Johnny Molson: So, how are you handling your recruitment? Is it just the boilerplate? Fill in the blank stuff? “Here’s what the opening is. Here’s what it pays. Here’s what the benefits are.” Or are you using your recruitment advertising to actually help enhance your brand? And are you using your recruitment advertising maybe to weed out the people you don’t want working for your company? That’s what we’re going to talk about today on the Wizard’s Roundtable.

And in fact, we’re going to take a tour of some state capitals. Chris Maddock is in Austin, Texas, and he wrote one of the key chapters in Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads on recruitment advertising. Kevin Skaalure is in Helena Montana. And he’s going to share with you a technique where you ask current employees why they like working at this place and use that for your recruitment. And I’m Johnny Molson in Springfield, Illinois. Here’s our state Capitol back there. And we’re going to start in Helena, Montana with Kevin Skaalure. We’re talking about how to get your recruitment ads to sound and look and be a little different.

Kevin Skaalure: We see “Help Wanted” everywhere. And people seem to want to do the same thing all the time. And that’s just kind of pounded down people’s throats and “We are open and we have a job for you and here’s all the stuff.” And that’s what got me thinking of going back to what Chris wrote in his part of Roy Williams’ book in The Secret Formulas, where he said, don’t speak for the job, talk about the person and appeal to the person. And I read that so many years ago and I followed that kind of idea for a lot of my clients and then it works out. And I know Chris had a great example on the classified ad where he was originally hired. And I’ve taken that out to my clients on the radio and done a lot of different messaging that way.

Johnny Molson: Chris, what does it mean to speak to the person instead of the job?

Chris Maddock: I think it means having somebody imagine being involved in the ad. In Roy’s ad that I answered, I think it was 1995. It was in the Austin American Statesman and it promised me 18500. I mean, I was definitely going to answer for that, how could you resist? I like 18500, clearly. But I looked back later and I remember that it was a balance and I could tell that Roy wrote it. You know, looking back cause it was, “You’re gonna work hard. You’re gonna sweep up shit. You’re gonna do all this stuff. But you could have a chance to be a copywriter at an emerging company.” And you could tell Roy was saying things more powerfully than perhaps he knew them to be true. He had to. Because when I got hired, I was working by washing machines, you know. But this was Roy well before he was the Wiz: imagining his company, helping me imagine what I could do. It was “Super gopher slash writer” was the headline.

Example Recruitment Ad

job adRoy Williams: “Entry-level opportunity of a lifetime. Are you dependable and resourceful? Do you have lots of energy, intuition, and initiative? Do you dress well, have computer skills? Are you willing to pick up clients at the airport, wash dishes, vacuum carpets, conduct telephone surveys, run errands, and do all the other things we don’t have time to do? We are an advertising firm with clients nationwide and we need a super-gopher. No whiners. No lazy people. Nobody with too many “personal commitments.” South Austin. $1,500 a month. “

Chris Maddock: And I was like, “I can do super gopher. And I want to be a writer.” So he helped me paint that scene almost perfectly. And evidently, that scene was perfect for some like thousand people that answered that ad. So he did a really good job there, and that’s why I stole the technique as I have so many from him.

Johnny Molson: So, I think we’ve seen so often in different business publications saying it’s not necessarily the money. Although for Chris, it was a whopping 18500 that lured him in. But it’s not necessarily the money that people are looking for. There’s something else going on. So how do you speak to that something else, Kevin?

Kevin Skaalure: I think that’s right. You speak right to the heart of the person. Recently, I had a hospital and they were advertising — not for healthcare workers. But for a number of people that do not work in the healthcare field but yet work at the hospital. And the driving force was that the person that came in spoke to his idea of being tied to healthcare and being a servant and enjoying everything he did about that. And he did mention benefits of course, but that was much later in the conversation.

career growth

It was the idea that said he felt that he belonged there. And so when we were doing ads and he was speaking to that, the idea of belief and being part of this group of like-minded individuals. And that really carried strongly through the ad. So it reaches that appeal to people that, “Yeah, money is great, but I’m going to spend 40 or more hours a week here. I want to enjoy what I’m doing and feel I’m counted.” And like you alluded to, you can take a lot of people that fill out questionnaires and money is down below time off. It’s what sense do you get from doing what you do? And when you can appeal to people that way, also coming from an employee, I think it’s an added benefit to say “That guy likes it. I hear that. That sounds good. I think I would enjoy working with someone who believes like I believe.”

Chris Maddock: Kevin, you have an employee of one of your clients doing the ad. I’ve never done that.

Kevin Skaalure: Yes I do. And in fact, it’s much like what we’re doing now. We have that conversation and we draw those out. And I started that a long time ago.

Example Recruitment Ad

Adrian: There is an entirely hidden giant population of people who work in a hospital who have nothing to do with medical or medicine.

Announcer: You don’t have to be called doctor or nurse to find a fulfilling career at St. Peter’s Health. Just ask environmental services coordinator, Adrian Harrison.

Adrian: I want to help my community. This puts me in a position to do that every day. It allows me to have a job that I can say that I’m proud to have. Our number one concern at St. Peter’s Health in the 10 years that I’ve been there has always been: What’s going to serve our community to the utmost? We’re here to support the community, to make sure that our community is healthy and safe and is able to keep moving. We are the place to work in Helena, Montana. This is a job that allows us to have fun as a family and enjoy our community. Live a life worth living.

Announcer: Find your next career at

Adrian: We need good people all the time. We want you to come apply for a job at our hospital. We want you to come get interviewed. We want you to think about us ’cause we’re thinking about you. We should be your first choice St. Peter’s Health, higher state of care.

Kevin Skaalure: What does it mean to do what you do? And that’s when stories come out and people tell stories about what they did. You know, they might say, “This is what I did this one day, and I helped this person.” And I tell you, when you get some of those good ones, it’s like gold. It just resonates so well.

Johnny Molson: What better ambassador to talk about the business than somebody who works there for the business?

Chris Maddock: 99.99 something percent of the people that hear this are not going to be remotely looking for a job, especially looking for a sales job, but they’re going to hear it. And a lot of those people at age 25 – 54 are going to be prospects for your jewelry. And what are you saying to them? And Johnny, you’ve heard me say it a billion times, that’s almost the number one thing I think about on any ad. If it’s not a point of sale ad for that day, what is the precipitant that the rest of the folks are going to take away?

Johnny Molson: And going back to something you started there with Chris. I like that when you do a recruitment ad this way that we were discussing, it almost has a two-track benefit there. Yes, you’re, you’re talking to potential employees, but you’re also sending a message out to potential customers about, “Hey, this is what we stand for. By the way, these are the kinds of people who we hire, who you’re working with.” And so while it may not seem like it, it’s part of your marketing, part of your branding. It very much is. And I think you have to consider what you’re saying in your recruitment ads on the same level as you consider any other kind of marketing that you’re doing. Because it’s all coming from the same voice.

Chris Maddock: And I think you have to be really careful about there’s a lot of negatives in there. There’s a lot of “You’re going to have to do this and this and this, but you’ll make 18500. And, you’ll do this, this and this. I think there’s a part about washing his Mustang, in the heat of the day, but you might get to edit some stuff. And I was like, “Wow.” What I’m trying to say is there’s more subtlety than a ‘we believe’ statement. Because those, I think, people sort of may expect those things now. But this, you get across what you believe in an even sneakier way. If that makes any sense.

Kevin Skaalure: And I think what you said about, the idea that there was some negatives in yours. You know, this doesn’t sound all glorious and there’s some other points out there. And I think it points to the reality of things. And also something we always talk about, people are self-deselecting or whatever the terminology is. It’s “Okay, either you’re carrying through and you read these things and we’re going to say these things to you.” Some people are going to bail. And so that way it thins out the herd. Naturally, they will do it. And some bail because they didn’t read far enough to find out what they had to do, and that does it. And when you do the recruitment ads, there are some things in there that say this isn’t a job for everybody. Yeah, it’s not all roses and lollipops and that sort of thing. But by calling out a bigger, better person and saying, “These are the things that you might not want.” Well, if I don’t want that, I’m not going to go there, but I know it.

Johnny Molson: I think that’s important because it can’t sound like it’s the best job in the world. It may very well be the best job in the world. But if you are making absurd promises, just like in any advertising, people will sniff it out. You know, they know when you say “unlimited earning potential.” Well, no, there’s always a limit. There’s always a limit.

Chris Maddock: Johnny, when y’all invited me to be on this call, I was thinking about the ad that I did. And several that have worked really well for clients. This is where I think we gotta be good. We have to be really good when we do this. Because it’s sort of like the VRBO test that I did, where I trained a lot of the writers there. And we looked at the ads that said, you know, “Apartment, Dominican Republic, barbecue, safe area,” things like that. And the ads that I was writing and I trained some of the writers to mimic was like, “You’ll think about the minutes of your everyday differently when you wake up and look out at your own private beach.” And it’s something in the imagination. There’s the “reality reality” then sort of “beyond reproach exaggeration”. You know, “You can see yourself doing this…” I think there does need to be that same sort of fiction in advertising this for these. There’s the opportunity to put that in there. And if you’re not doing it, you’re not taking that opportunity. And I’ve remembered a bunch of times where I’ve done that and it’s worked well.

Johnny Molson: Yes. And I agree with you on that. I guess I was thinking more about the unrealistic platitudes of “This is the best job you’ll ever have, and you could make as much money as you possibly could.” You know, those kinds of things. But if you’re speaking to somebody “This is satisfying and motivating, and, you’ll smile bigger than you ever have when you go home from work. You’ll stop kicking the garbage can every time.”

Chris Maddock: You’re going to feel like calling your mom, you know?

Kevin Skaalure: Yeah, yeah. That’s, right.

Chris Maddock: You can’t sue anybody for “No, you’re not. You’re not going to feel like calling…” That’s what we’re talking about, you know, that sort of thing. That’s sort of a “reality, reality, big dream” sort of thing that you can put in there that I think a lot of people may keep away from. Because maybe it’s different from how we think of an ad. But I think one thing when I was writing that chapter, that I thought about again today, this is an advertisement. And I was yelling at a class that I had. I actually had one of the students I’m not working with. With the client, she remembers me yelling at her. I said, “Well, if you’re not willing to be excited about your product, please fire yourself and put somebody in there that is.” And I think you have to be of the same bent. You know, you have to be an ad person. That’s different than being a technical writer. You need to say things more powerfully than possibly is perfectly true.

Example Recruitment Ad

Announcer: If you listen to this station, you’ve heard Jerry Kelly asking smart, talented people to apply — because we keep growing. But have you ever considered applying yourself? If you haven’t, you may mistakenly assume what a lot of people do — that service industry jobs don’t pay well. Rubbish. In fact, the average Jerry Kelly technician makes more to start than the average first-year psychiatrist. And Jerry Kelly will even pay to put you through school. So visit Jerry Kelly dot com. It could change everything.

Kevin Skaalure: It’s the promise of hope. It’s that four steps we talk about, and I think you nailed it there. That’s great.

Chris Maddock: We’ve talked about some of the content of the ad, but let’s talk a little bit about the vehicle, where the ad goes. Because it could be on mass media, radio, TV. It could be something that’s on Facebook. It could be something on Craigslist. Pluses and minuses to some of those, Kevin?

Kevin Skaalure: I see the Craigslist stuff as smaller. Kind of “I’m only looking for the one person and I don’t need everybody. But I’m going to get a lot of applicants.” Whereas some of the recruitment ads on the mass media, I’m actually looking for more than one person. I’m looking for several people. Larger employers that say, “We have a lot of things, I’m not going to get stuck in the weeds.” And therefore they’re not compelled to say, “These are the things about this job.” And so we don’t have to go there that much because it’s going to be a little more general. And I like that appeal. The idea that says, “I’m going to say some of the things. I’m going to leave a lot out. I’m going to save it for the people that will come for the interview and then we’ll fill in the finer points.” That’s my take on some of that.

only youChris Maddock: I remember when I was driving across New Mexico where my dad lived and he had given me a hat. A type of hat that I still wear. It’s a Smokey the Bear hat which says “Only You.” That’s the home of Smokey the Bear, we were very close to Lincoln, New Mexico. And, my dad said — and I was like eight — and he goes, “Wow. What advertising genius knew how to find you out here? To buy that well to find YOU with a billboard?” I mean, I remember that to this day. And I was joking when I became an advertiser and he was like, “Do you remember that?” And I was like, “Yeah, it was really funny.” So I think some of the most powerful advertising or classified ads on mass media are those that are looking for a single person. Because if you have that tone… I think that’s the expectation. And I think that’s mainly the way that I write them is the way you’re talking about. But when you really can change the tone, when it feels that way, that’s when I think they’re really powerful. And I’ve had several work that way. We’re looking for someone. You don’t say ‘people’.

I think the main thing that I always fall back to is frequency. So you can have the greatest message in the world. But if you have frequency enough that somebody hears it — because no one is intently listening to your message, especially in mass media. They’re doing something else with the other 80% of their brain. They’re highly likely to be involved with it if they hear it a few more times.

Johnny Molson: One of the things that I’ve noticed too is — and not that one is right, and one is wrong — when you’re looking at an ad that’s on Indeed or LinkedIn or Craigslist. Those are people typically looking for work. They’re out of work and they’re looking for something. If you’re doing it on radio, television, some other medium like that. Those are people who are currently employed, but maybe they have some sort of an itch that goes, “You know, if the right thing comes along, I might jump ship here.”

Kevin Skaalure: I think there’s a lot of opportunity with the pandemic thing. Working with some employment agencies, the idea has been said that “Maybe now I’m taking a step back in my job life and maybe what I’m doing, isn’t the thing. And now is an opportunity for me to switch jobs or maybe even switch careers.” And when you hear ads like that or see them, you say there’s something there to look into. And now is a good time because there’s all this movement. And a lot of people have stayed home and collected money and not worked. And there’s a huge pool of those people that are deciding “Maybe I’m not going back to what I was doing.”

Chris Maddock: Kevin you’re so right about your idea about people having time to think about their lives more. You know, sort of reflecting and doing that. I think the real motivation is becoming more — realizing yourself — and this being the thing. And I think talking about that, that can even spur people on. And once again, even talking about that to people as a company makes you a better company. You know, the idea that you could talk to people about living their best life. What other chance do you have to give that reflection of yourself to the greater prospective world out there? That’s what makes these pretty cool and a pretty powerful bullet you can shoot out there.

Johnny Molson: What questions would you like answered around the Wizards’ Roundtable? I’ll be happy to collect a handful of wizards, and we can talk about your topic in an upcoming episode, leave it in the comments below. Or you can send an email to me or one of my partners.