Words matter…especially in job descriptions.
Update: Since writing this article, our team here at Ongig launched a new version of our Text Analyzer software for writing job descriptions.
Here are 7 mistakes to avoid when writing YOUR job description:
1) A Long Job Title
Many companies use job descriptions that are too long, resulting in lower click-through. This applies to both job postings on job boards as well as on your own company career site. Here are a few job postings from Indeed that have unnecessary language in the title itself:
That is no bueno.
Glassdoor found that “job titles with over 60 characters get only half as many clicks as jobs in the 10 to 20 character range.”
To keep your job description title more brief, make sure to avoid including the following items in your JD title:
- Location — it should be somewhere else in your JD.
- Company name — it’s already listed as a separate field on job boards and should be in the header if a candidate is looking on your company career site.
- Level of the Job — Don’t use Level or Tier language such as “Client Support Specialist Level III”. That’s internal-speak — it should just be Client Support Specialist and you should explain what level it is within the job description itself.
- Full-time versus part-time — this should be within the job description itself.
- Clever language — don’t try to stuff in extra clever language in the title such as mentioning bonuses or aspirational language. Stick to the basics
Here’s a real job posting I saw recently: “Postmates Part Time Delivery Driver (Supplement Your Income)”. The job should simply read: “Delivery Driver”- -that will get better click-through.
My advice: Keep most of your job titles in the 10 to 20 range and don’t go longer than 60 characters.
2) The Total Length is Too Short or Long
A few data points:
- TheMuse says that job posts containing less than 250 words got the same number of clicks as those with 1,000 words. There are some exceptions. Social media job descriptions got 2.8X more apply clicks if they were under 750 words versus over 750. And some legal and education jobs (requiring more technical explanations) got nearly 2X the clicks if they were higher than 750 words.
- Jennifer Gladstone of Undercover Recruiter recommends 500 to 600 words.
- Textio recommends that most JDs be about 300 to 700 words in length and trending downward.
My advice: Keep most of your job descriptions in the range of 300 to 700 words and only go longer when you have very specific/valuable content required for the position.
3) Negative Words
There are certain primary negative words to avoid in copywriting (and make no mistake: a job description/posting is an ad and so the text is copywriting!).
Negative words include ones that feel absolute and most quality candidates don’t like to be told what to do. Here are some examples:
- do not
My advice: Avoid these words and anything else that feels absolute or coercive.
4) Sentence Length
Most job descriptions have sentences that are too long. Why should you care?
Well, it turns out that the candidate’s comprehension level drops big-time the more words you stuff into a sentence.
For example, according to the American Press Insitute:
- a sentence with 8 words or less typically has 100% comprehension
- a sentence with 14 words = 90% comprehension
- a sentence with 43 words = 10% comprehension
This is consistent with us writers who believe in the Plain English style of writing (see 7 Tips for Writing Like Warren Buffet (in Plain English)..
My advice: Keep your sentence length to an average of 8 to 13 words.
5) Long Paragraphs
Paragraphs in job descriptions are often too long.
And the goal of each of your paragraphs is to get the candidate to read the NEXT paragraph!
Candidates need a “pattern interrupt”– that’s an interruption to break the flow of a reader’s mind for positive effect.
My advice: Keep your paragraphs to 2 sentences for easy reading — and don’t be afraid to have one-sentence paragraphs.
6) Words that Might Turn Off Women
There are certain words that repel some female candidates. You should avoid using them in your job descriptions when possible. You might consider these words that were proven to turn off female candidates by the The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2011:
My advice: avoid using the masculine-oriented words above and try using more gender-neutral words.
7) Using 3rd Person Language instead of 1st Person/2nd Person
Many job descriptions are written in the 3rd person such as this hypothetical one:
Newco is hiring a software developer…
The software developer job requires lots of techie skill…
This role supports a team within XYZ division…
Newco is an equal opportunity employer…
The problem with this writing is that it treats the candidate like a distant object…a cog in the wheel.
If you rewrote that in 1st/2nd person, you’d use more “you” and “we” type language.
We are hiring a software developer…
You are a good fit if you have the following skills…
You support the XYZ division…
We are a diverse company and welcome you to apply if you are qualified…
My advice: Try writing only in the 1st/2nd person. Another tip is that you should mention “you” (candidate) at least as often as you mention we/us (the employer).
Solutions for Writing Job Descriptions
If you need any help writing or rewriting job descriptions, give us a holler. Ongig’s Text Analyzer can help your team write their job descriptions more effecttively. And we also have a pro copywriting team that can rewrite job ads for you.