1) Avoid overstuffing
By the time a job description lands on a company website or a job board, it has often been passed between many people. Hiring managers, co-workers, HR, and more, each of whom add something to the list of requirements. These extra skills are often aspirational, i.e, “it would be great if this person we’re hiring as a java developer knows a coding language we’re thinking about using in the future.” This means that skills get added that aren’t required to do the job or don’t match the job you’re hiring for. Qualified candidates might read your job description and decide not to apply because they don’t think they’re a good fit.
Instead of passing it around, sit down with your stakeholders and draft out the position. Be honest and realistic about the role and who might fill it. Overstuffing your job description with skills that are “nice to have” but not strictly needed to do the job well will cost you qualified candidates. A Hewlett Packard internal report found that women often won’t apply to a job unless they check every single box. According to the study, men generally feel confident applying if they meet 60% of the requirements. It is also important to ensure that job descriptions accurately reflect the seniority of the role- we’ve seen associate-level positions with a requirement section that could only be fulfilled by someone with ten or more years of work experience!
Be honest about what is a requirement to do the job. Remember that skills are attainable and a good candidate is one who is committed to their job, continuously learning, upskilling, and passionate about their work, not just one who checks all the boxes.
One thing we encourage companies to do is to separate out job descriptions into “must have” and “nice to have” skills. This way, you can still include the extras if you want to, but you’re making it clear that they aren’t requirements for the job. Keep it realistic and controlled, avoid the job description pile-on.
2) Don’t copy and paste old job descriptions
When a new role opens up, don’t use an old job description. Rewrite the job description each time it goes up on your company website or a job board in order to be relevant to this specific position, at this point in time, for this team or project. This allows you to refresh the job description and allows it to evolve with you and your company. You’ll catch any requirements that are no longer relevant and keep it up to date with the market.
3) Keep Job Descriptions Functional and Minimal
Specific, detailed job descriptions help you get more relevant candidates. If you’re very clear about what you’re looking for, you’ll save yourself the time of reviewing resumes or interviewing candidates who aren’t right for the role. Here are some things to consider including:
4) What’s in it for them?
Most often, a job description is a list of asks. The focus is on the company and what the company is looking for. Try flipping this around. Highlight your perks and what makes your company unique. Include a paragraph about why your company is a great place to work, or why this particular role is an exciting opportunity. What kind of career growth can a prospective employee expect to see at your company? Are there opportunities for advancement? Is there a great company culture?
5) Sell your job in a different way
Consider something more interesting than just a job description. A list of requirements is hardly enough to really convey what a job is all about. We encourage you to try interviews with co-workers or hiring managers, videos of life at your company, or even just a thoughtful preamble to the list of requirements that talks about that role, how it might evolve, the business needs that role will help address, and more.
Remember, a job description is most likely the first impression a candidate will get of your role and your company. Make sure it reflects your company and the role you’re looking to hire for well.
This content originally appeared in our eBook, “How to Improve Diversity in Your Workplace.”