Why Your Job Postings Suck (And What You Can Do About It)
Oct 15, 2015
This might surprise you a little, coming from me and all, but man, I really need to take some time to vent about something that’s really starting to piss me off even more than it always has (hint: it’s always pissed me off).
Now, before I start into my rant, it might be a good idea to provide a bit of context, just so you know that I’m not totally crazy (just a little).
See, recently, my role has focused more on sourcing than recruiting, which has been a recurring theme throughout my career, with the line between these two continuously shifting from req to req, client to client.
The one constant about the great sourcing/recruiting divide in practice (not some “thought leader” theoretical BS) is that the line is always blurred, and if you can’t both recruit or source, you’re pretty much screwed (not to mention a pretty shitty recruiter).
“Job Description” Doesn’t Have To Be An Oxymoron.
Without job postings, sourcers wouldn’t know the minimum or preferred qualifications they should be searching for in the first place. Without job postings, we’d have no easy way to gauge a candidate’s interest in a position, ask for a referral or really engage anyone on social, CRM or anywhere except, maybe, an awkward 1:1 call or e-mail string.
Without a JD, of course, there’s a chance that no matter how you’re communicating with potential candidates, if you’re recruiting just in time you’re likely wasting both your times. When fit happens, it’s because there’s a match between a candidate, company and career opportunity – the same standard stuff that’s the common currency of pretty much all recruitment marketing and advertising.
So, that’s a long way to say that as a sourcer, I’m always forced to defer to the “recruiter” I’m working with (assuming there is one) on any given requisition to provide me with what is arguably the single most critical competitive advantage anyone trying to source or identify qualified candidates can have can have. While I have little input on most job descriptions (and rarely, for that matter, do recruiters – it’s mostly either some warmed over HR document or some cut and paste template the hiring manager slapped together), I’m the one who has to deal with the pain that comes with a painful job description.
A sourcer has to find qualified candidates no matter what, but tell you this: it’s a whole hell of a lot harder when you’re trying to fish with the wrong bait.
We’re all looking for “top talent,” and if your opportunity sounds generic or has absolutely nothing to do with the actual job – like “Systems Analyst” or “Technical Support,” then you’re asking for generic or unqualified candidates.
It really pisses me off how much money recruiters and employers throw away every year on stuff like posting jobs online or developing an employer brand presence, only to completely neglect the fact that no matter how awesome your career site is, no matter how big your budget for recruitment marketing might be, it doesn’t really matter.
If the job ads that are the ultimate destination for all these “recruiting trends” that seem to be distracting so many recruiters from recruiting – the hub to which every social, search and sourcing spoke stems from, the one piece of content candidates actually care about and the ultimate arbiter of whether passive prospects turn into proactive applicants – are complete and total shit. And let me tell you, you don’t need to be a job seeker to realize that most job descriptions fail at the one job – the ONE JOB – they have.
Which is, you guessed it, to describe a job.
Lost In Translation: The True Cost of Crappy Job Postings.
So recently, I’ve had to do some positions with thrilling titles like “Data Center Support Engineer” and “Windows Technical Support,” and don’t get me started on the word “storage,” which, turns out, is a pretty damn good keyword if you’re recruiting for U-Haul, but not so much if you’re looking for, you know, the digital footprints that anyone you might actually want to hire has out there – the kind of stuff I’m paid to find, and I’m damn good at finding.
But for some recruiters, they don’t know enough to know how broad, vacuous and poorly targeted these titles are, since there’s no indication in the actual posting of what the hell the job actually entails or what qualifications the candidate actually needs, beyond the years of experience and college degree.
I’m telling you, if your experienced sourcers can’t read a job posting and immediately know what it is they’re looking for, there’s a good chance that the candidates you’re out there looking for are going to feel the same way.
Now, I don’t love looking through the resumes of active applicants (and really, who the hell does), but recently I’ve been tasked with doing this more and more, as the influx of resumes coming in for some of my searches seems to have spiked. And no wonder, the ones that get the most applicants – few are candidates, mind you, because they are in no way qualified for the role – are the ones with the vaguest job descriptions or the ones with the broadest stated set of basic or preferred qualifications.
When recruiters complain how they don’t have time to go through all the resumes they receive, they really should just shut up and actually take the time to write decent JDs instead of throwing out crap that they don’t even read yet expect to be compelling enough to get qualified candidates to apply while getting the crappy ones to self-select out.
A job posting has to speak to a candidate, and, ideally, present more than simply a wish list of shit the hiring manager wants (irrespective of reality) or some inane career copy with a “mission statement” or “values” that’s really just a laundry list of stuff that the company knows it sucks at and hopes to fix one of these days.
And if you’re just using a bunch of corporate jargon or business buzzwords strung together along with some bullet points and a boilerplate, you’re not only going to turn off active applicants, but you’re basically setting up your sourcing strategy for failure.
Sourcers can’t find candidates, and candidates can’t find jobs, by building search strings around shit like “big picture thinker” or “experienced technical professionals” or “strong communicator,” “inspiring internal leader” or any of the other fluffy stuff that tends to predominate in some of the most piss poor position descriptions out there – the ones that say nothing other than “hey, we have no idea WTF we’re looking for.”
Which sucks for the people who, you know, are the ones out there actually doing the looking.
How Crappy Job Descriptions Kill Candidate Experience.
Yeah, I busted out “candidate experience,” because, you know, no blog post would be complete without talking about this perennial HR water cooler favorite.
The consensus is that while we’d like to touch or talk to every candidate, the combination of compliance concerns and sheer scale of submissions makes this pretty much an impossibility; the thing is, I get that recruiters are busy and that being the bearer of bad news sucks is old news, which is why in recruiting, candidates pretty much expect to only know no news.
I’ve written extensively on the subject of candidate experience, hell, everyone who blogs about this business has a ton of content on this subject out there in the ethos, and all I’ve got to say is that recruiters have reaped what they’ve sown. Big time.
And karma, my friends, is a bitch.
Here’s the thing: by putting up a convoluted job posting, a generic HR template or some copy that’s got no actual details of what the job actually does, then of course you’re going to get a ton of people who aren’t qualified applying, because you never actually tell them what you need the person to do, mostly, only what they must have already done.
We ask for experience without offering opportunity, and expect candidates to independently make sense of the senseless, self-select against unstated or unclear criteria, which, of course, means the recruiter receiving the resume has to do it. There’s just too much of that work for any of us to realistically do, even though it’s work we ourselves created, and could just as easily eliminate.
The black hole is a myth invented by recruiters who would rather lean on the convenient crutch of compliancethan attempt any real creativity or clarity in career related copy. We’d rather not get sued than not find the talent our organization needs and our hiring managers want, which seems a bit silly if you think about it. And you’re never going to get sued for not using a template or adding the details applicants need to self-select for positions more effectively. Your job isn’t to come up with excuses, it’s to come up with candidates.
If the goal of compliance is minimizing risks, then we’d all would do well to shut up about OFCCP, EEOC and wake up to what “risk” really looks like in recruiting. Because to me, it looks a lot like the same sorts of crappy job ads that cost candidates, cause the “black hole” and lead to many of the frustrations so endemic to today’s recruiting and job search processes.
A “post and pray” approach isn’t about the recruitment marketing medium; it’s a mentality. Turns out that it’s the recruiters who don’t even take the time to discuss the position, edit the JD or even review the req prior to publically posting it are the exact same ones who somehow also don’t have the time to read all those resumes, creating a crappy candidate experience that costs more than your company’s external reputation and street cred.
Recruiters can irrevocably damage their own brand buzz and business credibility by being unable to find the kinds of candidates hiring managers want. As every recruiter knows, what the HM says and what HR puts out there is rarely, if ever, even remotely the same thing.
When this stuff gets lost in translation, we lose candidates, clients and credibility. This is too big a price to pay for what’s really a simple fix: stop writing craptastic job postings that say nothing to everyone and start focusing on what’s in it for the candidate, not the company; stop speaking in buzzwords and start making sense; and please, for the love of God, remember they’re called “job descriptions” for a reason.
Recruiting isn’t broken, but for God’s sake, fix your job posts, people.