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There’s not much to miss about the old help wanted ads that used to dominate the recruiting space (and sell a lot of newspapers). Then again, those ads tended to be written a lot better than most job postings you see today on job boards. Back when employers had to pay by the word, they were far more thoughtful about what they put out there!
The vast majority of job postings you see these days on job boards and company web sites are job descriptions, or thinly re-purposed ones. This is bad. Below are a list of ideas for good job postings. As you will see, job descriptions fulfill only one of the following criteria, and usually not well.
Here’s the really scary thing about using job descriptions or otherwise lame job postings. They are, of course, only one piece in the large puzzle of things that impact your ability to attract great talent. But, since a job posting (on a job board or your ATS) is often the “gateway” to the online application, almost all candidates will end up staring at your bad job posting. No matter how positive their impression has been up until this point, you may abruptly lose them.
At The Good Jobs, we like to say that good job postings are “love letters to top candidates.” Here are some ideas for achieving this lofty goal:
A Day In The Life. More than anything else, candidates want to know “what will I be doing every day?” I have seen some otherwise amazing job postings that push the creative envelope so far that they fail this critical test. This, by the way, is the one criteria which job descriptions often meet, however weakly. Job descriptions may define the average day more via requirements than activities, but at least they showcase the “ingredients” that comprise the job.
It’s An Advertisement. This is where job descriptions really fail. While job descriptions serve an important HR function, they were never written or intended to be advertisements. They make no effort to sell the job. They are completely lacking in WIFM — “what’s in it for me?” As a result, postings that fail to “sell” the job create what’s called adverse selection. Discerning candidates will take a pass, while desperate candidates (the ones who apply for any and every opportunity) will apply regardless.
How Will I Make A Difference? This really matters to most candidates, especially the good ones. As important as it is to define daily activities and the WIFM, exceptional talent really wants to know what meaningful responsibilities they will have, and what contributions they will make to the company’s success, the community, the lives of others, etc.
Will I Be Happier? Think about the type of person you are trying to attract and what motivated them to go into the profession they chose. Now, consider this question: why are they looking to make a change? (Assuming they are employed.) What frustrates them about their current/last job? Understand that and tailor your job posting accordingly. Of course, you better be able to deliver on your promises!
Your Culture & Employer Brand. The WIFM we talked about earlier applies just as much to your company as it does to the job, maybe more. So, what are your Employer Value Propositions? What are the highlights of your culture? What are the ways you invest in employees and your work environment to be a great place to work? Your job postings and (on some job boards) related company profile need to ensure transparency, so candidates know why they’d want to work for you! Career Opportunities and Corporate Responsibility are two very popular examples. Click here to take a 3 minute survey to help you figure out your company’s strengths.
The Unexpected. As any job seeker surfing job postings online will tell you, they all tend to look alike, (especially the ones that are job descriptions). So, there’s something to be said for being different just for the sake of being different. For example, I used to work with a creative agency that embedded a recipe in every job posting. They found that this weird idea resonated especially well with the type of candidates they wanted to attract. Of course, that probably wouldn’t work so well for an accounting firm. You need to find the type of weird/different that works for your culture and brand!
By the way, if all this sounds like more of a task for marketing than human resources, you get a gold star for recognizing that! As Versant’s Will Ruch talks about in his great book “HR and Marketing – Power Partners,” this partnership is neglected and poorly leveraged (or downright non-existent) in most organizations. Time to take a first important step towards beginning this valuable partnership. Pick up the phone and ask for some help from marketing. After they help you create a few job posting templates, you should be able to easily adapt them to any new requisition.
This concludes the love letter portion of this article. I hope it was useful. But…
HR professionals, I bet I know what you’re thinking. Selling the opportunity and getting all creative is all well and good, but job descriptions serve an important filtering function. If you are already getting deluged with applicants, you may be thinking that the last thing you want to do is make your job postings more attractive.
Here’s how you can simultaneously raise the bar on filtering and quality control, and keep job descriptions in the mix … where they belong:
1. Most job boards and ATS platforms enable screening questions — probably the single most underutilized (or poorly utilized) feature, in many cases. These questions should do your filtering, not your job postings. It’s OK — even advisable — to include basic requirements in the job posting. But rely more on screening questions to knock out unqualified candidates. A subsequent article will talk more about this (Including this powerful tip: how you can set this up to save a great deal of time!)
2. A proper job description includes a level of detail you would never use in a job posting, much less screening questions. For example, “Requires the ability to rapidly and constantly lift large and heavy packages and boxes and to repeatedly load and unload large boxes throughout shift. Must have ability to safely lift minimum of 50 lbs. without assistance and to push and pull up to 150 lbs. with appropriate equipment.” You still need to ensure these requirements are met. The best practice here is to work this into the interview process. Require candidates to review the formal job description and sign off, i.e., confirm that they meet all the requirements.
See, you can have your cake and eat it too! Pull no punches when it comes to writing those love letters. But learn how to turn screening questions into a far more powerful filter than the job posting could ever be. You’ll attract more candidates, and filter out the unqualified ones.