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The Implications of Writing a Bad Job Description

Job descriptions. You or your hiring managers write them every day. But how much attention do you actually pay to the words you write? Or are you just following a timeless template that someone developed ages ago? As we say at MATRIX, “there is nothing we do in this business that causes more downstream effort than writing a new job order.”

The Implications of Writing a Bad Job Description

The impact of writing a poorly crafted job description ripples out to the recruiters trying to find candidates, and to the candidates themselves. Unclear, vague or confusing requirements impede the progress of finding the best talent. It may reflect poorly on the company brand issuing the job request. And top candidates may be reluctant to apply for a job that isn’t fully explained.

Monster survey of 2,030 job seekers revealed that mistakes or sloppy editing kept them from applying for jobs. Sixty-four percent of respondents said they would not respond to an ad with a poorly written or confusing job title. And 60 percent found “jargon in job ads annoying”.

Many companies struggle to rise to the challenge, according to the Recruitment Sweet Spot survey by Beyond and Red Branch Media. Writing effective job descriptions was the biggest struggle midsize businesses face when recruiting talent, cited by 27 percent of respondents.

Whether you’re a direct employer trying to fill your own position or an MSP trying to fill thousands, ultimately, a poorly written job description can produce unsatisfactory results for everyone.

What is a good job description? 

A good job description is much more than a laundry list of tasks and responsibilities. It should be concise, easy to read, and specific enough to allow our recruiters to really tap into their vast networks to find just the right fit. Recruiters have intimate knowledge of their candidates’ preferences and skills. The more info you provide, the more they can fine-tune their search.

Here are the basics of a good job description:

Format

Make the job post scannable (like this article). Most job seekers on the hunt will look at a job post and scan the details before deciding to apply, or to ignore it. A blend of written text and bullets is best. By organizing key responsibilities with bullet points, the readability of the post will increase. In addition to bulleted lists, it's also a good idea to separate sections with descriptive headers that allow a potential applicant to scan the important facts as quickly and easily as possible.

Job Title

The title and level (assistant, senior, lead, etc.) should accurately reflect the work the employee will perform.

  • Be sure to choose a job title that reflects your industry's standards and common nomenclature. Any acronyms should be recognizable.
  • Specific is better than general. “Senior .NET Developer” instead of “Software Engineer,” “Sr. Project Manager - PMO - Data Analytics & Revenue Management” instead of “Project Manager”. 

Key Responsibilities

List all of the essential functions of the position. Generally, this includes between five and 10 responsibilities.

  • Clearly define what tasks are involved with the job. Begin each responsibility with a present-tense, action verb — "lead daily scrum stand-ups" or "mock up new UI graphics" are good examples.
  • Be transparent about how frequently a task will be performed or what percentage of the employee's time will be spent with each task. This helps applicants visualize what a typical day may look like. 
  • Avoid using vague language such as “rise to new challenges”, “seize new opportunities” and “lead change across the organization.”

Skills & Qualifications

List all qualifications that are mandatory, along with those that are preferred. Such qualifications should include skills, years of experience, certifications, licenses, education level and necessary technical proficiencies.

  • Don’t hunt for unicorns. Think carefully about what skills are required and what are preferred. Too many requirements and you might create an unfillable job or turn off an otherwise great candidate. Preferred skills might be able to be learned on the job.
  • The ability to work with newer tools and technologies is almost always desirable. Try to emphasize any technologies that will be used that are hot in the marketplace and in demand.
  • Make sure the years of experience you’re requiring is reasonable. Asking for two years of experience with a brand new technology will lead to a dead-end.

Location

Location, location, location. Nobody wants to spend half their day driving to and from work.

  • Be sure the correct address is on the Job Order, especially if you’re using a VMS tool. If there are multiple locations being considered for the position, emphasize this on the Job Order - this opens the candidate pool for sourcing! 
  • Work from home or telecommuting options are extremely desirable these days, so be sure to mention that perk if it is an option for you.
  • If overnight travel is necessary, note what percentage of time the employee will spend traveling and where he or she will be traveling.

Do all these things right and you will have taken a big step toward helping your staffing partners find excellent matches for your requirements. The more you can improve it on the front end, the better the quality will be downstream.

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