Writing job descriptions is a critical part of sourcing great-fit candidates. Think of it as the front door of the candidate experience. Job descriptions are a unique opportunity to connect with candidates and showcase the employer brand.
There is no one perfect process for nailing job descriptions every time, but companies do need to create an engaging description for every role that defines how it is unique and also explains the company culture.
In the interest of time and in the midst of a massive uptick in hiring, some organizations have relied on job description templates to streamline production at their organizations. Unfortunately, without parameters on how to individualize them, every single job description can end up sounding the same.
With so many jobs on the market right now we’re looking at potentially millions of roles that have templated job descriptions that are not effectively selling the organization or department to candidates. Poor job descriptions have a direct impact on your number of applicants, and ultimately, your entire hiring funnel.
In this article, we’ll be outlining why stellar job descriptions need to be a priority for your organization, as well as providing tips and structure to help you produce job description templates that get the job done right.
Who owns producing job descriptions?
Though many departments may contribute to ideating or writing job descriptions, the recruiting team is ultimately responsible for producing, posting, and managing job descriptions. And the importance of this step can’t be overstated. In this candidate’s market, organizations are under scrutiny and pressure to secure uniquely skilled and qualified candidates that will be a great cultural fit at their new organizations.
The talent economy is massively overloaded. 4.2 million workers left their jobs at the end of 2021, and they’re joining talent that is already employed and casually perusing job descriptions. Not to mention the host of recruiters and head-hunters serving both groups, and looking to help candidates fill a variety of roles.
So, who writes all the job descriptions for those open roles to attract those uniquely skilled candidates?
It's a collaboration between recruiting, human resources, and the departments looking to increase their headcount. When teams get busy and there’s no clear owner the quality of the job descriptions goes down.
We’ve heard some superstar recruiting teams are providing job description templates throughout their organizations to help streamline writing. These templates are adding value and ease to the writing process and preventing individual departments from producing job descriptions without structure and guidance. They also allow recruiting to have a hand in ensuring the employer brand is represented in a uniform way throughout different departments.
What are the consequences of a bad job description?
A bad (or hastily written) job description can have disastrous consequences on your applicant quality. In fact, according to the Allegis Group, 80% of employers believe poor applicant quality is their main stumbling block in talent strategy, with 40% of those employers reporting it as a ‘significant issue’.
Bad job descriptions or ineffective job description templates lead to:
Attracting unqualified candidates
- Unclear job descriptions leave room for ambiguity. If the right candidate can’t read a description and feel confident it’s a reflection of their skills and qualifications that the job description is not serving the candidate or the hiring organization. Similarly, if an unqualified candidate sees an ambiguous area they may be qualified for they’re more likely to apply which wastes both their time and the hiring team’s time.
Hampering recruiter efforts
- You likely have members of your team sourcing candidates, and there may also be a whole slew of independent recruiters and headhunters who may read your job description and try to find a decent match for the role. Unclear information slows their process and makes it harder for them to identify candidates with the correct qualification and skill sets.
Turning off great talent with biased or gendered language
- Great job descriptions encourage great candidates from all walks of life to apply. Writers need to be aware that gender-biased language in job descriptions will discourage some candidates, particularly females, from applying at all. Biased language around work experience or expectations can also repel minority applicants or reflect ageism.
Extending Time To Hire
- In the very best scenario, a poorly written or inaccurate job description will waste both time and money. Though you may be able to course-correct and fix the job description after several imperfect candidates you’ll already have wasted days or weeks or valuable time when you could have been finalizing a deal with someone who would be a great fit.
Increased Employee Turnover
- Guess what happens when you attract candidates who don’t perfectly meet your prerequisites or are misled into thinking they are a perfect fit? You may end up hiring someone from that unqualified pool of candidates. Serious skills or culture gaps will lead to bad hires that may drain years of money and resources from your company.
Creating an outstanding job description template
There are essential elements every successful job description requires. Providing the job description writer parameters and questions that help them to describe each of the essential elements saves time and elicits consistent material to work with.
- Limit job titles to the specifics and don’t make them overly wordy. Be clear about the level of the role: is it a manager/director, or executive position? State that in the job title. If you’re providing a template, ask the writer to specify the job title in their most straightforward manner, no flourishes necessary.
- It’s one thing to be a good fit for a role. It’s another thing to be a good fit for a role and a good fit for supervising others as part of that role. Be clear about supervisory responsibilities. Will they be managing a small team or two direct reports? How much supervisory experience do you expect for a candidate to be qualified? If you’re providing a template, as the writer to consider the range of supervisory experience required, i.e. “You’ll initially manage one manager within the department but you may be expected to grow and manage a team of 5 by the end of the year. Experience managing/hiring at least one direct report is necessary.”
- It’s important that this section is all-encompassing, and better to provide more possible job responsibilities than too few. If you’ve previously had someone in the same role (perhaps the job description writer) ask them to define exactly what their daily, monthly, and annual duties entailed. If you’re providing a template, do some research on what similar roles at other companies list as responsibilities and prompt the writer to include or omit those duties, with some customized details.
- Again, clarity is key. Think of the skills and abilities section as a precursor to a contract that specifies what you expect from future employees. You can’t omit something here and then hold someone accountable for that skill or ability later on. If you’re providing a template, ask the writer to take note and list skills that made employees in this role successful previously as well as ask them to consider any skills that would have been helpful to have possessed that may have needed to be learned on the job.
Editing for perfection
It may or may not be you that has the responsibility of editing job descriptions, but it needs to be someone in HR or Talent Acquisition/Recruiting. Why? Because these departments are also overseeing and being tasked with ensuring a diverse and equitable hiring experience for candidates as well as helping to regulate company culture with HR frameworks, onboarding protocol, and talent development programs.
In addition, job descriptions can be a crucial help or a major hindrance in your DEI efforts. Editing for gendered words to make sure they aren’t present can have a major impact on your applicant conversion rate.
What never has a place in a job description?
Writers of job descriptions have unique life experiences, preferences, and certain generalizations they may incorporate as they go about their daily lives. When we intentionally don’t make an effort to detach from those beliefs while writing, the bias shows up prominently in the job description.
An objective editor must screen each job description written to make sure it upholds company standards, and determine if the job description includes any:
- Gender or Representation Bias
- The bias of Race or Religion
- The bias of Physical Disabilities
- Unrealistic qualification expectations
It’s important to realize that implicit and explicit bias may have some crossover. Unlike explicit bias, writers may not realize they are projecting their own biases into the writing of a job description. Still, it’s possible that a word or phrase the writer might think is harmless could alienate a fantastic candidate.
A second or third set of eyes on every job description can help make sure implicit biases are kept in check and keep a diverse talent stream flowing into the company.
What should you consider including?
- This is no longer up for debate in New York City where salary is now required to be included in a job description, and it’s likely more states will follow suit. Even if it’s not legally required, including salary or salary range in a description is a powerful indicator to candidates of how seriously your organization takes transparency.
Mission, Vision, and Values
- Candidates have never cared more about company culture. They want to know what your company truly aspires to be and stands for, how you plan to get there, and what essential values the culture reinforces along the way. Make it a goal to show your candidates the best part of your company culture during the interview process.
Ultimately, we know your recruiting team has dozens of programs you could be working on to make the candidate experience shine at your company. Having recruiting and talent acquisition own and provide consistency to the job description process could have a direct impact on the number of qualified applicants you receive.
Happy hiring! And if you’d like to learn more about how Prelude can drive efficiency in your candidate experience process, please get in touch.