4 questions every job description needs to answer

Article by Jeremy Langevin
Sep 22, 2020
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Have you ever come across a job description that was just a laundry list of qualifications? Or one that glossed over the open position but waxed poetic about the company culture? Or one that was about as long as a haiku?


If a resume is a poor representation of a candidate’s abilities, job descriptions aren’t a great way to represent an employer and the position they’re hiring for. It’s a static description for a dynamic role. On both sides of the table, these industry standards are cogs in a clunky hiring process that’s in desperate need of a facelift.

In the U.S., 69% of employers struggle to fill jobs — the highest percentage in over a decade — and poorly written job descriptions aren’t doing hiring managers any favors. As a staffing firm, an accurate job description gives us a much better shot at finding the right candidates for our clients.

Otherwise, we’re building a house on a faulty foundation — we get the information into the hands of our recruiters, talk to thousands of candidates, whittle down the list, submit candidates to the client and go through the cumbersome interview process. But if the job description is lacking, the client is less likely to end up with the person they need. And we’re back to square one.

So what’s the solution? Long-term, I believe the video route is the best way to make job descriptions more dynamic. In fact, 51% of candidates would be more attracted to a company that had job postings with video and other interactive content. Ideally, hiring managers would record a short video where they broke down duties, requirements, company culture and the long-term prospects of accepting the assignment.

In turn, the candidate would view the clip and send the hiring manager a video recording of their own to communicate their interest, what makes them a good fit and why they’re excited to be part of the company’s future. Ultimately, this would streamline the hiring process and pave the way for much stronger potential matches.

But until the hiring processgets to this point, you can improve your job descriptions in the short-term by answering these four key questions.

What will the candidate actually be doing?

Get specific. Too many job descriptions are generic templates that outline roles and responsibilities in the vaguest terms. For instance, if an enterprise is hiring a project manager in a highly specialized capacity, a templated description of an all-purpose PM’s duties won’t cut it.

Less is more and candidates don’t have time to wade through a wall of text. Be concise and consider including frequencies and percentages to give the candidate an idea of how they’d be spending their time at your firm.

What do they need to possess to succeed?

To answer this question, think beyond technology proficiencies and technical skills and include things like soft skills and emotional IQ. You’re hiring a person, not a machine, and people are wired differently.

Keep in mind — the average cost of one bad hire is nearly $15,000. It pays off to think about the DNA of your company and include some language in your job description about the qualities that are needed to thrive in your environment.

Where is the job?

While the vast majority of the workforce adapted to the work-from-home life during the first few months of COVID-19, some employers are beginning to encourage or instruct their teams to return to the office. And in some cases, hiring managers are looking for candidates who are willing to start out remotely, but who live within commuting distance so they can come in down the line. Whether your company has fully embraced the remote model, or you’d prefer employees to work in-house, it’s more important than ever to be clear about this on your job description.  

What’s in it for the candidate long-term?

Gone are the days where you could fill your job descriptions with buzzwords. “Wordsmith” is guaranteed to make any copywriter groan, while “Rockstar developer” is a surefire way to alienate IT professionals. 

Today’s candidates care about substance over style — they want to know what’s in it for them in the long run. Two in five employees consider leaving their company due to lack of career advancement. To excite your future employee, mention cutting-edge skills and technologies they’ll learn, talk about their career path and touch on their long-term opportunities at your firm.

As you assemble your future job descriptions, consider making them more interactive by having your hiring manager record a brief video where they answer these four questions. Then, have HR share the video with candidates so they can hear from the hiring manager themselves — helping them determine if the role is a good fit.

Is your company ready to evolve and improve on the traditional hiring process? We’d like to talk to you.

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