It’s not enough to just post the same old job description anymore. Since job sites like Indeed and ZipRecruiter make it easier for job seekers to apply for jobs in a single click, you have to have a job description that catches the eye and impresses in seconds. And while fewer and fewer people read actual newspapers these days, the term “above the fold” persists to highlight the importance of positioning your most eye-catching content where your readers can see it without taking any action.
So, where do you start? Whether you are looking to gain more applicants, find a few ultra-qualified applicants, or find someone who fits in perfectly with your company culture, we’ve outlined the best practices you need to tailor your job description for that specific person.
[If you’re looking for examples specific to blue-collar roles, you’ll want to read “How to Write Great Job Descriptions for Blue-Collar Roles”]
Get More Applicants
You’ve put your job opening out there and are barely receiving any applicants. This doesn’t mean that people aren’t looking for work or that they don’t want to work for you; it means that they either don’t see your job posting, don’t realize it’s the right job for them, or there isn’t a clear path for applying. In fact, the average job-seeker spends fewer than 30 seconds reviewing a job posting. To make sure your job posting attracts the most attention in those first few seconds, focus on sprucing up three key areas: job titles, job requirements, and calls to action.
Optimize Your Job Titles
People are using simple keywords and phrases to search for jobs, which means you need to use those same keywords for them to find your job posting. If you are hiring for a construction supervisor, the job title should be Construction Supervisor. Getting creative and calling the job “Leader of New Buildings” is fun for work, but it won’t pop up in people’s searches when they’re looking for work.
“Much like judging a book by its cover (or title), people click on a job posting because of its potential appeal. Pick a title that doesn’t make sense in the mind of those candidates, and they’ll ignore it (except for the most desperate, and you probably won’t want to attract them anyway).” - Bob Corlett, The Business Journals
You should also throw in a few different keywords if the job title has multiple names; for instance, with the construction supervisor position, it’s good to use the words manager, superintendent, and any other words people use to refer to the job title. That way, if people search for a construction manager position, they can still find your post.
Don’t Go Overboard On Requirements
There is a big difference between what is required to do the job and what is nice-to-have for the job. If you are hiring for an entry-level position, there is most likely an extensive training process for a new employee, which means someone without experience can figure the job out. For requirements, list what is actually required of the position such as physical strength, ability to stand for a long time, and availability for weekend work, but leave out the “preferred” points. For every requirement you add, you will disqualify potential applicants, so think carefully before adding items like years of experience or licensing if they aren’t really required for day one of training.
The second major issue with including too many requirements in job postings is that it can deter perfectly qualified candidates, and you end up with a stack of overqualified candidates instead. While this may sound nice, hiring an overqualified candidate can lead to underperformance. Why? When an employee feels or is actually overqualified for a position, they tend to be complacent, bored, and approach the job on auto-pilot.
Include A Call To Action
If you just have a nice job description but no obvious next steps for how job seekers can apply, they are likely to move on to easier jobs. And don’t think that throwing your email at the bottom that blends in with the rest of the job posting is going to catch a lot of fish either. To increase the number of applications you receive, you need to clearly state how people can apply. Mediabistro found that employers get more candidates with one simple phrase, “apply now,” So create a clear path for people to apply for your open position, and you will see an increase in applicants.
Get More Qualified Applicants
You’re receiving tons of applicants, more than you even know what to do with, but none of them are who you are looking for. They can be overqualified, or under qualified, but either way, they’re not the right fit for the job. It’s not that people are looking to apply for jobs they can’t do, but there might be some confusion when seeing the position. Spruce up the salary and description areas of your job post, and you’ll be on your way to finding your perfect candidate.
List The Salary Range
Listing the salary range on the job posting is the most important thing you can do to attract the right candidate, according to SHRM, and it helps candidates see if this is the right job for them. People will compare their current or previous salary and see if they are in the same range; salary is a good indicator for people and can help weed out the under qualified candidates. Listing the salary and being open at the start of the process also saves you time from interviewing people who won’t accept the position.
Update Your Job Description
This may seem obvious, but so many companies continue to repost job descriptions that they used from 5 years ago just because the same position opened up again. The job title might have stayed the same, but the requirements have changed in the last five years, just like everything else in your company. Aaron Hurst, founder of Taproot Foundation & Imperative offers five tips to improve any job description:
1. Write it for them, not you.
2. Define the exciting challenges to solve.
3. Make the impact of the work clear.
4. Position the job as a growth opportunity.
5. Be clear that the job description is a draft.
If you aren’t sure what to update, speak to someone who is currently your company’s role, they can help you identify the latest requirements and make sure you appeal to the right person for the role.
To Get The Best Culture Fit
Does it feel like the people you’ve been hiring haven’t been fitting in? Maybe they’re not staying a while? That doesn’t mean you have a poor company culture, but it might mean they don’t fit your culture. You don’t have to wait for in-person interviews to weed out bad culture fits, you can start that process right at your job description.
Introduce Your Company
Start your job posting by promoting your company, so that people can get a sense of who you are, what you do, and what kind of people work there. Don’t just list your company name and the position you’re looking to hire for, but mention when you started, what your mission is as a company, and more. This a great example of Who We Are and What We Do section a job posting from Native Edge Landscapes:
Established in 2001 in Boulder, we are a diverse collective of architects, artisans, and stewards united by a passion for the outdoors, the art of the well made, and a common desire to be responsible and good stewards of people, community, and environment. We help individuals, families, and communities live their best lives outside. That includes helping those of us seeking to grow and expand our careers outdoors in the green industry. We do that by providing landscape design-build and landcare services to some of Boulder's most discerning residential clientele, HOAs, mixed-use, and retirement communities.
Promote Your Benefits
Finish off your job description by listing what benefits your company offers. Make sure you list everything from health insurance, on-the-job training, PTO, flexible scheduling, and even providing uniforms. This is an area where you can get really creative even if you don’t offer health insurance or 410k matching. The Cost and Value of Employee Perks study conducted by the team at Fractl found that, after health insurance, employees place the highest value on benefits that are relatively low-cost to employers, such as flexible hours and more paid vacation time. Listing out some of the simpler perks like free company gear or uniforms or even your annual employee picnic can be all you need to set your company apart from the competition..
List Employee Quotes
A way to help people understand who works at your company is by providing quotes from your employees. If you have any top-performing employees and you’d like to hire more people like them, ask them to write up a few statements about their experience. When they share what they like and why they like it, that can help bring in more similar people who are looking for the same experience.
Many things can be tailored to a job description if you are looking to hire based on certain things. Ensure you are always keeping up with your job postings and updating them every year as the job will continue to change. If you’re looking to start with the basics first, we have just the how-to guide for you: How To Write A Job Description. Or, you can download our pre-written job descriptions that are proven to attract more qualified workers: