Attracting Talent – Job Description Best Practices

Writing The Best Job Descriptions – HR & Finance Consultants – vcfo

Are Your Job Descriptions Attracting the Right Talent?

In virtually every geography where we work with companies to make them stronger, the story is the same when it comes to finding new employees that fit their organization’s talent needs. In short, it’s becoming tougher and tougher to attract capable candidates. Scanning but a few of the recent headlines related to the state of the labor market quickly confirms these businesses are not alone:
– Employment update: GHP economist sees tightening labor market in Houston – (Houston Business Journal)
– Colorado Unemployment Dips Below 3% – (Colorado Public Radio)
– HIRING HEADACHES: Austin’s stretched labor market poised to get even tighter – (Austin American-Statesman)

Hiring in periods of low unemployment and high demand for talent is always tough, but companies often make it harder on themselves by losing sight of some of the foundational elements for attracting the right talent. One of those elements is the job description. Below, we talk about best practices for the six key parts of the job description that employers should assess and address.

Job Descriptions – 6 Key Components


1. Job Title – Keep these simple and searchable. It can be tempting to come up with a creative job title in hopes of making it stand out, but doing so can limit the likelihood of job seekers finding your posting as they search for more commonly applied title keywords. Keep the title as accurate and clear as possible, including the level of the role so you don’t spend undue time filtering out unqualified candidates.

2. Why Join Us? – Include a succinct but compelling sales pitch as to why candidates should join your company. Describe your culture, team dynamics, and structure, plus the benefits and opportunities enjoyed by employees. Here, emphasizing unique characteristics are great as they may be seen as a positive differentiator. When we ask candidates what they’re looking for in their next role, great company culture is consistently a top answer. It can also be helpful to include your mission, vision, and values in this area.

3. What We’re Looking For – Use this section to clearly describe the traits and capabilities that your ideal candidate will possess. Think of this as critical performance objectives, not a laundry list of skills. For example: “As Corporate Controller, you’ll work closely with our CFO and lead the team responsible for our accounting and operational financial functions. You’ll also work closely with our FP&A group to assist in preparing analysis and materials to support our business operating decisions, capital investment decisions, and interactions with our CEO and Board of Directors.” Then, describe the skills and experience that will be required for this role. List the qualifications but avoid making this an exhaustive laundry list.

4. Describe the Impact – Work closely with the hiring manager to develop a value proposition on why this is a better job for someone than the same job at a competitor’s firm. Use action verbs to clearly express the impact of each task. For example: “Be a critical part of a small, talented management team that works on impactful projects that are essential to our success. As an early member of our firm’s leadership group, you’ll have the unique opportunity to build critical department processes and company infrastructure while shaping the department, the team, and direction of the company.” This is also where you’ll also want to fully disclose any potential drawbacks of the role (e.g. travel frequency, working independently) to proactively filter out candidates for which this would not be a fit.

5. Wording, Wording, Wording – Semantics can matter mightily, so be strategic with your word choices. For example: “You will have the opportunity to work on cutting edge projects” is generally more appealing than generically stating “the successful candidate will be required to run projects independently”. Also, keep in mind that gender-neutral words get a higher response rate than job descriptions with gender-biased wording. Stay away from words like “strong, competitive, assertive”, or “nurturing, polite, kind”.

6. Make It Easy for Candidates to Apply – Reduce points of friction in the application process wherever possible. Consider using “apply now” functionality with intuitive forms and easy ways to upload information (e.g. resumes and work samples). When candidates perceive that an application process is overly burdensome (e.g. includes long questionnaires or navigating to multiple places) they are highly likely to abandon the application process before completion or may skip applying altogether. Make sure to periodically test the full process yourself and look for opportunities to streamline the experience.

While job descriptions are but one part of the overall hiring process, they are nonetheless extremely important as a candidate’s first impression of your company and the role you would like them to play. Having all the hiring steps that follow fully dialed in won’t matter if you can’t get the right candidates past that initial hurdle of application.

Are you facing challenges in attracting or keeping the right talent? Have questions on how to strengthen key elements of your HR strategy or operations? Request a free consultation from a vcfo recruiting and HR expert who can help.

This post was originally published on September 5, 2018 and updated on August 23, 2019.