Better Job Descriptions Yield Better Applicants

I will admit that I was lazy for many years when it came to writing job descriptions that kicked off our recruitments. I had merely been copying and recopying the same language our parent institution had established for our positions.

I guess I should not have been surprised that our candidate pool was often lackluster, and applicants didn’t really have the qualifications we were looking for.

I learned the hard way you must use your job postings to explain the job and make it appealing to potential candidates.

Try taking a look at how other organizations are recruiting for similar positions. What language do they use?

When you write the description, make it easy to read and understand. Bullet points and short paragraphs are easier to read.

Seek the input of those individuals who will be working with the new hire to fully understand what you want to highlight and what qualifications should be included.

Be clear about the tasks the person will be expected to handle. Job requirements should include both “must-have” items as well as “preferred characteristics.” Clarity on both sides is essential and will save you a lot of time.

Consider using a title that will help sell the job. Some titles are too generic. Instead of hiring a “marketing specialist,” you might consider naming the position something like “Outreach Specialist.” People are attracted to impressive titles, not something that a bureaucrat created. Some companies try to sound hip by renaming a Human Resource Manager position as a “People Manager.” That may be a bit too out of the ordinary. One finalist asked if we could agree upon a less trendy title.

Make sure the salary is competitive. Research what people in those positions are earning elsewhere. If you are serious about finding a top candidate, be prepared to offer a top salary. I encourage you to list that salary in your description. The University I worked for preferred to avoid listing salaries. I believed that they were trying to find candidates who might take a job on the low end of a salary range. On many occasions, we went through a hiring process that ended in disappointment when the person we wanted to hire was being paid well out of the range of what we could afford to pay. A lot of time was wasted.

Be careful about the language you use in the description so that you are not causing some qualified applicants not to apply. Whitney Johnson wrote in the Harvard Business Review that women are more hesitant to apply when descriptions include more typically masculine characteristics, such as “outspoken,” “competitive,” and “ninja.” She also suggests that if you are serious about diversity, have persons of color review your draft posting to determine if you’ve missed anything that could be detrimental to your efforts.

As part of your posting, include information about your organization and how your hire will play a role in the group’s future and goals. Everyone wants their work to matter.

According to “indeed.com,” there are more than 25 million job postings on their popular website. Your job description helps to make your organization and the job attractive. The competition is great.

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After more than 30 years of leading WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio and serving on the NPR Board of Directors, Dave is now using the knowledge he gained in helping professionals become more effective leaders through executive coaching, leading workshops, and providing consulting services. He also teaches classes in journalism and ethics for Milwaukee’s Marquette University and courses in strategic planning and professional communications for Alverno College in Milwaukee. He blogs on management related issues at www.DaveEdwardsMedia.com

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Dave Edwards

Dave helps aspiring leaders and organizations. He blogs on management related issues at www.DaveEdwardsMedia.com