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How to Create Job Descriptions That Don’t Suck

Tim Sackett, HR pro and CareerBuilder contributor

Job descriptions have seemingly been around forever. Actually, what most companies still use today as a basic job description format has been around for about 85 years. Which, in business terms, is forever!

The same old boring job descriptions. The reality is, even as we add video and links and all the fancy templated designs, it’s still a title, responsibilities, knowledge requirements and so on. Boring. Maybe a little more pleasing to the eye, but still boring.

That’s the big question. How do we make job descriptions better? How do we make job descriptions, dare I say, sexy?

The first step is to really understand what candidates are looking for. Candidate behaviour is the key to writing great job descriptions that are going to engage and attract the talent your organisation wants and needs.

CareerBuilder recently released a study that shows candidates are looking for three things:

  1. They want to know how you’re different than everyone else. This means you need to build job descriptions that set you apart from your competition.
  2. They want the truth. Not the fake brand you want them to think you are, but what you look like in the morning before you put your “game” face on.
  3. They want to feel special. You know what your one process for all job applicants does to candidates? It makes them feel like they’re just like everyone else. Great talent hates to feel like everyone else. So, you need to have a process that treats everyone like the unique snowflakes they are.

Sounds easy, right? It’s not. It’s super difficult to produce great job descriptions with those three things in mind, but here are some tips to help you get there:

  • Use your employees to tell candidates what the job truly entails. Show short, unscripted videos of actual employees, telling everyone what it is they do each and every day. You can help them frame what to say, but let them use their words.
  • Use your hiring managers to tell candidates directly what they like to see from candidates in the position they have open. Again, short video works wonders for this, but you can also use hiring managers’ “quotes” within the job description to highlight important aspects.
  • The biggest frustration of all candidates is a lack of response of any kind from employers. What should you do? Put your mobile phone number in the job description, of course! If you have a hard to fill opening, this is a must. It shows you really care, you’re open to questions, and that if they apply they have a way to get an update.
  • Have an actual personality! Job descriptions don’t have to be boring. In the HR bible, nowhere does it say, “Job descriptions must be boring or thou shalt be spanked.” NOWHERE. It’s OK to have fun with your job postings, especially if that fits the personality of your organisation or even the personality of your hiring manager. Candidates respond to organisations that aren’t afraid to show their personality.

Historically, writing job descriptions has seemed like a punishment for those in HR. No one has really wanted to do it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Find the most creative HR intern you can find — someone with strong writing skills — and let them have at it. Your job postings can be both legally functional and marketing-worthy.

You just need to add a little creativity to the mix.

Tim Sackett, SPHR is the president of HRU Technical Resources, a leading IT and engineering staffing firm headquartered in Lansing, Michigan, U.S.A. Tim has 20 years of combined executive HR and talent acquisition experience, working for Fortune 500 companies in health care, retail, dining and technology. Tim is a highly sought-after national speaker on leadership, talent acquisition and HR execution.

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