Job descriptions aren’t just an applicant’s first impression of a company. They’re often included in an employee’s permanent record, can become a starting point for performance reviews and, in some cases, may create an employment contract.
That’s why it’s vital that job descriptions are written as clearly as possible.
“Job descriptions are one of the most misunderstood elements of the employment relationship,” says Scott Fitch, division president of Insperity Performance and Organizational Management. “They come into play during the highest-risk times for employers – hiring, assessment and termination – so it’s important to get them right.”
A 2012 Monster survey of 2,030 job seekers revealed that meaningless jargon, confusing job titles, and spelling and grammar mistakes kept them from applying for jobs. Just as you’re reviewing tens or hundreds of resumes, the applicant is also reviewing companies based on their job descriptions.
The survey’s overall message to employers was clear: Poorly written job descriptions mean you’re missing out on landing top prospects. Here are some tips on how to create a solid job description.
1. Avoid confusing job titles.
A new trend in hiring seems to be the creation of job titles intended to be fun, humorous or overly politically correct. The prevalence of “online marketing ninjas” and “sanitation engineers” is increasing, but it’s at the expense of finding qualified candidates.
Using these types of titles may lighten the mood in the workplace, but customers and partners may see your organization as being less than serious. And you’re not fooling anyone with slick titles. In the Monster study, 64 percent of respondents said they would not apply if they didn’t understand the title.
Furthermore, unclear job titles are detrimental to search engine optimization. Search engines and career listing websites use algorithms to help choose the most relevant search results. When applicants search for openings, confusing or non-standard titles will be listed lower, if at all.
Stick to more traditional job titles. You’ll get better applicants, strengthen your employer brand and bolster your company’s reputation. If you need help, do some research to find out which job title best fits your opening, and use that title to help bring in the best candidates.
2. Proofread for spelling and grammar mistakes.
Would you apply for a job opening seeking someone “capable of ruining an office”? What about applying for a “resauce” or “purrchaysing” “manger” position?
Spelling and grammar mistakes discredit your job descriptions and decrease their readability. Additionally, mistakes distract applicants from the important information and can harm your company’s reputation.
These errors also keep quality candidates from applying for your opening. Descriptions with too many mistakes could be seen as fraudulent or spam and can hurt your brand.
3. Eliminate jargon, buzzwords, legalese, clichés and slang.
Just as clarifying grammar is important, job descriptions should be stripped of unnecessarily complex, ambiguous or informal language.
The top offending buzzwords and terms noted in the Monster study included “self-starter,” “leverage,” “execution,” “bottleneck” and “viral.” In the survey, 57 percent said jargon and acronyms kept them from applying entirely.
Clichés and slang may carry unintended connotations or have different meanings to different people. Phrases such as “highly motivated,” “fast paced,” “be your own boss” or “outstanding growth potential” do nothing to tell the potential applicant about your position. Job seekers’ expectations of what might be fast paced or highly motivated may be vastly different from your own.
4. Reduce acronyms and abbreviations.
To clarify your job descriptions further, avoid acronyms and abbreviations. Internal acronyms have no meaning to outsiders and should be avoided. Proofread your descriptions to make sure that they don’t accidentally slip by. While “M&A” may mean “mergers and acquisitions” to you, it may mean “marketing and advertising” or “managers and associates” to someone else. Even industry acronyms and abbreviations should be minimized to improve readability and search opportunities.
For example, if you are seeking someone with Sarbanes-Oxley experience and abbreviate it “SOX,” search engines and job posting sites will record only the “SOX” abbreviation itself. This does not mean that your listing will not be posted or be searchable, but it will be more difficult for prospective applicants to find. Job seekers who search for “Sarbanes” or “Sarbanes-Oxley” will not find your job description, only those who search for “SOX” directly. This can hurt your chances of landing a qualified applicant.
The use of imprecise language and confusing job titles hampers your recruiting efforts at every step in the application process. First, it can significantly reduce the number of people who will see the posting. Second, research shows that confusing titles, jargon, abbreviations and acronyms will deter potentially qualified job seekers. Even if they do apply, imprecise language harms candidates by providing vague direction and responsibilities for that role within the organization.
With a clear and precise job description, you can eliminate any confusion, both on your part on what the role should be and the applicant’s.
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