Rex Pickar and Niki Ramirez share how they improved Kellogg Company’s job descriptions through creative writing and increased daily job applications by 60%

Kellogg Company Senior Associate of Talent Marketing Analytics Rex Pickar and Senior Recruiter & Intern Program Manager Niki Ramirez may spend most of their time focusing on different aspects of the Kellogg talent brand, but this past year they got the opportunity to work together for an overhaul of their North American job descriptions.

This long-term project started at Kellogg Company’s yearly team meeting.

During this meeting, their entire North American Talent Acquisition team came together for a continuous improvement brainstorming session, and improving their job descriptions came up right away.

“We knew there were some quick wins we could achieve and improve our job descriptions immediately,” says Rex. Because Rex and Niki both have creative work as a component of their roles, they were hand-picked to team up and see what they could make happen.

“It was time for a refresh to really look at our approach and see what’s working well and what’s not working well. While our branded voice was being used, we recognized that our writing could be far more engaging, fun, and insightful for a candidate,” says Niki.

They began with a project plan that focused on their core challenges and how to address them.

Rex and Niki started by blocking off an entire day to begin brainstorming the opportunity. Then they began reaching out to stakeholders and recruiters to understand their pain points.

“One of the things we talked a lot about is how large of a difference our words can really make,” says Rex. He highlighted research showing that job description language tends to lean masculine and saw that, by including more feminine language, they could improve how their employer brand is perceived by women.

So they decided to actively build more diverse language into their new guidelines.

On top of integrating that diverse language, Rex and Niki wanted to focus on the candidate experience.

“I think it’s easy as an organization to focus on what we’re looking for and what we want.” explains Niki. “But turning it around and focusing on what the candidate gets out of it, what their experience will be like, what their team would be, and what they’ll be doing is really valuable.”

One of Rex and Niki’s goals was to close that gap and better showcase job opportunities to engage with candidates.

“In our research, we found that year after year, the number one obstacle a candidate has in a job search is figuring out what it’s really like to work at this company,” says Rex. “So by focusing on conversational language and making the candidate experience better, we’ve really challenged our team to be specific about what it’s like to work on the team we’re recruiting for.”

After enacting this initial planning stage, Rex and Niki put together two primary deliverables.

The first was a job description template — which included section-by-section formatting guidelines for recruiters to use.

“We were very clear in terms of the organization and categorization of text, and making sure we were concise, customized, on-brand, and conversational,” says Rex.

“One other thing we did that was helpful was writing an example,” adds Niki. “We didn’t just say, these are the guidelines — go with it. But we took our old version and made it a new version so that they could see it in practice.”

The second deliverable they gave to recruiters is something Rex and Niki call “the word kitchen.”

The word kitchen is a large bank of different verbiage for descriptions. “It covers everything from how to start a paragraph, to different perks that we can mention, to punchy sentences and on-brand phrases,” says Rex. “Then we actually went so far as to go throughout that document and figure out what language was more feminine so that we could show the recruiters examples of a more diverse set of language that they could use.”

Rex says it was an important step because not all of their recruiters come from a creative writing background. So setting them up with a framework they could pull from and add to was helpful to creating more consistency and improving their job descriptions across the board.

Rex and Niki then set up a 90-minute training session to integrate these resources into the overhaul of their job description templates.

“We wanted every new template that was created to be within these new guidelines,” says Rex. “We asked the recruiters to send us the job ID every single time they posted a job with the new formatting, and we would track that for four months so that we could really understand the difference our team was making.”

Then they manually went through the reports to make sure they were following the guidelines and offered further feedback and improvements. This tracking enabled them to look at historical data from previously filled positions and compare metrics with the new descriptions.

The result? They saw a 60-percent increase in daily applications and filled jobs an average of 14.7 days faster.

“Overall, we saw a high level of success with it,” says Rex. “And we also amplified that by working very hard on our social media channels. We wanted to make sure we were bringing our employer brand to life in a lot of different places.”

But, aside from the success they saw in these metrics, Niki shares that the project brought along some internal successes as well. “This whole project has been effective in increasing collaboration among our recruiters, because it’s brought this kind of work back to the forefront,” explains Niki. “It’s been a boost for our hiring managers, too. There’s a lot of pride that comes with sharing these entertaining job descriptions and having it serve as window into their team.”

To keep up the momentum of these successes, Rex and Niki had to determine how they could upskill the recruiters’ confidence in the guidelines.

So they utilized their leadership team to implement more tracking and made the implementation fun by running a contest where the recruiter with the most creative job posting got a day off and some Kellogg’s swag.

As they continue the project into 2019, Rex and Niki are focused on supporting the recruiters so the initiative doesn’t backslide. “We want to maintain the momentum that we’ve started with this initiative so that our job descriptions don’t once again return to rote postings,” says Niki.

To help keep the energy around the changes fresh, Niki and Rex are implementing quarterly show and tells where recruiters can highlight creative copy they used and how it worked.

According to Rex and Niki, what made the project successful was a willingness to push the envelope and have some fun with it.

“I think we all can get creatively complacent at times, and this project was a perfect example of how we unlocked the creative potential on our team.” says Rex.

They recommend experimenting and having fun with the language — then being prepared to track and measure everything thoroughly to be able to back your choices up internally.

“You need to be prepared to provide adequate resources for your team,” adds Niki. “It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight, and it’s something that they need materials to help them be successful. Creating the training, doing the contest, having the word kitchen, and doing the follow ups are important for your work to really stick.”

Rex Pickar and Niki Ramirez have been members of the Talent Marketing Board since 2018. You can connect on LinkedIn with Rex here and Niki here.