Can A Better Job Description Help You Attract and Retain Talent?

Is a great job description critical in attracting and hiring top talent to your middle market business? Absolutely. As you well know, bad job descriptions can generate a frustratingly large pool of unqualified candidates, and weeding out the bad in order to focus on the good wastes valuable time that you might not have. The key factor in attracting talent is not just grabbing the attention of enthusiastic, talented recruits, but also giving them a reason to come work for your company. Here are the seven key steps for writing powerful job postings:

Writing a Job Description: 7 Steps to Attract Top Talent

1. Understand what success means in the position. You need to have a strong idea about the kind of person that will succeed in the position. Do research within your own organization by speaking with internal people who have displayed the characteristics of success in the job. The goal is to generate a specific target profile for the opening. Use this profile to write the job description. The more you take the guesswork out of the recruitment process and the more you know beforehand what success looks like in the role, the better the caliber of candidate you will attract.

2. Explain at the beginning of your job description what success looks like and how it will be measured. For example: "Success in the sales manager position will mean retaining our existing clients, increasing the revenues generated from our existing client base through cross-selling, while also attracting new clients, all the while fostering the development and capabilities of our sales team." This kind of specific, goal-oriented desription allows the candidate to know exactly how success will be measured in the sales manager role, something that will be especially relevant for top talent.

3. Sell your company as a great place to work. Develop a deep understanding of your company culture and what makes it unique from your competitors. If you do an annual employee satisfaction survey (and you should), what stands out? Do you have a culture where know-how and expertise get shared? Do employees develop their skills in a collaborative and supportive culture? Does your company promote healthy competition and fun through contests or other forms of recognition for top performers? What are you really good at? Top talent wants to work for a company that is unique and special, and you'll need to sell them on why working for your middle market company is a great idea for their future development.

4. Be specific about necessary experience and "required" versus "desired" skills. Again, this is directly related to knowing what success looks like and explaining it in concrete, non-fuzzy language. Don't say you're looking for a "people person" or "someone with strong interpersonal skills." Instead, say "the successful sales manager will have a proven track record of over five years in retaining clients and developing the skills of sales teams while improving sales revenues." Define the hard skills and the soft skills: the skills a candidate must have and those you'd like the candidate to have (but are willing to train for). Then ask internal people who have displayed success in the role to review and revise your job description.

5. Be specific about compensation issues, as well as advancement and development opportunities. Again, this will attract top candidates because it helps them understand how you reward above-average performance. Talented people are looking for a place that will support and reward their growth, and you'll need to show them that your middle market company is just that place. How can the employee maximize compensation in the role? Are commission, bonuses, and/or other performance-based incentives offered? What about advancement possibilities? Top talent will work hard and get the results you want, but you'll need to show them you'll reciprocate by recognizing and rewarding their great results. Communicate that you know it's a two-way street. The best candidates will appreciate this.

6. Be crystal clear about the non-negotiables. At the end of the job description, use a sentence or two to say that you don't wish to invite responses from candidates who fail to meet the job's requirements. If a candidate isn't sure he or she has the necessary skills that you've been clear in listing, then they probably don't. You can use a "non-negotiables" sentence to filter out vague candidates before they apply by letting them know their "partial" qualifications will not be considered for the job. Everyone saves time, and you can now focus on candidates who meet your specific job requirements and who actually want to work for your middle market company. A win-win.

7. Consider enhancing your job posting with company logos or videos about your middle market company's unique strengths. CareerBuilder, a firm that offers Human Resource help to companies, did a study that showed that including company logos and videos about the company will significantly increase the response rate for job postings. Videos can do a great job telling your company's story and enhancing its reputation as an attractive place for top talent to thrive. The more visually attractive and multimedia your job posting is, the better.

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is an NCMM contributor and a freelance reporter who contributes regularly to The Boston Globe and Harvard Gazette. He also trains Fortune 500 executives in business-communication skills as an instructor for EF Education. Circle him on Google+.


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