Writing a job description: 7 tips to grab attention
6 MINUTE READ
Hiring great talent starts with attracting the right talent. So writing a job description that is effective, engaging, and inclusive is key. With a little upfront effort, you can significantly improve your job descriptions to bring a wide range of highly talented candidates into your pipeline.
It’s much better to invest time getting it right at the outset. Otherwise, your less-than-perfect job description runs the risk of turning off talent before they ever apply. Indeed, hiring managers often complain they only receive a handful of reasonably qualified candidates for each job posting. So why is that?
These days, candidates are spoilt for choice when it comes to job hunting. There are an ever increasing number of sites that candidates search to find job opportunities. As the online job market becomes more noisy, it makes it harder for qualified candidates to find your job post amongst a sea of others.
To address this problem, you need to make your job description stands out from the crowd by creating a better story than your competitors who are after the same candidates. So when writing a job description, here are seven practical tips you can use to grab the attention of candidates.
1. Job description = marketing tool
Job descriptions should be thought of as marketing tools. If you simply upload a wish-list of requirements to a job board, you’re not going to attract great talent. Job descriptions are ads and should be written to appeal to candidates, not simply to comply with HR/ legal requirements.
2. Speak to what candidates actually care about
When a candidate is reading your job description, the thought most likely to be going their head is “What’s in it for me?”. In our experience as an IT recruitment agency, top tier candidates are primarily motivated by:
Opportunities to learn and grow: You need to communicate to candidates that by joining your company, they can continue to grow their skills and learn from other smart people. Nothing’s scarier for some tech candidates than boredom and stagnation.
Challenging work: The best candidates on the market are natural problem solvers. So you should give them a clear insight into the kind of interesting problems they’ll work on. Give them some “meat” not just some (incredibly boring) fluff about responsibilities.
Making an impact: Show them how the work they’ll do will impact their department, the company, maybe even the industry or the world. No great employee wants to work on projects that don’t matter. You need to show they’ll make a difference.
These are obviously quite general points. But involving current employees in the process of writing a job description is a great way to dive into the specifics. One useful tactic is to get a group of recent hires and longer-term high performers in a room together for a discussion about:
- the kind of work at your company they find most challenging and engaging
- opportunities they’ve had for learning and growth
- the kind of difference they feel they’re making
Armed with this information, you’ll be in a much better position to write a compelling job description.
3. When writing a job description, sell benefits, not features
Yes, it’s fantastic if you happen to be a Fortune 500 Company. But why should candidates care about that?
Matter-of-fact descriptors like this and others such as “two million customers”, “startup”, and “new team” are features. You should convert these features into benefits by giving them meaning that appeals to candidates.
For example which is more appealing, “New team” or “Build from scratch opportunity”? Clearly the latter.
You should review some of you standard descriptors and answer the question “so what?” for your readers. For example, if you are a startup – does that mean candidates will get to play a larger role, be more involved in key business and technical decisions, or get more stuff done in a shorter amount of time? Sell the benefits, not the features.
4. Create urgency
Even if you aren’t desperate to fill a vacancy, you still want candidates to feel a sense of urgency and be compelled to apply, even if they’re currently happily employed. Try including, “Call today for immediate consideration,” or say you are only accepting applications until a certain date in the posting. Provide a phone number or individual email address to create a more personalised posting vs. having candidates submit to a generic corporate email or website.
5. Draw candidates in with your first few sentences
Great ads engage readers right from the start. One way to make sure your job post achieves this is to leverage “identity questions”. These questions are intended to:
- Help the candidate identify with the job
- Make the job sound more exclusive
- Compel them to keep reading
- Weed out those candidates who don’t identify with the questions
Here are a couple of questions and a short summary you might put at the top of your job description right underneath your company logo:
Are you the go-to person in your company for the most challenging tech support issues?
Do you get frustrated by bureaucracy and red tape that keeps you from quickly getting your internal customers the tools and software they need to do their jobs?
If so, we’d like to hear from you. We’re building a world class internal tech support organisation and need you to help us build it the right way.
6. Formatting matters
Using bulleted lists, color, bold titles, and even white space (so not all the text is crammed together) can make our job descriptions much more appealing to a candidate. Presenting candidates with a dense block of text will cause them to switch-off immediately.
7. Streamline the application process
Even the best job descriptions are wasted if candidates have to jump through 15 hoops just to apply. Top candidates value their time and will quickly lose patience if you ask far too much of them just to make a straightforward application.
Some organisations turn on page after page of questionnaires, force users to create accounts, and ask for information upfront that seems premature to a candidate (like salary requirements). Drop-off rates go through the roof when candidates have to suffer through more than a few questions and clicks before getting you their CV.
Instead, make the process quick, easy, and user-friendly.
We believe a recruitment agency should be able to do more than source great candidates. That’s why we offer a full range of services designed to help you find and hold on to top technical talent.