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You Don’t Know Who You’re Missing: Tips to Create Better Job Descriptions

By Jay Barnett, Founder and CTO
With Tom Brennan, Senior Writer

Our Tips To Create Better Job Descriptions, and Why You Need To Care

Twenty years ago, when a company needed to fill an opening, they ran an ad in the newspaper. More lines cost more money, so recruiters developed an arcane shorthand that produced ads like, “Wanted: Accountant, 5+ yrs. exp. Résumés only; no phone calls.” For some employers, not much has changed. Job postings continue to be brief and focused only on what the employer needs.

You can capture some résumés with an “okay” posting. It would have to be pretty lousy not to draw some interest! But with any posting, you only know what you’re getting — you don’t know what candidates you are missing.

What’s In It For Me?

When we started Decision Toolbox (DT) in 1993, we wanted to be sure we were getting the attention — and résumé — of more and better qualified candidates. The traditional approach was to ask candidates to submit a résumé before they knew much about the position at all. We thought that was backwards . . . candidates should NOT send a résumé until they knew something about the job and, importantly, whether it was a good fit for them.

We still believe that. Our first product was the Jobinfo WriteupTM, a marketing piece that, like a job description, includes information about the company, the role, and the requirements. The difference is that every Jobinfo Writeup leads with the answer to the question that is most important to candidates: “What’s in it for me?” We call that “grabtion,” and the Jobinfo Writeup remains a centerpiece of our process today.   You can check out an actual Jobinfo Writeup here.  Given the current highly competitive market, it’s more important than ever to highlight opportunities and selling points.

It’s Not Just About You

If your company is an employer of choice, you should leverage that in your posting. But even more important is to position each particular opening as the opportunity of choice for the right person. The most desirable, yet selective candidate prospects aren’t inspired by duties or requirements. They are inspired by the opportunity to make an impact, to take on and master challenges, to contribute to interesting initiatives and projects, to learn and grow professionally. That’s the grabtion, and that needs to be right up front in your posting.

A standard HR-file job description typically doesn’t do that, and it’s not supposed to. Your job posting needs to be a dedicated marketing piece, and it needs to pop. It needs to offer more than money and benefits. Money is important, as Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, proved recently. Making the minimum salary at his company $70,000 and taking a huge pay cut to offset the impact on margins was a remarkable and noble thing. It wasn’t a recruiting ploy, but the company reportedly received several hundred résumés as a result.

What They Really, Really Want

However, candidates want more than money and benefits. Particularly Gen-Yers or Millennials, who are no longer kids on the fringes of the talent pool — in fact, according to Richard Fry of Pew Research, sometime in 2015 Millennials will officially outnumber Baby Boomers.

According to Rob Asghar, writing in Forbes, by 2020 Millennials will comprise a healthy 40% of the workforce. This and other articles echo the same conclusions: this generation is more likely to choose a job based on the intangibles. Your job posting should explain:

  • How the job and company help employees make an impact on the world.
  • How your culture is less competitive and more collaborative, with coaching and mentoring available.
  • How your company promotes flexibility and “work-life integration.” Millennials are beyond work/life balance — they want work and life to blend seamlessly.

More Motivation

Another great selling point you can feature is the opportunity to learn and grow. For example, position a Director opening as a chance for a strong Manager to move up. You may have an uphill battle convincing hiring managers to take on people who need some training, but it actually offers them a double whammy.

First, “performers” don’t want to make a lateral move and do the same job for another three years. This approach should draw talent that is motivated to learn now and on an ongoing basis. Second, the approach widens your search pool, which is a major advantage in this competitive market. In your posting, highlight both “hard” and “soft” learnings, such as gaining hands-on experience with a system implementation (hard), or enhancing one’s ability to influence and motivate others (soft).

All this means putting a little extra time and thought into better postings. But if that better posting makes even one exceptional candidate apply who otherwise would not have, isn’t that worth the extra work? We think so. At DT candidates regularly tell us and our clients that they reason they threw their hat in the ring was because the Jobinfo Writeup spoke to them.


To find out more about Decision Toolbox, please Contact Us – we’d love to hear from you!

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