Most hiring processes start by creating a job description you hope will catch candidates’ attention. Often a job post is a candidate’s first interaction with a company and many decide whether or not to apply to a role based purely on the ad. With so much riding on how you describe a position, getting it wrong can mean a longer time to hire and cost you potentially strong candidates. Our newly remote world isn’t helping matters either. Without conferences or networking opportunities to source talent in-person, what you say in your job posts matters more then ever. So what can you do to update your job descriptions for a virtual world?
7 strategies for better job descriptions
Figure out what you need before you hire: Very often we rush to get a job description out into the world without stopping to consider what you really need to hire for first. Regardless of whether your hiring for an in-office or remote role, take a minute to consider what gaps exist on your team and what characteristics a successful applicant will need to have. At McQuaig, we advise using assessments to help you create an ideal benchmark or candidate profile first before starting your hiring process in order to help you more accurately align what you need with who to hire. Once you have a solid understanding of the role and team a new hire will be joining, you’ll be better able to write an informative job description. The clearer you are on your needs, the clearer the candidate will be on whether they have the requirements to meet them.
Don’t get creative with job titles: The foundation of every job description is a clear explanation of what the position actually is. We’ve seen an era of job posts looking for “Home Office Gurus” or “Innovation Ninjas” with the idea being that classic job descriptions are too dull to catch attention. We now know, however, that gimmicks like this actually drive away candidates. Instead, potential applicants are more interested in job postings, and job titles, that clearly describe what they’re applying to. When writing your job description, opt for clarity over creativity and when in doubt, keep it brief. Lengthy job descriptions tend to deter candidates from finishing their applications.
Choose your language carefully: hink about the language being used in your job post and what message it might be conveying to candidates. Often, job ads can hamper diversity efforts merely by the way they’re written. Consider a post advertising for a salesman position, for example. Who do you think is most likely to respond? One study suggests job descriptions that use more masculine vocabulary receive fewer applications from women which in turn can impact the amount of gender diversity in your workforce. You should also review your job posts to look for corporate-talk, acronyms, jargon, or cultural-references that might turn applicants away. It can also be a good idea to ask for feedback from others in case others notice elements in the job description which may inadvertently put barriers in front of candidates. And if your company prioritizes an inclusive culture, make sure that’s in your job ad so candidates have a good understanding of what sort of work environment they can expect.
Use remote work keywords: When writing job descriptions for a remote world, you want to think about what sort of keywords you’ll include in order to reach candidates searching for online roles. Flexjobs advises considering the following words:
- Work at home
- Work from home
- Work from anywhere
- Home office
Adding these phrases into your job description will make it clear what sort of position the role is and whether there will be any sort of in-office expectations. It’s important to include how long a role will remain remote and, if it’s a position that will transition back into the office at some point, how expectations will change when that happens. Right now there are candidates searching for remote work to see them through the pandemic and there are others looking for permanent remote positions. Being upfront about what type of remote job you’re offering can save you time, and turnover, later.
Consider flexibility: The world is a weird place right now and candidates likely have more on their minds then they did a year ago. Before you write your remote job description, think about what amount of flexibility, if any, you’re currently offering your team and include that in your ad. If your company is parent-friendly, for example, and allows you to manage your hours around childcare needs that’s a great culture benefit to highlight. If there’s an expectation that employees need to be reachable 24/7, that should also be stated in case it’s a requirement the candidate can’t commit to. You don’t want to hire someone and get them onboarded only to realize there’s a misalignment in how people work that could derail your team.
Be specific about remote work requirements: If your work can happen in a virtual environment, then that raises the question of what sort of geographical location you want to source from. Is your job open to applicants from any country? Is it state or province specific? Or do applicants need to be within a city or region? Make sure it’s clear in your job posting requirements where you will accept applications from. If you are open to international candidates, clarify requirements around when they’ll need to work, where your headquarters are and whether they’ll ever need to go there, and any potential time zone challenges. When you articulate your remote work policies up front, you increase your odds of getting applications that are better matches for your requirements.
Be upfront about what everyone wants to know: If you have health benefits, let candidates know about them right off the bat. Did you make key accommodations when Covid hit? Add that into your description. These days your candidates are all likely going to come to you with the same set of basic questions. They want to know how your company made the leap to remote work during the pandemic and what life is going to look like for them after it. It’s hard for candidates to envision what their job might become without the benefit of seeing the office, or their new colleagues, before they accept a role. Yes, there are ways you can account for that during your virtual interview but to have a good selection of candidates, you need to attract their attention before you get to the interview stage. Be straight with job seekers about how the pandemic may have impacted the role your hiring for and what your company is doing to ensure a safe and healthy workspace.
Job descriptions should go beyond a template
Job postings are your first chance to communicate with a candidate and what you say can sway their decision to apply or not. When trying to hire in a remote world, job descriptions need to be more then just a laundry list of desired candidate attributes. Instead, take this opportunity to really think about what you need in your company and how to convey that to applicants. Yes, you should include information about perks and benefits, but also try to highlight your culture and attitudes towards inclusion. Choose your words carefully to avoid unconscious bias or gendered language. And make sure to be clear about remote expectations and how a role might evolve post-pandemic. When you write your job posting to include the information applicants are looking for, you stand better odds of reaching your ideal candidate. So don’t recycle that old job description from the last time you hired a year ago. Update your job posts for our new remote world and see the difference in your candidates.