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Job Descriptions Are Noise

by
David Martin
Mar 27, 2013, 12:45 am ET

flipboard-logo-fullcolor-tinyThe majority of job descriptions are a waste of space. Potential candidates read job titles, look at the renumeration, the location, and then many throw their resume out hoping it will stick. Most simply do not read all that text between the job title and the apply button. So is it time to rethink the job description? What is wrong with the job description? Why is it ignored by so many? 

The job description is too long. Internet consumption has trained people to read snippets of text. At the same time the Internet has made is cost effective for job descriptions to grow. These two trends run counter to each other, resulting in a negative impact.

The first two or three paragraphs of almost all job descriptions feel the same. This rapidly becomes noise to the job seeker, who soon learns to ignore them. Ask yourself: what actual value do your job description offer? Are the same buzzwords over used? Does the job description differentiate your role from all the other roles the job seeker is reading? Or is the entire copy noise?

The job description frequently is at odds to reality. The truth is out there — on Glassdoor and social media — so job descriptions should stick to reality.

Instead of improving the text, it is time to re-invent the job description. It is out of date, does not work, and fails to make use of todays technology.

There have been some great thinking around job descriptions, but how can we push the boundaries further? If a picture speaks a thousand words, then a video (which is 25 pictures a second) must speak millions of words. Visual job descriptions could be a big hit for candidates on smartphones and tablets.

Stats from ComScore show that 37% of all minutes spent online are spent via smartphone or tablet. Video consumption via mobile is through the roof. Mobile is a personal and very private viewing device which is ideal for candidates looking at jobs. But reading long job descriptions is not mobile friendly.

Could mobile devices and rich media be the perfect marriage for delivering engaging information on vacancies? Can companies deliver authentic content that actually delivers value? Or will the same obsession for filling job descriptions with meaningless noise be repeated in a different medium?

Smartphone and tablet innovation has reinvented how we consume media. For example, using FlipBoard I get a visual and high-level summary of news stories and it’s a pleasant experience. If I want to go deep into a story I can, but usually I don’t. Visual job descriptions coupled with key data points wrapped in an easy to browse interface would revolutionize today’s job seeker experience.

The aim of “job description 2.0″ should be to engage the candidate and have key information jump out of the screen. It must be easy to consume and clear to understand. Today the purpose of the job description is a mixture of providing information for the candidate to self filter and selling the company or role. More often than not the job description fails to deliver its purpose.

In the world of retail we have comparison websites helping consumers choose the right TV or automobile. Job description 2.0 can enable such comparisons for the job seeker. The “meta data” for a job ad should make it easy for candidates to compare different job opportunities. Job description 2.0 should make it easier for the job seeker to compare against their ideal job.

Imagine if all job ads included such meta data, so candidates could easily select and compare jobs from companies of a certain type, or companies with certain fiscal performance, or roles needing certain skills, or roles with travel, or roles involving lots of meetings, or roles with various industry challenges, etc. Couple the power of such a “meta job description” with a visually rich presentation, and honest video or photos of your new desk, and now it has meaning.

So with the vision painted, what’s the first step on the journey to a job-description-free world?

I discussed this topic with Jim Stroud, and we prepared a fun YouTube video to share the message.

 

 

 

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Jason Webster

    [Disclaimer: I'm completely biased]

    I like your thinking David. This is exactly what we set out to do with Ongig.com. I’ve spent the last two years learning, testing, and engaging candidates with next-generation job descriptions. You are absolutely correct that the use of visuals and appended verbiage is a good start. Add in social streams and commenting, and you’ve got the beginnings of true engagement.

  2. Dave Martin

    Thanks for reading Jason, I just took a look at ongig.com an impressive illustration of video job ads, mainly in Silicon Valley. Can this idea scale wider?

  3. Jason Webster

    Hi Dave,

    We can definitely scale beyond Silicon Valley. Since we’re based in SF, many of our first clients were here.

    That said, we’ve got campaigns launching from the Valley to New York City, and many points between. We’ve even got international campaigns going in Tokyo, Shanghai, London, Dublin, Munich, Toronto, and so on.

    We’re also automating the delivery of video into your job stream. For example, we can take your ATS job feed and attach videos/pics by location or job department.

    Thanks for checking us out…….Jason

  4. Gareth Jenkins

    Great post Dave – and great to see comments from OnGig. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen of the OnGig site before. I’ve long tried to push the potential for both video and other (good and honest) related content about the job and what the candidate could expect.

    We have used this principle well on Npower, pulling in video and blog content related to each individual job posting (pulled automatically from their ATS of course). An example is on the right side here http://www.npowerjobs.com/job/team-manager-customer-relationship-management–jobid-ol320474lg . One problem with these approaches is always getting the content out from busy recruiters and busy hiring managers, and this tends to be a long process of changing habits towards being content generators. We’re well and truly along that road with many clients though.

    There’s a lot of discussion out at the moment around the nature of the job description, and we’re seeing many great innovations seeing to offer up interesting alternatives, from video job ads to infographic based approaches. Smaller more nimble employers may be better positioned to use these channels as a way to stand out against larger competitors for talent. Interesting discussions!

  5. Howard Adamsky

    I would have to say that I am simply unclear on a way forward. The content of this article is hip. It is cool in a social media, urban, skinny jeans type of a way. I think I get it but I will tell you want I believe.

    I think that we must somehow get those individuals who we want to consider for a job, a clear and definitive understanding of the type of things they will be doing if they come to work for you. We must tell them the type of experience we hope to see that will support their success in doing those things. That in a nutshell, on many levels, is a job description.

    I can understand how a bad job description would be noise but I simply fail to understand why a strong, clear and well-written job description is a bad thing.

  6. Eric Putkonen

    Hi David,

    While I agree job descriptions/posts are mostly noise…I don’t agree in getting rid of them. They need to be seriously re-thought. The problem with typical job posts is that they do not affect a potential candidate’s desire to apply. They are not written for the targeted job seekers or from their point of view. And that is a serious flaw.

    Also I like to differentiate between job posts and job descriptions…and almost always companies post the job descriptions as the job post. Job posts should be concise and pitch a value proposition to potential candidates…not that the company is Fortune 500, well-funded, growing, etc.

    Job posts are marketing materials…job descriptions are spec sheets (about the company and job, but not selling it).

    What recruiters need are some copywriting skills. This is something I read and study…and it is amazing to me that these sales people have had it figured out for a long time…and yet it is a mystery to recruiters (who many also claim are salespeople).

    This rabbit hole goes a long way…for example, every thought of split-testing your recrurring jobs for highest response and quality of applicants? That is what marketers and copywriters do…you test. They don’t post and pray…that wastes time and money.

  7. Ken Ward

    Dave, Thought provoking as ever, but I wanted to address a few points here. You’ve made a few sweeping generalisations about how potential applicants consume job descriptions without any data points. On the subject of mobile, a subject you are supremely passionate about, you hit us with data about mobile video consumption. I’m not, again, seeing the jump. Whilst I am not defending bad job descriptions, I think you are blurring the lines between a well written JD and a Job advert. My experience of actually talking to candidates, is that they tend to skip through prepared videos (recruitment videos admittedly but I think the point stands) as the assumption is that they don’t represent reality. Greater thinkers than I have waxed lyrical on your point re “authentic content that actually delivers value” but then you go on to commoditise job descriptions and companies with your retail website comparison – this rings hollow to me. I’m with Howard Adamsky on this, I don’t see the noise if we have well written job descriptions.

  8. Keith Halperin

    @ Howard: Chag Sameach.
    I agree with you: don’t condemn all job descriptions, (or all resumes) just bad ones.

    During the Bronze Age, I took a course in business writing. The prof was very tough- “make it clear, use active voice, tighten it up”. This would be very helpful in writing JDs, too. I think we should get the wordsmiths in Marketing to write the clearest, most interesting JDs possible.

    -kh

  9. Dave Martin

    Hi
    Thanks for everyone who read the article.

    How much practice and experience has been invested in trying to do something better such as video or a pictorial representation or any real enhancement on todays status quo?

    If the copy for a job description can be written in easy to read english, clearly communicate the role and the required skills, in a short brief, with the key information first – then great. But, as with great journalism, the whole story needs telling in the first paragraph. It may be helpful for many if those with examples of great could share them?

    I really like Keith Halperin’s comment – marketing wordsmiths could write great JDs!

    Mobile is a different medium, as it grows and becomes the primary medium for job seekers it deserves some consideration of how best to communicate through smartphones and tablets.

    My objective was to create thought and ideas, not to provide a strict guide.

  10. Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Dave. Sometimes the best solutions are right in plain sight.

  11. Eric Putkonen

    Hi Keith,

    “I think we should get the wordsmiths in Marketing to write the clearest, most interesting JDs possible.”

    As someone who has worked with marketing for various recruiting related projects…I would rather do it myself.

    Too many times people from marketing are about branding and content calendars…and not really focused on concise job descriptions that pull high quality responses (like direct response marketing – e.g. mail marketing…which is different from brand marketing).

    If you are suggesting getting a wordsmith from direct marketing…I am with you. They are great copywriters. But marketing in general…not so much.

  12. Keith Halperin

    Well-said, Eric. Get a copywriter to make the JD as clear, concise, and exciting as possible is what I meant.

    Cheers,
    Keith

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  15. James Clift

    Thanks for the article David. We at http://KarmaHire.com completely agree with the sentiment. Its a competitive market out there (especially in the tech sector), and it takes time and effort to break through the noise.

    re: How much practice and experience has been invested in trying to do something better such as video or a pictorial representation or any real enhancement on todays status quo?

    The majority of this investment is going into career sites (airbnb.com/jobs, squareup.com/careers), and not the job descriptions themselves. This is despite the fact that the majority of candidate traffic is driven first to the job post, which as you say just doesn’t deliver results.

    The challenge is having a solution that is scalable, cost-effective, and integrates with existing systems. We’re trying to solve those problems with a super streamlined job ad creator and a variety of easy to use (and repeatable) templates. This is an example of a post made with our platform that essentially went viral (and found a great hire): http://ow.ly/jJ4zc. Other solutions mentioned in Jamie’s article like JobGram and JobsuView are taking the visual infographic approach.

    I love your last point about comparison shopping. There’s so much public data out there on both sides of the table. We’ve given some heavy thought into how we can use it to create an exceptional candidate experience, and that’s definitely where things start to get very interesting!

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