How to Use a Job Description to Weed Out Unqualified Candidates

Whether you’re trying to recruit your next Tax Manager or Data Engineer, writing a powerful job description is one of the most important parts of your hiring process. Not only can a clear job description set the tone for the interview process and communicate a glimpse your company culture, but it can also be a tool in making sure you’re attracting qualified candidates in the first place — but only when they’re done right!

When they’re done wrong, you’re left fending off countless resumes and cover letters from eager, talented prospective employees who simply aren’t the right fit.

If you want to make sure your job descriptions speak to the right job candidates, add these three tips to your job description writing to-do list:

1. Call Out Compensation

According to recent research, 67 percent of job seekers say money is the number one motivator for looking elsewhere for career opportunities, and 70 percent of job seekers want to know what kind of salary a job offers before they’ll consider the opportunity. Prospective candidates have spoken: they want to see an accurate salary range in the job description.

For some hiring managers, this can be a challenge because there’s so much flexibility in the salary range of the position they’re hiring. But if there’s truly an extraordinary salary range for a position, it’s often a sign that you haven’t put enough thought into your hiring strategy.

Instead of listing wide salary range or leaving the range out of the job description, it’s much more effective to make two separate job descriptions and adjust the ranges accordingly. For example, if you’re hiring for an analyst position but you could envision the position working well for either a Senior Analyst at $95,000-$115,000, or for an Associate Analyst ($65,000-$84,000), list them as separate jobs and allow candidates to self-select which position is best for them. This will also give you a clear view of what kind of candidates are on the market, information you can use to inform your final hiring strategy.

[Related: How to Develop Your Company Compensation Philosophy]

2. Include Examples of Clear-Cut Accomplishments and Responsibilities

Another way to make sure your job description attracts qualified candidates and prunes out unqualified ones is to provide clear-cut examples of the kinds of accomplishments and responsibilities you’ll expect from a successful candidate. After all, nothing will help a candidate sort through the question of, “Am I qualified for this role?” than reviewing a list of tasks — they’re either up to the task, or they’re not.

If you’re listing this job description because you’re replacing a star employee, ask them to provide a few of their most important or significant accomplishments in the role that you can list in the position description. If it’s a new role, write out your vision of problems an ideal candidate will solve, such as, “Will maintain a client roster of 10-15 clients and secure 5-7 new clients per quarter” for a Sales Lead position, or “Will collaborate with department heads to present a creative redesign the company’s brand” for a Director of Graphic Design position. This allows candidates to clearly imagine whether or not these are duties they can and want to take on.

3. Focus on What They Can Do, Not Who They Are

As you narrow down realistic accomplishments and tasks qualified candidates will be able to tackle, pay careful attention to focusing on what a prospective candidate can do, not on who they are. If you put too much of a focus on attributes over abilities, your job ad will run the risk of describing and attracting “culture fits” rather than “culture adds.” On the other hand, when you focus on the abilities of qualified candidates instead of attributes, it’s easier to describe an ideal candidate without playing into stereotypes that can limit the diversity of your applicants.

For example, abilities such as the following can be found in a wide variety of qualified candidates:

  • Design
  • Write
  • Program
  • Collaborate
  • Lead

But attributes like the following might only attract a certain demographic or person with a specific kind of attitude:

  • Energetic
  • Passionate
  • Funny
  • Aggressive

How does this play out in the kinds of candidates attracted or repelled by your job description? Consider that someone who is excellent at website design could be an introvert or an extrovert. Using language that encourages one personality style over the other, such as “outgoing” or “aggressive,” may limit the candidates who are interested in the role by personality type. It’s far more effective to focus the job description on the skills and responsibilities you’re looking for so that the most qualified person will feel welcome to apply.

Are your job descriptions attracting qualified candidates? If not, click here for a better way to advertise your jobs.

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