The Psychology of Texts in Recruitment

Jan Tegze
8 min readFeb 21, 2018

In the era of videos, emojis, and gifs, the written word is still a powerful way to share our thoughts, stories or how we learn. We have used stories for generations to pass on knowledge to others. It is still the best way for us to remember things and how we learn.

That’s why images and videos can never indeed replace text; in recruitment, through words, we describe our companies in bright colors or try to present our job offers more temptingly and get more attention for our posts on LinkedIn or our articles.

Even though the text is still a static medium, text is still everywhere and it’s a vital part of shaping a candidate’s experience.

Did you ever consider that the type of fonts, the size and formatting could help you to increase your number of applications, likes, shares, etc.?

Understanding the psychology behind text and how to use it will not only keep your candidates and visitors on your site much longer, but it will also raise their number.

Reading in the 21st Century

People are overloaded with information and because of that our attention span (the amount of concentrated time a person can spend on a task without becoming distracted) is decreasing. Because of that, the less text you write, the more of it people will read. Long articles, posts, and paragraphs drive people away, and the same goes for your job advertisements. People scan content for things that stand out to them, and short text keeps them more engaged than text that spans two pages. Keep your content short or find a way to split it into small parts and not into one long block of text.

As was mentioned in the “Reading behavior in the digital environment” study, we all spent more time reading electronic documents, and screen‐based reading behavior is emerging. The screen‐based reading behavior is characterized by more time spent on browsing and scanning, keyword spotting, one‐time reading, non‐linear reading, and reading more selectively, while less time is spent on in‐depth reading and concentrated reading.

That’s why it is essential to understand the psychology behind text; how formatting, spacing, fonts, and other aspects of text are working. Many marketing books advise to, “use short sentences, simple words and be concrete; don’t create long paragraphs with complex sentences.” All this advice is still accurate, but it’s important to take all these things together and create some context. Words in a sentence influence one another and are influenced by their surrounding context.

Focusing on context and content is the right way; however, it’s also important to focus on other things that are equally important, such as Legibility, Readability, and Comprehension.


Legibility is the ease with which a reader can recognize individual characters in text. “The legibility of a typeface is related to the characteristics inherent in its design which relate to the ability to distinguish one letter from the other.” (Source:


The right fonts make a big difference to legibility, and I have to admit I am a big fan of fonts. (My first web project was a font site with 15K+ fonts.)

If you think it doesn’t matter which font you are going to use in your material, you should learn more about fonts because it’s quite important to choose the right one. The font type you choose for your text, presentation or logo will say something about you and your business; every font evokes different emotions. Keep in mind that some typefaces were designed to be used large and that makes them less readable on smaller screens or in smaller sizes.

If you don’t know anything about fonts, there are Sans Serif fonts and Serif fonts. Popular sans serif fonts include Arial, Geneva, Helvetica, and Avant-Garde. Serif fonts include fonts like Times Roman, Courier, Palatino, and New Century Schoolbook.

But which is more legible, serif or sans-serif typefaces? Alex Poole, during 2003, as part of his master’s degree, reviewed over 50 empirical studies in typography and found a definitive answer in this study. You can also learn about many other typographical features like Serif/Sans Serif, Point size, Counters, etc. in that study. I didn’t mention these things here because the article would be quite long.

According to most studies I have read the sans serif fonts are more difficult to read.

Font size also affect readability; it’s better to use a reasonably large default font size. High school materials are usually printed in 10 or 12 point fonts. Allow your users to change the font size to a size that is comfortable for them, 12.5-point or 13-point font makes text more comfortable to read.

And don’t forget that background also plays an important role, use a plain background instead of a textured one. Keep in mind that more than 10% of the population has dyslexia, a specific learning disability with a neurobiological origin. This paper presents a user study that measures the effect of using background colors on-screen readability.

Legibility is a component of readability!


Readability is the ease with which a reader can understand a written text. In natural language, the readability of text depends on its content (the complexity of its vocabulary and syntax) and its presentation (such as typographic aspects like font size, line height, and line length). (Source: Wikipedia)

Many experts, through much research, have compiled golden rules of documentation writing. A list of these regulations is mentioned in “The Principles of Readability” published by William H. DuBay.

One of these rules states that: people like to read plain-spoken words and the shorter, the better. Using technical terms, company jargon or fancy words reduces readability. These rules apply regardless of medium.

Readable text also affects how users process the information from that text. If your post, job advert or article is hard to read, people could miss relevant information or be scared away from your content. The goal is to present the text in a way that it’s easy to absorb by visitors/readers.

There are many tools that you can use to test the readability of your content, for example, Readability Test Tool or


How many times has some great article title caught your attention and you’ve opened it but given up reading after few lines?

We all want to keep our visitors on our site as long as possible and encourage them to take some action. But it’s also important to present the information in the right format. Text is useless unless it is readable, that’s why you need to use proper formatting.

I read quite a lot blogs and content, and sometimes I am disappointed when I see a post from a specialist on branding and their blog post is usually one block of text with a minimal number of spaces, full of text in bold, italic and various sizes and types of fonts. The information in that article is useful, but it’s impossible to read it. And the same could happen to your candidate when reading your job postings.

Jakob Nielsen’s web usability study from 1997 showed that 79 percent of web users scan rather than read; only 16 percent read word-by-word. People scan content for things that stand out to them. If they do not find anything that interests them, they will go somewhere else. That’s why it’s important to make sure they’re able to get a good overview of your content within a few seconds by using the right keywords, spacing, and formatting.

Line Length

In the study “The influence of reading speed and line length on the effectiveness of reading from screen” you can find two important things you need to consider when you are writing content. People who are reading slowly will prefer text that has about 55 characters per line; on the other hand, people who are reading faster will prefer lines with 100 characters per line.

Most readers of your content are skimmers; they will read only a small part of your content. A person will just read 20–28% of the words in your post during an average visit. If you consider that statistic, ask yourself “How many words will my candidates read from my job posting?”


Reading comprehension is the ability to read text, process it, and understand its meaning. (Source: Wikipedia)

All the content you are preparing should be targeted to the audience that you are trying to approach. One method you can use for creating content is an inverted-pyramid writing style.


The inverted pyramid is a metaphor used by journalists and other writers to illustrate how information should be prioritized and structured in a text.

This will help you to reduce the need for users to remember things from one part of the text to another. If you insert images into the text, they could sometimes explain things better than reams of words.


People are multi-tasking, and only a small percentage will read the entire content that you are presenting, that is why it’s important to keep this in mind and try to keep your content short and straightforward. Always put yourself in the position of your readers; if you or your team has a problem reading the text you created, make some improvements before you post it.

There are many tricks to pointing the candidate toward the right part of your posting or your content. And the right font, size, and formatting could positively influence your recruitment activities and have a positive impact on your visitors and readers. The length of your post, advert or article also plays a significant role in determining whether people are going to finish reading your content or go away after a few lines.

Always focus on information of interest to users, not on the things you want to promote. Keep in mind that even the best copywriting work is for nothing if users don’t read it!

This article was first published on

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About the author:

Jan is an author of a book “Full Stack Recruiter: The Modern Recruiter’s Guide” and creator of sites like Sourcing.Games, Recruitment.Camp and other projects. As a speaker and blogger, Jan believes that recruitment is a great field and he is constantly trying to make it better.



Jan Tegze

Author of bestseller “Full Stack Recruiter”, #Recruiter, Dream Chaser, Creator of impossible, #BlackBerry fan (probably the only one).