Does your job description read like an obituary?

Posted by Guest Contributor

May 23, 2013

Are the people who write obituaries the same people who write job descriptions?

By Scott Leishmann

Resume Dude resized 600

It sometimes seems like it! Or perhaps job descriptions are the proverbial camel that was supposed to be a horse but was designed by a committee overseen by lawyers (full disclosure, I am an attorney). After deciphering a lengthy and confusing job description, you’ve probably heard the hiring manager say, “never mind, this is what I’m really looking for.”

Here are some tips on writing job descriptions that will attract the right candidates the first time around:

First, make the job title descriptive. Simple titles like Sales Executive, Engineer and Program Manager are too generic. Make your posting truly stand out from these titles by adding specific adjectives to completely headline your posting. For example, try posting for a “Software Engineer with TS/SCI Full Poly.” You may not know what that is, but the people who have it do! And if they don’t have that skill set, then the job seeker can stop reading right there.

Second, outside agencies MUST create a description of their client. Why would a candidate want to work at this company? Corporations don’t need company descriptions because the posting is on their website already, where company and culture explanations abound. Create a description that is accurate, but not so revealing that candidates can ID your client and “LinkedIn” their way around you. Is it a Fortune 100 company or a start-up? Do they have 100 employees or 100,000? Do they have a great benefit plan? If you offer an accurate description of the client and the corporate culture here, you may avoid reading a bunch of resumes for poor culture fits whose skill sets otherwise match the rest of the job description.

Third, change the job description significantly. With everything ending up on all the different job boards these days, it’s not unusual to run a search and see the client’s original posting show up above all the listings their recruiting agencies posted – and with the exact same language. YIKES. Try placing the hiring manager’s “must-have’s” right up front. Take a look at how much real estate is given to job descriptions when they are part of a results page. Would the sizzle for your position make it in this small space or is it cut off? Your description should allow jobseekers to decide quickly and accurately if the position is for them. Leave the inane corporate details for later in the job description. At that point the candidates are hooked and interested to see if they are fully qualified. (Does it really matter if they can lift 45 or 55 pounds? Have any of your candidates had to lift anything at an interview?)

Finally, the shelf life of a job posting is about the same as a carton of milk left outdoors on a sunny summer day. While a lot of job boards let you keep the same posting for months, after 10 days that posting may be pages back in the search results. If you aren’t getting responses within a few days you may need to pull it down, spice up the text and repost it.

Sounds like a lot of work, but this will significantly improve your candidate pool and help you identify the right talent for your placement! 


Scott Leishman is a member of TheLadders Top Recruiters and the Senior Executive recruiter at bizjobz with 20+ years of experience. He works closely with transitioning military and clients who sell to DoD and other federal agencies. Follow Scott on Twitter at @SLeishman77.





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Topics: Recruiting & Sourcing