Talent Tip #75: Field of Dreams: Job Descriptions That Attract Talent
If you write it, they will come.
That’s the Kevin Costner-esque attitude many hiring managers employ when it comes to authoring job descriptions. They believe a carefully crafted job description will result in talent appearing.
I know what you’re thinking.
Right….and Shoeless Joe Jackson is going to pop out of the corn field and play baseball with them, too.
Actually, I think these hiring managers are onto something. Remember how much care Costner’s character put into creating that baseball field? And recall that the legends eventually showed up? Likewise, amazing job descriptions often lead to amazing candidates. And, not surprisingly, poorly crafted or thrown-together job descriptions rarely attract the kind of candidate you want — and they may even scare off some applicants.
So, what are the keys to crafting a major league job description?
- The Hook – Pull in your readers with the very first sentence. Start by explaining how your organization is changing the world and why it’s exciting to work there. Don’t assume that everyone comprehends the depths of your awesomeness; this is your chance to tell them. Here’s one fabulous hook from my friends at the Adolph Coors Foundation: Before you read another word, please google “Coors family.” Read every word of what you find including the wacky, conspiratorial stuff. If names like Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Adam Smith freak you out, or if you think terms like traditional American values, capitalism, free markets and personal responsibility are obsolete, this job may not be a fit.
And here’s another great hook from my friends at Atlas Network: You came to DC to work on some of the world’s biggest challenges. And there’s no bigger challenge than helping to secure people’s freedom and prosperity. Freedom to make choices that are best for the individual and their families. Prosperity to lift people out of poverty. That is where Atlas Network comes in…
- What Needs to Be Done – Why is this position important to the success of the organization? What are the core responsibilities? How will this person work with other staff members and fit into the existing team? How much travel is required?
- Who Needs to Do It – What does the ideal candidate look like? Make sure to address years of experience, background, education, and temperament. Which elements are required and which are preferred?
- Provide Enough Detail – But Not Too Much – One paragraph isn’t going to cut it, but let’s not model the description after The Grapes of Wrath. If the role is relatively straightforward, 300-500 words might be plenty. An executive or more complicated position might require something closer to 800 or even 1000 words. Case in point: a client recently sent over a detailed three page job description; but he then took a step back and realized that if he were a candidate, he would be more intrigued by a concise, bold description written in real terms. His updated description was only 300 words — and it was gold!
- Match the Tone to the Role/Organization – If your organization is high-energy and zany, make sure the description reflects that. Likewise, if your organization is buttoned-up and low-key, the description ought to be consistent with those traits. Unless you are consciously trying to change the culture there, go with a description reflective of your organization that will attract similar personalities.
- What You Need From Candidates – Outline exactly what interested candidates need to send. You almost certainly need a resume and cover letter; but do you want the cover letter to address things such as philosophical interest in your organization’s mission and salary requirements? How about a writing sample? Without being too burdensome, ask for all of the information that will help you determine whether a candidate is worth an interview. Also, consider asking for the materials in one PDF. Maintaining one document per candidate is easier than trying to track 4-5 separate ones; it’s also a nice test to see if candidates pay attention to instructions.
If you factor in these points, I promise you’ll hit the next job description out of the park.