Are you having trouble filling a key role at your company? You might have issues with the job description you’ve posted for the role. Writing job descriptions is an often overlooked skill, but any good recruiter will tell you the job description can make or break your search for an awesome candidate. Bad job descriptions abound. They’re often bland, written quickly, reused, copied and pasted, and generally not given much thought. But the quality of your job description greatly affects the quality and type of job candidates you attract.
If you write better job descriptions, it will help you attract more qualified candidates, making it easier for you to find the right fit. Here are some tips to write better job descriptions:
Superlatives are often overused in job descriptions to the point of being meaningless. It’s a given you’re looking for skilled, experienced employees. It’s also assumed you want the best talent available. So, go easy on the superlatives within your job description copy. Using one or two to emphasize specific skills, traits, experience is okay, but avoid going overboard about how you’re only looking for the best in class, expert, industry leading candidates. It’ll just bloat your copy and come across as out-of-touch.
Words to use sparingly include:
Be careful with the pronouns you use when writing job descriptions. Many employers default to using he/him. This simple error can scare women away from applying for the job. You’re risking losing the interest of 50% of the working population. An employer who assumes a man is the default choice seems out of touch at best, misogynist at worst. You could be losing out on top (female) candidates without even knowing it.
Instead of going the ‘he/him’ route, use second-person perspective with ‘you’ pronouns – it’s a more engaging way to write, as it allows the reader to picture themselves in the role. If you have something against addressing the reader as ‘you’ (you’re missing out!) then go with something gender neutral like ‘the candidate’ or ‘they.’
a laundry list of requirements
All job descriptions include a list of requirements, but there’s a limit. Avoid listing off every job requirement you can think of, including every ‘nice-to-have.’ Rather, stick to the top and most relevant requirements you would like candidates to possess. The more requirements you list, the more you limit your candidate pool. Too many requirements may scare off some people from applying. If a job description has a laundry list of qualifications most candidates will a) not have them and leave without applying, or b) not have them and apply anyway. As a general rule, you’ll get the most qualified candidates if you list 4-6 key competencies in bullet point form. When you list fewer, but more critical competencies they carry more weight than 20 broad qualifications that seem unnecessary.
cheesy or ‘creative’ job titles
Keep it simple when it comes to job titles. Avoid using cheesy job titles as a way to attract candidates. Trying to create a cute job title for a position can actually do more harm than good. Some companies use words like rockstar, guru, ninja, and evangelist to try to spice up the role and make the role sound like more fun. These titles just serve to confuse candidates, because it makes it more challenging to understand what the role is and whether or not they are a good fit. At the end of the day a customer service rep is still a customer service rep, even if their job title is customer service ninja.
Jobs with creative job titles are also difficult for candidates to find online, because the average person will search for a standard job title when looking for opportunities online, meaning they may not even see these jobs in the first place.
saying you’re ‘committed to fair, diverse hiring’
In this day and age, it should be a given your company is committed to fair, diverse and inclusive hiring practices. All companies are (or at least they should be!) and it should not be something you need to say in a job description. It’s a given and the bare minimum – in fact not doing it is illegal discrimination in most cases. Is anyone going to say they’re committed to unfair, homogeneous hiring of people who look exactly like them? Of course not.
This is one of those situations where you’re often better off saying nothing and letting your actions speak for you. If you’re boasting about how fair your hiring policies are in a job description, candidates may wonder whether it’s a genuine approach, or you’re just hopping on the bandwagon because it’s the trendy thing to do. An exception is if you have more concrete policies to share – for instance a gender parity policy, accommodations for people with disabilities, a work access program for marginalized communities, etc.
There are certain words and descriptions that you see over and over again in job descriptions. You can probably think of a few right now. Avoid words such as:
These types of words are used so much in job descriptions that they have lost their meaning and effectiveness. If you use them in your job ad, you risk your description blending in with the rest.
proficient in fill-in-the-blank
There are certain skills and abilities that you can assume every candidate will have. We’re talking about the simple tech skills everyone has such as typing, Microsoft Word, Excel (basics only), and other simple, straight-forward computer skills. Use the space at the bottom of your job description to list more specific skills and experience that are directly tied to the job.
4-year degree required
Do you truly need a B.A. to do this job? Many companies lose out on great candidates because they limit the talent pool due to a specific type of education. Yes, education can be an important requirement, but being open to candidates with different types and levels of education can open the door to great candidates who you might not expect. Try ‘degree preferred’ as an education requirement and you might find some candidates with slightly more unconventional training are perfect for what you need.
This is true for both entry-level and senior roles. For entry level candidates – seeking out young candidates who might not have a 4-year post-secondary degree broadens your net. A 4 year degree is no longer a differentiator. It’s also not an indicator of intelligence, ability to learn, or book smarts as some might have you believe. More young people are opting to skip college for the hefty price tag. For senior candidates, they’ve probably already been in their field awhile, and have gained first-hand experience that’s more valuable than any degree could be.
Buzzwords are overused and don’t really say anything. They can muddle up job descriptions and make them more difficult to understand. Be as clear and concise as possible when writing descriptions. Get to the point and avoid using cliché buzzwords that make it seem like you hop on whatever bandwagon is trendy at the moment. Here are some common buzzwords and phrases to delete from your job description:
- game changer
- low hanging fruit
- move the needle
- growth hacker
- consensus builder, etc.
Job candidates will not understand company jargon such as acronyms unique to your business. It sound go without saying, but insider talk won’t make sense to outside job seekers. They don’t know what a “TPS report” is, so don’t include this terminology within your job description. You’d be surprised how often job seekers need an employee handbook to interpret a job description!
Using the above job description tips will help you write better and more targeted job ads. Updating your job descriptions will give you a chance to review their components and whether or not they are effective at helping you target the right type of job candidates for the job.