Could Your Job Descriptions Be to Blame? 6 Tips to Spice Them Up

Feb 23, 2024
Applicant Tracking, Blog, HR and Recruiting Industry Information, Recruiting Best Practices

There are few things more frustrating than a tepid response to a newly-posted job description. The time that goes into identifying a need, writing the description, and posting is an investment in the future, and you need quality results. For small business owners especially, that time can be very precious and scarce.

Could it be that a lackluster job description is to blame for an inadequate candidate pool? We’ll consider some ways to improve job descriptions to attract ideal candidates for your open positions.

Common Mistakes in Writing Job Descriptions

Here are a few of the most common mistakes made when writing job descriptions.

  • Using clichés and jargon. People seeking employment could fill a bingo card with words or phrases in job hunting that have essentially lost meaning. Self-starter. Team player. Rockstar. Paradigm shift. Thinking outside the box. At best, they’re lazy; at worst, they’re intentional choices to obscure facts. It’s worth your time to eliminate the cliché words and phrases altogether.
  • Absent salary figures. The conventional wisdom that salary can be disclosed later in the hiring process no longer serves the contemporary job seeker. In fact, some states have laws requiring salary transparency in job descriptions. Including these figures shows you’re serious about pay equity and transparency. It inspires confidence in prospective employees that discussions about compensation are not off-limits now or ever.
  • Recycling old content. The job market is ever-changing. Most companies can define themselves pre- and post-pandemic in dramatic ways. What worked for hiring in one period may be almost irrelevant now, and taking the time to critically edit and revise job descriptions can make a huge difference in the quality of your inquiries. Even if the job you’re hiring for demands a lot of the same responsibilities and qualifications as the last time you posted it, the changing job market means cut and paste may not get you the candidates you’re seeking.
  • Vague or misleading phrases. Similar to using clichés and jargon, job seekers may be put off by vague or umbrella terms that don’t accurately describe the work. For example, if you’re hiring for call center representatives, it’s misleading to use the term “marketing associate.” Fielding applicants who drop out after they learn the actual responsibilities of the job is a waste of everyone’s time.
  • Presenting all requirements as equally important. Jobseekers run the gamut of overconfident to underconfident. An ideal job description offers both a reality check and encouragement by ranking requirements or specifying non-negotiables. This information provides meaningful clarity for candidates with a wide variety of education and experience.

Stop the Search With the First Sentence

The first sentence is the hook for the reader. Jobseekers will use this early information to determine whether the position aligns with their abilities, as well as if it’s something they want to do. They will also consider their goals and interests when assessing the first part of the description.

If your job title is “Marketing Specialist” consider the following two descriptions:

“We’re a tech startup growing faster than the speed of light with fresh and innovative ideas for the marketplace, and we need a marketing team to match. We’re looking for a social media rockstar who can hit the ground running on day one.”

or

“For 5 years, our company has seen consistent growth in the domestic application space, including apps for grocery shopping, household chores, and childcare reminders. We’re growing our marketing team in areas of social media, AI, content writing, and advertising. This role falls under the content writing umbrella but would involve collaboration with advertising and social media.”

The quick-talking cliché language of the first doesn’t offer any specifics and may be seen as an oversell without realistic expectations. It might also scare off someone who expects structured onboarding and on-the-job training. The second one briefly explains the company’s products and expands on the marketing specialist term to explain specific responsibilities. 

Job seekers will almost always look at websites and social media to better understand what a company does, but this method gives candidates a snapshot into the market you occupy. Someone interested in app development around home organization knows right away that they could be a good fit.

More Quick Tips to Spice Up Your Job Descriptions

Need some more help? Here are some additional tips.

  • Use specific language. As discussed, clichés and jargon are easy to skim or bypass altogether. Take a hard look at your job description and look for anywhere you’ve used vague words. Explain job responsibilities with clear and specific language. “Travel required typically two weeks per month” instead of “exciting travel opportunities” gives a candidate something realistic to consider.
  • Incorporate inclusive language. Highlight equity and inclusion initiatives. Use gender-neutral language where applicable and be sure nothing in your description implies favoritism for one group over another.
  • Be honest about perks and benefits. Don’t try to oversell perks and benefits, especially if they’re not accessible to every worker. On the other hand, candidates can be excited by useful information about a great health plan, office lunches, gym memberships, PTO, and other perks that contribute to your company culture.
  • Use recognizable titles. The description is where to get creative and specific; prospective employees will search for the title they best recognize in themselves, or one they are seeking. Consider an SEO analysis to make sure you’re appearing wherever job searches are happening.
  • Be specific about location. One of the first details any candidate will want to know is whether the job is remote or in-person. Make your expectations about daily work, any in-person meeting requirements, and available hours (including time zone) very clear.

Good job descriptions aren’t just for hiring. They support accountability for the company to create a job contract and give the candidate something concrete to refer to during negotiations.Giving your job postings a critical once-over can bring the best possible candidates knocking at your door.

ApplicantStack is a perfect tool to help file away past job descriptions and call them up when the need arises. You can also utilize templates when you need a little extra help, and ensure your listings show up on the top sites and job boards. Try it for free today.

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