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How to fix your job description in 10 minutes

Having a solid job description is the first step to finding great hires...

The hiring process can be equally as stressful and frustrating for the company as it is for the candidates. In an article published on LinkedIn, the fastest median turnaround (from the moment the candidate applied to their first day on the job) was 33 days and this is only applicable to the least technically-demanding jobs. That’s, on average, a month for the candidate to hear back from the company, go through multiple rounds of interviews, and receive a decision.  

So, imagine how long the hiring process is for the company, especially when the right applicant does not apply on the first day…or is not even in the first hiring round. There are many points at which problems or delays can pop up but having a poorly written job description can set off a chain reaction of increasingly growing issues with the applicant pool.

Over the years, both our experts and our AI at nugget.ai have read through many job descriptions and filtered through many resumes trying to find the perfect match between candidate and company. The goal of this article is to point out some common pain points we have seen in the formatting or content of a job description and outline the ways to better it to increase the chances of successful and rapid hiring.

Common Issues

  1. Too much information

When people apply for jobs, they are likely applying to many and don’t have the luxury of cherry-picking which roles and companies they apply to. According to ERE.net, people spend an average of 40 seconds skimming a job description before they apply to it. That means a company has 40 seconds to make sure people have all the necessary information to decide whether they are the right fit for the job. If the job description is too verbose, people can get lost or impatient and miss vital information that would qualify or disqualify them for the role. So, companies either miss out on the right candidate or end up with an applicant pool saturated with ill-fitting candidates.  

However, there is a workaround to having a longer job description, and that is organizing it well. Some job descriptions will go into detail about benefits, “a day in the life”, team culture, etc. These can be very helpful for candidates who may have the skills, but may not mesh with the organization as well as they hoped. Having a clear separation between different sections can allow candidates to find the information they value without having to read through the whole listing.  

  1. Too little information

On the other end of the spectrum, some job descriptions are so short that it can result in a mismatched applicant pool for different reasons. The reasons are usually one of two types:

a) The criteria are too broad

Being concise is one thing but being clear is equally as important. A job description containing broad experience ranges, technical skills that a lot of people have, and a wide range of degrees and backgrounds can be beneficial if the role does not have many requirements and/or is largely trainable. However, if the company is not being honest about the type of person they are actually willing to hire, then it becomes a problem because the candidate can hit every point in the job description and still not be hired.

If there is something that the company is looking for specifically – certain attitudes, a specific background of work experiences, etc. – then including it in the job description can attract people who are keyword searching those exact criteria and discourage people who are not the right fit for applying. A candidate should never finish reading the job description and be unsure whether or not they meet the criteria.  

b) Vital information is missing  

It may seem obvious to include things like the necessary education, amount of experience, and responsibilities of the job for novice hiring managers. However, there are so many basic facts about a job that can stop a candidate in their tracks and should have been clear on the job description. For example, a common emerging trend is  

  • Is the work remote? Will it stay that way after things after settled from pandemic?  
  • What are the hours? If someone were to apply from out of country, what hours/timezones can they be expected to work within? Is it flexible?
  • How would the company/team’s work culture be described? Hiring someone who fits your company culture can reduce turnover and increase performance.  
  • What can someone gain from working with the company, especially in comparison to other (potentially bigger) companies? Are there specific benefits or career opportunities that can help your company stand-out?
  • What soft/people skills will be expected from the person? (This is still applicable to technical roles like programmers because no job exists in a bubble.)  
  • For more information about nugget.ai’s soft-skill testing, click here.  

These are just some examples but making sure that every important point that can make or break a job offer is included at the very first step, rather than this coming out once time and effort have been dedicated to the interview.  

  1. Valuing the wrong information

How certain requirements or expectations are prioritized should be clear to both the company and the applicant. This means being clear of what is an absolute requirement versus what is a preference for someone in this position. If there is something listed within the requirements that is trainable or would not disqualify a candidate if they were a rockstar in every other way, then it is not a requirement, but a preference.  

However, distinguishing between must-haves and nice-to-haves can often leave companies placing emphasis on certain aspects of a candidate’s background that don’t actually speak to their capability. For example, focusing on the years of experience rather than the quality of experience. Or requiring a university degree when a college diploma could result in an equally qualified candidate, especially if they have more work experience or just a better attitude and willingness to learn.  

It is vital to determine what is actually needed to succeed in the job and where one’s own personal bias may be seeping in. If, objectively, a university degree from a renowned institution is not actually required for the job, then being clear that it is a preference on the job description can increase the applicant pool. However, then this needs to be equally respected when actually selecting applicants for interviews.  

Tips to Improve:

Although every job and its job description can require different pieces of information and can be presented in different ways, here are some general tips to make a job description that attracts the right candidates:

  • Use bullet points when possible, to help candidates effectively skim the information (because they will skim it)
  • Be honest about exactly the kind of person you are looking for
  • Provide information about company culture and what would make an applicant a good fit for your company and the role
  • Cap a job description at 500 words (or about a page in length)
  • Be explicit in how your company stands out from other companies (either by providing an “About Us” section, or listing some benefits about working for the company – flexible hours, remote, fun, etc.)  

Whether you’re a new hiring manager struggling to write your first job description, or a seasoned veteran unsure about how to adjust a job description in the rapidly changing job hunt, here is a template you can use to get started. We wish you the best of luck on your next hiring endeavour, and if you are looking for help, contact us to see how nugget can help you recruit and select candidates today!