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Writing the job description: Top candidates want to know what’s in it for them

A new study shows that the job description is a two-way street.

Writing the job description: Top candidates want to know what’s in it for them

According to a study that will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Business and Psychology, the information you include in your job postings can make a difference in the kinds of applicants you get. The study found that describing what the employer can provide for its employees, instead of simply what the employer needs from an applicant, can increase the number of applicants who apply and improve the quality of those applicants.

There’s no “silver bullet” that makes for a perfect job posting, says David Jones, an associate professor of business at the University of Vermont and one of the study’s authors. However, he said that people who believe they are talented and expect to have multiple job offers will be more discerning about the kinds of jobs they apply for, and want to know what employers can offer them. These kinds of applicants, Jones says, are likely to place more weight on organizations that can offer promotional opportunities and pay-for-performance plans. Applicants who feel they are less marketable may take more of a “shotgun” approach and apply to any job where they feel they have at least a remote chance of being hired.

More information, better applicants

Jones says it’s important that hiring managers include both information about what the employer needs from the applicant and what the employer can offer the applicant in a job posting. He and his team, Joseph Schmidt from the University of Saskatchewan and Derek Chapman from the University of Calgary, have done other research into what kind of information employers are including in job postings, and says they found that the overwhelming number of postings focus on what employers need rather than what they can offer.

“People who are writing these ads, whether professional recruiters or hiring managers, already understand that they need to include the requirements of education and experience,” he says. Now they just need to add information about what’s in it for employees when they take a job.

Russ Schramm, head of talent acquisition at Philips, says the company strives to show job applicants the bigger opportunities that are available at the company, such as making a difference in the world. “Conveying this opportunity clearly is especially important for early career professionals or millennials, who are usually looking for companies and careers that align with their values,” he says. “We know that if a job description is written well, it will help attract the people we are looking for, as well as help us weed out some of the people that might not be the right fit for us as an employer.”

Write your job descriptions in a tone that reflects your organization's brand, recommends Joseph Terach, founder and CEO of Resume Deli. Doing so can help show applicants what kind of experience you offer. “If you're looking for someone who's creative, just writing ‘seeking a creative individual’ in your job listing is meaningless unless your job listing is creative,” Terach says. “Especially in smaller organizations, if you don't walk the walk, the best candidates will recognize that your organization is not creative.”

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