Job descriptions are the backbone of your recruiting efforts and the structure of your organization. Not only do they fully explain what’s expected of employees, they serve as a marketing tool to attract the best possible candidates for the job.
So why do so many companies treat job descriptions as an afterthought, failing to take the time to create descriptions that are engaging and compelling and focused on the actual needs of the company? When job descriptions aren’t up to par, you run the risk of not only missing out on qualified employees who would bring value to the organization, you also potentially limit the chances of ever reaching the company goals and desired outcomes.
While there are a number of reasons that job descriptions fall flat, three major factors contribute to a lack of appropriate or stellar candidates.
Legendary recruiter and author Barry Deutsch notes that the number one reason companies aren’t successful in their hiring is that their job descriptions are worthless when it comes to attracting top performers and gauging the potential for success throughout the hiring process. This is because, as he points out, most job descriptions focus more on the minimum requirements to qualify for the position than on what success looks like.
Consider the average job description: It probably lists the minimum education requirements, minimum years of experience, the basic type of experience that a candidate should have and a generic listing of job duties and requirements. Yet by focusing on just the basic qualifications, you aren’t setting up any expectations beyond the mediocre. In other words, do you want an employee who just fills in the all of the blanks adequately, or do you want an employee who exceeds expectations and is far above average?
The best way to escape the mediocre and move beyond the minimum is to spend some time defining success in the position before you write the job description. Develop a vision of success that outlines both defined expectations in terms of outcomes (a measurable increase in sales, for example) and how the position fits in with the overall company objectives, specifically how the position moves the organization toward meeting those objectives. It takes time to develop a definition of success, but the payoff will be a richer applicant pool that brings more to the table than just a generic list of qualifications.
“Seeking an excellent communicator with a positive attitude.” “Only motivated individuals need apply.” “Must be hard-working.” We’ve all seen job descriptions and postings filled with language like this — but what does it really mean?
When job descriptions contain such vague language, it harms the hiring process in two ways. First, such cliched terms are all but practically impossible for people to accurately self-asses. After all, who is going to label himself or herself as a lazy, unmotivated poor communicator? While soft-skills are important, you can more objectively measure them via the interview and reference-gathering process than by listing them in the job description. Anyone applying for a job should expect that the employer wants someone motivated and hard-working.
Second, using vague language doesn’t contribute to a success-based description. Using terms like excellent, large or experienced leaves the requirements open to interpretation. If you want someone who knows how to manage a team of 50 employees, say so. Don’t ask for someone with experience leading “large teams,” since an applicant could interpret large to be a team of 12 people. Specificity attracts qualified, quality candidates.
When did you last update your company’s job descriptions? Are the descriptions based on the current state of your organization and on the actual tasks performed by your staff? Or are you recycling the same tired copy every time you need to fill the position?
If you do write new descriptions or make changes — who is responsible for making the changes? Have you ever asked current employees to evaluate their job descriptions for accuracy or invited feedback from those who would be working closest with a new hire?
Job descriptions shouldn’t be drafted once and filed away to be used for eternity. Not only do the requirements of the position and definitions of success change over time, but changes in employment laws, demographics and the work environment often necessitate adjustments in job descriptions. Today’s jobseekers, especially millennials, are savvy and have defined visions of what they want from a job and a career. A stale, boring and outdated job description written by a senior executive who has no clue what it’s like to actually work “in the trenches” is not going to attract the best candidates.
Make it a matter of policy to review job descriptions on an annual basis and make changes if necessary. If you can’t craft a compelling job description in-house, consider hiring outside help to ensure that it’s both accurate and compliant.
Take some time to review your company’s job descriptions and determine whether you’re making any of these mistakes. By making some adjustments, you could see a marked increase in the quality of applicants and employees – and make significant strides toward your company’s goals.Back to blog list