How to Write Dynamic Job Descriptions That Actually Work (Guide to Hiring, Part 1)

8 min read

It is a job seeker’s market right now. Good talent is hard to find. But if you “treat your recruitment process like a sales process,” (as Kathleen Votaw puts it), you can find and attract the best talent today. In this “Guide to Hiring,” we’re going to cover everything from the job description to onboarding. And just as you have a process for marketing, qualifying, and attracting the right type of customer, so should you have a process for marketing, qualifying, and attracting the best candidates. And we’ll help you build it.

 

Most -as in almost all- job descriptions are very boring.

We want to attract the very best talent to us and just like with clients, every little detail in our marketing, our branding, and our messaging, matters.

The job description is often one of the first places candidates discover something about you. If you write a compelling, intriguing description, you end up piquing the interest of those who are also compelling and intriguing; if you write something boring and indistinct, you end up attracting anyone and, like clients, we don’t want to attract just anyone, we want to write dynamic descriptions so we can attract dynamic people who are the right fit.

We’ll look at the three key areas to a job description and provide general principles for each, the three key areas to write about are the candidate, the company, and the position.

 

About You

 

Two keys to remember about writing a job description is that, first, this is one-to-one communication, from you to the applicant, so you want to write in a more intimate tone and not speak “to everyone,” and second, you want to speak in your voice, the voice of your brand. Every brand has a voice, some are more serious, some are more playful, but every touchpoint in this process reveals something about you, the company, and the opportunity. You need to make every word count.

We’ll look at an example job description from RIGHTSLEEVE:

You’re an energetic and ambitious individual who is either fresh out of school or with a few year’s work experience and are ready to get your career on the fast-track in a high-growth, tech environment. A quick learner, you love talking to people and enjoy uncovering pain points. You’re a self-starter, and helping others is a natural impulse. Your listening skills help others warm to you and share with you easily. You know that sales is a long game, and that consistent follow up wins every time.

Notice that we’re using “you,” the second person voice, speaking directly to the applicant. Immediately, we clarify what type of experience we’re looking for in this role. We’re also using identifiers to help them map to their own disposition: quick learner, extrovert, loves talking to people, good listener, etc. And we’re using action verbs that reveal some of the activity they should enjoy and be prepared to employ. We’re also conveying some of the requirements demanded: tenacity, consistent follow-up, listening, etc.

And in a few words, we’re appealing directly to their sense of uniqueness and helping them self-identify with the role. By the time the candidate finishes with this part of the description, we want them to either identify strongly with this role or decide that it’s not them at all and opt out of even applying. We don’t want to discover within a few weeks after they are hired, that the job was a mismatch for them, we want them to say, “that’s me!”, to spark an immediate connection between who they are and who we need.

 

About the Job

 

One of the most overlooked purposes of the job description is to winnow out the unqualified, painting such a vivid picture of the actual work that you narrow the pool of candidates down to only those who can do the job, thereby saving yourself a ton of time. You want to be very clear and describe a “day in the life” of this position.

One mistake many make is they try to put too much in the description. You want candidates to read and remember the most salient points. Every job has a litany of tasks you can’t possibly fit into a job description, keep yours succinct and specific to the most essential priorities of the job. Also, bear in mind we live in a mobile world. Half of the employees from the ages of 18-29 do their job research and fill out their application on the phone.

Here’s an example:

In this internally based role, you will respond to sales inquiries and work toward closing business. In addition to being reactive to inbound leads, you will be proactive in re-engaging with longer-term leads already part of our pipeline.

  • Reviewing, contacting and qualifying inbound leads
  • Perform outbound email and phone prospecting campaigns based on internal lists
  • Work with marketing on lead gen sources and strategies.

You’ll notice we describe where they will work (internally) and discuss both the reactive elements of the job as well as the proactive requirements. We also share who they will be working with the most (in this case, prospects and clients). Clarifying their primary interaction is one of the most important elements of the description, again, we want them to identify with this role and say, “I can do that!” and conversely, if they’ve done this type of work before and it wasn’t a good fit, we want to filter out those candidates and attract only those who feel qualified or capable to do the work.

This part of the job description is crucial for managing expectations, you want them to know what they are getting themselves into with no surprises! The worst thing that can happen with the hiring process is to spend an inordinate amount of time attracting, qualifying, and onboarding someone, only to realize too late that they misunderstood the requirements and they leave, forcing you to begin the expensive process all over again.

 

About Us

 

What is your mission, your passion? What’s magical about working at your company? What is it about you that’s unique? Most companies will describe their businesses with boring industry jargon or they will simply state facts, but don’t reveal anything about the passion, character, or personality of the company. Can you imagine writing a dating profile like this?

I am an accountant who specializes in finance and I am located in the metro area. For over thirty-five years I have been a leader in accounting. I am seeking someone seriously interested in a fulfilling life.

But that’s how most businesses describe themselves: intro to industry, years of experience, “we’re looking for ambitious people.” (Aren’t we all?)

Remember that the recruiting and hiring process should be treated like the client attraction process, we’re selling candidates on why they should consider working with us. Here’s an example:

We are on a mission to change the way small businesses operate, democratizing software to enable an open playing field. We don’t just sell software; we care deeply about helping our customers build better businesses through content, events and a community for sharing.

Notice, we’re not only revealing our purpose but we’re using emotional language to convey our mission and our vision. According to one of the largest studies conducted about what employees want (Mercer’s Global Talent Trends Study), one of the top demands of the best talent today is “work with a purpose.”

A promotional products distributor serves an important purpose. You don’t just sell a product, you impact lives. All stakeholders are critical to the mission and the work we do benefits a very large community: clients, suppliers, employees and more. Everyone wants to do fulfilling work and this is the chance to hook your reader/candidate with a sense of purpose that motivates them to think about your company above other potential opportunities.

Reveal something about the culture of your company and the atmosphere, paint a vivid picture of who you are in a snapshot, express a little bit of your personality, and draw them in.

 

Aptitude and Attitude

 

What we want the job description to do is convey the aptitude needed by clearly communicating the requirements while mapping the attitude and intrinsic values of the company to the candidate.

Moreover, the job description is not just a written blueprint for the candidate, but also for you. There’s an old saying, thoughts disentangle themselves as they bypass the lips and go through the fingertips. By writing a job description, you codify in print what you are thinking in your head. In other words, it’s one thing to talk about “needing someone in sales” or “needing someone in support” but writing the job description brings clarity to your vision about this position and acts as the beginning of an employment contract between you and the candidate.

The job description process isn’t mundane or a necessary evil, it’s crucial to architecting the infrastructure of your business, it activates the imagination of the candidate, which then acts as a magnet for only those who are the right fit.