Creating job descriptions is an incredibly important task that can make or break your candidate search. It’s typically the first piece of information that prospective hires see when deciding to apply for your open positions. A good rule of thumb is the better the job description, the better the candidate pool.
We interviewed veteran tech recruiter and entrepreneur, Alison Daley. She and her team created Recruiting Innovation, a fully fledged online tech recruiter program. Her organization helps tech recruiters understand how to attract the best candidates, how to communicate with them and what technologies today’s software engineers use to ensure they’re up-to-date with the latest trends.
During our interview, we uncovered a plethora of knowledge directly from the source to understand how to create highly effective job descriptions.
“First hand experience of how difficult it is to learn about tech roles. Roles in the tech industry are like a foreign language for the normal recruiter. I knew first hand that learning is modular, and learning that language is not as accessible for tech. After running into it my entire career, I thought it was time to create something for the industry I loved so much. The experience was all the motivation I needed.”
“Especially in tech, candidates can go anywhere right now. We need to entice them every step along the recruiting process, and one of the first experiences they have is the job description. We want to, in the first 30 seconds with their eyeballs on our job description, to be excited about the opportunity, be able to assess if their a good fit and also start to get a good feel for what kind of company and work environment that they would be applying to. Tech candidates are more discerning and maybe a bit cynical, so it’s important to give a positive first impression. Giving a positive first impression is a good way to stand out.”
“I think as recruiters, one of the easiest and often overlooked things that we can do is when we are speaking with the hiring manager about the role to ask them directly, ‘Why would the ideal candidate want this job?’ That allows them to tell us how to sell the role to the right kind of candidate. That information should be at the very top of the job description. One thing I want to point out, all of the job descriptions should start with why this opportunity is awesome.”
“I think the most important aspect of writing a good job description is writing the description with the target candidate in mind. It’s not just about stating out the nuts and bolts, but really positioning it as why it’s a great opportunity for moving forward instead of reflecting back.
You want to have what’s going to appeal to a candidate for the team they work with, the culture, the company they work for, the problems they get the solve and the technology they use.
Also, ensuring that we’re thinking toward the future for this candidate - that there’s an element of how this helps the world. Many millennial candidates want to be mission driven, answering how do you tie it into the bigger picture of life? All of those things needs to be covered in a job description. If they only have the job description and the profile, you’re not going to convince anyone that they should commit to that job over any of the 15 other jobs they’re considering.”
“What repels candidates is the kitchen sink job description. Basically, some kind of Frankenstein of a bunch of different job descriptions. It’s asking for everything and the kitchen sink in terms of background and requirements. A laundry list. What that signals to a candidate is that first, they don’t know what they’re looking for, second, they have unrealistic expectations for what a single person can do, and finally, it gives an impression of chaos, and no one wants to work in chaos.
To attract candidates, lead with why they would be interested, phrasing it in a way that speaks directly to them. It’s written in a way that they can see themselves in the role, see who they work with, and see the problems they’re solving. Add personality and thoughtfulness to it. The work itself needs to be compelling, along with the team and the solutions. Not just the details. The content matters too, but writing a job description in a way that they could see themselves in that position.”
“I would say because tech is getting more competitive and an influx of non-traditional candidates are in the market, it’s important that the job description is written in a way that would attract a mature, diverse set of candidates. You don’t want to use gendered terms. Sometimes you see certain things postured towards male language without even realizing it.
Another thing to avoid would be terms such as rockstar, ninja, badass, etc. They sound like such bro culture and you will turn people off. They’re 100% cliche and it’s over selling. Candidates don’t like to feel sold.
Those terms reflect a younger, male archetype. Recruiters often use these terms more than technical people so it doesn’t relate. One thing we could highlight is talking about work-life balance, value oriented culture and solid benefits.
Because of the known existence of imposter syndrome, which is especially strong in non-traditional technical candidates and professionals, a much better way of reaching the most talented individuals is discussing the qualifications, instead of years of experience. It’s more about what they’re able to do with the tool.
Instead of three years with java, it’s more important to phrase the profile that you need. For example, ‘Do you have experience debugging XYZ program? Or, have you successfully migrated a platform into a micro services platform?’
It’s much more important when making the description for the ideal candidate to phrase it in terms of actionable achievements that this person has accomplished.
In tech, years are arbitrary, you’re learning new tech every year anyways, so experience should be about what you have achieved and what you can accomplish. It should be focused on what you can do instead of how long you’ve been doing it.”
Daley’s points are spot-on. To recap:
To get even more tips on how to effectively create job descriptions, we encourage you to participate in Daley’s online course. Results from past students have led to improved time-to-fill rates by nearly 40%.
If you’re looking for help with your recruiting efforts right now, reach out to our team.
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