Find the right candidates with a clear, concise, persuasive ad
Recently I was looking at some job postings on LinkedIn. As I read through all of the job descriptions, I was reminded of just how much I hate applying for jobs.
Because almost every job posting is filled with
confusing or unclear language
a laundry list of requirements that seem almost impossible to meet
And to top it all off, most job ads don’t include any information about salary or compensation (more on that later).
I’m a professional writer with an excellent working vocabulary, so if I’m confused, then you can bet that other candidates are as well.
I happened to stumble upon this article by Ask a Manager columnist, Allison Green. Here’s what she has to say about writing a job description that will attract the right kinds of candidates, “when you’re advertising for a new hire, a job posting is a marketing document. You’re trying to attract people who will be excited about the work,” she says.
Then the angels of understanding started singing in my head, A job posting is a marketing document! Hallelujah!
This is why it’s called a job ad, it’s supposed to advertise the job. It’s supposed to persuade qualified individuals to apply. So why do most job postings read something like this:
Develop and leverage key relationships with stakeholders that enable collaboration across the enterprise.
But poor job descriptions aren’t just annoying, they can also have a big impact on the quality of applicants. Unclear, confusing, outdated, or overly complicated requirements can seriously derail the progress of finding the best talent. A bad job description may also reflect poorly on the company, which could ultimately damage the brand.
So how do you write a job description that will actually attract quality candidates?
1. Think of your job ad as a marketing document (because it is)
As I said earlier, the job ad is an advertisement to work for your company. As you are writing your description, try thinking about it in a different way. What can you do for the job applicant What’s in it for them?
Remember that you are trying to sell candidates on the job. What makes your company good to work for? What do people like about the job? Think about what makes this a good job, and make sure to put that in the description! Think about including the following:
- Retention or referral bonuses
- Flexible hours
- Work-from-home, or hybrid work opportunities
- Holiday parties
- Continuing education stipends
- Other fun perks
2. Use clear everyday language
I’ve read quite a few job postings that read like a technical manual. And these were for jobs in marketing or copywriting! Now I am a writer, and I have a pretty wide vocabulary, so if I don’t understand what this job is about, then it’s fairly likely that other qualified candidates won’t either.
So how do you write a clear job description? You can start out by avoiding the following:
- confusing, opaque language
- industry jargon
- business buzzwords (synergy, woke, alignment)
- acronyms (KPI, API, POC, SaaS)
To improve clarity in your ads, write more simply. Even if you are trying to recruit college-educated candidates, try writing at an 8th or 9th-grade reading level. Because it helps job applicants scan the description. Ask someone a colleague that works in that department what their day-to-day tasks are, and use that as a guide. Another good rule of thumb is that when you have a shorter word to use, use it.
Examples — try using:
- “about” versus “approximately”
- “find” versus “ascertain”
- “more” or “extra” versus “additional”
- “help” versus “assist”
3. Watch the length
When I read job descriptions, they are often far too long. Why? Because the writer is incorporating too much unnecessary information. What do you need to include?
- The day-to-day tasks of the position in clear, everyday language
- Necessary education or certifications (if it’s not necessary, don’t include it)
- Remote, hybrid, or in-office
- What perks or benefits are offered by the company
- The salary or other compensation
A couple of tips:
- Make your sentences short.
- Make your paragraphs short.
4. Be sure to use inclusive language
Anyone writing a job description needs to be mindful of using biased or discriminatory language. It might seem obvious that you shouldn’t mention race, religion, or immigration status in your description, but sometimes this idea bears repeating. Even so, some writers might accidentally indicate ability, gender, racial, or age bias without knowing it.
Here are some examples of gendered words to avoid:
- Female coded words: sensitive, collaborative, and nurturing
- Male coded words: aggressive, fearless, and ambitious
Even if you were looking for someone younger for a position, don’t rule out older workers with more experience. Avoid the following phrases:
- “Young and energetic”
- “Digital native”
- “Party atmosphere”
- “No more than X years of experience”
- “Junior” or “Senior” except as part of a job title
Also, remember to use inclusive language for disabled workers. For example, instead of saying, “must be able to lift 50 pounds,” say, “moves equipment weighing 50 pounds or more.”
5. Make sure your job description includes salary, benefits, or other compensation
I’ve read many postings that didn’t mention anything about pay, benefits, or other employee perks. Does this position offer quarterly bonuses? What about paternal or family leave? There is a lot of data out there that indicates salary is the first thing that candidates look at. So don’t forget to include some kind of compensation information in your post.
- Every one of your job ads should have a Benefits section
- To get the highest application rates, list at least 4 benefits
6. Bonus: my job description pet peeves
When I was first out of college and applying for jobs, I remember reading one thing repeatedly: I must have 3-5 years of experience. And these were for entry-level positions!
As a recent college graduate, I didn’t have 3-5 years of experience! And while it would’ve been nice to be able to have an internship on my resume, my family wasn’t able to finance me while I was working for free for some well-known publication.
I’m not the only one who is annoyed by this requirement. LinkedIn has at least one blog post about it.
So, after all of this, you may be asking yourself, what does a good job description look like?
Check some out here.