Job Descriptions: You Never Get a Second Chance To Make A First Impression

I always get some strange looks when I tell Human Resources Professionals that they are salespeople. Believe it or not, if you are providing the recruiting services for your organization you in many ways are in sales and marketing. You are selling your company to potential new employees. Much like a sales sheet or a website may be a prospect’s first look at a potential vendor. The job description is the first look that a candidate takes at your company. Let’s put ourselves into the candidate’s shoes. The candidate went to a job board, did some necessary sorting of their desired job category and location, and now they are scanning an extensive list of jobs to decide where they would like to apply. As an employer, it is challenging to stand out from the crowd.

At a minimum, your company needs to have a career page. Your career page should be able to post positions and receive applications electronically. If you are redirecting candidates to a career page and asking them to email in an application, then you are unfortunately behind other employers in the competition for talent. Your company could be viewed as less progressive, and it could deter candidates from applying. In addition to electronically submitting their application applicants have begun to expect additional convenience features like social sign-on to your career site and tools that simplify the data entry process of applying. The good news is that most Applicant Tracking Systems offer the main features that applicants expect. Just make sure when evaluating Applicant Tracking System providers that you carefully look at what tools are available with your subscription.

While a career page and some technology to streamline the process is expected, a fancy career page may not be as impactful as one may think. If I were to ask which was more important in attracting talent which one would you pick?

  1. The professional look and feel of your career page
  2. The content within your job description

Most would probably choose number one. While we could make an argument on the importance of a fancy career page, when examining most company’s website traffic there are more hits directly to the job description than the actual career page. The job board and advertisements in most cases link directly to the job description. If a candidate ever goes to the actual career page, it is usually later in the process. We put so much time, money and effort into a beautiful and professional career page when the job description usually provides the first impression. Now let’s get into ways to stand out from the crowd.

Job Advertisements

Applicant Tracking Systems should offer the ability to add a job advertisement with your job description to the job boards. The job advertisement acts like a short blurb about your organization that gets the candidate excited about the position. These short blurbs can serve as your hook to get a candidate to read further about the opportunity or click to apply. Leverage these short blurbs to get the candidate excited about the company. When reading most job descriptions, we can all agree that it is generally difficult reading. If you are painting a dreary picture with the job description, the candidates will walk away thinking you are a boring company and it will reduce the number of applicants, but more importantly you will most likely miss the very best talent. Top talent is looking for more than a paycheck. The very best talent want to understand:

  • Why would they want to work here?
  • What is unique about your organization?
  • Whom will they be working with on a daily basis?
  • What will they be working on in their new role?

Help The Candidate See Themselves In The Position

When working with our customers, we recommend that 70% of the job description focuses on the candidate and only about 30% on the company. Our goal is to paint the picture for the job candidate, help them see themselves in that position.

  • We want the candidate to learn about the exciting work they will be doing at the company
  • Help them learn about the team they will be on
  • Share about the leadership of the organization and how they will get to engage with that team

Be Inclusive

Once you have shared the story about your organization and helped the candidate see themselves in the position you don’t want to lose momentum. Be thoughtful around the requirements of the job. I recently heard a statistic that men would apply to a job if they meet 60% of the listed job requirements. However, women will only apply if they meet 100% of the job requirements. So as we think about an inclusionary workplace, we need to place much scrutiny around what are the actual “requirements” for the position. Some things to consider:

  • Is a four-year degree required or would we take a candidate with applicable work experience and less education?
  • Do they need a certain number of years of experience or would you consider less?
  • Does the candidate need to possess the defined skills already or would you consider someone that is willing to learn?

I recently had a conversation with a leader at a large organization around this exact subject. They were reviewing a candidate with the hiring manager and as the hiring manager went through what they liked and disliked the organizational leader stopped them and said, “You know you are looking for a unicorn right?” The hiring manager stopped and scratched their head for a minute. The Hiring Manager was looking for someone who checked all of the boxes when in reality someone that met most of the criteria but could learn the rest would be suitable.

So the next time that you receive that new requisition takes a few minutes to review the job description. If writing isn’t your specialty, then engage someone with that skill set that can help you paint a better picture of the opportunity with your company. Next, make sure that requirements listed are actual requirements. Finally, place an inclusionary statement into your job descriptions to encourage applicants to apply.