I’m sure you know that a job descriptions’ messaging should accurately represent the role, your company, and its goals. You also know the language should be clear and concise, and it should connect with your intended candidate immediately.
That’s marketing 101.
A job description is your company’s very first impression (your website is a close second). If you flop the description, you risk losing your ideal candidates—even if the role was a perfect fit. If mastering the perfect job description sounds like a tough task, we’ve got you covered: consider the following tips to help you write a better job description to snag your new favorite hire.
1. Make sure the description is mobile-friendly
Nearly 30% of Americans use their smartphones for job searches. That number skyrockets to 53% among people aged 18-29-years old. That said, job descriptions need be mobile-friendly, so keep these tips in mind:
•Bullets and lists should have ample spacing between lines
•Avoid big chunks of text as much as possible, as most people are skimming
•Forms should have cross-device functionality (i.e. do you have to switch your screen mode to fill out a form? Are any boxes wider than the screen?)
•Job titles should be 50 characters or less
•Fonts should be larger than they are on desktop for better readability
Even something as simple as a responsive job description shows candidates that you’re thinking about theirexperience, which in turns reflects positively on your organization.
2. Avoid eccentric job titles
If I posted a job for a “Dream Alchemist,” would you assume I was searching for a Head of Creative? Or that a post titled “Wizard of Light Bulb Moments” was actually a job posting for a Marketing Director? Probably not. While these very real job titles are effective in marketing a company’s personality, a job title isn’t the place to do it.
Confusing job titles are just bad practice all around, specifically because:
•64% of applicants won’t apply for a job if they don’t understand the title.
•A funky job title will confuse both job boards and search engines. When an applicant searches for “Head of Creative” but your job’s title is “Dream Alchemist,” search algorithms don’t know the 2 are related. Adding the actual title in the body copy won’t bear as much weight as the job title itself, so just say “Head of Creative.”
3. Talk salary (honestly)
If you’re open to a wider range of salaries, it’s a bad move to state a seemingly-indefinite figure (e.g. $60,000 per year), as you’re suggesting that a negotiation is off the table (which is usually not the case). When you offer a range (e.g. $60,000 to $80,000), you’re way more likely to attract a wider range of candidates.
If you’re an organization that doesn’t mention compensation at all, we strongly consider you do so. You’ll offer a better candidate experience when money is out on the table. No one wants to waste time applying and interviewing—that goes for both recruiters and applicants—if the compensation just isn’t there.
4. Forget acronyms, clichés, and buzzwords
There’s nothing like stomping on your differentiators than using buzzwords that everyone else uses in their job descriptions (e.g. disruptive, out-of-the-box thinking, innovative, self-starter, etc.). Just be straightforward and honest.
Turns out, about 57% of applicants won’t apply for a role if the job description is littered with jargon and acronyms. So avoid those altogether. And even though some people respond well to clichés, phrases like “fast-paced” and “be your own boss” could mean vastly different things depending on the applicant.
5. Talk about culture and values
In its purest form, culture is behavior. As such, it becomes a good indicator of the type of people that work within a company. And values are just as important, as they set expectations without having to overtly state them time and time again.
So if your organization nixed cubicles and works in an open space (top execs included), definitely mention that. If the dress code is lax, say that. And if your organization has a spirit week or monthly potlucks, totally mention it. Candidates not only want to know the type of work they’ll be doing but the type of people they’ll be working with.
6. Don’t embellish or exaggerate
Job descriptions are often written to encompass 2-3 positions. This could be happening for a few reasons:
•Failing to prioritize skills, experience, education, ability, etc.
•Approaching the description too broadly
It’s understandable to want to recruit versatile talent, but at what point does it become overwhelming and misrepresentative of the role? When a job description highlights an unfeasible amount of responsibilities and qualifications, it can turn applicants away. So, try not to bury what’s most important to the role among minute details. Plus, when you embellish these types of things, you have to consider what that message sends to candidates about your organization. If there are some bits of information you just can’t resist, make a note to mention them during an interview instead.
7. Swap out a traditional job description with a performance profile
Now, this suggestion is a little out of the norm, but it shouldn’t be ruled out. Here’s why.
Traditional job descriptions are often broad narratives of the responsibilities of a given role, and the expectations are generally vague. A traditional description would likely include characteristics like:
•Must have 5+ years of experience in ABC in addition to 3+ years of experience in XYZ
•Ability to meet tight deadlines
•Master’s degree required
These requirements do have merit, but they’re too general. Consider this for a minute: just because someone was a salesperson for 5 years doesn’t mean he or she was a good salesperson. Just because an individual has a master’s degree doesn’t mean the requirements for obtaining said degree were rigorous or challenging. And what constitutes a tight deadline? This expectation, in particular, is way, way too unclear.
A far more objective approach to writing a description would be writing a performance profile instead. Performance profiles are results-driven, and detail real-life examples of expectations, as well as the types of projects for the given role.
So on the other hand, a performance profile would read:
•Close X-amount of new accounts every 30 days
•Manage 5-10 projects at any given time
•Complete project XYZ within the first 180 days
You might not know the exact performance objectives, but you definitely have an idea. And because you’re giving candidates more precise information, you’re going to attract those genuinely qualified candidates. As I’m sure you’ve gathered, this will reduce retention rates. Who doesn’t love that?
All in all, it’s what a person does with his or her skills that truly determines ability. An individual with 5+ years of sales experience may not be able to close X-amount of new accounts every 30 days, but someone with 3+ years of experience very well could. As a matter of fact, top performers tend to have the least amount of experience; they’re more flexible and have the ability and willingness to learn quickly.
We promote based on performance; so why not hire in that same way?