Job descriptions are tricky things to write. They should effectively advertise a position to potential applicants with language that is clear and concise and typically are written with a picture of the ideal applicant in mind. Of course, whether these things come to fruition in hiring is another issue altogether. When a posting fails, there are many reasons why it may have not generated interest with the right applicant. The breadth of qualifications required, the salary range and the duties of the position often are part of the mix.
Two years ago, I was tasked with rewriting more than 150 job descriptions that had been sitting in four dusty binders in a back office. The descriptions spanned several job families and averaged four-to-six pages long, with a seemingly never-ending list of duties and requirements. The majority had been neither reviewed nor revised in more than a decade. Text about certification requirements was outdated, the technological language used was obsolete, and there was little in the way of a universal format.
As I worked on this project, I made two fundamental discoveries: First, finding qualified candidates to fill jobs is a challenging task. Make sure you aren’t unknowingly making it harder on yourself by being unrealistic about expectations, the salary and the benefits package. The goal is to be as competitive as possible so you get the very best talent. Second, it’s essential to sell your company to applicants. Here are some strategies.
Establish a universal format for job descriptions by completing research online that helps you generate a 1.5-to-2-page limit. The most effective formats include
- job title
- to whom the position reports
- primary responsibilities
- working conditions and equipment used
- minimum education requirements
- any licensure and certification requirements
- a section describing the skill set and mental and physical requirements.
Write text to better fit the needs of the company. Begin by reading the old descriptions. Then, research newer ones by scanning similar organizations and professional associations. This can shed light on the education, skill set, licensure and certification requirements to be considered for inclusion in the job descriptions. Interestingly enough, I found some surprising certification and accreditation requirements for positions that you wouldn’t think needed them.
Next, develop salary information. To do this, I compiled a list of references from state certification and licensure organizations, a variety of job boards, and human resource websites that provided formatted examples. Learning the qualifications and duties that others required also educated me on keywords that should be included in the description — a very important part of making your job posting easier to find in a search.
The jobs page and beyond
I reviewed numerous job postings and pages, each with a different format and text. I saw the importance of providing
- concisely written information about the job application process and what to expect
- several easily identifiable methods of contact
- an FAQ
- clearly stated organization goals and mission (the use of video was highly successful here)
- thorough benefits information
- the option to sign up for job alerts
- numerous ways to apply, such as in person, online, on a mobile device and others
- real time status of applications (which was rare, but something very positive).
As previously stated, the most successful job descriptions also demonstrate a plan for making the organization stand out from the competition. To do this at your business, I recommend scanning how best-in-class companies — for example, ones that have been voted best employers to work for — handle recruitment and hiring. Then, ask yourself the following questions:
- What, specifically, did they do to earn the recognition?
- How are technology and social media leveraged to increase awareness about the business and its employment opportunities?
- What types of recruitment programs do they have in place?
- Do they have special opportunities for new graduates or students in their final years of a degree program?
- Are generational issues a consideration in their recruitment process? In other words, do they understand how to attract people of different generations?
Lastly, getting qualified applicants may be as simple as looking in-house. What positions have been identified as difficult to fill, and what are the qualities that seem to be missing from candidates? Has your business set up a succession strategy that identifies candidates who could be trained to fill those positions as openings arise? Identifying a talent pool that is a good fit for advancement within the organization is one thing, but establishing a strong development program that ensures growth and keeps current and new talent in the building is critical.