Your Poorly-Written Job Descriptions Are Driving Away Talent

08/15/2016 10:54 EDT | Updated 08/15/2016 10:59 EDT
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If you have undertaken the delicate task of attracting talent and recruiting that talent, you will have been faced with the challenge of producing descriptive and enticing job descriptions.

Developing content that is as consistent as possible with the employment opportunity while being attractive to job seekers is not an easy task. Often pressed for time, or when managers lack the necessary resources, or are simply trying to deal with normal business needs, the resultant postings do not receive the care and attention required to both attract and secure the best candidates.

On the other side of the same coin, without the necessary care and attention, advertisements may, to make matters worse, prove inefficient when the advertisement fails to attract the attention of the 'right' candidates. If the recruitment process becomes drawn out and the role is not filled the flow-on adverse effects lead to additional hiring delays and loss of productivity, and loss of competitive advantages.

Write a job description that stands out

For all recruitment professionals who wish to effectively recruit the right people at the right time, I recommend you consider the suggestions of Dr. John Sullivan (an internationally renowned HR leader) when you prepare job descriptions. To avoid making mistakes, start with this list that is sure to both inspire you and put you on track to producing the right content to attract the best possible candidates.

10 Quick Tests for Assessing Your Job Post Descriptions

1. Side-by-side ranking comparison

This test is designed to find out if your position post descriptions are competitive. You simply have a group of professionals or potential applicants conduct a side-by-side review of your firm's and your competitor's job post descriptions (after substituting the same job titles and eliminating any company identifying information). Then have them rank each of the anonymous job post descriptions from best to worst. If yours doesn't win, you need to conduct other tests to find out why.

2. The circle test

This test is designed to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your description. Using it, you have professionals working in the field or potential applicants go through your description. Ask them to place a W by each WOW factor, circle each element that impresses, put a question mark by those that are confusing, and then an X through the factors that are a turnoff. Use these notations to improve your descriptions. You can also conduct this test on your competitor's descriptions to identify the most effective wording and any approaches that you might want to copy.

3. The one-minute test

This test is designed to see if people are excited enough after one minute of reading to want to spend more time evaluating the position. You give each evaluator one minute to review the description and then assess what percentage of the evaluators would be convinced enough to read more.

4. The search-term word test

This test is designed to make sure that each of the common job search terms in this job family appears in your job post description. Start by using Google analytics or by asking new hires what words they used in their job search strings. Simply use the "find" feature in MS Word to identify the number of required search terms that are included in each description.

5. The sales effectiveness test

The purpose of this test is to identify how many and which elements effectively "sell" the individual on the company in the job. Simply ask professionals in the field or potential applicants to quickly read your description and to circle the most effective selling components. You must ensure that your key attraction factors are not just presented or described, but that they are also effectively sold.

6. The job attraction factor test

The purpose of this test is to identify how many of the pre-identified "job attraction factors" are present in the description. Simply use the "find" feature in MS Word to identify the number of required attraction factors that are included in each description. The goal is to have 100 percent of them represented. Typical top performer job attraction factors might include "can't put it down" work, having a major impact, great coworkers, a chance to innovate and learn, exceptional freedom, and great technology.

7. The diversity test

This test is designed to see if the wording or the format of your descriptions is unintentionally discouraging diversity applicants. You can use a vendor like Textio or you can simply ask your diverse employees to identify the words and the format areas that may discourage diversity applicants.

8. The recollection test

It's based on the premise that an applicant might read several job postings over the period of 30 minutes before making a decision on which ones to apply to. This test is designed to reveal whether the reader remembers the key attraction and selling elements in your description after 30-60 minutes. Using this test, you ask professionals working in the field or potential applicants to read through five or more job postings. And then you ask them after 30 minutes to highlight from memory the factors that they remember in your description. You can consider your description successful when they can remember the top five key factors that you have pre-identified.

9. The "did you discourage the unqualified?" test

If one of your goals is to proactively discourage unqualified individuals from applying and clogging your system, you need to test whether your description does that effectively. Survey a sample of underqualified applicants to identify the phrases that would have to discourage them from applying. And then simply add those "discouraging phrases" to your posted descriptions to see if the percentage of unqualified applicants goes down.

10. The split sample real-world test

If you are really bold and want actual proof as to the improved effectiveness of your revised position descriptions, consider a split sample test. This is where you post the old position description on one job board and the revised "compelling description" on another similar job board (one that has produced similar results in the past). Then after several weeks compare the number and quality of applicants in order to prove that the use of the compelling description performs better. To get more accurate results, after two weeks switch the postings between the two job boards to see if the compelling description continues to outperform. If you measure quality of hire, you should eventually run the numbers to see if your revised job post descriptions over time get more hits, produce better quality applicants, and result in better quality hires (i.e. higher on-the-job performance and retention).

By Sonia Desrosiers with mention of Dr John Sullivan's article:

Your Job Postings Aren't Attracting Top Applicants, And A Simple Test Will Prove It

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