Your job descriptions could be hurting your hiring pipeline


Finding great people is a top concern for businesses across the Midlands. Waheed Nazir, Birmingham City Council’s strategic director, recently cited that the one thing that keeps him awake at night, is the lack of necessary skills that could potentially stop the city’s firms from growing.

In most industries, it’s therefore crucial that businesses hire (and keep hold of) the talent they need to expand and develop.

Yet for all the worrying about keeping a high-quality candidate pipeline, many of us are making the similar mistakes: Writing job descriptions that turn off a large percentage of the candidate pool.

With that in mind, here are four areas to look at:

Use caution with qualifications

The qualifications section of a job description tends be treated as a wish list: everything that would be “nice to have” gets thrown in. Why not? Setting a high bar for talent is good, right? Won’t making it tough to qualify ensure we find the best candidates?

Unfortunately, not all the time. Even though there might be wiggle room on qualifications (unless you’re a doctor / lawyer etc) that’s not always how candidates interpret it, particularly women. While men apply for a job when they meet 60% of the qualifications, women tend to apply only when they meet 100%.

Therefore, a long list of ‘must haves’ will actually deter female candidates from applying. Problem!

Also, watch out for one word in particular – ‘expert’. Some candidates will consider themselves experts, but many qualified, talented candidates won’t identify with that descriptor, or might even be intimidated by it. Do you really require an inbound marketing expert or do you require someone who has the potential to become an inbound marketing expert? Importantly, what is an ‘expert’ anyway?

Check for gendered language

Gender also plays a big role in how language is interpreted in job descriptions. Certain words and phrases resonate with men more than women, and vice versa.

Many people write job descriptions as they would talk, and normally that’s a good thing, but not when it comes to job descriptions. Phrases and jargon like “killer business instinct” might feel fun and colourful, but they send subtle messages to the applicant about the kind of team they are signing up for.

Highlight benefits for all ages

Annual trips to Vegas might be a dream come true for a 20-something graduate, but when you’re starting or growing a family, paternal leave and healthcare are probably a lot more important at work than boozy nights out.

Be careful when highlighting “shiny” perks. You may be missing the opportunity to connect with candidates who bring years of experience to the table, as well as recent university leavers.

Watch out for corporate-speak

Insider language is a quick way to make someone else feel like an outsider, but if you’re not careful, acronyms and jargon will inevitably creep into your job descriptions. Job seekers reading descriptions are usually still in research mode, so feeling like they don’t speak the language of a company makes it easier for them to cross that company off their list.

It’s understandable that you’ll want to put some candidates off applying, particularly if the quality of CVs coming through your door is generally low – but by putting yourself in your candidate’s shoes and taking the time to reflect on your job descriptions, you’ll inevitably enable more of the most talented individuals to click that submit button to apply.