During my career I have often heard such things as: “Job descriptions are incorrect and require changes”, “Job postings are dead”, “Use X (images, videos…) in your job posting and it will work well” and that great job description can make all the difference. And during these years I have met many specialists with the “right solution” to change the job description and improve the posting (for the right money of course). I have been given countless advice about things like: “You need to translate your job description into the Czech language” or “You need to insert a video and at least two pictures to your job advert” etc.
After many years I can only say that no magic solution is going to help you to create a perfect job description that everybody likes and that will generate hundreds of applications. You need to check the data, try new things and don’t listen to all the advice you receive, try to find your own way.
I will always follow the best advice I have ever been given: “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”
The selling power of stories
Sales and marketing people already know that the right story can boost sales and customer response, and storytelling has now become the new trend in recruitment. Adverts that we create every day for our new vacancies are changing, we are removing bullet points and turning these adverts into the stories. We are changing our career pages by inserting the personal stories of our employees and their testimonials. Employer branding together with employee branding is a great combination that every company needs to promote.
Job descriptions are evolving through the year and although it seems really simple to create one, in reality it is tricky. The right job description will help you to attract the right candidates, but during the process of creating one you and your team can ensure that everybody on the hiring team is looking for the same requirements. Spending time on the job description and understanding your audience can pay off tenfold.
A job advertisement typically has the primary goal of attracting visitors to this advert and encouraging them into an action – ideally applying for the job advertised.
Humanise your advertisement
Don’t forgot that you are creating an advert for people; you are not writing job advert from a position of description or technical manual. The advert that you are creating is there to attract the talent to your organization.
Lose buzz words like “Superman developer” or “Ninja Sales specialist”, they worked years ago, but they are not working anymore.
Humanize your advert and replace “the ideal candidate” or “perfect candidate” with “you” or with anything that is connected with your target audience.
Use the language that your target audience is using, it will make you closer to them and you will also be creating more search-friendly content (for better SEO) with the right words that your candidates are using when they are searching for a new job.
Set realistic expectations, first research the keywords relevant to this role and include people who are already working in it. Let them describe this role with their own words; regard the ad as an “employee testimonial”.
“ The key to good advertising is grabbing the attention of the right people.”
Structure of Job Ads
The title is the first thing that attracts candidate’s eye. The advert title is usually the job title, in which case make sure it accurately reflects the reality and level of the position. Many companies are adding something more behind the title to make it stand out from the crowd. Some recruitment agencies are adding the salary information to lure more candidates. At the end of this article you will discover why they are doing that.
You can use many title variants such as:
- Key account manager
- Key account manager (40-60,000 CZK month)
- Key account manager (Amazing Start-up project)
- KEY ACCOUNT MANAGER (APPLY NOW!)
The titles companies use differ in their role descriptions so in one company the role could be “Key account manager” in the second one “Sales specialist” etc.
Every story has a beginning and every job advertisement has one too. The first thing you need is a compelling introduction that grabs attention. If you are working for the company, you are in a good position, because you are selling story of your company and you don’t have to start with things like recruitment agencies: “Our client is looking for…”, or other variants like: “For our important client…”, “Our client international company is looking…” etc.
I still don’t understand why they begin their ads with these sentences. If you know the answer I really want to hear it why, because everybody knows that the agency is looking for candidates for their clients, so there is no reason to state that fact.
Is there better way to attract candidates? I think that there is: the best way is to explain why your company is a great place to work and explain your company’s mission. But keep it short, nobody wants to read two pages about the history of your company which started in the year 1919.
One good example is this:
Or longer version:
I know that not every company has an amazing mission like SpaceX, but every company does have some kind of mission; something they want to achieve, make their mark in the history. It doesn’t have to be big goal like getting the first human being on Mars, but every company has some goals they are trying to achieve, so emphasise what makes your organisation unique!
Write a summary of the job (Responsibilities and Requirements)
Describe a day in the life, include what the job entails and list the key responsibilities. Talk about projects, problems that candidates need to overcome. Great candidates are looking for a challenge and a job in which they can learn something new and make an impact.
When you are creating a list of requirements that you are expecting from candidate, you don’t have to address every skill under the sun. Focus on things that are important for you, keep in mind that more and more users are checking career opportunities on their mobile, and so keep it short. Create long and boring summary is easy, be brief and specific takes work!
Bullet points – the evil thing in 2016?
Last year I read lots of articles like: “Abolish bullet points”, “Don’t use bullet points” etc. But I didn’t see any relevant study or survey showing that using them is bad. Many companies and agencies use them, but bullet points are not so friendly with the story type of job advert, that’s all.
Bullet points can be still useful to highlight parts of the position that you would like to point out for candidates. Don’t abolish bullet points yet.
Every person is looking for something different: One person may be looking for a company involved in charity work, another may be looking for an unlimited vacation, info about salary ranges or a company that is pet-friendly. Mention all of your interesting benefits and unique perks in your job descriptions. If you have a snake as a company pet and mascot, this information could stick in the mind of a candidate and he could share this interesting discovery with his friends in the pub together with the name of your company. Don’t forget people like to share.
How to apply – Call to Action
This is the part for your call to action, a big button with “Apply Here” could do the trick, but many candidates would like to contact the recruiter so it is wise to add some phrases explaining how to do that. “If you are ready for this challenge call me on this number: XY or contact me at this email address: XY.” or “Not ready to apply, but you would like to know more? Call me or reach me on LinkedIn.”
Don’t forget that the candidate experience is really important during the registration process; your perfect job description will not save candidate from frustration if they need to fill in ten pages in order to register.
End of the Story
Every story has an ending, the happy ending of your “job description story” will be that the reader of your advert is going to become a candidate and apply. So don’t forgot to keep the whole advert short, nobody likes to read eight pages, especially on a mobile. Candidates are increasingly using their phones not only to get news and for Facebook messages, but they are also reading job adverts and applying through their phones.
Few last comments
Should you include salary in job advertisements?
There are many discussions about this part. There are people who believe that it is a good thing to do, because you are being open to the candidate and demonstrating the company’s commitment and seriousness. And yes, based on many studies and surveys candidates are interested in this information, but many companies have a number of good reasons why they don’t do it.
I am personally not a fan of showing salary ranges for many reasons and as you can see below it makes sense for many employers not to list salary details in their job adverts.
- If you show a range 50K-100K, it is in our human nature to want more. From my experience many candidates will always ask for the higher range and if they are offered a salary close to 50K their motivation to join won’t be so high. Many employers also don’t want to attract greedy candidates and they don’t want people to work for them simply because they pay the highest salaries. Your company could offer a higher salary today, but tomorrow your competitor could pay more than you and your employee will be applying there, just because of the higher rate. A company may offer far better salaries than their competitors but they don’t won’t to promote that fact. If candidates are willing to apply for a position before knowing salary information, then it demonstrates their real interest in working for your company.
- Your current employees may see the range and they also try to re-negotiate a salary close to the higher number.
- Salaries are confidential. If two people, within the same organization, doing the same job are earning different salaries then this can quite easily cause conflict in the workplace. But they could have different levels of experience.
- Salaries are dependent on experience and that is a reality. A company could have a range for the role, but they don’t want to lose the perfect candidate simply because the range is not what candidate is looking for, because the candidate could be also be a perfect fit for another role or more senior role where the range is higher.
- Many companies have some other benefits like a yearly bonus, RSU (Restricted Stock Unit), Stock options, etc. and it is not easy to add this into the range if some of these benefits are variable and could add quite a good bonus to the salary.
- Companies are reluctant to share this information, because they want to keep their competitors from learning what they’re paying employees. If company A knows that you are paying your best employees X, they will offer them X+20% in order to gain an advantage.
Some recruitment agencies in the Czech Republic have a tendency to post a very broad salary range for the roles that they are presenting, even they know that their client has a lower range. This trick with higher salary ranges help them to attract more candidates and gives the agency recruiter the opportunity to get them interested in vacancies they have with other clients. Some ads may only be serving to keep the pipeline live and even if the candidates are applying for these fake ads, the agency will be contacted by new candidates whom they can use to offer to current clients and whom they can use as good leverage to starting a new client relationship.
The goal of both showing the higher salary ranges for real and fake ads is the same – to attract candidates. (I am not saying that all agencies do this, luckily we have more good agencies than bad ones on the market.)
Important end note: Always Rely on Your Data!
There is no other advice that is more important than this: “Always rely on your data”, your data will show you how successful your adverts are, and where your candidates struggle during the registration or application process. Data will help you to find your weak points, improve your processes and save money that you are spending on job boards, branding, specialist etc.
So when you do talk with so-called experts who try to sell you this new brand service, workshop, or training that is “definitely going to work” for your job description, your data will allow you to evaluate whether what they are offering is good or not.
Friendly warning here: This specialist may not be interested in finding out what work and what doesn’t work for your company, adverts etc. from the start, and may just tell you what is “new” and “cool” on the market and that you need to do the same as everybody else, because your competitors also just hired them too. But don’t waste your time with them: spend the time you saved in this meeting checking your return on investments (ROI); analyze your data and find out the best source of candidates, and the activities that are working. These specialist in 95% will tell you only the “solution” what they believe is working and what you need to do, but every company is unique.
Check your Data
I know, I am mentioning this at least for the third time, but it’s really important! Always try to be receptive to new trends, but do not take any advice without double-checking your data. Your data is and always will be your best ally in recruitment. It will show you what is working and what is not working. Be cautious when you start implementing new things or advice without thinking, just because others are doing it. You can destroy the things that are working for you. And if some specialist from the internet is telling you that bullet points in adverts are not working anymore and they are not cool, well that could be truth, but what if these bullet points are working perfectly for your candidates or for some specific roles?
Or you can check their website and you will see that they are using bullet points for their own adverts. Most of them do.
Try new things but also check the data and ROI!
I am sure, that in the year 2016 many companies are still going to use bullet points and the same old adverts that they have been using for five years, and recruitment agencies are still going to start their advertisement with “For our client, an international company, we are looking for…”. In 2016 we have more analytics tools, and a greater ATS than years before. All of these tools give us an amazing opportunity to find out almost in real-time how candidates are reacting to our adverts, so don’t blindly follow what everybody is doing or what so called “experts” are telling you, use your data, your head and your team first, before you copy something that you have read or heard about. Track your job advert results, because this will help you to gain an understanding of the adverts and advertising mediums that are effective and that generate the best applicants for your company.
Does the perfect job description exist?
I don’t think that there is a perfect job description or ever will be, but as a recruiter we are always trying to find it. However there will be lots of people trying to sell you workshops and training in “how to create something perfect”, but as you know there is no such a thing.
Well maybe the advert that is going to work every time will be: “We are looking for XY position with a salary of one million USD per month…”, you will get a lot of reactions and it could work like a charm. 🙂
The process of creating a good job description is a science and I know that everybody is trying to find the right solution and that is our job.
Be patient, don’t be afraid to fail, adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.