Writing Better Job Descriptions Leads to a Richer Harvest of Candidates

Many companies don't spend enough time creating informative and appealing job descriptions.

To attract the best candidates online, many companies need to craft better and more complete job descriptions, says the leading group of niche employment Web sites. Internet ads are rapidly become the leading source of candidates.

Nicheboards.com says that many companies make fundamental mistakes in their job advertisements. They fail to include vital information about a position or their company. In other cases, they publish ads with grammatical mistakes, or that are visually unappealing. Such sloppiness leaves a bad impression on job seekers, making them less likely to apply for a position.

“It’s the old story, 'put your best foot forward',” says Don Firth, a founder of Nicheboards.com and chief executive officer of two of its member boards, AllRetailJobs.com and JobsInLogistics.com, which target the retail industry and the transportation, distribution and logistics industries. “Companies that want to woo the best job candidates in a competitive market must make a 'good first impression.' The job advert should portray the company as a desirable place to work, and the job as a challenging and fulfilling career opportunity."

The 12-member Nicheboards group receives more than 3 million visitors per month and posts more than 100,000 jobs. Each site in the confederation is a leading source of job advertisements and job seekers in one industry or profession. Because of Nicheboards.com’s widespread success in filling positions, it is widely respected for its expertise on recruiting issues. Last month, several members of the alliance announced that their revenues had increased from 50% to more than 100% during the first half of 2005.

Targeted job boards have become increasingly popular among companies who value their specific audience and personalized attention. Some members of the Nicheboards group regularly help their clients craft better job descriptions. “We know our clients and their needs,” says Bill Gaul, the founder of Nicheboards.com member DestinyGrp.com, a site targeting specifically transitioning military personnel for employment opportunities. “We take a deep interest in their success.” Nicheboards.com members say that organizations that follow a few simple rules outlined below garner the most responses from their ads. “Companies should think logically about their job ads,” says Mr. Firth. “They have to make the experience of job seekers as easy as possible.”

Be complete: Potential workers want to know what they may be getting into. Job descriptions should be as appealing to prospective candidates as advertisements are to potential customers/clients. Give candidates the information they need to know what they're applying for. If an employer is vague or incomplete, job seekers may be less likely to apply. Instead, it’s best to tell them as much about a job as possible, beginning with the required skills and minimum background. Will they have to relocate? What are the responsibilities of the position? What are the salary requirements and benefits? Companies should put themselves in the place of a possible applicant, anticipating their every query.

Tell your story: Companies aren’t all built alike. They have different strategies, cultures and ways of doing business. Some people do better in one environment than another. Give job seekers a profile of your company to decide if yours is the right one for them. Sell your company as you would sell your products or services. Remember, it's a bigger decision to spend years or a lifetime working for your company than it is to purchase one of your products.

Look good: Image may not be everything, as Andre Agassi used to say. But it counts heavily when you’re trying to impress people. A sharp-looking ad is more likely to attract a good candidate than a slapdash one. Think of people’s reading habits. Don’t make them work too hard, lest you lose them. Large swathes of uninterrupted writing may seem daunting. Use paragraph breaks, white space, sub headlines and bullets to break up copy and structure your ads.

Mind your commas: …and spellings and subject-verb agreement. Bad grammar suggests carelessness, not the type of image that any company wants to project. It’s understandable that people want to work for companies that are thorough, neat and detail-oriented and avoid those that aren’t. Read your descriptions several times. “A few extra minutes of copy editing can do your organization a tremendous service,” says Mr. Firth. “Take care. Don’t rush.”