How to Write a Job Description in Four Steps

iCIMS Staff
December 14, 2018
Generational WorkforceRecruiting TipsSeasonal Hiring

Employers are facing increasing difficulty filling open positions. In November 2018, the job-filling rate (the ratio of new hires to new openings) dropped to a new low of 82 percent, according to iCIMS’ Monthly Hiring Indicator (MHI).

When there are more open jobs than available talent, what can employers do to stand out?

The answer may be more banal than you’d think: Take a hard look at your job descriptions.

Job descriptions are functional by nature, meant to give a prospective employee a high-level view of the role’s responsibilities and the company culture, setting standards for the best-fit talent. But they can do so much more.

Taking the steps below will help optimize your job postings for Google and candidate search behaviors, leading to greater traffic overall. And more importantly, they’ll help capture candidate interest and convert job viewers into applicants.

1.    Get the facts. You must understand the role’s impact to the business to explain it well.

Forty-three percent of companies measure quality of hire through hiring manager satisfaction, according to Talent Board. As recruiters’ internal customers, hiring managers’ opinions and suggestions carry a lot of weight. Listen to them.

Even if the role isn’t new to your organization, there is always more to be learned. Work behaviors, systems and best practices change constantly, and what worked for the role yesterday may not be able to adapt to tomorrow.

Always cover the basics: level of experience, technical skills, necessary knowledge, location, salary range, etc. But take it a step further. What are the work conditions like in this department? What’s the mix of personalities on the team, and what kind of personality would complement? Are there soft skills that would give applicants an edge, like natural curiosity to learn or ability to delegate tasks?

You may also gain deeper knowledge of the role from an employee already in it. Talk to the people who the new hire will be working alongside and get a better sense of their day-to-day tasks.

2.    Edit. Drill down to the essential aspects and requirements to provide an accurate and fair job description.

From interviewing the hiring manager and potential teammates, you’ll have much more information than you need to give the applicant. Avoid overwhelming or confusing candidates by identifying and including only the details that are most necessary. Better yet, use bulleted lists to break the copy down into more digestible parts and group requirements under themes like “technical skills” or “management skills.”

Clear, simple language sells. Jargon or overly-exaggerated terms are not only a turn-off for many applicants, they often lead to biased hiring practices.

For example, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has found subtle gender bias in the wording for job listings in traditionally male-dominated fields like engineering and programming. Highly masculine wording may cause women to turn away from a job that they may have otherwise applied for because they suspect that they will not belong at the organization – not because they don’t believe that they have the skills necessary to do the job.

3.    Beef it up. Add branding elements that educate candidates and highlight culture.

Adding a bit of well-crafted content goes a long way. While it’s important to keep your messages simple and direct, dynamic content like videos, award logos and social media feeds drive engagement and encourage career site visitors to spend more time exploring.

Consider the immense competition for talent that retailers currently face, especially during the holiday season. iCIMS’ November MHI report showed that retail job openings rose nearly five percent, despite previously declining by more than 10 percent every November from 2015 to 2017.

In such a competitive hiring environment, presenting an enticing employee value proposition (EVP) is critical. Foot Locker is a great example of a retailer that is able to highlight the aspects of their brand that are most rewarding, while guiding candidates to the best-fit roles, including the ability to save jobs or opt into future communications as a member of their talent network.  

4.    Test, adjust, test Again. Always ask for feedback and continue to make improvements.

It’s well-known that typos in resumes are a major red flag for recruiters, indicating that the applicant lacks attention to detail. The same applies to job descriptions.

Every communication with job candidates, from career site content, to emails, assessments and even the offer letter contributes to a prospective employee’s impression of your organization. Professionalism is paramount.  

When crafting a job description, there’s a strong chance you’re copying and pasting portions from past roles. And in collecting hiring manager input, the document may pass through many hands on its way to final approval. But never forget that recruiters are ultimately responsible for the job posting and any typos that are picked up along the way.

Proofread your own work and ask a colleague for a second set of eyes. Then when the job posting is live, check it again and ask employees in similar roles to give you feedback. This due diligence will be invaluable when you pen your next job description.

The battle for top talent is fierce and shows no signs of slowing down. In many ways, job descriptions are your front-line offense to present candidates with the information they crave and draw them into your mission. Treat them with care and put in the effort to make them great. Candidates will notice.  

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