With the recession and high unemployment, it would seem that finding quality candidates would be easy. The conditions are right for an employers market, where hiring managers have the best pickings when hiring someone for a position. But, if that’s the case, then why are your pickings still below par?
The problem could be in the job description. A poorly written job description is not only a magnet for poor job candidates, but also a repellant of good job candidates. Who ends up applying for a position that’s generic, confusing, or even filled with grammatical errors and misspellings? A job hunter who isn’t paying that much attention. Make the good job candidates pay attention by “employing” a few simple tips and tricks.
- Use present tense, action verbs: If a good resume or cover letter utilizes such verbs, shouldn’t a good job description do the same? Take a look at this horrible job description the Stand-Up Philosopher found:
The Engineer will use an interdisciplinary approach to using engineering principles that will directly affect all of the engineering work and that occurs during the development, implementation, testing and performance checking the systems for this unit. Will be performing 2nd level maintenance for our client, including reviewing technical documentation to ensure accuracy.
Beside the fact that this description is just plain confusing, verbs like “use” and “performing” don’t paint a very clear picture of the skills necessary to do the job. If the job description doesn’t deliver a solid idea of what the job entails, and how the necessary skills are applicable, then no candidate worth hiring would consider applying in the first place. Consider how this example could be improved with verbs that actually describe the job at hand.
- Describe a “typical” day: This doesn’t imply that there’s a strict routine to the position that must be followed. But, every job has a core set of responsibilities and duties that need to be done a regular basis. Illustrating a typical day in the job description allows the job candidate insight into the necessary job skills as well as the social aspects of the position. Here’s another example of a bad job description:
- Bachelor's degree in business or equivalent combination of education and experience
- Two-plus years of administrative experience
- Microsoft Office Suite knowledge expected
- Self starter, high attention to detail, able to juggle multiple priorities and handle confidential communications
This job description says very little about what the person would actually doing on a day-to-day basis. Will the person be working with Excel, Powerpoint, Word, Entourage, or a combination of the four? Should a candidate highlight his/her previous administrative experience, or emphasize his/her excellent telephone skills? The job description doesn’t provide any clues, meaning the job candidate won’t take the time to tailor the application, or apply at all.
- Outline the goals: No one likes a dead end job, so end the mystery by putting the goals to achieve right in the job description. Once a candidate is hired, that person will be expected to go for those goals. So, why not let candidates know outright what those goals are, and maybe attract candidates that might actually be able to achieve them? It gives candidates something to highlight in their applications, while giving hiring managers something to discuss in the interview and a benchmark to use when selecting someone to hire.
- Update them from time to time: Not only is an outdated job description misleading to the new hire that’s doing something that wasn’t specified in the description, or the interview, but also an outdated job description doesn’t provide a good image of the company. Quality candidates don’t apply to positions with companies that aren’t professional at first glance. Also, a job description that doesn’t adequately describe the job could lead a company to legal troubles if something happens on the job, or a candidate files a discrimination complaint.
Keep in mind that the job description doesn’t end at “Your Hired!” Job descriptions have been used for many other purposes, such as job evaluation and analysis, compensation, career development, and even as evidence in court. Especially in the last scenario, having a poorly written job description could mean more hassle than having to sort through a ton of mediocre candidates. Overall, hiring managers should take the time to put together a quality job description. It’s the least they can do for the candidates who take the time to put together a quality application.