Your Job Description Matters More Than You Think

Of people hired in the previous six months, the No. 1 activity was visiting an online job site. Candidates today are actively pursuing their next career move and are connected to web and mobile search all the time, which is why it is critical your job description stands out.

(That data’s from our survey of over 8,000 adults in the U.S.)

Job search engines work by scanning job titles and descriptions to show the most relevant match to a job seeker’s query. Effective job titles and detailed job descriptions will ensure the best possible match with people’s search terms, resulting in more qualified candidates applying to your jobs. Here are some tips for writing standout job descriptions:

Rank Higher in Search Results With Accurate Job Titles

Most people search by job title. To improve your placement in search results, keep the following in mind:

  • Keep the job title concise, under 80 characters, and avoid all caps. People are unlikely to include special characters in their search, so leave those out too.
  • Avoid buzzwords. Searches for terms like “ninja” and “guru” are on a sharp decline. Keep your job titles simple and accurate to ensure the people with the right skills can find you.
  • Avoid internal titles. People will not be searching for “Web Designer II.” If you’re trying to attract a high-level applicant, “Senior Web Designer” is much clearer to applicants.
  • Use the job title to describe the main aspects of the job. For example, “Events and Sponsorships Manager” is much more effective than just “Marketing.”

Attract the Right Applicants With Specific and Interesting Job Descriptions

The key to writing effective job descriptions is to strike a balance between being concise and providing just enough detail so that job seekers can self-qualify. Jobs with descriptions between 700 and 1,500 words get on average 25 percent more applies. To attract qualified candidates, try this:

  • Open with a strong, attention-grabbing paragraph. Your ideal candidates are busy and if you don’t pique their interest in the beginning, there is a higher risk of them moving on to the next job.
  • Be honest. Do not exaggerate or underplay the responsibilities of the role. If it’s a marketing manager role that requires 80 percent time to be spent in social media, describe the role as being primarily social media focused so that you reach candidates who are skilled in this area.
  • Talk about what the day to day would be like. If the position requires 20 percent travel or calls for 50 percent writing, tell them that. This will ensure you’re hiring candidates who enjoy their day-to-day responsibilities.
  • Cite specific educational/certification requirements. If some skills are required and others are just nice to have, say that. If candidates think they are underqualified, they won’t want to waste their time applying.
  • Ask that candidates only apply if they meet your requirements. This should deter unqualified applicants from taking a chance on your job posting.
  • Specify desired years of experience.
  • Indicate how the job functions within the organization or who the job reports to.
  • Provide the specific job location and your company name. Broad locations like “national” or “U.S.” will likely not show up in searches.
  • Give job seekers a sense of your organization’s style and culture. This may also include an overview of employee benefits, salary, schedule, and other perks.
  • Finally, break up paragraphs with empty lines to make your description easy to read.

After creating a compelling job title and description, keep going. Test variations of job titles and descriptions to determine which ones draw the most qualified applicants. By using these metrics to make decisions, you will empower your recruitment organization to improve the quality of the candidates who come to you.

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  • http://www.ckrinteractive.com Colin

    Totally agree with your insights, Paul! But hiring managers/recruitment personnel shouldn’t limit themselves with text-based job descriptions. We’ve outlined three innovative ways to leverage job descriptions for the 21st century job seeker in our new eBook: The History — and Future of Job Descriptions. You can download it here: http://bit.ly/1NB90Uw

  • http://www.NeoRecruiter.com Eric Putkonen

    Great article, Paul. In particular, I loved that you said to “test variations of job titles and descriptions to determine which ones draw the most qualified applicants.” I also advocate this and wrote about split testing and such in “This is What Recruiting Could Learn From Direct Marketing” – http://www.neorecruiter.com/2015/06/this-is-what-recruiting-could-learn-from-direct-marketing/

  • Gareth Cooper

    To what extent do we distinguish between a job ad/posting and a job description?
    They are both not one of the same.

  • Ben Sian

    Although probably out of scope for this article, for those new to recruiting, legal obligations concerning an employer posting validated basic qualifications in their job descriptions (if they are government contractors) must also be included.