Back to Basics: The Importance of Quality Job Posts
How can you, as a recruiter or job board owner, make hiring easier and more effective?
There are so many factors that you might consider – your job board’s design, an employer’s brand, candidate experience, SEO – but the answer to that question really begins with what is perhaps the most important element of the recruiting process: the humble job post.
Those other things matter, but without good job posts, you run the risk of leading a horse to water without it taking a drink. To use another animal-based metaphor, you’re fishing without bait.
Where Most Job Posts Go Wrong
Job descriptions are important. Depending on the employer’s size, the type of work and the kind of contract involved, it can be very important to define a job description for both the new hire and the employer. A company’s HR department may need to keep job descriptions on file in their records for multiple purposes, but it does not follow that that description is the one that must be used to advertise a new job opening.
Abuse of the Bullet Point
Lengthy lists of expected duties, desired experience and required qualifications in job posts tend to fly in the face of the purpose of a bullet-pointed list. Each point should be brief, and if you’ve got more than ten bullet points, you’re doing it wrong.
If you’re starting out with a long list, find items that can be grouped together and rephrased to be more concise. Ask yourself whether every point is necessary, if any are redundant, or if one can be stated more simply.
“Other duties as required” is not a bullet point. It’s something that belongs in a short paragraph describing what actually working in the job will be like. If you intend to evolve the role to match both the new hire’s strengths and your organization’s needs over time, then say so. If you want this new hire to be able to help everybody out by taking on a wide variety of tasks as they come up, then talk about how valuable the role will be to the company and what their on-the-job learning opportunities will be.
Listing out all qualifications and experience you could possibly wish for in your ideal candidate is a big mistake, and it doesn’t just come down to abuse of the bullet point. A huge number of employers are trying to diversify their workforce, and be fair and unbiased in their hiring. It’s a worthy goal, but it’s so easy to trip yourself up at the start.
Obviously, you want someone who can do the job, and do it well. We judge people on their qualifications, which includes education and experience, but it’s important to remember that they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Let’s say you’re hiring for an entry-level or otherwise junior position, and you’re imagining a young, recent graduate will fill the role nicely. If that’s the case, you’re being unrealistic and frustratingly unfair if you also ask for 3 years of experience. For young people just entering the workforce, and even older professionals who have retrained or are switching careers, their qualifications may instead come in the form of self-initiated projects and transferable skills.
When it comes to educational requirements, some professions absolutely do require certain degrees, certifications, and licenses – like doctors and drivers – but for a lot of jobs, it’s usually just a “nice to have” that serves as evidence for a host of soft skills. Many job ads simply say, “[X] degree or equivalent experience”, which is a heck of a lot more inclusive for people whose backgrounds, experiences, and opportunities have deviated from the cookie-cutter standard.
Hard Skills vs Soft Skills
A short while after hiring someone (especially new grads and young workers), many employers are aghast to discover that their new employee lacks essential “soft skills”, like teamwork, organization, and communication. While some may point the finger at keyword-focused ATSs, I think it’s fair to say that the problem can also be seen as beginning with the job post. If particular soft skills are essential to a job, there should be more emphasis on them in your job advertisement in the first place, as well as in your screening and evaluation of candidates.
I’m not saying you have to throw all the hard skills out the window, but again, ask yourself what’s truly necessary for the job. If you know that familiarity with [X] system and [Y] industry can be learned on the job, but that written and verbal communication skills are crucial and that you ideally want to see your new hire eventually become a team leader, it makes sense to adjust your job description accordingly. Take a holistic look at what a particular role requires, and make sure you’re emphasizing what’s essential vs what’s an asset that might push someone over the top.
Jargon and Buzzword Overkill
Gurus and Wizards and Hackers are all well and good, but how many people start their job search with those keywords? How many have them as their current job titles, and on resumes, business cards, and online profiles?
Using jargon and buzzwords that aren’t universal may prevent you from being found by the candidates you want, particularly if you’re open to hiring people with transferable skills and experience from different roles or industries.
Why Should You Care?
I’ll tell you why poor quality job posts should matter to you:
- You don’t want to be spammed by unqualified candidates
- You want to attract candidates from diverse backgrounds
- You want quality candidates that will be good employees
- You want your job posts to actually be found by great candidates
Being concise in your job description, and making it easier and more pleasant to read, means that both qualified and unqualified candidates stand a greater chance of understanding what you’re looking for, and are in a better position to decide whether or not to apply.
Job seekers who apply to hundreds of jobs at a time with boilerplate cover letters are probably just skimming and looking for keywords that match their own qualifications. If you don’t distinguish between what’s important and what’s only a preference in your job post, how can you expect the applicant to do so?
If you want the people you hire to be successful on the job, take a holistic view of what that position entails, and don’t forget about the soft skills or personality traits that you know will impact their success.
If you, your clients, or your company are committed to fair and unbiased hiring, you have to be brutal with your job post content, particularly when it comes to qualifications. Ask yourself what’s really necessary, and what might exclude great candidates with unconventional career paths. Don’t be the person who posts this job description for real.
Are you using industry-specific jargon or buzzwords that many of the people you want to hire may never actually use? If you’re open to hiring people with transferrable skills from different roles or industries, try to use more universal terminology – it may also help you get referrals, since it will be understood by a wider audience.
If you’re a recruiter or a job board owner, the quality of your job posts significantly impacts your business. One of the comments on Twitter this past week coming from the JobG8 conference in New Orleans was this:
Whether it’s taking a harder look at the job posts you write, offering job post writing services, or being more particular about what kinds of job posts you publish, taking strides to improve your job post content can only help.