Writing quality job descriptions clearly play a significant role when candidates are deciding on a role. So those who take the time to get it right have a distinct advantage.
This is especially true for smaller organisations. Without a recognisable brand or wealth of funding to fall back on, there’s less room for error. Terrible job descriptions will still receive plenty of applications when posted on job boards, if the advertised salary is well above the market average. Similarly, jobs posted by easily recognisable brands will always generate a lot of candidate interest, regardless of how the description reads.
Smaller organisations don’t have this luxury. For them, job descriptions should be thought of as vital recruitment marketing tools to highlight the organisation’s mission, culture, and exciting ongoing projects. Not just another box to tick.
Failing to understand the audience
Most generic job description templates suffer from the same problem: they give zero consideration to the target audience. They are written to appeal to the needs of the employer, not the job seeker. Usually, they read like a laundry list of required experience and qualifications. Responsibilities and requirements don’t exactly spark excitement in potential hires (or anybody else for that matter).
When a candidate reads a job description, the question most likely going through their mind is “What will I get out of this role?” If they don’t get a solid answer, they won’t be rushing to click apply. If you came across a job description that looked like it had been thrown together last minute, with vague duties and responsibilities, you’d probably have some doubts about working for the company who wrote it.
Taking the easy option
If generic templates are that bad, why are they so widespread? Well, the answer is simple. They’re quick and easy to make and don’t require much thought or planning. And they do generate applications. But usually from a flood of candidates who aren’t up to the demands of the role. Lots of precious time is then wasted sifting through poorly matched CVs.
This is not to say that internal recruitment is lazy. Far from it. In smaller organisations they’re usually significantly under-resourced and struggling just to keep their heads above water.
So the idea of finding time to carefully craft job descriptions can seem like a complete pipedream. Where are the extra hours going to come from?
There’s no getting around it. Good writing takes time. It takes thought, care, and creativity to present a role in a way that speaks directly to the things candidates care about most.
So if you’re serious about improving your job descriptions, you need to make them a priority by blocking out time in your calendar to give them your full attention.
It should be thought of as an investment. It will actually save time and money in the long run by helping your team define, attract, and hire better candidates.
Rethinking job descriptions
To stand out from the crowd, your job descriptions will need to tell a better story than your competitors who are after the same candidates. So before getting started, it’s important to take a step back and consider what aspects of the role you should be emphasising.
We spoke to recruitment expert Mitch Sullivan for his thoughts on what candidates really want to see. Mitch has more than 25 years of recruitment experience and recently published On Recruitment, a collection of his most popular blogs. Alongside his continued work in the industry, he also coaches recruiters on how to write better job descriptions. Here’s what he had to say: