Many companies large and small fail to dedicate the appropriate attention to the first step in candidate attraction when hiring–the job posting. So, the question remains, how to write an effective job posting that will attract candidates and set clear expectations for both the job seeker and your organization from the interview process to onboarding your new employee.
For small businesses and startups, the job posting is especially crucial since these organizations don’t have the reputation to organically attract job seekers, and this is often a candidate’s first exposure to their brand.
Realize too, that often job postings online get indexed into search engines, and it’s sometimes the customer’s first exposure to the brand as well. Customers are trending to be social consumers and they have an interest in the culture of the companies they do business with or purchase from, so they may be reading your postings, too.
While we all feel constantly feel strapped for time, time spent outlining a job posting and description and thinking through a hiring decision is time well spent, and will probably save a lot of headaches in the hiring process.
First, understand that the job posting and the job description are two different things. The job posting is a shorter version of the job description used to attract job seekers and the job description is a more extended version that should be kept on file for reference as well as shared with individuals in the role and their managers to set clear expectations.
Why should you avoid posting the longer, extended version? Because after scouring dozens (sometimes hundreds) of job postings, job seekers get readers fatigue. Unless you are a big box brand, they’re likely to avoid skimming an overly long job description all together or assume there are too many requirements or hoops to jump through to secure the position.
But if you generally get a lot of applicants, and want to wean the pool down, posting the extended version could work to your favor to find those candidates dedicated enough to stick through reading it.
Define the Role
Now, first things first, you need to define the position. Defining the position includes summarizing the responsibilities, duties, and tasks they will be performing on an on-going basis, as well as the necessary skill sets, physical requirements, education, and required certifications or licenses for the role.
There are two areas to consider, the absolute must have qualifications for the role and your wish list. It’s important to know the difference between the two. Sometimes you might have a stellar candidate come in who fits the basic requirements for the role but doesn’t have everything on your wish list. Often these job seekers can be trained to fill in the gaps.
Be honest about what’s truly needed to be successful in the role, especially when it comes to education versus experience. You might require a Bachelor’s degree but a candidate with more experience in the workforce and no degree may be a better fit.
Take a Deeper Look
You just defined your hiring needs for the role today, but be conscientious that you’re usually hiring someone for the long-term. Especially with a startup, be sure you are also looking ahead to think about what needs you may have a month from now, 6 months from now, or a year from now.
Are there additional skill sets the candidate will need or have to learn in order to stay successful in the role? Will the role continue to be challenging and provide opportunity for the job seeker or do you need to re-think some of your initial requirements. If you fail to plan for the future now, you could have a rocky road ahead with your new hire. Be clear in laying out expectations in the job posting of what the role might look like or any areas that flexibility may be required.
The Job Title
Once you’ve identified all of the requirements and responsibilities for the role, now is when you should choose a job title that accurately reflects the type of work that will be performed. You might have thought you needed a customer service rep originally until you sat down and outlined the role and realize it’s actually an account manager you’re looking for.
Make sure the title also corresponds to similar jobs in the industry and notes the level of the position. Sometimes in smaller companies, larger titles come with broader responsibilities, but for some positions, you need to make sure there is still room for growth.
And if you have unique titles that are tied to your company culture, make sure you include some of the similar roles and titles in the industry in your job posting so it can be found in searches and candidates can easily identify with the role.
Job descriptions come in all shapes and sizes, but generally follow a similar structure including the following components:
You can change this up based on your preferences, but note that many candidates are used to seeing certain information, so make it easily readable. And also include the relevant information for the applicant to make an informed decision on whether or not to apply.
If you’re posting to sites like Craigslist that allow for HTML formatting, take advantage of this. The more attractive the posting, the more legitimate the impression your company gives off and the more applicants you will receive. And don’t be afraid to be creative or showcase your company culture in the posting–but be honest. Showcase the highlights, but don’t sell what you don’t have.
Here’s an example breakdown of a very simple job description for a startup, by another writer, that we liked:
Review your job description before posting it. Try letting someone at your company in a similar role also read it and ask them if they were a job seeker, would they apply? What attracts them to the position or what feels like a deterrent?
Remember, hiring is one of your most critical decisions in an organization. Start the process off right by attracting the right candidates with the right posting. Take the necessary time you need to cover your bases, outline the role, and showcase your company, because understanding what your needs are and where you’re headed will also save you time in the interview process in identifying your next great hire who will help you get there.