How to Write Job Descriptions Guaranteed to Attract-A-Players
I was reading a job ad the other day in a prominent publication targeting the plastics industry. This particular ad would cost around $6,000 to run four times. The ad was just awful, containing many of the elements discussed below. Here are the top five things I see that companies DO NOT do right.
First, they do not start with information about the company that might pique the interest of a top performer. I see ads that don’t even identify the company at all; such as ‘an injection molder in the Midwest’. Someone is going to have to be pretty desperate for a job to apply to that. Take a paragraph to tell the story of why someone might view your company as a cool place to work, mention recent successes, new products or markets, or plans for growth.
Second, they include a lengthy list of what they are looking for. The more specific this list is, the more likely it is that a potentially strong candidate will rule themselves out. For example, ‘5-7 years experience with blown film operations’ plants the seed for both a person with 4 years AND a person with 8 years to think that maybe they are not going to be perfect. You are trying to attract potential candidates with your ad, not drive them away with a checklist. Use that space to talk about what a successful next few years might look like in this role, and what it could mean for someone’s career.
Third, somewhere in the lengthy list of what the company is looking for, they are certain to include one or more requirements that are somewhat insulting. Examples of this include ‘team player’, ‘self-starter’, ‘dynamic’, and so on, but my favorite is ‘must have excellent written and verbal communication skills’. No one thinks of themselves as not being able to read or write, so in the best case these are non value added requirements. Consider asking yourself WHY these things are critical and talk about that. For example, ‘you will be part of small teams, usually 2-4 people, and working together to complete projects and reporting your results to Operations Management’. Hmmm, that might require someone to be a team player and have good presentation skills.
Fourth, companies do not include any details about who the person will report to, their background, the mentoring they could offer based on their past successes, and so on. One of the leading reasons people make job changes has to do with their immediate supervisor, so if that person is in fact a selling point, provide some insight into what he or she is like. Similarly, location is very important if you want to broaden your search beyond local candidates, so while most ads do not mention what a great place it might be to live, buy a house, or raise a family, you should.
Fifth, and this one requires a bit more finesse, make the reader of the ad feel like you are talking to THEM. If you use phrases like ‘the successful candidate’, that’s probably not THEM, right? You’re just letting them know about the person you WILL eventually hire. A good rule of thumb is to write your ad more like you would talk to another human, specifically your ‘ideal candidate’.