If you’re anything like me, you worry about how to write compelling  job descriptions that won’t be a complete flop.  They should really be treated like marketing documents, not simply a list duties.

As you know, I don’t believe that recruiters are to blame for a lot of what’s wrong with recruitment today. However,  we’re doing a horrible job of writing job descriptions.

There! I said it!

When I was an agency recruiter, my focus was on sourcing passive candidates, calling them and then talking about the job. Not on job descriptions.

So when I came in-house as a corporate recruiter where cold calling candidates wasn’t an option, I knew writing truly compelling job postings was key to attracting candidates. I also knew that my job posting writing skills needed work.  I’d often ask other recruiters for tips.

Job description statisticEither I was directed to job posting templates or given not-so-great advice.

Mediocre advice like:
  • Avoid using jargon
  • Include must-haves
  • Make sure it’s only a page long
  • Include employment terms
  • Use a template
… Yawn

Then it hit me — if I wanted to change the way we write job postings, I couldn’t ask the very people who have been writing them that way for years.

So, I started asking candidates I interviewed what they thought of our job postings. Over a two-week period, I got responses like “very informative” and “useful“.

Not the kind of stuff that fills you with pride.

Then finally, one candidate told me the truth. Thankfully, he was brutally honest.

“Your job postings sucks, but they all do”

He was right. It was boring, rigid and full of ‘corporate speak’. I had used our job postings template. Just to show how bad things were, the same template was often used for a Financial Analyst and a Java Developer. The two candidates couldn’t be more different.

And that, my fellow recruiters, is our colossal mistake when writing job postings – we don’t consider our audience.

The secret to writing compelling job postings is simple.

Speak your candidate’s language

Sounds easy enough, but you’ll have to do some of the leg work first. Meaning that you have to know your candidate inside out. Where do they hang out, what’s important to them, what do they want, what motivates them, etc.

In short, you need to have created a killer candidate persona before you even think about writing a job posting.

Candidate personas and compelling job postings go hand in hand.
Know your candidate to write compelling job descriptions

This is why the one-size-fits all job posting template doesn’t work.

I know what you’re thinking — I don’t have time to create a candidate persona for every job. That’s ok, you don’t have to. You can create candidate personas for job groups (ie: Developers, Accountants). Trust me, having personas will actually make your life easier.

As a job posting novice a few years ago, my most successful job posting was written for a Java Developer in Java code. I took the advice of speaking my candidate’s advice quite literally.

It’s not just the Java code that was successful, but it was clear from the Java Developer persona that what mattered to this type of candidate wasn’t the company’s stability, benefits or even compensation. What mattered to this candidate persona was the types of projects they would work on, the cutting edge technology they would use and the collaborative environment.

It worked!

It worked so well that our existing Developers were tickled enough by it to share the posting with their network.

The Developer who got hired said the posting was what initially caught his eye… works for me!

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