Craft the Right Job Description to Reach the Best Candidates

Companies are more likely to attract talented job seekers through
clear, concise job advertisements that don't skimp on helpful details.

Consider the prospects of two companies seeking to fill an important position through advertising on an employment Web site. Company one writes a few lines about the job and adds a company boiler plate. Company two crafts a finely detailed document. Which one lands the best candidates?

Easy question to answer, right? Company two. Yet many organizations don't create effective job ads, says the largest alliance of niche job boards. They fail to provide enough information, says They write unclearly or fill their copy with generalities. Instead, the Nicheboards group says firms should write better, more detailed job descriptions. Better ads will help companies attract better candidates, the group says.

"Companies should consider job ads as the opening page of a book," says Don Firth, the creator of and of member boards and, which are Internet leaders in the transportation / logistics and retail industries respectively. "If an ad leaves your audience cold, they're less likely to look farther. But if it's strong, you're more apt to hook your candidate. The job ad is an opportunity to create a powerful, positive first impression, one that will carry over throughout the hiring process." markets the services of 11 member job boards, each targeting a specific industry or group of professionals. Because of its members' rapidly growing audience – roughly 3 million and counting - and expertise, the confederation is considered a leading authority on workforce trends and practices.

How can your organization improve its advertising? Mr. Firth suggests you must first place yourself in the shoes of the candidates you're trying to attract. What information is essential?

* The ad should offer a clear description of the company, its culture and management style.
If the company has a good record of promoting from within its own organization, then mention it in the ad. This will appeal to many passive, upwardly-mobile candidates, who may currently be blocked within your competitors' organizations.
* Ensure that the ad is well-written with no typos or grammatical errors. Who wants to work for a firm that seems sloppy? Edit your prose painstakingly, looking for mistakes and better ways to say things.
* Ensure the layout is easy on the eye. A confusing layout may suggest that the company is not well-organized.
* Allow job seekers to readily apply online. Do not merely link the ad to your own job board, where the applicant has to search through a maze of links to find the job all ever again.
* List the key qualifications necessary to apply for the job.
* Alternatively, do not insist on unnecessary qualifications that might deter highly qualified candidates, E.g. Masters Degree in Business Admin. If such qualifications are ideal, but not mandatory, then mention them as 'desirable' or 'preferred.' After all, for most positions, successful on-the-job business experience is often more valuable than a candidate's former academic achievements.

Many organizations are too sparse in their descriptions, says Bill Gaul, the founder of Nicheboards member, which helps military personnel find jobs with civilian firms. They figure a few lines are enough to get things started, assuming mistakenly that job seeker would rather learn about a position as the recruiting process unfurls rather than before. A solid ad should meticulously outline a job's requirements, says Mr. Gaul. It should clearly state to whom someone must report. It should include key information about compensation, benefits and any signing bonuses. "People want to know specifics," says Mr. Gaul. "A company that doesn't provide this information is shortchanging job seekers."

Some companies are reluctant to list salary, fearing such information will help their competitors outbid them. Mr. Firth suggests providing a salary range. That way, prospective applicants can decide if the pay is sufficient without compromising company secrets. It also minimizes the number of applications from candidates who are either under-qualified or overqualified.

One more tip: If you have doubts about the quality of your ad, you may even want to consult your specialty job board. The best niche boards see thousands of ads in their industries. They know what works and what's awry in usage or tone. Tap into their expertise. The leading niche boards are closer to their customers and know more about their specific industry than the mega-boards. They will more-than-likely be pleased to review your ads and offer suggestions

"We believe that organizations that write great ads receive a significantly higher number of quality candidates," said Mr. Firth. "That can only help them build the best possible workforce."