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Get the Most Out of your Job Description

Get the Most Out of your Job Description

By: Catherine Conlan

When it’s time to bring someone new into your company, you don’t want to waste any time. You probably already have a pretty good idea of the ideal candidate, so how are you going to quickly convince them that you’re their ideal employer?

A first-rate job description is a big part of finding the perfect candidate for your open position. Candidates look for certain things when reading job descriptions, so you’ll want to give them the answers they need when trying to decide whether to apply.

These tips will put you on the right path.

Set a Tone in the Job Ad
If your job description sounds boring, who’s going to apply? The same bland descriptions will bring you the same bland candidates, says Kelly Poulson, vice president of talent and operations at Allen & Gerritsen, an advertising firm headquartered in Boston. Go beyond dry, institutional language to paint a picture of what it’s like to work at your organization.

A job description at a go-get-‘em startup will likely have a fun and casual tone, for example, while a large, conservative financial institution may exude an image that’s a little more traditional. Keep your job ad’s tone authentic to your company brand so candidates know whether they’ll be a good fit.

“As a job seeker, you’re looking at the job and you’re wondering, what’s in this job for me? Why do I want to come and work at this company?” says Seth Matheson, senior delivery manager at Talent Fusion. “Don’t be afraid to be creative. We’re starting to see a lot of people pulling in multimedia components, whether it’s audio, video or pictures.”

Use a Consistent Format
Putting your job description in a template can make it easier to scan and understand. Start with a summary of what the job is, including what makes it appealing. Then, list the job qualifications of the ideal candidate.

Follow this with the job requirements, remembering that a senior job title should require a higher level of experience. When listing skills or requirements, put the most important ones first, and then “preferred” or “would be nice” items lower down.

Then, list what your company has to offer by way of unique benefits. Include standout perks and describe your company culture in a way that people who fit it will understand.

At the end of every job description, include a single, clear call to action to maximize the job apply process.

Ask for Exactly What You Want
A job description can be a checklist both for the employee and the employer. As such, it outlines major responsibilities that the position requires and your expectations as an employer, says Carmen Mackins, vice president of operations of Globelist, a New York City-based fashion marketing and distribution company.

Be specific about the experience, job skills and education that you want the ideal candidate to have. “Don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you want in an employee. The people that are dedicated to the position and are determined to work hard will apply and you will have a more tailored pool of candidates to choose from.”

Describe a Typical Day on the Job
Candidates want to be able to visualize what the job is like, and any information you can include about what a typical day might include will help them do that. “Ask the best of the best currently in the role what it is they actually do,” says Rick Whitted, who produces the On Your Way to Work podcast.

What does an average day look like in the role? What tasks do people in this role complete? What might they be called upon to do from time to time? What opportunities await the new hire? Including this type of information in your job description will help candidates understand what the job will be like — and whether they’d be the person to do it.

Hold Onto the Job Description
Once you’ve hired someone to fill the position, that doesn’t mean the job descriptions should be shelved. Instead, use it as a reference point to manage performance and measure success in the role, recommends Marc Prine, director of talent consulting and assessment for Taylor Strategy Partners in Philadelphia.

After all, the job description first defined the position to the applicant. Going forward, it can be a useful roadmap to determine what success looks like and how the role might change in the future.