Job Descriptions: 5 Points to Stop Boring Applicants

November 25, 2014


Candidates have spent the past years applying for jobs in which the hiring organization has had the most power in recent memory. But this is no longer the case. Now, in something we would like to call the second war for talent, the candidate has been gaining power and is now fighting off multiple offers from multiple organizations.

What does this mean to your organization? It means that you will now need to entice the right candidates and keep them engaged throughout the entirety of the acquisition process.

This all starts with the job description in itself.

As candidates scroll through job boards or your careers page, you need to write the perfect post that grabs the attention of the reader, informs him or her about the duties and skills needed, and offers a call to action that convinces the reader to submit credentials immediately.

Job seekers, or at least those who you want to hire, are sick of decoding a position, only to find out they are vastly overqualified or underqualified. As mentioned in our last article, dragging job seekers through hoops can be detrimental to your employer brand.

At a minimum, your job description should have the following points crafted to call readers to action.

  • Concise Job Title
  • Killer First Paragraph
  • Must Haves, Nice to Haves
  • The Details
  • Call to Action

Job Description Point 1: The Headline

Eight out of ten people read the headlines… two out of ten click them. This statistic is encompasses everything from blog posts to newspaper articles to job descriptions. If your headline isn’t going to create more interest among job seekers, what is it doing?

This doesn’t mean write an Upworthy-style headline (You applied to [company] as a [position title]… and you won’t believe what happened next). It also doesn’t mean you need an accounts payable ninja. Follow these tips, as provided from studies from Indeed and Monster:

  • Avoid All Caps: How bad does “IMMEDIATE NEED FOR A SPORTS-MINDED SALES MANAGER” sound? Usually, these descriptions are created by multi-level marketing organizations or low-level temp recruiters.
  • Use Common Language: According to LinkedIn, 64% of job seekers would not apply for a job if they didn’t understand the job title. You don’t need a ninja, a Jedi, or guru—use terms likely to be searched. You need to fill a specific role, and you need to fill it with a specific individual.
  • Details: Do you need a ‘marketing manager,’ or do you need an ‘events and sponsorships manager’? If you put a blanket title into your job description, you are going to get blanket applicants who are generally underqualified. Top applicants have specific goals and will search for specific positions.

Job Description Point 2: Killer First Paragraph

So, you wrote the job description that convinced people to click. Now, don’t lose them with a poor first paragraph. Advice from LinkedIn is as follows:

“Spark the interest of the job seeker and really wow them into wanting to read more and apply. Provide a clear overview of the position, and what’s in it for the job seeker. This is your chance to impress top job seekers and make them want to apply for your position, so also include information about benefits, company culture, and anything else that helps you stand out as an employer of choice.”

As with titles, keep it short and sweet. If your paragraph grows longer than six lines, it becomes harder and harder to read. The average American starts to lose interest when pieces average more than 42 words per paragraph, 14 words per sentence, and two syllables per word. If needed, make it a killer first two paragraphs before delving into the next point.

Job Description Point 3: Must Haves, Nice to Haves

This could technically be two separate points, because they are two completely different criteria.

Must Haves

Starting with the must haves category, this is not, in the words of JobScore, a laundry list of things you would like to see from the candidate. These are the absolute bare minimum requirements.

  • Software Knowledge
  • Education
  • Required Certifications
  • Language Requirements

Consider this information when writing the must haves. For each additional point, you are adding two weeks to the time that it takes to fill the job. Avoid classifying preferences into must haves.

Nice to Haves

This is the laundry list of things you would like to see. According to JobScore, the list of preferred skills and traits should consist of no more than ten bullet points, and take less than 1/8 of the time spent writing the job description.

Job Description Point 4: The Details

Don’t forget the small stuff. Make sure to include compensation details, type of work, benefits, department, location, and who your company is.

  • Highlight the Perks
  • Specify the Important Points

Job Description Point 5: The Closing Paragraph and Call to Action

What is the purpose of the job description? Contrary to the name, it is not to just describe the job, it is to sell qualified candidates on your company and the job itself. This is where it becomes vital to close out the job description with a killer closing paragraph and an effective call to action.

According to SImplyHired, the following marks are the key to an effective closer on your job description:

  • Give clear application instructions: List all the components necessary for the application (resume, cover letter, references, writing samples, etc). Provide a deadline and a place to submit (email, link to your career site or a third-party application site, maybe even a fax number). Include an email address, phone number, external website or other way a candidate can contact you regarding their application.
  • Provide relevant links: Every job posting should include a short description of your organization, with a link to a web page. This gives applicants an opportunity to learn about you quickly. If possible, include links to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social networking sites. Every link is a way for job seekers to become engaged with your company and get excited about the possibility of working for you.
  • Mention other job openings: If you have other related job openings, link to them. Some job seekers may be more interested in a similar but different job than the posting they initially read. This will help all your job postings get more coverage. Make a single job posting do more work for you!

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