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How to write a job description that people will actually apply to

Rena Nigam, founder and CEO - Meytier

The “Great Resignation” is underway. Combined with companies ramping up hiring after a difficult pandemic year has created a newly competitive talent market. As companies scramble to attract and hire great candidates to fill their teams, digital transformation has inundated every aspect of the job search process from video interviews, to remote work, to online tests. Yet, job descriptions, a candidate’s first impression of a company, still leave much to be desired.

Job descriptions are an incredibly important step in the job search process, and a well-written one is often the push candidates need to apply to a job. We believe job descriptions are ripe for disruption and transformation. It’s past time to change the way we look for people and how we present job opportunities.

With options suddenly blown open for candidates, here’s how you can write a great job description that people will actually apply to.

Why should they work for you?

  • Rather than jumping straight into your list of requirements, pitch your company to your prospective candidates first. Why should they work for you? What makes your company unique or exciting? What is your mission, how would you describe your culture? What are some possible avenues of upward mobility from this role? Before you start listing requirements, you need to give a candidate a reason to get excited about the role. Explain why your company is a place for candidates to grow in their careers, to align themselves with a greater mission, and to thrive.

Be honest about requirements

  • Job descriptions get handed between half a dozen individuals before making it to a company website or a job board, each of whom adds something to it. What they’re left with is usually a unicorn, an impossible list of requirements that no candidate could possibly fulfill. Checklist hiring is a huge detriment to companies and to candidates. Companies miss out on smart, capable people and candidates miss out on roles they could have thrived in. The truth remains that the first round of candidate eliminations is usually computer driven, matching resumes to job descriptions, and eliminating all but those who have claimed every skill on the job description. Hiring technology favors not the most qualified candidates, but the candidates who understand the job search process the best. Be honest about what’s really required to do the job.

Drop the jargon

  • How many job descriptions have you read that include words like “ninja”, “rockstar”, “genius”, “guru”, or “champion”? Too many, right? What does it even mean to be a software engineering ninja? We don’t know, and neither do your candidates. While job descriptions can be a great opportunity to help candidates get a feel for your company culture and personality, when it comes to the job itself, just keep it simple. Consider how this language might come off to candidates and what they might assume about your company and what it’s like to work there. This kind of language may also be holding people back from applying. Seriously, who would consider themselves a Javascript Guru?

Honesty and Transparency

  • Aside from an exciting company pitch and a list of requirements, be honest about what your open job entails. Share a comprehensive list of benefits that your future employee will enjoy, from health care to gym memberships, etc. If possible, include compensation ranges. We believe that all job descriptions should have the compensation range included. It will help candidates self-filter when seeking a number outside of that you’ve budgeted for the role, and it will help manage expectations as candidates move through the hiring process with you. Another thing we increasingly feel is non-negotiable in a job description after this past year is your workplace structure. Will this candidate be remote? Hybrid? In person? Is that set to change?

Get creative

  • We’d love to see companies get creative. Do job descriptions really need to be boring requirement lists? Could they instead be videos about the company and its mission? Or interviews with the team members that the prospective candidate will be working with? Perhaps if we want to truly live up to the ideal of hiring good people, and not just those who check every box, job descriptions will start asking candidates to demonstrate the ways they’ve learned through their careers, what their next passion project is, or what gets them excited to go to work when they wake up in the morning.

Lastly, we speak to dozens of business leaders, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and more every week, and when asked “How do you hire?”, they always give similar responses. The world’s top leaders report that they look for smart, capable people who are willing to learn, try new things, think outside the box, and challenge themselves and their peers. We often hear that hard skills hold less weight than well-developed soft skills, and that most leaders would rather have candidates who consider themselves lifelong learners rather than technical rockstars. Strangely though, despite the near universality of these views amongst leaders, job descriptions usually appear as less a descriptor of what an individual’s roles and responsibilities will be in any given job, and more a laundry list of skills and requirements of varying relevancy to the job. It’s time to change. In a time with so much competition for talent, we encourage you to look beyond your job descriptions for great people.

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