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Three steps to writing job descriptions that work

By Jay Munro, Indeed Employer Insight Strategist, ANZ

More than a third of recruiters would rather be spending less time on writing and posting job descriptions, even though on average, only 11% of their day is spent on this task [1].

But when 62% of job seekers say that a job description that fits their skills, qualifications and ambitions is the deciding factor in their decision to apply for a role, recruiters who skimp on the details do so at the risk of missing out on the best fit candidate for the role [2].

Recruiters are generally confident that the job descriptions they post are appropriate to the role – in fact, 72% of them believe that the job descriptions they write are clear. But when it comes to job seekers, the view is less favourable – only 36% of them agree that the job descriptions they read are clear*.

So, if we accept that a clear and accurate job description is what it takes to coax the best-matched candidates to apply for the role, there are three simple steps that recruiters can take to ensure their job descriptions are standing out for the right reasons.

  1. Step into the job seeker’s shoes

If you’re serious about getting the attention of great candidates, think about the content and format that they’d like to see in a job description.

On average, job-seekers spend just 49.7 seconds looking at a job description that doesn’t appear to be a good match, and 76.7 seconds when it does**.

What you include in your job descriptions, and how you lay it out is key to keeping a job seeker’s attention. Here’s one way you can do this.

Break the job description up into four distinct sections that cover:

  1. the scope and responsibilities of the role, including the day-to-day activities
  2. the qualifications and requirements expected for the role
  3. the benefits on offer – include any enticing perks that the company provides
  4. background information about the company and an indication of the company’s culture. Aim to drive the candidate to your website for more information here, or your Indeed Company Page and social media accounts.
  1. Make data your friend

When you advertise a job on Indeed, you’ll have access to in-depth analytics about how the ad is performing. Review the performance of the ad after a few days of it being live. The analytics will help to explain why your ad is getting lots of applications, or not enough – in which case, you’ll be given some suggestions for changing the ad to improve results.

If your ad isn’t getting the impressions or clicks that you would expect, you may need to revise the job title. Avoid using internal jargon for a job title when it’s not widely recognised by job seekers. While a “Data Ninja” might be a starring role within your office, it’s unlikely that people will be searching for it.  The job title you advertise should give a clear indication of what the role entails – it’s worth taking a look at the job titles your competitors are using too.

If your job ad isn’t converting clicks to applications, you may need to optimise the job description. Make sure the information you’ve included is relevant and that key words accurately describe the role responsibilities. Consider the length of the job description too – Indeed data shows that descriptions between 700 and 2,000 characters may receive up to 30% more applications than those that are longer or shorter [3].

  1. Be a storyteller

Your employer brand is very important to job seekers – when they’re researching potential employers,  58% of job seekers want to know more about work-life balance and 43% want to know more about the culture of the company [4]. Since the job ad is often the first touch point that a job seeker has with your company, it’s a great place to start to tell your company’s story.

If you’re proud of the benefits that your company offers employees, chances are candidates will find them appealing too, so elaborate on these perks in the benefits section of the job description. Benefits may be remote working options, wellbeing activities, volunteering programs, regular catered lunches – whatever they are, including them in the job description will help candidates to decide if they’ll apply for the role or not.

The job description serves the dual purpose of conveying a positive image of your company, while also attracting candidates that are best suited to the role. If you apply these three simple steps to craft a great job description, you’ll be a step closer to welcoming your next superstar hire.

Methodology: This research was conducted by Decipher/FocusVision on behalf of Indeed among 1,000 Australian job seekers in 2018.

Methodology: This research was conducted by Decipher/FocusVision on behalf of Indeed among 500 Australian job seekers between June and July 2016.

Methodology: Indeed data

Methodology: This research was conducted by Lonergan Research on behalf of Indeed, among 1,033 Australian job seekers in January 2019. 

*Source: TekSystems, “Making the Right Match: The Value of Effective Job Descriptions”

**Source: The Ladders, “Shedding Light on the Job Search”

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