How to Write Better Job Postings

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Job descriptions are the currency of recruiting. You should never hire without one. Still, so many of us are left in the dark when it comes to the why not, how-to, and details behind the entire job creation process. In fairness, it's not like anyone else in the company was taught what to do. There was no workshop on it -- that is, until now.

Katrina Kibben of Three Ears Media recently presented a webinar on this topic and offered practical and tactical advice you can use to go and write better job postings as soon as you sign off of this program.

  • Tailoring your questions to get the right job intel
  • The difference between a job description vs a posting vs an ad
  • How to translate skills into job stories that will intrigue candidates
  • Practical advice centered in reality, not that fluffy stuff

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Why Are Writing Job Postings So Challenging? 

There are a lot of reasons why hiring is so hard, but primarily due to variables beyond our control. What we can control is how we ask - or the job posting. How we ask matters to job seekers, the people who are reading them. We’ve all been job seekers and can remember to be on the other side of a job posting and not know if it’s true, if it’s what you’re looking for, if it’s for you. We need to write in a way that lets people self identify, that tells a story, that tells them what it really means to them.

 

1. Words And Rules

We need to use the same language before we jump into writing. The basic definitions:

  • Job Description: Legal documents. The brain dump from the hiring manager. Very technical. Very specific on activities and success.
  • Job Posting: What you’ll put on the website to promote the job. A catchier version of the job description to capture attention.
  • Job Ad: What you use on Instagram or social media, for example, that promote the job. These are strategic images, sponsored posts, etc.

Job postings are what we’re focusing on today.

How long should a job posting be? I have an instinct that it should be around 250 words, but if you can keep someone’s attention it doesn’t matter if it’s 600 words. It should be written to your audience’s attention span. There are no hard rules, but it should be focused and include the most important information. 

2. Understanding the Status Quo

Most job postings aren’t “excellent.” There are no classes in college on how to write them. I’ve written thousands over the past two years. It surprised me that no matter how large or small the recruiting team, they experience the same challenges.

 Mistake #1: Too Long

  1. But I want it to be specific!
  2. I need them to know everything about us (company, benefits, 401k)
  3. I don’t know what’s not important. This is the one I heard the most. We’re going to talk about how to get that.

Mistake #2: Too Creative

When we have a lack of information, we try to fill in the blank with really creative ideas. But it turns into word salad and it doesn’t really tell the job seeker what the job is.

Mistake #3: Guessing

People are just guessing when we don’t have information. Figuring out what a job is can be the most difficult part of our job. If we look at things like job titles and their relevance, we can get an advantage by being educated on what the job actually is.

 

Why Job Titles Matter

1.Part of the URL

2.Search volume. If you cannot be found in search, no one can apply.

3.Candidate influence. If you’re a director of talent, would you apply for a manager of talent? The title is a reflection of where we think we are when it comes to experience. 

Researching Job Titles

This works for most corporate roles that you have at any established company. It doesn’t work for niche roles. This works for broad titles.

  1. Google the job title and resume, then image search such as the position, HR Business Partner
  2. Look for qualified resumes for the most common job titles. Pick 3-4.
  3. Use Google Trends to compare traffic.

You’ll be able to see over time how many people are searching for the job title, as well as geographically. You can also see related words, so if you see “salary” or “benefits” following a job title, you’ll know that those two factors are important.

3. Tactics For Writing Better Job Postings

What do you say to get the candidate on board? You have to put them at the center of the conversation. Write in a way that respects the human.

Why Tone Is Everything!

How you tell the story. The tone that you write with is the difference between good and great. Most of us have been coached to be overly professional, to lean on content that’s academic. In 2019, the professional is personal. This about who has great content on Instagram and why you follow them. It’s valuable when it’s personal.

  1. Clarity Over Creativity. Sometimes you just have to say it. “We need someone who needs how to use gocode and java.” No one should have to guess.
  2. Break Up Content And Sentence Length. Often when you look at a job posting, it looks like a paper from school. You can create differentiation between sentences, use shorter sentences, create pace in the writing.
  3. Writing For A Human, Not A Job. It always goes back to a person. You’re going to write for them, not for the job. This is why we love to read a great book. It lets us imagine a different world. When you read a job posting, it should make you imagine a person, not a job.

 

Job Posting and Career Content Upgrade

  1. Shorter is better. Go back to the hiring manager and ask “if I brought you a resume without what three things would make you laugh in my face.” What are those three things? That’s how you’ll get it down to 250 words.
  2. Create infrastructure, not templates. If you create a bunch of templates, you’ll need to rewrite them every couple of years. I think some job postings are bad is because we’re using seven-year-old templates. I tell my clients to create an infrastructure - it tells you what you need to accomplish in each section. Start with an intro, then a company paragraph, then what the candidate will accomplish in his or her first year, for example.
  3. Open with a paragraph about soft skills. You need to draw a candidate in with something interesting that taps into human emotion. If there is a personality that you’re hiring for, what does that look like?
  4. Limit the number of perks on the page. You don’t have to talk about perks and benefits unless they are excellent.
  5. Kill the bulleted skill list. Talk about the differentials, what makes your company different, what the job is and focus content on that.

Open with a soft skills paragraph. Eliminate the corporate speak. Talk to the person about the personality you want.

Better bullets: “How you’ll succeed in this job.” Ex: “you’ve used Salesforce to create reports.” Change the context to what the candidate will learn when they read it. “In one year, you’ll know that you’re successful if…”

Move past requirements into scenarios. Try asking questions: “Have you worked on a deadline driven team?” works better than “3 years experience working with deadlines.” Number of years of experience isn’t a universal language; a story is. 

Proofreading matters. You’re one typo away from embarrassing yourself and it sets an impression with the job seeker that you don’t care.

 

4. Measuring Success

Data points to consider:

  1. Happy Hiring Managers. When your hiring managers love your job descriptions, it means you’re attracting the right candidates.
  2. Visits on New Roles. You got the job title right and you’re marketing it effectively. You will get more site visits.
  3. Qualified Applications.
  4. Optimized Ad Spend. Writing great content is a great way to make sure you’re spending your ad dollars wisely.

Always compare month over month AND year over year. Great job postings don’t have to be your nemesis. With an intentional strategy and a focused process, you can create job postings that reach more qualified candidates and net results.

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Topics: Talent Acquisition

Updated November 14, 2019