The Job Market / June 25th, 2017
Cosmo Currey is a Senior Consultant at Boston Link and spends his days headhunting, as opposed to recruiting, candidates. Here, he reflects on the differences between the who an...More >
Recruiting the best talent is by no means an easy task. If it was easy, companies wouldn’t pay for somebody else to do it for them – and a lot do. A recent study from Bersin by Deloitte found that the average time taken to fill one vacancy is a whopping 52 days; the amount of time varies with junior positions taking less time than more senior positions.
There are a wide variety of skills needed to recruit great candidates no matter how amazing the opportunity is, but the most important (aside from having the patience of a saint) is the ability to write a killer job description.
You are ultimately advertising and selling a career, a lifestyle, and sometimes even a change in location. The job description is your sales pitch and the entire face of your recruitment campaign for this role. It has to grab the attention of your potential candidates and to do this, it shouldn’t be an option but an unmissable opportunity.
Getting the job advert right can improve the number, quality, relevance, and diversity of candidates who apply whilst reducing drop-outs and time to hire – all by double digit percentage points! With that in mind, here is our cheat sheet for writing effective job adverts.
The job title of your role not only affects your search engine optimisation but will also be the deciding factor on whether or not someone clicks to view the full job description. For example: you may wish to advertise for a Software Engineer in your I.T. team – advertising this role as I.T. Engineer would not only potentially result in a lower search rating due to the high volume of results, but it may also result in you receiving a higher level of unsuitable applicants due to the vague job title. An I.T. Engineer covers anyone from a software specialist to an infrastructure specialist fixing desktop computers; these are two very different skill sets so make this clear in your job title. You could even add the industry to the job title, to attract candidates with more relevant experience and make the role more tempting i.e. Software Engineer – Finance.
You might be surprised how much your choice of words and content matters. We all have our own way of writing, but when writing an advert you need to try to set that aside and write with your goals in mind.
• Sell benefits: Many adverts are written with the assumption that you are doing candidates a favour by inviting them to apply for a job. Don’t fall into that trap! When you are done listing everything that you want from a candidate, spend time talking about what they will get. A particularly good thing to focus on is development and growth: if you can talk about training, advancement, or investing in staff you will attract higher quality candidates.
• Personal language: Get the balance of ‘you’ and ‘we’ right. If you are describing the job and qualifications right you should use ‘you’ a lot and avoid talking about anonymous third parties like ‘the ideal candidate’ or ‘they’. If you are describing the employing company right you will use a lot of ‘we’ and ‘our’, as this is more personable than ‘the company’ or similar. Your advert must have plenty of both.
• Environment matters: When selling the company as a place to work, give real details about the working environment. Rather than copying the ‘About Us’ section from your website, try to relate this to the role and to the experience the candidate would have of working there. What is the office like? Is it easy to commute to? How would you describe the attitude amongst the staff? This is even more important if you’re trying to attract relocations from outside your immediate area.
• Talk plainly: Avoid jargon unless necessary to explain the qualifications required. Corporate clichés like ‘team player’ and ‘outside the box’ should be eliminated – if you wouldn’t use a phrase at home, don’t use it at all.
• Adjectives and verbs: Use adjectives sparingly, choosing them only when they really help to sell something. Use verbs liberally, and make them good, positive, active verbs – passive verbs are a major cue that a job’s work environment is likely to be formal and rigid, and can therefore be very off-putting.
• Avoid repetition: It can be tempting when listing responsibilities to repeat words and phrases. Avoid doing so if possible and try to be more creative with your choice of words. If you find yourself repeating phrases a lot between bullet points, consider whether you have too many bullet points!
• Inclusivity: Think carefully about inclusion and exclusion. Words and phrases that suggest a competitive dynamic will skew applications towards men, for example, whereas women will be more encouraged to apply for jobs that emphasise team dynamics (these are generalisations from the data). A short equal opportunities statement or phrasing suggesting that consideration is given to candidate circumstances (for example flexibility for single parents etc.) can also help to encourage more diverse applications.
• Length: Aim for 400 to 600 words. Shorter listings generally aren’t taken seriously by candidates, whilst longer listings discourage them from reading in detail. The data shows this is the sweet spot for maximum applications. If your advert is limited for space, clearly direct the candidate elsewhere for more detail (e.g. link back to a full advert on your website).
• Bullet points: Use bullet points wisely and aim for them to comprise around 30-50% of your text. The rest should be written in paragraphs of a few sentences each.
• Balanced content: Make sure you structure your advert to balance information on the job itself, what you are looking for in a candidate, the company they would be working in, and the benefits of getting the job. Start with a snappy introductory paragraph that focuses on the job and then move on to the other topics.
Hopefully this has helped you to write the perfect job description! If, however, you would like one of our consultants to review some of your job adverts that are underperforming please email firstname.lastname@example.org