding during a dispute

Job Analysis

A job analysis is a process that you use to collect information about the duties, responsibilities, necessary skills, outcomes, and work environment of a particular job. You need as much data as possible to put together a job description from this analysis.

These are the important steps to undertake:

  • Review job responsibilities of current employees. Management often have little idea of the day to day activities that go into producing the outcomes that they see reported.  Ask your current staff to be specific on what their day to day looks like, i.e. not ‘produce reports’,  but detail on how they go about producing them.  The outcome should be a list of the work duties, tasks and responsibilities required.
  • Internet research to review other organisational structures, job descriptions and adverts of businesses you admire. You need to find the lay of the land and see the job market through your potential applicants’ eyes.  So, go to Indeed, or CV Library, or a sector specific job board like FE Jobs and run a search in your area for your target position. Google is also your friend: search “[job title] job description PDF” for examples.

Format Of The Job Description

You can get fancy with this but in my opinion the familiarity of a well laid out job description avoids room for doubt or that you’re hiding anything.

Keep it simple;

  • Overall position description with general areas of responsibility listed
  • Essential functions of the job described with a couple of examples of each
  • Required knowledge, skills, and abilities
  • Required education and experience
  • A description of the physical demands
  • A description of the work environment

Notes On The Job Description

  • They become outdated quickly - review it periodically – job markets and candidate expectations fluctuate so make sure the job description accurately reflects the role and expectations of others. This aids retention.
  • Ensure flexibility to allow creativity
  • Poorly written job descriptions can be damaging in court
  • Must be referred to often and an integral part of your hiring process

Writing Job Descriptions As A Form Of Attraction

When surveyed, job descriptions are the number one most important thing to candidates about job related content.  So it makes sense that they form part of your attraction strategy. We’ll revisit this in step 2.

The order of importance of job related content:

Job descriptions have a tendency to be blah, blah, blah, dense and copy heavy.

We want candidates to be switched on by your job description and not turned off.  Consider the following when writing your job descriptions: 

  • Brand centric – include custom branded header
  • Less dense, more efficient copy
  • Avoid we,we,we and include you, your, yours
  • Embed links to your content such as your about us page, values and culture so candidates can learn more and make a more informed decision.  You can even embed video if you have it
  • Make it compelling
  • Make sure it’s mobile friendly

Note on Job Specifications

The job specification describes the person you want to hire for a particular job.  It is different from the job description as it is purely requirement focused rather than defining the duties and requirements of the job in detail.

Components:

  • Experience
  • Education
  • Skills
  • Knowledge
  • Characteristics
  • High Level Overview of Job Requirements

 

Although not necessary to produce if you already have a job description, producing one and assigning weighting to aspects of the specification can aid your assessment process.

What Salary Range?

There are differing schools of thought on salary which raise a lot of questions e.g. should you advertise your range?  Should you ask an applicant their current salary? At what level should you pay?

The ideal scenario is for you to be well educated on the job marketplace so do your research. Participating in industry salary surveys is also another way to pick up valuable insight.

Advertising without a salary range will lead to a lower volume and quality of applications. Deciding a salary level based on a candidate’s current salary is arbitrary and can lead to unfair compensation and also internal disparity.

Don’t lowball the salary. Everyone loves a good deal but we’re not shopping for sofas in the midseason sale. You’re setting yourself up for an uphill battle.

I’m a believer that paying top of the market rates is the most efficient form of compensation. 

Salaries should be benchmarked against the external market, not your internal parity. If an employee finds out they are worth more than you’re paying then morale will drop and subsequent turnover is expensive leading to rehiring costs and time wasted. 

Compensation can also include bonuses, profit sharing, equity, overtime, commission, cars, phones, housing etc. the list is endless. Be creative if your budget is limited.

The value the new employee will bring to your business and the availability of candidates in the marketplace are two more key factors in determining compensation.

Want to make sure you're ticking all the boxes? I’ve put together a checklist for talent attraction that you can use to improve hire outstanding people. You can get it here.

Now it’s time to develop your advertising and sourcing assets.

Step 2 - Develop Congruent Advertising Assets and Messaging

The goal of your advertising sourcing strategy is to attract better applicants, find more of the right candidates, and engage better with both.

 There are four main ways to source people: 

  • Advertise
  • Cultivate internal referrals
  • Proactively source
  • Outsource to a search firm or recruiter

You want to focus on maximising opportunities across all four. This starts with getting your messaging on point.

Job Advertising

Job advertising should enable you to fill the majority of your roles. The proliferation of job boards like Indeed, which aggregates other job board content, and tools like My Job Matcher, mean that anyone looking has greater than ever access to what they need to find.

This is a gift and a problem.

You need to create awareness, interest and a desire to want to work with you.  Give people a reason to join you by doing work that matters. Let them experience who they will be working with. 

There are 2 challenges:

  • Being Found
  • Engagement

 

It’s not a simple case of posting our advert and waiting, our job is to advertise meaning to entice, excite, inspire action, and achieve a conversion. 

Clicks and views are not our goal – we need to get applications, interest and engagement.

Situational Awareness

When developing your job advertising copy, you have two options:

  • Go keyword rich
  • Get creative

What do this mean?

Firstly, let’s get a handle on what SEO is.  Search Engine Optimisation is the name given to an activity that attempts to improve search engine rankings. Simple.

So, it makes sense that when you write a job advert that it is optimised to show up when potential applicants are searching for jobs.  This applies to Google, Google Jobs (which your website should speak to if you’re hiring in volume) and search hierarchy on individual job boards.

The thing is, writing adverts to hit search rankings can lead to low engagement as they look like every other advert. How do convey that they’ll be doing work that matters? That they should choose you over others?

You need to get creative to generate better engagement BUT that (usually) drops you down the search rankings.

The key is to write two sets of copy and use them appropriately.

1. Keyword Rich Job Advert Copy

When to use? When you’re posting an advert on a job board or when you’re posting in an area where your desired audience are searching.

Goal: Place at the top of the rankings for the terms your prospective candidates are searching for. Generate a high volume of traffic.

The How.

Brainstorm the terms your candidates will use when job searching:

Now, you can steer the copy using your results. Be sure to use the best performing search terms in your advert title (job title) and within the first sentence and paragraph. Be sure to maintain a reasonable occurrence throughout the advert body.

You can review job adverts for what keywords are most represented on the page.  To do this, we use a tool called Tag Crowd.

This will show the exact number of times words are used and separate similar words.

After posting your advert, you can open an incognito search (Chrome) or private browser window (Safari) to search and check where your advert is listed at for various search terms.

Keep in mind that performance will degrade over time and is website dependent. Speak to the job board website customer support if you need more help.

2. Creative Job Advert Copy

When to use? When you have an existing network or audience to leverage. In targeted advertising campaigns like Facebook or Linkedin advertising. Use with your internal referrals. 

Goal: Create engagement and a high quality of response. Discount those not suitable using the job advert copy.

The How.

The average Click Through Rate (CTR) of ads is low.  There are many reasons for this that we need to avoid:

  • Not ready to apply, CV not ready
  • Job advert is too vague
  • Don’t think they would be considered
  • Can’t see what they would get out of it
  • Don’t know much about the company
  • Want to apply discreetly
  • Job advert is not interesting

Visual Job Adverts

One method to consider is using visual ads.  See some ideas below for inspiration.  These are great for sharing on social media if you have access to a large network.

Interestingly, Google hired ZERO people from this. It created lots of engagement though...

It doesn't have to be polished, done is better than perfect

These are merely meant as inspiration to what you can do that may generate interest online if you’re low on response rate.  Next you’ll move onto the most critical response generator, language.

Language Of An Advert

There are broadly two types of job advert – one using supportive language (what you’ll need to do in the role and how we’ll help you do it) and one using demanding language (what skills and experience you need to have in order to be able to do it).

Supportive adverts generate 3 times more applicants with an overall higher quality.

So, job ads should not be demanding or company centric but supportive and candidate centric. 

For example, rather than: 

As a core member of the management team, you will be expected to work autonomously and deliver on project phases on time and on budget.

Use this:

As a core member of the management team, you will be expected to work autonomously and deliver on project phases on time and on budget.  We will help you achieve your goals by continuous professional development, and regular career progression sessions.

Avoid we, we, we and use you, your, yours.

For an advert to work it has to make the target profile:

  • Pay Attention
  • Understand & Remember It
  • Agree/Believe
  • Care
  • Be able to Act on it

Here are some cornerstones of your job advert creation:

Simplicity. Brevity is your friend.  Get to the point and don’t over elaborate.  Think about your mission statement – this is a great example to include in a job advert – it summarises what your about succinctly.

Unexpected. Surprise increases alertness and focused attention but only for a brief period.  Instead we must create interest and curiosity.  Violating traditional expectations gets attention so don’t write your job adverts like everyone else.

Example: If you’re looking for a management position that’s focused on delivering run of the mill, bog standard work, having endless tea breaks, cutting corners and not communicating well - this is not the job for you

Concrete. We must explain our ideas in terms of human actions and sensory information.

Example: We are 15 people, who live in London and refuse to move anywhere else.  Our office is in bright and breezy Fulham, next door to brilliant lunch venues, we have a cool ping pong table and even an office dog named Bob.

We add character to a job ad by adding really concrete imagery

Credible. Adding a quote from someone in a similar team adds massive credibility to your job advert

“I started here 4 years ago and have had 3 different jobs in 3 functions.  I work with amazing people who inspire me to be the best I can do. Come join us, it’s awesome!"

- John, Sales Manager

This may not be in the central text of your advert but on your careers page somewhere. 

Emotional. Making people feel something will get them to care!

Example: Your clients love you.  Your team loves you. Because of this and your proven results, you’re indispensable.  Your current employer will present you with a counter offer that includes a pot of gold and a unicorn if you try to leave them.  (Of course you will not accept this counter offer because you know Acme Training is where you should be, and the unicorn will understand.)

Story. Weaving a narrative into the job advertisement will enable the viewer to step into the shoes of someone in your business. Again, like the employee testimonial, this is probably best featured on your jobs page alongside ads. E.g.

Example: We started 3 years ago with 4 people. Stephen and John joined us as managers after responding to an advert on Indeed; we couldn’t offer what we can now, but they had the belief in Acme Training and wanted to grow and learn. They were full time 3 months later and they’re still with us today. Sally worked with us on a project and called us 6 months after to ask if we were hiring and we snapped her up. Since then we’ve hired Sally’s husband Peter and his mate Simon. This year, the sales management team will scale up even more. 

Ask yourself, when you write down your advert or job description, are you telling a story?  Am I evoking emotions by telling a story of Why and How.

What Applicants Want

Don’t assume candidates know anything about your company, your products/services, what makes you different or why others work for you.  Remember this?

We’ve covered your job description already so your advert must: 

  • List salary range and benefits
  • Describe what the ideal candidate profile is
  • Map out career paths

Structuring the Job Advert

A job advert is not a job description or a job specification.  The job description is an internal HR document which is there for legal reasons.  A job advert is there to attract the best talent to your organization. 

  • Where possible use images and other multimedia like video. – Again great on the careers page as most advertising routes like job boards won’t let you do this
  • Use headings and bold your keywords – this will get the attention of those who skim
  • Abolish bullet points wherever possible – use paragraphs and headings

Job Advertising Template

Your job advert should include: 

  • A short summary of why and who?
  • Get to the point straight away
  • Draw their attention in the first paragraph
  • Remember your core principles - simplicity, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, story

Describe the employer – assume they know nothing about you and explain why you’re great to work for.

About the job – Tell them more about the job using you, your and yours.  Apply sticky job ad principles.

About the ideal candidate – remember supportive language works.

Requirements – list these out and make clear the ideal and minimum expectations.

Salary Range & Benefits – mention if possible.  If not, add in “call to discuss” and great people will actually take the time to do this

Application Process – define your application process.  They want to know what will happen next and when they can expect to hear from you.

Call to Action – close with a great call to action.

Need a full checklist? I’ve put together a checklist for producing a good job advert. Pick it up here.

Quick Note On Where To Advertise Your Jobs

You can apply to Indeed for them to crawl your website – I would definitely advise to do this.  It’s trial and error to find what works best for you.

Go where your candidates are.

Consider the following routes:

  • Broad job boards - Indeed, CV Library, Jobsite, Reed
  • Sector specific job boards - FE Jobs, FE Careers, FE Week, Guardian Education, TES, EAT Jobs
  • Linkedin Jobs
  • Performance advertising - Facebook Ads, Linkedin Ads - and direct back to a specific landing page.
  • Your own website and careers page

Step 3 - Employ Basic Search Methodologies And Deploy Talent Magnets

Sourcing is important when you have a poor advert response rate.

Generally, only active candidates apply to job roles so you miss out on the 78% of the market who are passive.  Lots of top performers do not actively search for jobs, without a sourcing strategy you’re missing out on those people.

On the Y axis is the likelihood of placement and the X axis the thought process of a candidate.  We want to catch them at the sweet spot.

The problem with sourcing? It’s time consuming.

A little bit of sourcing effort and a well thought out referral strategy is key to scaling your hiring efforts. Here’s how you do it:

  • Define search terms
  • Generate referrals from your team
  • Cycle through search sprints

How?

Define Search Terms

You can use a basic language called Boolean on Google and other platforms to systematically search profiles and other sources of text for keywords.  Using this, you should be able to target specific candidates for your job posts. 

Boolean Search is a way to organise your search using a combination of keywords and Boolean Operators (AND, OR and NOT) to produce more accurate and relevant results.

Brainstorm the search string and you can then pop this into Google to search on Linkedin: 

Example - "Sales Manager" OR "Sales Director" OR "Head of Sales" "apprenticeships" -intitle:"profiles" -inurl:"dir/ " site:uk.linkedin.com/in/ OR site:uk.linkedin.com/pub/

I’d suggest limiting your search efforts to Linkedin or Facebook (in relevant groups) for UK roles unless you’re after more specialist roles in technology.

Bonus! If you’re stuck with where to start, use our handy checklist to work through this guide in order. Get it here.

Generate Referrals From Your Team

Make recruiting part of everyone’s job.

You can sweeten the referral programme by offering a bonus but people are likely to refer for intrinsic reasons i.e. those that come from inside oneself rather than money.

Happy people want to work with other people like them, who they like and respect.

The key to a good referral system is to look after referrals differently to other applications; give them special care and attention. Be courteous with communication and feed back quickly.

Remember that suite of advertising materials and messaging that you’ve developed? Share the collateral with your team on your internal messaging system so everything is on employer brand.

Ask your team to add it to their social profile headlines to generate more inbound enquiries.

When you cycle through search and messaging sprints below, the noise of your wider team sharing content on social media and have calls to action in their headlines will help you to convert more candidates to interview.

One more idea. Swap out a regular meeting for a Sourcing Sprint. Collectively drop an outreach bomb into the market seeking referrals. It’s fun and you can gamify it with prizes, just like real life recruiters :)

Cycle Through Search Sprints

You can skip Google altogether by picking up a Linkedin Sales Navigator license. The filters on there make it a bit easier to do.

You need to cycle through variations in search string to give you a broad range of results, here is a suggested order to get your cogs turning:

Connect with a personalised message and follow up with a basic intro. Don’t overcomplicate it, just get to the point:

Don’t waste your time spending money on Linkedin Inmails, connecting let’s you message for free. If they don’t connect back with you or reply, they either aren’t looking or you can assume that your value proposition or brand reputation isn’t strong enough to be worthy of a reply. 

Or, they could just be busy so try again later!

Your aim is to arrange a call, that’s it. The best recruitment is person to person, all the bells and whistles in the world won’t help if you’re unable to articulate what it means to work with your organisation. This conversion point is key.

Want to see some good examples of hiring well? I’ve put together a swipe file of examples to give you some inspiration. You can see all of the examples inside this swipe file.

Now You Try It

Every business or organisation needs to hire good people to grow and deliver the best outcomes for their customers and learners.

Sticking a vanilla advert on Indeed or asking one of ten agencies on a PSL to jointly represent you to a limited talent pool won’t cut it any longer.

It works, to a degree, but you’re losing out on so much in doing that.

The strategies above have helped us to make 100s of successful placements very year.

Implementing even a fraction of the above will turbocharge your hiring efforts and lower your cost per hire.

Want Us To Guide You On How To SCALE Your Hiring Efforts Using Tactics From This Guide?

We can hold your hand to build you a talent machine.

We get results. This might mean you outsource all of it to us, or we give you the tools you need and move on. In reality, it’s usually a mix of both.

What you need to succeed:

  • Hiring managers actively involved in the talent acquisition process. We don’t believe in shipping the hiring problem off to HR and forgetting about it. Out of sight, out of mind doesn’t work when it comes to good recruitment.
  • A long term mindset. You need to commit to a variety of methods to develop a consistent flow of great people into your organisation. We’ll help you become a super desirable employer but this involves trying things and it won’t happen overnight.

If this is for you, book a call with us here.

If you have any questions, you can find me on Linkedin.

If you want to hear from me weekly on all things further education, I send a bitesize email to a few thousand sector leaders every Tuesday. You can subscribe here.

Finally, if you think someone would benefit from reading this article, please give it a share. I’d really appreciate it. 

Alex Lockey

Let's Talk

Get in touch today for a chat

Book a call