What to Do About Job Seekers Who Aren’t Reading Job Descriptions

Reading this article word for word will take about three to four minutes out of your day. That’s not a ton of time in the grand scheme of things — but now put yourself in your candidate’s shoes.

Job descriptions consist of 500 to 1,000 words on average. A college-educated adult can read between 250 to 300 words per minute. If candidates apply to 30 job postings a day and read every word on that description, two hours of their job search is dedicated solely to reading positions’ responsibilities and requirements.

But we know that job seekers are only skimming the postings. They aren’t thoroughly reading them, and if you believe otherwise, you’re going to miss out on talent that would prefer a modern apply process. From our data, applicants are spending 40 seconds or less reading the descriptions before hitting the apply button and submitting their resume. They don’t know if a job is right for them. They’re looking at the job’s title, a few of the prerequisite bullet points, and then deciding if the job is just enough of a fit before submitting their application. This leads to talent pools saturated with candidate quantity, not quality.

But the talent that lacks the knowledge of the job’s purpose and recruiters who lack relevant applicants in their pools are not the only losses, nor are they the most significant. Wasted time on the talent acquisition front and excessive detail in job postings slow down time to hire.

Present Struggle

A single job description is a massive collaboration between talent acquisition, hiring managers, HR compliance officers, and sometimes content writers. Countless manpower hours are behind every job posting to get the verbiage just right.

First, hiring managers must write a 7 to 10-page evaluation of the job that answers questions about the role: How does the role impact the company strategy? What is the job’s function? What are the entry essentials the candidate must have? So on and so forth.

To decipher the answers for this position, the evaluation is scanned anytime a keyword is mentioned that describes the role. For example, the evaluation could be looked at for any mention of “strategy” or “tactic.” The more instances of “strategy,” the more the description will pivot to a strategic role than one that is geared to tactical work. It’s a numbers game.

Once the evaluation is studied, the recruiter drafts the description, ensures it aligns with the hiring manager’s expectations, edits it, rewrites it, confirms it meets HR compliance (EEOC and OFCCP), and finally wordsmiths it to appeal to a larger audience. This process is often rudimentary and dives too much into the weeds when candidates aren’t reading the entire posting from the get-go.

Future Opportunity

Largely responsible for a new-age recruiting shift is the Generation Z population. They are graduating from college and entering the workforce. But what sets this generation apart from those who preceded them is that they are unfamiliar to a time before smartphones. Their upbringing revolved around technological communication and consuming media content on their mobile devices. Now is the time for talent acquisition and talent management to adapt and integrate new forms of recruitment marketing.

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Video descriptions are beginning to radically change processes. Companies are using video content on their career sites and job postings that offer insights into the company culture, teammate personalities, job responsibilities, and office space that a normal job description could never provide.

Video and voice communication to anyone, anywhere, at any time, is the future of the job description. Job seekers want to know the quick and dirty of the role. This can be said in two to three sentences describing what the job seeker will spend the majority of their day doing, and a few of the most prominent requirements for the position. For example, a video script for a Content Writer job would state:

“As the Content Writer, you’ll spend most of your time doing what you love, writing and editing pieces in different formats, to produce the highest quality content that supports sales. Minimum requirements for the position are a full understanding of the written English language, a passion for writing and a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent job experience.”

It needs to be plain speech so someone’s parents and grandparents can understand what the job entails. Employee testimonials and introductions to teammates can be added to promote culture fit, but other than that, the most important information is relayed. It takes only a matter of seconds of the job seeker’s time, keeps him or her engaged, and leads to higher conversions of the right talent.

Creating a Candidate-first Description

Before you begin producing video descriptions, a word of caution: Make sure they have candidate-centric, and not the overly done company-centric, language.

Most descriptions are focused on the company’s benefit and expectations of the role. It demands that the job seeker has a certain number of years’ experience, a specific education level, and talks about what the candidate will do day-to-day. These postings are jarring and deter candidates from applying. Instead, flip this model on its head with a candidate-centric viewpoint. Suggest the desired level of experience, but don’t make it mandatory, and explain how their education and skill sets set them up for success. Candidate-centric descriptions, with video, attract talent and empower them to take control of their application.

Nancy Gray-Starkebaum is the VP of customer experience at Phenom People. Previously the AVP of talent acquisition at Canadian Tire, Gray-Starkebaum is a highly respected practitioner with over 25 years of experience in the HR and talent-acquisition field. Throughout her career, she’s worked at several reputable corporations including SAP, Electronic Arts, and Blackberry. She received her BA at Western University and then her MBA at the University of Windsor.

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