Startups : Time to rethink your job descriptions.

Wed, Jun 10, 2020 10:27 PM
By Ibrahim
Did you know that 72% of hiring managers think they provide clear job descriptions, but only 36% of candidates agree? This is awful news for any startup that wants to attract the right talent.
Sure, writing a job description is simple enough, but writing an excellent description is another matter.
If you believe you can do better, you’re in the right place. Below is a list of guidelines to help start-up hiring managers to write impactful job descriptions. We’ll outline some overall tips, before delving into the specifics.

Stand out

Put yourself in the shoes of a jobseeker scrolling through hundreds of listings on the internet every single day. Why should they take the time to apply for your company if it has the same generic job description as everything else out there?
Top candidates are selective — so, make them choose you.
Work out what makes your company unique. This could be anything related to its culture, mission, perks of the job, or whatever else you can think of. 
If you can, inject some personality — if you’re looking for a fresh recruit who thinks outside of the box, make sure your job description does the same.
Of course, finding the right balance is easier said than done. Calling your Marketing Executive a Growth Guru might stand out, but it’s also pretty confusing. The goal is to stand out, not to slip through the cracks.

Include the hiring manager

All this requires some time and thought, but it’s essential for finding the right person. For the best results, make sure your recruiter and hiring manager(s) work hand in hand.
Hiring Managers generally have a deeper understanding of the role, allowing their description of the job to be quirky without distorting the overall message.
For the most impactful description possible, you need both the recruiter’s awareness of candidate expectations and the hiring manager’s knowledge of the job.

Match candidates’ motivators

Imagine the perfect candidate landed on your job description. To make them keep reading your job description, and ultimately apply for the posting, you need to go slightly deeper.
Tap into the primary motivators of your potential new recruit.
79% of candidates consider the mission and purpose of a company before applying, and more than half prioritize workplace culture over salary. That’s pretty huge.
To attract candidates who actually care about your company’s mission and not just filling out every job advert they see, you need to make sure your description speaks to them.

So, what do candidates care about?

Common motivators
We all know that everyone is different, but it’s possible to identify a few common threads. Many people seek financial stability, status, professional growth, or an impact on society.
Depending on what kind of company you are and what kind of person you’re trying to attract, emphasize different aspects. As a start-up, you’re likely to want employees who care about societal impact and growth over status and stability, so tap into that.

Don’t be vague

It’s tempting to keep your description brief and vague so you don’t rule anyone out. In reality, if you do this, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot.
An ambiguous job description will attract nobody at worst, or the most wishy-washy candidates who don’t know what they want at best.
A thoughtful, creative, detailed description is likely to attract an equally thoughtful, creative, and detail-oriented candidate. Your description should excite them instead of boring them.
Have a deep think about who your ideal candidate is. What type of description would attract that person? As well as thinking about their motivators and attracting their attention, don’t be afraid to be specific about the experience or skills you want them to have.

Job requirements

Writing that you want someone with “communication skills” and “good organization” might sound inclusive, but it’s more likely to confuse candidates. In contrast, if they see a set of bullet points that perfectly match them, they’ll feel like you made the job for them.
Focus on onboarding plans and desired skills rather than rigid job requirements to avoid putting good candidates off applying — but more on this later.

What to include in your description

Let’s take a more detailed look at how you should choose the right words for your job description. Start-ups and established companies alike enjoy injecting some personality into their job descriptions — but don’t go too far.  
Just as recruiting for abstract positions like a “Growth Guru” is a bad idea, writing job requirements in the form of poetry is likely to bewilder the reader. You should stand out from the crowd, but not to the extent that nobody knows what you’re on about. 
Also, be mindful that certain words used can be a turnoff for particular genders, races, or personality types.
For instance, phrases like "ambitious", "hacker" and "work hard, play hard" all describe a typical alpha male personality that will prevent you to build  more diverse, mixed-gender teams. 

About the company

Describing your company gives you a chance to make your start-up stand out among the throng of other job listings. 
You might want to consider:
  • Culture and working practices
  • Products and services you sell 
  • Why your products or services are important and help the public
This should give potential candidates a full perspective of the company and make them excited at the prospect of joining you.
The company's mission and core values should be at the forefront of your mind when writing. Show, don’t tell — instead of making an empty claim that you’re “inclusive,” have statistics that prove your team is diverse.
Candidates are surprisingly good at sniffing out insincere assertions.

About the job

The purpose of a job description is to let the candidate know what to expect if they’re given a job offer.
Let them know what their daily tasks and responsibilities will be, as well as information about skills and knowledge. What should they know already and what can they expect to learn? 
Common practice amongst most companies is to write a list of bullet points detailing the requirements or qualifications for a job. Yet this might not be the best idea — research shows men apply for a job when they meet 60% of the requirements, whereas women want to meet 100% of the requirements.
You don’t want to lose out on the benefits of a diverse workplace and potential talent just because an applicant doesn’t have a basic skill they could pick up easily after a month of training.

Alternative approaches

Instead, outline what you expect candidates to work toward, not what they should already have.
You could include an “onboarding plan”: a breakdown of what you expect the candidate to accomplish in one month, two months, three months, and so on. Which projects will the recruit be involved in? What skills will they learn? Who will they work with? Answering these questions will make the job advert as transparent as possible.
(Great example here from @Lever who has a lot of content on the topic. More here)
Outstanding candidates who value growth are likely to feel impressed by your commitment to helping your employees’ professional development. These industrious individuals are exactly the type of people you need to attract.
Not that you should discard requirements completely — many candidates expect them, so their absence could cause confusion.
Just try to keep the “must-haves” as basic as possible, and list most of the skills you’re looking for under a separate, “desirable” section. This encourages candidates with potential to apply even if they don’t meet all the prerequisites.

Perks and compensation

Don’t feel intimidated if you can’t afford to offer your employees free gym memberships, a fully catered canteen, and enormous bonuses. Just because your start-up isn’t financially buoyant enough for this, it doesn’t mean you can’t offer perks.
Many intelligent candidates are also interested in non-monetary incentives. Why not consider unique benefits like s employee-led workshops, mental Health support, mentorship programs, or dog friendly offices?
This is great for expressing a caring company culture, promoting your values, and attract the right kind of people. It’s also a good way to screen out those who care more about the salary you can offer than the type of company you are.

Bottom line
Writing the perfect job description will never be straightforward, but keep these pieces of advice in mind and you’ll already be halfway there.

Most importantly, be honest about what you offer and what you’re looking for, and don’t be afraid to use what makes you different to your advantage.

If you’re feeling more lost than before, let us lend a helping hand. Contact us and you could have your firm featured on our start-up platform. We’ll put our expertise into crafting the ideal job description and show it to top candidates interested in companies like yours.