Idealist Insider Tips: How to make sure candidates see your job listing


Don't make it hard for candidates to find your listing on Idealist. A few tweaks can make a huge difference! (Photo credit: Will Valnue via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Organizations post hundreds of jobs on every day, and we often hear from job posters who want to make sure they get the best applicants for the job. But why do some job listings attract a flood of high-quality applications while others seem to get overlooked?

We recently explored how organizations can craft job listings that stand out. Now we’ll dive into something equally important: making sure your job listing shows up when candidates start searching!  If more people see your job, more people will apply for it, so it’s important to make your listing as searchable as possible.

So before you hit “publish” on your listing, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Broaden your area of focus.

Your job listing includes the areas of focus listed on your organization’s page (youth, the environment, poverty, etc.).  The more categories you select, the more candidates are likely to see your listing when they search. To add more areas of focus to your organization’s page, log in and go to your organization’s page by clicking on its name on the left side of your homepage. Then click on the blue Edit button. Select as many areas of focus as possible that relate to your organization. You can choose multiple items by holding down the “control” key and clicking on a PC or by holding down the “command” key and clicking on a Mac.

2. Include additional job responsibilities.

The site also allows job seekers to search by the responsibilities of the job.  Like areas of focus, the more job functions you select, the more job seekers will likely see your listing when they search, so be sure to include as many selections from the job functions list (writing, management, fundraising) as you can in your listing.  You don’t want to miss out on someone because they’re searching for “public policy” and you listed your job only under “advocacy.”

These last two bits of advice may seem counterintuitive: don’t you want to narrow the categories you select so you only get people truly interested in your work and mission?  This makes sense in terms of hiring, however when it comes to searching, being too narrow can actually eliminate candidates who aren’t using the same terms you’re using.  And remember, while the categories you select will bring more people to your job listing, a well-written job listing is what will encourage great candidates to apply!

3. Add your own search terms.

You’ll also want to make your job searchable by including related keywords. Think of your perfect candidate, and imagine that person is searching for a job on Idealist. What kind of words would they use? Make sure that your job’s description includes those words and phrases. You can also add keywords in the additional keywords field near the bottom of the form for any words that don’t fit organically into your description. You can add as many additional search terms as you’d like to help people find your job.

4. Pretty please: include a salary range.

Users sometimes search by salary range, and many prefer to apply to jobs that list one. We’ve found that job postings that include a salary range get a much higher response, even if the range listed is relatively low. Including a salary range will also help narrow your applicant pool to those who are more likely to accept an offer at your organization.

5. Choose the best location.

Most job seekers are looking for jobs in a specific location, and it’s the first item they enter when searching. The most common reason why no one responds to a job listing is because there’s a typo in the location field, so make sure that you enter your city and state correctly. You’ll also want to make sure you use the most common name of your city – a job in “Foggy Bottom, DC” is harder to find than one in “Washington, DC.”

Also, if you’re in a small town very close to a larger city, you also might want to consider using that city as your location. For instance, let’s say your organization is located in Darien, CT, which is an eight minute drive from Stamford, CT (according to Google Maps). While you might choose Darien, CT, there are five times as many registered users in Stamford as we have in Darien. Though we do have the option to search with a radius, if a job seeker searches only in Stamford, he won’t see a job just eight minutes away in Darien.

When it comes to optimizing your listing for a search, a few small tweaks go a long way.

Do you have more tips? Questions about the site? Leave a comment below. And thanks for posting jobs on Idealist!

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Hiring? Five ways to attract the best candidates


Citizen Schools made a few changes to their job listing and saw amazing results! What can we learn from them? (Photo: Citizen Schools)

Organizations post hundreds of jobs on every day, and we often hear from job posters who want to make sure they get the best applicants. But why do some job listings attract a flood of high-quality applications while others seem to get overlooked?

The answer is twofold. The most successful job listings on Idealist are ones in which the job is 1. appealing to job seekers and 2. easy to find. In this two part series, we’ll give you some tips to make sure your job listing attracts more of the right candidates.

Today, let’s tackle the first challenge: appealing to job seekers. We’ll start with the story of a recruitment team, a marketing team, and a “less is more” philosophy. Let’s call it “Extreme Makeover: Job Listing Edition.”

Case study: Citizen Schools

Citizen Schools has been posting jobs on Idealist for years and this winter they posted an AmeriCorps fellowship position.  While the response rate was steady, they weren’t getting the kind of applications they wanted.

Here’s the original description of the 2012-2014 National Teaching Fellowship position at Citizen Schools:

For those of you keeping track at home, that’s three pages and 1,100 words.

The reason why I didn’t include the full text is because you won’t read it. And neither will potential candidates.

But one sunny morning in March, the Citizen Schools marketing team stepped in to help. Working with the recruitment team, they trimmed that very detailed listing down to a clear and concise one, focusing on the most important information and referring applicants to the website for more information. In half an hour, they crafted this delicious piece of recruitment splendor:

Short and sweet at one page and 330 words.

Yum. But did the change produce better results?

It did! Of the 59 applications received, 30.5% of the candidates have been hired or are currently being interviewed. Additionally, the Citizen Schools website received 1,500 more visits from than it had during the same three month period in 2011, indicating that people wanted to learn more about the organization and its opportunities.

In short: a concise yet compelling job listing increases both the quality and quantity of applications.

Five steps your organization can take

Each organization has its own needs and challenges when it comes to recruitment. However, based on the Citizen Schools example and our own experience talking with hiring managers and job seekers, here’s how to create a job listing that gets the results you want.

1. Briefly describe your organization.

A sentence or three should do it. You want your applicant to have an idea of your organization’s work, but you don’t need to go into too much detail. They can go to your organization’s page on Idealist for more information, or you can refer them to your organization’s website.

2. Make sure the description of the work is clear and concise.

Job seekers prefer to apply to jobs that they understand. When crafting a description of the work:

  • Include basic responsibilities, but not minutiae. A job seeker needs to know that part of the job will be “coaching community volunteers”; they don’t need to know that “Fellows support and coach Citizen Teachers – community volunteers who share their professional skills or personal interests with students through ten-week hands-on learning projects called apprenticeships.”
  • Use common, standard terms to describe the work, like “community volunteers,”  rather than your organization’s internal language, like “Citizen Teachers” and “apprenticeships.”
  • Consider bulleted lists, which are easier to read and less intimidating than blocks of text.

Not only will a clear description of the work attract more eyes, it will also help candidates tailor their resumes so that you’ll be better able to see how their experiences match what you’re looking for.

3. Be thoughtful about the qualifications you list.

When you list the qualifications of a job, you’re telling the applicant what’s important to you. Think about your deal-breakers versus what would just be extra helpful. If you won’t consider anyone without a Masters degree, say so. If you’d prefer your new teammate speak a certain language, but you’re willing to hire someone who doesn’t, include something like “Fluency in Cantonese a plus.” Candidates don’t want to spend time applying for jobs they’re not qualified for any more than you want to spend time sifting through their resumes.

4. Talk about the benefits of the job.

And no, we don’t just mean health care and vacation days (although it’s cool to include those in the listing as well!). What makes Citizen Schools’ new job description so popular is that they talk about what the candidate will get out of the experience. Besides the gratifying work (“inspire children,” “build the school of the future,” “connect education to kids’ dreams”), the listing also emphasizes how the fellow will benefit professionally (“learn how to make lessons,” “get real-world experience,” “unlock your potential”).

Sell your opportunity to job seekers. Why should they be excited about this? Will they work with interesting people or learn a lot about the charter school system or develop a new skill? Whether the position is on the front lines of your organization’s work or is back in the office making sure the lights stay on, every employee at the organization has an important part to play; make it clear to applicants what their part would be.

5. Be yourself.

Treat this as a PR piece. Your job listing might be as public and widely read as your organization’s newsletters, and it could be the first impression your applicant ever gets of your work and culture. So choose a tone that reflects your organization’s culture, whether youthful and trendy or thoughtful and welcoming.

Citizen Schools’ marketing department did a great job of promoting the mission, emphasizing the importance of the work, and making it sound overall like an organization full of passionate, driven people. Even if a job seeker chooses not to apply, it never hurts to leave a good impression.


At Idealist we’re out to help you connect with the people and resources you need to make great things happen. We hope this helps you find fantastic candidates to join you in your work.

But creating a strong listing is just the first step in attracting those folks; you also have to make sure they actually see the listing once you post it on Idealist! Stay tuned for the second half of this series, where we’ll offer tips on how to do that.


Special thanks to Sara Kelleher, Talent Recruitment Specialist at Citizen Schools, for all of her help with this post.

Have a story about how you’ve used Idealist to connect with stellar candidates? Leave a comment below and maybe we’ll blog about your story, too!

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Is "social media" on your resume?


Image via Gavin Llewellyn, (Flickr/Creative Commons).

12.12.2011: The bullets in this post have been updated to include the percentages of social media jobs (out of all jobs posted on Idealist) each year.

Fellow Idealist Jeremy and I recently ran a little test to see how frequently “social media” appears in job postings on our site. Here’s how many listings have included the phrase over the last several years:

  • 2007: 25 jobs, o.01 percent.
  • 2008: 125 jobs, 0.27 percent.
  • 2009: 507 jobs, 1.67 percent.
  • 2010: 2,115 jobs, 4.98 percent.
  • And in 2011 so far, 3,467 jobs, or 7.7 percent of all jobs posted this year.

Curious what the very first jobs to include “social media” were? Reaching all the way back to November 2006, we found four jobs from three trailblazing organizations: a Content Producer at WGBH Educational Foundation; a Social Network Designer-Manager at Games for Change; and two web developer jobs at Feminist Majority Foundation.

When I was hired in 2006, there are at least a few people on staff who were creating social media, but I don’t think they would have called it that. For example, our editor Eric checked all of the copy on our site, but he also served as a curator of news about the nonprofit sector and posted articles from around the world every day. He was blogging before we had a blog. Now social media weaves naturally into the jobs of many folks here, whether they’re writing emails for multi-channel campaigns, blogging here, or using social networking sites to learn about and grow our community.

Questions for you, dear readers:

  • What has this evolution looked like at your organization? Is your organization so new that the majority of your work takes place through social media, or have you spent a lot of time convincing people of the value of this type of engagement?
  • Are blogs, social networking sites, and other social media included in your job description? How much of your work time do they consume?
  • If you’re a hiring manager posting one of those 3,400+ jobs, what matters to you with regard to filling those roles? How do the best candidates showcase their experience in this area?

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IdealistHR: Behavioral interviews; office gift exchanges

This month’s IdealistHR newsletter is hot off the presses! November’s issue features an article about behavioral interviews (Does your hiring process need an overhaul?) and another about alternatives to the “potentially stomach-knotting office gift exchange” (‘Tis the season…).


"Oh look! A barking hot dog steamer!" Don't let this happen at your office. (Photo: Jonathan Lidbeck, Flickr/Creative Commons)

Peruse the IdealistHR archives or sign up for monthly emails by and for nonprofit human resources professionals at

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Have you ever hired the wrong person?


We've all been there. (Photo via Alex E. Proimos, Flickr/Creative Commons)

It can be hard to find a silver lining when a hiring process goes awry. In the latest issue of our human resources newsletter, we try to help you avoid those growing pains.

  • For an organization, the loss of time, money, and energy is huge enough – but there’s often a significant blow to staff morale. Amelia explores ways to design a hiring process that can minimize unfortunate outcomes.
  • Meanwhile, Kara considers one crucial step: making sure we get the best possible applications. What makes a job application successful? You can weigh in here.

Want tips and ideas about human resources delivered to your inbox each month? Your wish is our command.

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Why you should hire people who disagree with you

In her book Bossypants, Tina Fey recounts the biggest lessons she learned while working for Lorne Michaels. One is “Don’t hire anyone you wouldn’t want to run into in the hallway at three in the morning.”*

Your office is probably not like the soundstages of Saturday Night Live. Maybe your rules for hiring are different. But it’s pretty natural to want to hire people who aren’t, in Fey’s words, “too talkative or needy or angry to deal with in the middle of the night by the printer.” It’s really nice to work with people you genuinely like spending time with.

But that doesn’t mean they should be like you.


Healthy skepticism is the building block to making your organization even better. Photo by Joe Shlabotnik (Flickr/Creative Commons).

As part of my research on how to get more good ideas into the brains of more people, I’ve been reading a lot about innovation. And over and over again, the one word the keeps popping up as a crucial component to innovation is “diversity.”

Yes, diversity. Of not only race and ethnicity, but gender, viewpoint, talent, work style, values, and more. This is the ingredient that forces ideas to mix, mingle, and ultimately create that wowser idea your peers can’t stop talking about.

Most everyone gives lip service to the value of diversity in the nonprofit sector. So why is there often a disconnect? The New Organizing Institute has a great piece on why diversity is inefficient. It takes time to go outside of our own networks, and it takes effort to work with different voices and opinions.

But if you do take the time to hire people who don’t think like you, then you might have a wonderful result: creative abrasion, the process where ideas are challenged and new ones are made.

Steve Jobs knew this. He hired a team with a wide range of talents—programmers, thinkers, musicians, artists, and more—to create the Apple computer many of us use today.

But building computers (or writing sketches about Mom jeans) is one thing. In your workplace, does everyone think and look like you? Or is difference embraced? If so, we’d love to hear how it’s helped fuel innovation in your organization.

*Fey, 2011, pp. 127-128.

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