The Case for Visual Job Descriptions

Mar 13, 2013

talent engagementOver the past five to seven years, the recruitment industry has faced great disruption due to the advent of social media recruiting and a proliferation of new software tools. These changes have been driven by demographic, economic, technology, and media trends. U.S. corporations alone spent $140 billion trying to find candidates to fill their jobs, according to a recent article in Forbes. With so much at stake, companies are increasingly seeking out new and improved solutions to a myriad of problems.

The new solutions address different stages of the recruiting life cycle. Whether it is social sourcing, candidate relationship management, or video interviewing, the common thread binding them together is engagement — the desire to find better ways to engage top talent.

However, one aspect of the recruiting process has not changed at all … the humble job description.

Even though there are more options than ever where to post them, they are still used the same way today as they were 10, 15, or 20 years ago. It’s unfortunate because they are a vitally important aspect of the recruiting process, serving as the primary instrument used to advertise job openings.

headlinesJob descriptions are dull and boring, but then, you already know that. Thought leaders such as Lou Adler, Dr. John Sullivan, John Sumser, Tom Bolt, and others offer no shortage of advice on how to improve them. Their advice is based on sound logic and, certainly, most job descriptions have a lot of room for improvement. But even with better writing, the job description is still the weak link in the recruiting life cycle. As an advertising tool, it is nothing more than a text-only document. As we all know, text is not very engaging. Therefore, the practice of advertising with text-only job descriptions makes no sense. Can you imagine any modern company advertising its products or services with text-only ads? Of course not. Marketers realized long-ago that visual communication is far more memorable and emotionally engaging.

Here’s a rhetorical question: Which product below would you buy just from a glance at the left or the right? (click to enlarge)

Screen Shot 2013-03-05 at 2.56.09 PM

Visuals Improve Cognition

The colorful potato chip ad is more effective than the text-only version for one very simple reason: your brain processes the information easier. Dr. Lynell Burmark, Ph.D. associate at the Thornburg Center for Professional Development and an expert on visual literacy, explains, “…unless our words, concepts, ideas, are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear. Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about seven bits of information (plus or minus two). This is why, by the way, that we have seven-digit phone numbers. Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched.”

Don’t Just Improve, Transform

If you accept that the text-only job description is a fundamentally broken aspect of the recruiting process, then you are halfway to the solution. Visual job descriptions will drive higher levels of engagement. More candidates will take notice, and exceptional candidates will be impressed by your innovative approach. To get the greatest benefit, they should incorporate employer branding elements to enhance your talent attraction strategy.

Solution Criteria

Visual job descriptions might be the future, but I know from trial and error that developing a sustainable solution is not an easy task. Your solution should meet the following criteria:

  1. Repeatable. Marketing executives have a relatively easy job because they only need to focus on advertising a few products or services. Recruiters, however, need to advertise hundreds or thousands of “products” (job openings). Therefore, you need a process that can be repeated for each new job. For example, creating a new video would be challenging for a high number of requisitions. Other forms of media such as infographics might be more practical.
  2. Easy. The user of the solution will most likely be a recruiter. Normally, recruiters lack design and technical expertise. Bringing in outside resources is not practical, so it would have to be easy enough for any recruiter to use.
  3. Fast. Given the number of requisitions most companies have, you will need to develop a visual job description with little time investment.
  4. Cost Effective — recruiting departments are not known for their big budgets. Enough said.

There are many choices to make including what forms of media to use, how to create them, and how to distribute them. It is best to design a solution around readily available resources so that you can create visual job descriptions not just a few times, but on a sustained basis.

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