By Gregory Ciotti, marketing at Help Scout

One of the most overlooked parts of finding a great candidate is attracting a diverse, competent, and exciting group of prospects in the first place. The best way to do that? Write an outstanding job description.

Attracting talented people starts with communicating that there is meaningful work to be done. Extraordinary people won't take ordinary jobs.

Crafting a compelling job description will set a precedent for the people who apply, and increase the likelihood it will be shared, extending your reach to even more potential candidates. Remember the following as you create your next job listing.

Attracting ideal candidates with your job description

1. Be thoughtful about your title

This can be tricky. You want a job title that stands out while still being easy to find via Google. Job titles that may be true to the spirit of your company (think "ninja") can undermine a potential hire's ability to understand what you are actually looking for. But while it's important to communicate across industry standards, it doesn't mean you have to give up all hope of being interesting.

If you want a candidate that stands out from the crowd, you need to stand out, first.

The trick? Maintaining a 70/30 approach. That means using a majority of searchable, relevant, plainspoken keywords, plus a single dash of something interesting that will make the listing hook eyeballs. Help Scout job posts, for example, include a line about how our culture isn't "built around ping-pong tables or Xboxes; it's all about the work." That may make some people smirk, but it makes the kind of people we want to attract look twice.

2. Don't be a bore

People expect job descriptions to be dry, making them a chore to get through, which means you could be losing 50% of your best candidates before they're halfway down the page.

Keep in mind that there is no actual standard for job descriptions. Most of what you see out there is a kind of uncertain mimicry--companies imitating each other because, perhaps like you, they simply have no idea what to say.

The good news is there's an incredible range of resources available (media types, platforms, even font sizes) that can make your job listing pop. Introducing some unusual elements will help get people's attention, motivate them to apply, and (major bonus) inspire them to share amongst their own networks. Think of it this way: you want a standout among candidates, so make sure you stand out first.

3. Focus on the most important skills

Customer service professionals need a core set of skills--writing competence, problem solving, and a strong sense of empathy--which don't necessarily require a degree or extensive experience in the industry. You'll cast a wider net if you scrape away the arbitrary requirements and stay focused on what really matters.

4. Be true to the voice of your company

Just as you want to stand out visually, it's important to have a singular and distinct company voice. Skip the jargon and speak directly to the person you would hope to hire, as if you're talking to a new friend. Unlike other parts of the hiring process, there's no template for how this sounds. Instead, think honestly about how you would describe your company. Are you sincere? Playful? Academic? The job listing you write should reflect all those qualities so that you're sure to attract a like-minded applicant.

A particularly good example of this is Kickstarter's recent call-to-hire a new executive assistant. The posting is extremely personal--coming from their CEO Yancey Strickler's own Medium account--distinctly lo-fi and candid. Strickler discusses the interpersonal challenges of the role frankly and in plain language:

"The two biggest challenges I see for the role: 1) managing and prioritizing requests for my time, and 2) managing me. While managing and prioritizing requests for my time is a huge part of this role, I still find the whole needing-an-assistant thing kinda strange. You'll need the experience and comfort to jump in and take the reigns, rather than waiting for me to ask."

This type of listing will stand out to a certain type of hire for its forthrightness and its narrative, almost letter-like approach. It's also guaranteed to connect deeply with the exact type of person Strickler is seeking: somebody who is also candid, warm, and straightforward.

5. Be conscious of diversity

It can be easy to create a job listing that serves as a kind of feedback loop, appealing to the exact type of person that already inhabits the ranks of your company, at the expense of other, equally as capable candidates who may have different types of job experience and general backgrounds. There are many wonderful resources that will help you weigh what to add to a job description (and what to leave out) in order to create a thoughtful, inclusive listing. Tools like Textio can also help you assess your resumes for content and see how they stack up against others.

6. Don't be afraid to brag

This goes almost without saying, but you're proud of your company and you've worked hard to create a culture that your employees will enjoy. Don't be afraid to spotlight that in a job listing! After all, you're aiming to inspire people to apply, and you want them to be excited about the prospect of working with you, not just getting a paycheck.

A great example of a job listing that wins major points for shouting out company culture is this recent post for a support specialist from Trello. After detailing requirements and outlining expectations, they dedicate a full paragraph to describing what it's actually like to work at Trello:

"Trello was built to be an awesome place to work. We treat employees like royalty. We care deeply about your professional development and long term goals. We work with you to grow your skills both in and outside support."

Doesn't that make Trello sound like a place where you'd be jumping to work?

Putting in the time and effort to make sure your job description is compelling, shareable, and above all, true to the voice and mission of your company will ensure you attract candidates who align with your most fundamental values.

7. Leverage the perk without peer

A universal improvement for job postings is giving people a glimpse of who they'll be working with. A great team will tip the scales. They are the perk that cannot be purchased, and the best people are well aware of this fact.

We recently took inspiration from Nathan Kontny of Highrise and began including a "Who You'll Work With" section at the bottom of our listings.

As a personal touch that's rarely applied, it stands out and adds the human element in a meaningful way. Below is an example from an editorial position on our marketing team:

We wanted to communicate that applicants would be making headway with a diverse set of folks who are deeply invested in their work. These are people who expect a lot but who have a lot to offer in return.

Here are few suggestions should you want to give this a go yourself:

  • Focus on which responsibilities this person will share with each teammate, and how they'll work together. For simplicity's sake, highlight the three or four people they'll work closest with.
  • Speak highly of your peers, but stay humble. Place emphasis on their experience and why it's rewarding to work with them.
  • Include at least one person in a leadership role. To go above and beyond, have someone under the team lead contribute to their description.

Make your job description count

We all understand the importance of hiring, but too often we forget that the job description is where we make our first impression. We shouldn't let excitement to fill an open position result in wording that sounds lazy, selfish, overused, or out-of-touch.

We can do better. Write your postings for the best candidates, and the best will come to you.

Published on: Jul 29, 2016
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