Your organization probably spends a good amount of time and energy crafting job descriptions that accurately reflect your open positions and hopefully attract high quality applicants. Unfortunately, many candidates are likely ignoring large sections of your job descriptions and focusing on only a few key details. According to Nancy Gray-Starkebaum, a VP with over 25 years of experience in the HR and talent-acquisition field, applicants are spending approximately 40 seconds or less reading job descriptions before submitting their resume (see What to Do About Job Seekers Who Aren’t Reading Job Descriptions). They’re looking at the job title and a few key bullet points, and then deciding if the job is just enough of a fit before applying, which can result in a high response rate of candidates who are either unqualified or not the right fit for your open positions.
LinkedIn conducted a study in 2018 with 450 members from their market research community in which they showed an example of a job description and asked members to highlight the parts they found helpful, appealing or would make them more likely to apply. LinkedIn charted the results on a heatmap (This Job Description Heatmap Shows You What Candidates Really Care About (and What They Ignore)), which indicated the most heavily highlighted areas of the job description in the following order of importance:
- Salary range and benefits (by far the most highlighted)
- Day-to-day responsibilities (tasks, number of direct reports, etc.) and qualifications
- Performance goals
- Company information (the least highlighted section)
Since candidates may be looking through dozens of job descriptions at a time, they may only spend a few seconds on your job description. What they are most likely trying to determine with a quick read is if your job is worth investing their time to apply.
The following are some tactical takeaways from the LinkedIn study to help you write job descriptions based on an understanding of what candidates really care about:
- Focus on the compensation, the day-to-day details of the job and the requisite qualifications. When reading a job description, candidates really want to know what’s in it for them: the kind of work they will be doing, how much they’ll make, and whether they can realistically get the job or not based on the required qualifications. Specific details on the role itself (tasks, location, direct reports, etc.) were of particular interest to those who participated in the study.
- Set clear, specific and measurable performance goals. Being clear about expectations gives candidates greater insight into the role. Recruiting thought-leader Lou Adler has long advocated for performance-based job descriptions, which spell out the results you want from the new hire rather than emphasizing skills, education or experience. Many job descriptions don’t provide performance goals, so there is an opportunity to stand out from other employers and attract candidates who feel they can by successful in the role.
- Don’t include much about your company, culture or mission in your job descriptions. Despite the unwritten rule that every job description must include a paragraph about the company, what it does and how it’s changing the world, the LinkedIn study demonstrated that potential applicants aren’t particularly interested in company information, at least not in your job post. It’s not that candidates don’t care about your company, culture or mission, but rather that they know they can get that information from your website or LinkedIn company page after they learn about the role.
If you’re interested in recruiting younger workers and recent college graduates, sometimes referred to as Generation Z (born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s), you may want to consider video job descriptions to capture the attention of candidates. HR and talent-acquisition expert Nancy Gray-Starkebaum points out that younger generations are unfamiliar with a time before smartphones. Their upbringing has revolved around technological communication and consuming media content on their mobile devices. If this younger demographic is a target for your organization, video descriptions could be the best way to reach them. You can use video content on your career website and job postings to offer insights into job responsibilities, qualifications and performance goals as well as team member personalities, work environment, company culture and other more subtle details that are harder to convey in written job descriptions.
Recognizing that today’s job seekers are moving at a faster pace and not always taking the time to read every word in your job descriptions should help you focus on what’s most important to them. If your job descriptions highlight the responsibilities, qualifications, performance goals and compensation/benefits in a concise and easy to read format, you will increase your chances of capturing the attention and interest of candidates who are a better fit for your open positions and your organization.