When you’re writing an effective job description, the tendency is to try to stick to the “less is more” principle, and as a result, end up hurting your recruiting efforts. These attempts at simplicity can read to job seekers like you’re trying to hide something.
It isn’t helped that many of the bad habits recruiters have developed stem from the traditional view of their relationship to candidates as adversarial. Information is withheld or obfuscated because hiring managers think, even subconsciously, that giving away too much information puts them at a negotiating disadvantage.
In a world where information is near instant and what you don’t tell your prospects will be found out anyway, it’s important to write your job descriptions in such a way that applicants know what they’re getting into and encourages a partnership.
1. Talk About Culture
“Company culture” is one of the most frequent subjects that comes up in interviews, especially early in the process. When you’re dealing with a market where skilled applicants can pick and choose the position they want, part of what will attract them to you is knowing that they will be working in an environment suited to their talents. So go ahead and talk about your office culture in the job posting.
Avoid cliches like “we work hard and we play hard.” Those mean nothing and a job seeker will see right through it. Instead, open the job description discussing your company’s core values. If somebody is applying for the job, they probably at least know the basics of what it is. Effective job descriptions show applicants why being a copywriter or lawn gnome design engineer with you is different than other companies. Be specific and draw that distinction.
2. Effective Job Descriptions Discuss Benefits
You’ve gone to the trouble of offering benefits to applicants, why not spend a few lines of your job description talking about them?
Again, not saying these outright seems to originate in a desire to hold them back like negotiating chips, but the best talent doesn’t need to fight with you about what you’re willing to give. They’ll ignore the posting and go to somebody who isn’t afraid to tell them what sort of insurance they get, whether they offer flexible schedules and remote days, or if the job comes with a gym membership. Charitable activities that the company is involved with are also fantastic for this.
On this note, putting your salary range in the job description is usually better than not. Again, candidates who can select the best job are going for the one that will pay what they’re worth. It wastes everybody’s time if you’re guessing at what they will want or expect them to make the first offer. Listing a reasonable range not only pre-selects people who are willing to work for what you’re paying, but also gives you valuable data about what your job is worth in the market, allowing you to make adjustments. The money you save recruiting people who don’t meet your needs can even go toward a higher salary for those that do.
3. Discuss Advancement Opportunities
The modern job landscape is not one where employees expect long term positions at a company. Millenials and Gen Z applicants especially, raised in the “gig culture,” are generally surprised by the idea that they may be able to move up in the company. That can be a great selling point for you as a recruiter trying to get younger talent and train them up.
This doesn’t mean you have to map out their career path for them in the job description. Instead, talk about the ways you’ve made advancement easier. Do you have mentorship programs that they can apply for? Paid learning opportunities or the ability to get certifications? You can even list the average time it takes a person to move to the next job in the hierarchy.
Letting candidates know right away that you will value their talents and not only encourage them to grow, but give them room to do so, goes a long way toward writing effective job descriptions.
4. Effective Job Descriptions Aren’t Boring
Yes, your job description should be professional. Don’t open with a joke (it’s not a blog, after all). But you can show a little bit of personality in the job description.
The best way to go about this is to not only use language specific to your industry, but specific to your company. Salesforce does this well by discussing their “ohana.” For those who never saw Lilo & Stitch, “ohana” means “family.” The owner of the company loves Hawaii, so he has incorporated Hawaiian words and concepts into the company culture. It’s all over their websites, particularly their recruitment pages. And, not for nothing, but Salesforce gets between 500,000 and 1 million applicants per month. Further, with 5,400 reviews on Glassdoor of people working there, they have 4.3 stars.
If there’s one lesson to take from all of this, it’s that effective job descriptions are not vague or cryptic. They are inviting, open, and honest. Look at your potential employees as partners, treat them accordingly from the start, and you’ll see a rise in the number and quality of applicants.