Your job description is a candidate’s first look at your company and the role. Good job descriptions inform; great job descriptions can attract and excite. But poor job descriptions can be fatal—they may attract unqualified candidates and even deter top talent from applying. Yikes! Not only are you missing out on the cream of the crop, but you’ll waste time reviewing applications from candidates that simply don’t fit the bill.
Anyone can follow these recommended practices, and yet somehow, not everyone does. Poor job descriptions are all over job boards, and they can be more problematic than you think. So, a word of advice: learn from these mistakes.
Now hiring experienced wizards
We get it. There are things way more exciting than “software engineer.” But you can still show off your fun, light-hearted culture in other ways than the job title itself, like in the “about the company” section. Why? Well, I don’t know many Jedis or ninjas, much less any in the job market. And the 42.9% of job seekers who are searching for their next job on an SEO-powered job board are not likely searching for “Jedi Developer.“ As fun as these titles are, you’re instantly limiting the reach of your job posting before you even get rolling. That’s the opposite of fun!
On top of that, and perhaps more importantly, you may be setting unclear expectations of the role’s responsibilities and objectives. “Operations Ninja” and “Technical Wizard” are epic job titles, but it’s tough to say what people in those roles actually do. The point of a job description is to make super clear the expectations of the position.
“Work hard, play hard” makes hiring hard
“Work hard, play hard is our motto." This "cool" way of saying the company has a fun work environment that values results actually gets used all the time and is incredibly popular among startups aiming to attract young, hungry talent. While the mentality may be true, you do indeed respect hard work and enjoy celebrating with the team, clichés like this can deter highly qualified candidates and inherently create bias in your hiring. Many even associate work hard, play hard with “bro” culture where "playing hard" is an expectation. Sure, social skills are important to many roles, but it’s critical to remember that you’re hiring a marketing manager or a software developer, not a drinking buddy. Don’t deter people who may not be interested in that type of environment, even if it isn’t the reality.
Riding the high horse
Hiring is a two-way street. Remember: good candidates have options. If you’re actively courting a candidate, it would be naive to think that another company isn’t doing the same. As much as candidates need to sell themselves as the right fit for a role, you need to reciprocate. That starts with a job description that makes top talent want to apply.
It’s tough to imagine someone reading this Sales Agent job description and thinking, “Wow! Now, this is the job I want!” There are some serious negative, and perhaps condescending, vibes from this hiring manager. When a candidate picks up the tone here, they’ll naturally assume the hiring manager or company leadership exhibits that same demeanor every day. Of course the hiring team doesn’t want to hire a grouch. Grouches are tough to work with and certainly make terrible salespeople. But how can one phrase that in a more positive light?
How’s this? “Looking for individuals with a positive, can-do attitude who are excited to learn and bring their all to the role.” Wow, sign me up! That shift from negative to positive language completely shifts the job description’s tone, painting a more compelling picture of the role and the company. Never forget that job descriptions are a reflection of a company’s brand to prospective applicants. When writing a job description, language is everything.
Complete disregard for EEO regulations
Absolutely not. Using gender-biased language like this is a form of discrimination. Any form of discrimination in hiring is a big “no-no,” and this one doesn’t just cross the line; it bulldozed right through it. Whenever you’re hiring, be aware of the law during each step of the hiring process, including the language in job descriptions. The EEOC’s guidelines are crystal clear and will help you write job descriptions that won’t get you stuck in court. While perhaps this company wants to improve its diversity, hiring is about finding the best candidate for their merits, not their gender. A couple of ways to effectively and ethically boost diverse hiring include sourcing from more diverse candidate pools or posting to diversity-focused job boards, to name a few.
Required: Ability to time travel
This job description received a lot of press when a candidate recognized that the job called for 12 years of experience in a technology that has existed for only six years. Funny in this context, it’s tough to imagine any actual candidates applying to that role. This mistake likely happened due to a communication lapse between the hiring manager and whoever wrote the job description. Whenever writing a job description, due diligence is critical. If the hiring manager isn’t running the recruitment process themself, they need to work closely with whoever is (e.g, recruiter) to define the skills most important to the role and the proficiency you expect from candidates.
Never heard of spell check
Like we said, your job description represents your organization and the expectations you hold for the role. Similar to how you wouldn’t likely hire candidates with spelling and grammar issues on their resume, the same thinking applies to candidates when reviewing your job description. Sloppy and careless spelling and grammar errors, especially ones easily caught by a spell-check tool, say that your organization doesn’t value attention to detail.
So that’s it! This list doesn’t cover every mistake in the book but should give you an idea of what to not aspire to when opening up your next role. And when that time comes, you can brush up on best practices or tap WhoCo to help. Our data-driven hiring platform will help you build a beautiful, robust job description that will set you up to make the right hire. Learn more.
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