Every year, I’m privileged to be asked to sit on the judging panel for recruitment awards, so I’ve learnt a lot about what makes a winning entry and what really frustrates judges. As we’re well into award season, I wanted to share some of the mistakes I see, so you don't repeat them!
1. The cut and paste job
I get it - awards entries take time put together, but that’s no excuse for simply cutting and pasting straight from your website or worse still, reusing your last awards submission! Each question is looking for something specific, so please make sure you tackle each submission from scratch – reusing material is a sure-fire way to make your submission lack focus and sound flat. You can also spot a copy/paste job a mile off!
2. Not actually answering the question
The judges have to look through loads of submissions and this is likely to be the first time they’ve heard of your company. So as a judge, you have to use the question to guide your judgement.
You could very well be the best company out there, but if you don’t answer the question on the award entry, how are they supposed to know this? Please make it easy and ensure that each question that’s asked is actually answered so the judge can use your answer to compare and bench mark you against the other entries.
3. Using unnecessary big words
In the case of awards submissions, less is more! Keep it simple and avoid using jargon – we all know what it’s like to read CVs that seem as though a candidate has eaten a thesaurus for breakfast – there’s no need!
Just be blunt and get to the point of the question quickly. There’s a great book called Don’t Make Me Think that’s focussed on web usability and how to make your web journeys easy and enjoyable to follow. The underlying principles of this book can easily be applied to all presentations, pitches and sales literature that are trying to lead the reader on a journey. Rather than trying to impress with complicated words, think about the easiest way to tell your story – your reader will thank you for it!
4. Providing no evidence or context
Most award entries will either go totally overboard with providing backup to their submissions - attaching everything but the company’s toilet policies! - or they’ll make sweeping statements with nothing to back them up. Both approaches are bad.
The first approach of attaching everything basically forces the judge to have to look at irrelevant information. I’ve found myself looking at brochures or tender submissions asking myself “What am I meant to be looking at here - none of this is relevant to the awards entry I am judging?”. When this happens, I’ll instantly switch to cynical mode and assume this company is just trying to deviate my attention away from the judging criteria as they’re light on evidence for it. Not ideal for a judge to be thinking this when you’re wanting to impress them!
However, what I find even worse than this is when companies make wild statements of awesomeness with absolutely no backing. Please please if you say that you’re brilliant at something, give the judges reason to believe this. As a judging panel, you’re wanting to make sure you award the medals to the best companies, and to do this we need some hard evidence neatly worked into each answer.
Recruitment award submission tips
Let me finish off with a few award submission tips that always go down well with judges. First of all, make sure you include some stand-out, tangible stats that your agency is proud of. This will really impress judges, and any graphs or visual aids to present these stats in will break up the text and make your submission a joy to read.
Finally, make sure you give yourself ample time to go through a few different edits and iterations, and please stick to the word count! You may think supporting evidence is a good time to throw lots of additional info across the table, but you’re just likely to increase workload for the judges and this will put you in the bad books.
Remember that a judge has to get through a lot of entries, so the easier you make it for them to see how great you are, the higher your chances will be of winning! So answer the questions, provide the evidence and this will ensure that you stand out for all the right reasons.
About the Author: Wendy McDougall is the CEO of Firefish Software. With just under 20 years experience in the recruitment industry, Wendy is on a mission to inspire the next generation of recruiters and help challenge the traditional recruitment agency model of doing things. In her spare time, you’ll find her enjoying some down time with the family, playing squash and feeding her inner geek with all the latest technology!