Broken Job Descriptions, and How to Fix Them

The recruiting environment has changed dramatically in recent years, and so have the tools required for success. Job descriptions are one such critical tool, but unfortunately they are not changing rapidly enough to suit the demands of modern recruiting.

What’s Wrong With Job Descriptions?

Most job descriptions in active circulation are just templates being recycled ad nauseam. At best, they are accompanied by apologetic disclaimers excusing the documents as “general” information about the role. At worst, they are out of date, irrelevant, unimaginative and unappealing.

This is shocking given that an organization’s entire professional community will likely read them. Not just candidates, but also customers, partners and competitors as well. If a marketing department simply recycled an old and out-of-date content piece, someone would get fired. Yet HR and recruiting does this all the time, despite the stakes being just as high, and the visibility just as broad.

Recruiting is Marketing

However, new theories are emerging and they revolve around the core maxim that recruiting is marketing. Rethinking job descriptions as public-facing content assets puts the focus squarely on effective storytelling, and it changes the paradigm for everything from ideation and execution to measurement and analytics.

Modern content marketing is needs-driven; it builds personas, identifies needs and speaks directly to targets using content explicitly built to engender positive engagement. Hiring managers and recruiters need to pursue a similar approach if they’re to cease producing the same poor job descriptions.

So what makes a candidate interested in a role?

  • The Story: Why is the role open? What impact does it have on the business? What is the growth path? What is the company’s culture like?
  • The Context: Why is this role important to the company? Why is the company important to the world? What differentiates this role from similar positions at other companies?

The Candidate Journey

Content marketers regularly speak of buyer journeys, and systematically map buyer journeys to better understand how to appeal to their audiences. As hiring managers and recruiters, you need to do the same. Fundamental components of content marketing strategy are easily adapted to create candidate journeys. Who are you targeting? How and where do they consume information? Where in the job search “funnel” are they?

In addition, simple attention to things like language use and visual appeal can make critical differences. Using internal lingo and proprietary acronyms are off-putting and exclusionary. Boring visuals imply boring organizations and don’t inspire interest. Dense and lengthy bullet-pointed lists of rarefied skills and experience suggest disconnection from the realities of the field, and deter rather than encourage engagement.

Marketers know all of this, and accordingly spend endless hours debating word choice, analyzing engagement metrics, A/B testing subject lines and more. It’s time you made sure job descriptions receive the same attention.


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