Does your job spec answer the question “what’s in it for me?”

When was the last time you read a job description that was fresh, dynamic, exciting and evoked an emotional response? Even better – it really made you want the job? Probably never is my guess. That’s because job descriptions are usually old, boring, outdated and too long. They are costing you candidates! In today’s market, the highest quality candidates – the talent that companies are finding so hard to attract, recruit and retain – have estimated drop off rates as high as 90% once they have read a job description.  Some of the reasons include:

  1. Doesn’t excite or engage them
  2. Work looks exactly the same as their current position
  3. Their skills don’t meet all the “essential” criteria
  4. Unclear, unprofessional and ‘reactive’ language
  5. Long documents that don’t capture their interest

What doesn’t work 

Imagine all that effort you have put into writing an advertisement, all that money you have spent using attraction strategies and all that time invested in the recruitment process wasted all because of one document.  The truth is that job descriptions have traditionally been a document kept on file by human resources as a ‘must have’ that outlines all tasks, skills, qualifications and experience required to do a certain job within an organisation.  These ineffective job descriptions often include spelling errors, use of internal jargon, are often way too long and wordy as well as being unclear and visually unappealing.

The reality today is that these documents are now being judged by commercially savvy job seekers who know what they want, will pick and choose the jobs they apply for and ultimately accept.  They don’t want just any job – they want an opportunity that presents a better challenge than the one they are currently doing.  Once they read a job description that essentially sounds like the job they are already doing – where is the incentive to change?

The opportunity

This is where the opportunity lies! Most organisations are missing this sales opportunity to entice, engage and excite candidates into their organisation through having an up-to-date, professional and different job description.   If used effectively, a job description can become a sales tool to showcase each opportunity within your organisation as a unique proposition that proves a commitment to investing in people, each role and a strategic recruitment strategy to find the best talent in the market.  One of the best examples I have seen this year was an Editor role with the on-line business community Flying Solo – it was a true sales document, pitching the best parts of the role and what outcomes you would be responsible for driving and how this position contributed to the overall direction of the organisation. In addition, came a values document which detailed ‘what mattered most’ to the organisation and explaination of their five core values and culture. It was inspiring! Needless to say they got a great response and did not have shortage of candidates to interview.

Tips to achieving effective job descriptions include:

  1. Short & simple (not more than 3 pages)
  2. Stating an overall purpose of the role (expressed as an outcome, not an action)
  3. Most exciting tasks and challenges (not all of them)
  4. Outcomes to be produced and key result areas
  5. Transferable skills required to be successful
  6. Current (reviewed every 12 months as a minimum)
  7. Visually appealing

Job descriptions should be used as an attraction tool to encourage candidates to investigate your opportunity further, not to dismiss it and decide on their own accord that it is not worth pursuing.  What are the most exciting parts of your role and how can that be expressed effectively? Is “seeking 5 years SAP experience” as exciting as saying “use your SAP knowledge to lead our system implementation team”?

Keeping job descriptions specific, up to date and focused on the most challenging aspects of a job will result in a wider and higher quality of candidates for you to choose from.  And remember people apply for the work that they will be doing, not the skills they possess – the tip is to write your job descriptions with this in mind.  Candidates in this market have one subconscious question they want answered “what’s in it for me?” and your job as the employer is to demonstrate how your opportunity is better than their current situation and to draw them into the possibility of something better.

nicoleunderwood.com delivers tailored solutions for recruiting and retaining top talent.