By Sharon L. Florentine
As a recruiter, you wouldn’t tolerate a candidate’s resume riddled with typos, run-on sentences, grammatical errors and missing punctuation, would you? Didn’t think so. Why, then, do so many recruiters seem resigned to cold, dull, error-filled and totally unappealing job descriptions?
Freelance writer Alisdair Murray, based in Bromley, Kent, U.K., specializes in writing job descriptions and advertisements for recruiting firms and hiring managers, and has encountered more than his share of terrible job descriptions. He said he’s appalled to find many clients blaming the poor quality on technology.
“I recently came across a pretty senior-level role for a prominent U.K. organization; upon reading through the job advertisement it soon became apparent that no thought whatsoever had gone into its makeup. It was over 200 lines long and consisted purely of what was obviously cut and pasted material,” Murray said.
When Murray asked the client why he saw fit to post such a poor example of writing, his response was, “Our current CMS doesn't give us much flexibility with internal job ads.”
Writing has become something of a lost art, especially in this age of advanced technology, social networking-based recruiting, Twitter and LinkedIn, but a solid, intriguing and exciting job description can be one of an organization’s greatest tools when searching for top-tier candidates, he said.
“To me it is just common sense, or a lack of it, on the part of some recruiters and/or employers,” Murray said. “I mean, come on, your most valuable asset is your people and yet [you’re] admitting that they can’t be creative, they can't sell the virtues of the organization and the role properly because their content management system wouldn't let them?!”
The formula for a convincing job description is simple: “Sell the role, and tell me how great it is to work there and what I'll be getting involved in when I join. Make me want to apply, not move on to the next dull and boring job description.”
Step by Step
Here are Murray’s top tips for writing a better job description. Sure, they won’t make you a better writer overnight, but they can help develop a better pattern and a flow to your advertisements, he said.
Is the job title an industry-recognized standard or something that only your client uses internally? If it’s the latter, Murray said, it may sound more impressive, but it won't show up in external search results, and you’re better off changing it.
Mention a specific figure or describe it as a competitive package, if the choice is yours. People prefer seeing exactly what they are going to get, so if it’s big bucks and the client permits it, highlight it, Murray said. If it’s nothing to write home about, it’s worth playing it safe and focusing on selling the organization and the benefits they offer.
Along with a recognized job title, location is one of the most common search terms, so this should be prominent in the description, Murray said.
Most searches allow for a brief teaser that gives candidates a taste of the role and the company and could encourage them to read more and/or apply, Murray said. Make sure this is concise and enticing; for example, ‘An outstanding opportunity for a qualified accountant to make their mark with a leading retailer, the role of [job title here] will see you...’ will show up in a search result and encourage people to find out more.
About the Client:
Mention some selling points about the company. Remember, though, be honest, and don’t make any claims you can’t substantiate. Every organization has a unique selling point (USP) or two.
About the Role:
What will this candidate be doing if hired? Don’t mention everything, just enough of the main duties to make it sound like a varied and appealing role. Encourage her to want to find out more.
About the Ideal Candidate:
This is the part where recruiters can ‘screen out’ unqualified applicants by being specific about the skills and experience needed, Murray said. Mention required professional qualifications and recommended years of experience, plus some of the ‘soft skills’ your client wants like networking, communication, eye for detail, etc. You’ll always get people applying for roles beyond their experience, but you can limit the number of them by being specific about the experience and qualities you’re seeking.
Apart from salary, what other benefits are offered? This is where you can compensate for an average or even below-average salary, Murray said. Will employees get a pension or a 401(k) program? Free membership to a gym? Generous vacation time? If it sounds like a decent benefit, mention it.
Call to Action:
Finally, reiterate what a good opportunity the position offers, and then make the application process simple by linking to your site or to the client’s online application.
By Sharon L. Florentine
April 6, 2011