HR Dilemma: Why Your Job Ads Aren't Attracting the Right Talent

Business.com / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

To discover simple techniques to enhance a job description, we sought out the advice of veteran hiring experts, recruiters and headhunters.

Did you know that one in three U.S. employers report a difficulty filling their positions? Most HR departments blame this on what appears to be a growing skills gap in the job market.

With a third of companies struggling to find the right candidates, the competition among HR managers to fill positions is at an all time high. Headhunters and recruiters need to find new and creative ways to ensure that they don’t lose their edge.

One way to do this is to beef up the descriptions in your job ads. Most job descriptions miss the mark when it comes to reflecting the actual needs of the role and attracting quality talent. Potential applicants are either left wondering what the job is all about or uninterested in working for the company.

To discover simple and effective techniques to enhance a job description, we sought out the advice of veteran hiring experts, recruiters, and headhunters.

Here is what they came up with.

Related Article: HR Horror Stories: What’s the Absolute Worst Thing You Could Do on the Job?

Be As Specific As Possible

“The biggest problem candidates face when they read a job description is understanding what the job is,” says Angela Copeland, career coach and author of Breaking the Rules and Getting the Job. “So often, companies either give a vague, generic description—or an overly creative one.”

job description; aggressive salesman

Image via Morris Business Cartoons

According to Tyron Giuliani, Executive Recruiter and Partner at Tokyo's leading boutique firm, Optia Partners, “hiring managers need to ask 'what does this person need to achieve in the short, mid and long term in this role’ and what are the main challenges/problems to be solved.” 

Giuliani offers an example of how to improve the phrasing of bullet points below.

Instead of simply stating that the candidate: 

  • Must have ten years experience in sales
  • Must be a team builder

Be more specific and convert the above points to:

  • Grow sales by 12% within 12 months
  • Evaluate, plan and hire three new sales members over six months to tackle retail channel

The key is to be very clear and straightforward in the job description. Describe the position, the responsibilities and necessary skills.

Look for Intangible Traits

In addition to required education, experience, and skill sets, the CEO of Cream of the Crop Leaders, Sioux Messinger, suggests that employers also seek relevant character traits. “Including desired character traits in job descriptions is also important because many job-function skills are trainable,” says Messinger.

Messinger explains that “including sought character traits in job descriptions ignites excitement” and “clearly outlines a company performance culture.”

HR Dilemma; hiring a cat

When David Newell hires interns at Travertine—a company that makes luxury body-care products—he uses the job description to target specific characteristics. “Since Travertine is a luxury body-care line, we may emphasize that a candidate should be conscious of what they use on their skin, fashionable and not afraid to chat with important clients,” says Newell. These are intangible qualities that cannot necessarily be taught, but are as essential to the position as the applicant’s prior experience and education.

Related Article: Hiring the Hero: 9 Traits to Look For in Successful Candidates

Make the Job Description Visually Appealing

Alys Scott of PeopleFluent, is an expert at recruiting and recommends companies put a creative spin on their job descriptions through the use of video. Scott “believes that video can provide a window into a company's culture or organizational structure, explaining why a candidate should apply, or outlining what a specific role will entail in a much more engaging format than a bulleted list.” 

snoopy job description

Image via Hubpages

The VP of Marketing at Panopto, Ari Bixhorn, agrees that video is an effective way of attracting the best candidates. “Video is a more engaging medium than text,” says Bixhorn. “Video allows HR reps to show elements of the job, either through slide presentations or videos clips spliced into the job description.”

Including a video in your job description is a great way to put a face on an otherwise faceless company. Being able to hear and see their potential manager helps to make job seekers feel more comfortable during the application process.

Finally, adding a video to your job desctiption is effective when trying to target millennials. As Scott points out, a video can help demonstrate that “a company is on the cutting edge of technology, especially when hiring millennials, as it shows the company is using the same technology at work that they're using on their personal devices.”

Related Article: 13 Ways to Attract a More Diverse Candidate Base

Be Unique

“One of the biggest mistakes HR makes with their job descriptions is they follow the herd,” claims Leigh Davis, an experienced HR consultant. “The logo may be different, the description, duties and pay may be worded slightly different than other ads, but they follow the same genre which only talk about what the company wants and duties required.”

To ensure that your job description stands out, Davis advises HR departments to try asking “a question in your ads to engage the interest of readers instead of copying and pasting duties from the company handbook.”

be unique; comic

Image via Cartoon Stock

The CEO and founder of PeopleFoundry, Michelle Joseph, encourages employers to add a bit a humor and personality to their job ads. She points to an example from a Meetup job posting that describes the company as: 

“Born back when 3-D pixelated babies danced, bananas shouted "peanut butter jelly time" and phones only had one app: phone.”

Including some humor in your job description shows job seekers that you are not some soulless business only worried about increasing the bottom line, but are instead an exuberant and fun-loving company to work for. 

Another suggestion to help your job description stand out comes from Ivan Casanova of Jibe, the creator of several recruiting software tools. Casanova proposes that employers use a more unique call to action instead of “apply now.” Casanova indicates that: 

“To use marketing speak, the traditional call to action on a job description is ‘apply now.’ But now we are seeing alternatives - for example: ‘Not ready to apply? Share some basic information and we'll get back to you when the job exists.’
 
In many cases it can be nothing more than a simple ‘enter your email address’ that allows job seekers to receive notifications for similar positions that may interest them. Once job seekers opt-in to receive job alerts, the automated system can then alert them as positions are posted, with personalized emails about openings often matching location and position-specific parameters they chose in the first place." 

Final Words

Do yourself a favor and make your recruiting process easier by following the tips above. The job description is your best chance to make a good first impression and attract quality talent. Keep in mind that job seekers sift through job descriptions like hiring managers sift through resumes, so you may only have their attention for a moment.

Make it count.

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