5 Secrets to Making Your Job Descriptions Compel People to Apply
Hiring the best people depends on a lot of factors. The most important one is – getting people to apply. And a lot of that depends on your job description.
These days, many job descriptions are failing for 4 main reasons:
- Scaring away qualified people
- Vague, or loaded with buzzwords
- Demanding far more skills and qualifications than the salary warrants
- Looking for Superman – unrealistic expectations
If you’re unhappy with your applicant pool, the first place to look is your job description.
Here’s an example – this is a REAL job description on Indeed:
Medical Office Manager
Looking for Medical Office Manger for Pediatric Neurology practice.
Job is for full time or part time position.
Please send your resume and references with contact info.
Job Types: Full-time, Part-time
Required language: Spanish
Let’s break this down:
First of all – they misspelled their own job title. An “Office Manger” seems like it would be a little dirty for most workplaces these days. Clearly, the company that wrote this put very little thought into it. The consequence of that is – you’re going to get tons of unqualified applicants, and hardly any of the kind you want.
Second, it says it’s full-time and part-time. Well, which is it? It’s one job, so how can it be both? Is it a part-time job that can become full-time? Be clear about that. This leaves applicants confused. Should I apply if I’m only looking for part-time work?
Third, it says Spanish is required. Why? Is that because they have Spanish-speaking customers, or Spanish-speaking employees, or Spanish-speaking vendors? There’s a big difference here. If I’m a bilingual job applicant, I want to know how my language skills are an asset to your company. Make me want to apply because of my ability. This is your advertisement to me. Make me want it.
But the biggest problem with this job description is the most obvious flaw: What is the job?
It lists no required skills. No desired skills. No competencies. No benefits. It gives no sense of the size of the office or the company. Am I working with a large team or am I going to be juggling a lot more balls for a smaller company?
Experienced people who will want to know this will not apply for this job. Inexperienced ones will sign up in droves. Is that what you want?
What this job description really says: We don’t have time to write a good job description, and if you work for us, you won’t have time either because you’ll be frazzled, stressed, overworked and underpaid.
Are Your Job Descriptions Repelling Top Talent?
The above job description is far too vague. It will scare away good applicants, and attract unqualified ones.
Maybe your job descriptions have the same problem. Or maybe yours go the other direction and are asking for too much. Are you asking for Superman but only willing to pay for Clark Kent?
Unless your company has enough brand leverage to overcome it, expert talent and perfectly qualified applicants won’t respond to job descriptions that want everything.
If you want your descriptions to attract top talent, begin here:
What skills do you really need? Which are the essentials? Be clear about that.
So how do we write job descriptions that are realistic, detailed enough to be useful, accurate to the job, and that don’t take four hours to read?
5 Ways to Make Your Job Descriptions Assets that Attract Highly Qualified Candidates
1. Determine the True Core Essentials for the Job
In the job description above, the only core essential given is the ability to speak Spanish. But this is for a pediatric neurology office. Are there no skills specific to running that kind office that you might want to put in your description? Not a single one?
Don’t overdo this though. Don’t list 15 core essentials for your job, unless your salary is worthy of it. But you need to boil down the job to its essentials so your applicants know what they’re applying for.
2. Separate Skills from Competencies
Skills are things you can do. Competencies are more about who you are.
The above job description has neither. But it could have listed skills like working with databases and customer service, for example. Those are skills, probably relevant to this job.
But don’t mix in competencies with skills. Being organized and having a strong attention to detail are competencies.
Competencies are more dependent on personality. You don’t learn how to pay attention to details in school. Yes, you can get better at things like this, but compared to someone who’s just wired that way who doesn’t even have to work at it, there’s no comparison.
This is important because skills can be learned, which means they can be trained. If someone applying to that position knows all the ins and outs of running an office but hasn’t worked with their particular HR software before, that shouldn’t keep them from the job. Anyone can learn a new HR software, especially if they’ve done it before. It’s just another skill.
But being organized? Or being an effective leader? That’s a different question. So don’t mix up skills and competencies.
This is also why pre-testing should be an essential part of your hiring process (we use it standard with all our clients). There are pre-tests for skills as well as for competencies. You can find out what you need to know about your candidates in ways that don’t result in a bloated job description.
3. Create a Simple, Non-Creative Job Title
You want people to find your job description. So don’t call your receptionist a “customer initiation specialist.” No one searches for that. They search for receptionist.
Your job title needs to be keyword-driven first, and then accurate to the position second. And that’s it. Don’t make it any more complicated. Your job title is like a news article headline. It should be immediately understood in less than three seconds.
You don’t want mystery. You don’t want creativity. This is not where you try to ‘stand out.’ You can do that in your job description, but not in your title.
4. List Daily Responsibilities
What does the person with this job actually do? Listing out their most common tasks will tell the job candidate if this is something they’re familiar with. This is where you eliminate the ‘jargon barrier.’ Just tell us what we have to do.
And this includes the kinds of people they will interact with the most. Customers? Managers? Subordinates? Knowing this clarifies the role and the responsibilities.
5. Tell Why You’re Awesome
A job description is really an advertisement. So write it like one. Sell your company to potential applicants.
Tell them some of the perks you offer. Benefits. Opportunities for growth and promotion. Vacation and holiday information.
Now, are you worried doing this will attract unqualified applicants because they want all your cool benefits? Don’t worry. If your skills list is accurate and if you have a means to assess them, these people will be easy to weed out.
This is yet another reason skills and personality testing are fundamental to any effective hiring process in the digital age. So much of the hiring process happens over the internet. The loss of face to face meetings has eroded trust.
Pre-testing restores it. So tout all the benefits and perks you want, because if you use effective screening techniques, only the most highly qualified candidates will reach your interview rounds.
Ask Us to Look Over Your Job Description
It’s very hard to stay objective when you’re immersed in something for so long.
How will your job description be perceived by candidates? It’s very hard for you to determine that because you’ve spent so much time writing it, and you live with the job every day.
So, get a neutral hiring expert to look it over. We will give you a free evaluation of your job description. Just send your description to firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ll give you a few ways to improve it! (Limit 1 description per month please)
One more thing: The benefits of a well-written job description extend beyond attracting the candidates you want. They also help with training, discipline, defending against lawsuits, and much more. If you need help improving your job descriptions, use the email above to get in touch with us.