How do I avoid recruitment malpractice by creating highly effective job descriptions?

January 23rd, 2020

Attracting and hiring great talent always begins with highly impactful job descriptions. Creating engaging and inclusive job descriptions is easier than you may think.

A bad hire costs money and drains productivity. The wrong cultural fit can be disastrous, and its effect felt for years. Crafting an accurate job description can be invaluable for both the ongoing attraction and retention of your employees. Wouldn’t you be more motivated to interview with an organization that had taken the time to define who they wanted to hire?

Begin with a brief but exciting and enticing overview of the opportunity

This short synopsis should incorporate an explanation of the job’s chief objectives, how it contributes to larger company goals, and why it’s essential to the corporation. Your overview should not ignore the fact that culture is everything in recruitment. Throughout the process, the candidate will consistently be asking themselves, “Will I be a good fit and enjoy working there?” Employers too often neglect these vital details. Cultural fit is what gets us all through the bumpy days.

We all know templates can be a resource-saving tool, but you must be original. Being overly dependent on an archaic template can immediately place the employer at a recruiting disadvantage. You don’t want every job description to appear identical, nor do you want to be similar to your competition. You should also make every effort to avoid superlatives and over-the-top language. They may prevent candidates from applying due to the description generally feeling disingenuous or superficial. Avoid internal language also as it is often misunderstood.

Think about the description from the candidate’s point of view. Does it sound thrilling or intriguing on several levels? If your answer is no, then the applicant is likely to feel the same. Sell your job, sell your company.

Have real-world discussions with all stakeholders

The most accurate descriptions are built with the involvement of numerous diverse business areas for a 360-degree realistic view. When specifying or honing role necessities, do so with the contribution from HR, business units/operational management, and staff in a comparable position or function. Why do this? It’s simple, historically, the vast majority of job descriptions spend their lives in the HR department. Called upon only when an employee departs or an add to staff is needed. It’s not HR’s fault, they’re often asked to do too much. These descriptions frequently remain unchanged for years and rarely reflect practical needs. Companies are perpetually evolving, so for job descriptions to reflect changing requirements, they should be reviewed, if possible, annually and modified as suitable. Well ahead of being needed.

The importance of the “real world” job description accuracy cannot be overstated. Pause and ask yourself, “does this description truly communicate what the applicant will be doing every day?” Too often, it doesn’t.

And don’t forget duties, responsibilities, and activities may change, or new ones may be assigned at any time without notification. It is a good idea to add a statement that indicates that the job description is not designed to include a complete inventory of undertakings, duties, or assignments that are expected of the employee.

Are you using biased language?

The use of specific expressions and phrases in a job description can be interpreted as biased, or much worse, discriminatory. This reduces the diverse applicant group that all employers need to be truly successful. This includes gender-biased language that is generally subtle, but it is still detrimental. Many employers are accidentally deterring an extremely qualified applicant.

It stands to reason that if your job description appeals to a wider group of applicants, you’re much more likely to expand the diversity of applicants and fill the opening faster.

It’s a mobile world

Statistics show that nearly half of all job seekers search for opportunities at least once per day on their mobile devices. The typical applicant is reviewing countless opportunities throughout the life of their job search, and is doing so via different technological mediums.

If your job descriptions are overly lengthy or aren’t social media-friendly, prospective candidates are likely to gravitate to those job descriptions and employers that are. Optimize your job descriptions to ensure they are mobile devices compatible, and this includes personally verifying the job description on a PC, Mac or mobile device. Using bullet points can further help enhance your description.

Requesting too much and being heavy-handed

There are no perfect candidates and no ideal employers. Unrealistic requirements will likely alienate you with your candidate pool. Pinpoint what specific skills are truly mandatory and include only the required skills in your job description.

Communicate the needs of the opportunity transparently and constructively. No one wants to weed through unqualified candidates. However, including combative verbiage such as “applicants with fewer than X years of experience will not be considered or contacted” is an antagonistic way to present your job and effects how all candidates may potentially perceive your employer brand. As a sunny alternative, be considerate and contemplate job description language such as: “Please note: that this a senior-level role. Demonstrated knowledge in (insert criteria here) is essential.”

While acutely useful in recruiting new staff, a job description has an enduring objective throughout the employment lifecycle – retention. After all, it isn’t merely enough to attract best in class talent; you want to retain that talent long term. The investment of resources right from the inception will pay tremendous dividends over the long run.


┬áRob O’Halloran, Managing Partner
Yarmouth & Choate