For all of the energy and resources being poured into Employer Branding, one major pain point still remains: job descriptions. Job descriptions are easy to pick on, and for good reason. Most of them are text-riddled, mis-formatted, non-mobile friendly web pages that you wouldn’t send to your best friend.

It’s not like most companies don’t care about job descriptions — they just remain a major pain point because they are really hard to solve at scale.

No More Boring JD's

Let’s escape reality for a moment, and dream about what’s possible. The first question I ask is, what kind of job description do candidates want to see? I’ve had the chance to sit down with hundreds of candidates over the last few years to discuss this topic. Here’s what they told me.

Candidates want to know:

      • The people they would work with
      • The projects they would work on
      • What the work environment is like
      • What the career opportunity looks like
      • How they will be compensated

To get that information today, candidates typically search the Internet to gather the facts across a handful of websites (see The 5 Sites A Candidate Lands on When Searching Your Company).

Yet the one place that could have all of that information generally has the least…the job description.

But like I said, let’s escape reality for a moment and imagine that your job descriptions did provide that level of communication with candidates.

What should “modern job descriptions” look like?

Video

The trend with video in recruiting has been on the interviewing side. Look at the success of companies like HireVue, and it’s obvious that video can be usefulVideoJD1 in the hiring process. That said, what will compel a top candidate to do a video interview through their webcam? Inspiration, that’s what. That’s exactly what a hiring manager video on a job description can provide. Inspiration.

Imagine the reaction when a top candidate see a job description where you hear directly from the manager, someone on the team, or someone in a like role at the company. In 90 seconds or less, you can replace the countless 20 minute phone calls your recruiters have with candidates trying to inspire them.

Furthermore, candidates can view video job descriptions when it’s convenient for them. They don’t have to schedule a call with a recruiter at the company so they can be told what working there is like.

You Don’t Need to Spend $20K on Videos

And what about the videos themselves. Just a few years ago, companies thought they had to bring in a production crew and spend $20K for a video that would sit atop their careers site. While those videos can be effective, they are typically not as granular as what most candidates want to see. Candidates want something that is more relevant to them (by the way, Ongig’s data shows that they want the video to be 90 seconds or less).

That’s the big opportunity with modern job descriptions. Hiring managers, team members, and recruiters can use a mobile device or webcam to capture an authentic video which could be placed on the job description.

It doesn’t have to be a video for every job. That’s just not possible at an enterprise level. However, you could have a Sales leader on all Sales jobs. Think about the impact. It takes 15 minutes of the Sales leader’s time, and it saves everyone else countless hours. And the biggest impact? Candidates that are inspired and informed. It doesn’t take a highly-produced, expensive recruiting commercial. It just takes an honest and authentic video.

So now repeat after me….”I will not make commercials. I will film intake (or req) meetings with a webcam or my mobile device”. Video really isn’t that hard when you realize what candidates want to see the most in them.

Mobile (not just mobile-apply)

You hear it all the time. Mobile, mobile, mobile. But should you be investing in it? Yes. And we’re not just talking about mobile apply. We’re talking about mobile job descriptions. Mobile is a cornerstone of the modern job description. It’s an easy statement to make, but why are they so damned important?

Modern Mobile Job Descriptions

Have you looked at your job descriptions on a mobile device lately? Have you clicked through from sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, and LinkedIn where you are paying money to advertise.

If you’re paying for advertising to drive candidates to pages that look terrible on mobile, you’re spending your money backwards. You likely have hundreds (or thousands) of candidates looking at your job descriptions on a mobile device every day.

Modern job descriptions are mobile, and are something you should invest in first.

So what exactly is important about a mobile job description? You’ve got to embrace responsive design and HTML5, or partner with a company that does. Responsive design will allow the job description to be clearly displayed on any desktop or device, anytime, anywhere.

HTML5 will allow you to utilize video that can be played flawlessly anywhere in the world at anytime. Candidates commuting on a train. Check. Candidate opening your recruiter’s email at lunch. Check. Candidate checking out your company at a conference. Check. You get the drift.

Perhaps you’ll get the idea that you should create your own mobile app for candidates to search your jobs. The problem is that you’ll invest a ton of money to build your own app, and who’s going to download it? Most people already have too many apps on their phone or tablet anyway. Top candidates are not likely to download one for a single company’s careers site. Unless they are that candidate who is desperate to get a job with you that you will never hire.

Modern job descriptions are responsive, and adapt to whatever type of device is trying to read them. They have video or images that show the candidate what the environment or team is like. They have an easy call to action to reduce confusion.

They have truncated text where you can click “read more” if you really want to read more instead of being forced to. They have a human being on the page that answers questions and responds to comments (more on that later). And you don’t have to pinch, expand, or scroll left or right one single time.

Social (not just posting on Facebook!)

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 4.52.08 PM

We’re talking about true social interaction, not posting job descriptions on Facebook. That may be a good strategy for certain job functions for sure, but top candidates are also curious to learn more about the people that work for your company. They’ll check out LinkedIn to see who they may know at a company. Then they’re left to create their own narrative of your story, without ever talking to anyone.

Why not make it easy and let them connect with your employees on your own job descriptions. This might sound scary at first, but think about it: Your job descriptions should be your very own “social network” where your employees and candidates come together.

This is the biggest opportunity for modern job descriptions. If each job description has an opportunity to be a social network on its own, attracting top candidates (who are right for you) can get a whole lot easier.

All it takes is having at least one recruiter or team member per job available to respond to comments and questions. I know: most recruiters will say they are too busy to field these questions. And, yes, some of the questions may be trivial.

Impact Candidates at their Point of Purchase

However, this is the biggest opportunity to impact candidates as they are at the point of purchase. And it shows that it is a real, living job opening. Not some sterile conglomeration of text perceived by candidates to be a road to nowhere.

Think about Yelp. When you’re heading out for dinner and looking for advice on where to go, people often turn to Yelp. They are at the closest point to opening their wallet, and Yelp is one of the final places they go to figure out where they will spend their money.

In the case of job hunting, candidates often have questions or comments about the position, but no way to ask. In fact, multiple candidates likely have the same exact question but no way to ask at the most critical point of deciding whether to apply. And think of all the time recruiters are wasting answering that same question over and over. Modern job descriptions can provide an informative dialogue at the point of purchase and make the life of a recruiter much easier.

But how do you accomplish this? There’s no doubt it’s a huge challenge. Otherwise, I wouldn’t even be writing this article. I see two ways to encourage informative dialogue on job descriptions: comment sections and live chat.

Let’s start with commenting sections first. Do you think anyone has ever arrived at your job descriptions and had a question? Whether it be a referral being sent a job link by a friend, or a passive job seeker searching Indeed, it’s happening. Start answering these questions by plugging a commenting system into your job descriptions. Services like Disqus and Livefyre are good solutions for this.

Candidates love to read other comments too. There may be questions being addressed that were on their mind too.

Text

Okay, you’re wondering…what about the written job description? Yes, you need to be compliant, you need to have keyword searchable content, and candidates still want to read the job specs. A definite need for text in the modern job description remains.

It’s good news that candidates still want to look over the 1, 2, and 3 of the job to make sure the requirements fit. The bad news is that copy-and-pasting job descriptions several months (or years) old is handicapping your recruiting efforts. Yes, recruiters are busy. But don’t use that as an excuse. Nothing says “we’re in a hurry” or “we don’t care” more than that.

The easiest place to start is formatting. Nowhere is the cut and paste job description more obvious than in the formatting. A quick squint test can reveal different sized fonts, or different fonts altogether. And that’s a fast turn off for top candidates. To fix this you can take a few courses of action. First, you can work with your ATS and recruiting team to re-format all of your job descriptions with a consistent font, font size, and font type.

A second course of action is to work with your web team to have them employ style sheets (CSS) on your job descriptions that will template them with the right font, font size, and font type no matter what comes out of the ATS. Clean formatting and an easy-to-read font makes all the difference with modern job descriptions.

Of course, it doesn’t end there. You’ve also got to make sure you produce great written content in your job descriptions. The first step is to recognize that enterprise organizations are not likely to write a unique job description for every opening they post. That works exactly against the formatting issue we just talked about. However, you should be able to find balance between the two.

Start by looking ahead to your upcoming hiring plans. Which positions will you be hiring for the most? Start with those first. Look at the copy you used previously that you were the most happy with. Focus on the job requirements themselves.

Those are the elements that you can build into your most common job descriptions in the coming weeks and months. Stick to the basics of the job in the text portion. You want it straightforward for candidates to understand what the requirements are, and what they would be doing.

Compliance

I get it. You’ve got the typical roadblocks like OFCCP compliance or FINRA regulations. You’re not going to keep your job as a leader in Talent Acquisition by being reckless. But you’ve still got to be progressive. If you’ve got the spirit of creating a driven and diverse environment, then you’re going to be fine.

Store your data. That’s the key. Make sure you are providing an open dialogue that is equally accessible to candidates from all backgrounds. And store your data. Equally engage candidates from all walks of life in trying to attract the best and brightest with no biases. And then store your data again.

One other key factor in compliance is making sure that your modern job descriptions are the single job description of record. All job seekers must have the same exact experience and opportunity to interact and apply for the job. If you’re a government contractor you already understand this.

The good news here is that the modern job description will be the one you want to show everyone anyway. While you’re at it, it’s a good chance to review whether you need all of the job descriptions you have in the first place too. That’s another key to compliance.

Don’t Let Compliance Stand in the Way of Innovation

The bottom line: don’t let compliance stand in the way of innovation. Modern job descriptions can actually amplify your efforts to build a diverse workforce. Just because you need to be compliant, you don’t need to live in the same old little box. I’d argue that the same old little box is one of the biggest factors working against building a truly diverse workforce that reflects the communities in which we live. No one can get a look at what the company is really about.

Have an open and inclusive spirit. Include employees from all walks of life in your communications. Have one job description of record for each job. And store your data in the event of an audit. Don’t let compliance be an excuse for not modernizing your job descriptions.

The Business Case for Modern Job Descriptions

The barriers to employing modern job descriptions will be significant. Skepticism will run amok, but you’ll still know deep down inside that it’s the right thing Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 11.34.34 AMto do. You’ll whittle away at creating an engaging solution, and the powers that be will ask “how can you prove this will work?”.

In the age of “big data”, and proving your business case, this is a question you should expect.

Three data points that may help:

1. Over 50% of traffic to your careers site is going straight to your job as a result of the job aggregator boom.

2. Video Job Descriptions receive 487% higher time on page.

3. 77% of candidates report that the job description is the most useful content (chart to the right)

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Jason Webster is an advisor to Ongig, the Employer Branding SaaS that allows enterprises to create, distribute and measure interactive job descriptions at scale. American Express, Autodesk, Intel and Yelp are among the early users of the Ongig SaaS.

Jason Webster

Jason Webster is a social recruiting enthusiast and co-founder of Ongig, a platform that creates shareable, visually-appealing job descriptions. He has spoken at multiple social recruiting events, where his passion for candidate experience is the primary topic. Connect with Jason and Ongig on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

by in Job Descriptions

  • Steve McElfresh

    All good comments and very useful. I suggest, however, that the problem starts with the lexicon. What we are (i.e., should be) posting are *not* “job descriptions”. They are advertisements, ads designed to attract great people to the company and to particular roles. Once we are clear about that singular purpose, much of the rest follows.

    Steve McElfresh
    VP People
    New Relic

    • Jason Webster

      Well said Steve! I agree with you, and appreciate you reading.

  • Dustin Carper

    Agree with Steve. When you think about it, companies really write job descriptions for the people that they don’t want to hire and not for the people that they do. This simple fix is something that we’re looking into, and will be driving a lot of change in our job descriptions moving forward. Dynamic content like video, infographics, and how we position the challenges of the role all play into this. Calling them job ads further drives this point home.

    • Jason Webster

      Thanks Dustin! You and Steve are right on the money. I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

  • It is also a good point to make a separate video job description for each project. Now we are looking for an iOS Ninja developer for fintech project to join our TechMagic team. Check out the job description here: https://youtu.be/0nlpmJexKMg

    • Nice Video Job Description, TechMagic. You guys are super-creative and your video is an attention-getter and boosts your employer brand. If you really want your next job description to sing, try using your own platform (or Ongig.com) to get control over the call-to-action (an Apply button) as well as the comments section (you should be able to delete some of those knuckle-head comments. 😉