Goodbye Job Descriptions, Hello Impact Descriptions

lars schmidt

Are traditional job descriptions in trouble? According to new research from Allegis Group, 72% of hiring managers say they provide clear job descriptions, while only 36% of candidates say the same. Clearly, there’s a disconnect going on here — and it’s on employers to fix it. But how?

That was the topic of Lars Schmidt’s latest episode of 21st Century HR, his podcast exploring modern people processes, approaches, and practitioners. Schmidt was joined by Caitlyn Metteer, G&A Recruiter at Lever, for a chat on the shortcomings of traditional job descriptions.

Here’s a recap of that interview — and why shifting the focus from job description to impact description is your best bet for recruiting talent today.

Schmidt: “Job descriptions are probably one of the least evolved tools in the recruiting tool belt, so I’m always on the lookout for companies that are taking a different approach. Lever’s template really excited me when I saw it, the way you break down job descriptions into a consistent sections — About Us, The Opportunity, The Team, The Tech Stack or the Skill Set, and then what a person will do and what they can expect within one, three, six, and twelve months. So, what influenced Lever to take this approach?”

Metteer: “Back in 2014, Lever wanted to come together as a company to determine more broadly what it feels like to be recruited at Lever. And one of the major things we talked about was job descriptions. We wanted to ensure that people reading a job description would fully understand what it would feel like to be part of Lever, as well as that role over the course of the year. And through that process, impact descriptions were born.”

Schmidt: “These new specs, it’s a very different approach that really requires rewriting every job description. What was that process like with hiring managers in the early days of this shift?”

Metteer: “In 2014, Lever was much, much, much smaller, and since it really came out of a company-wide hiring retreat, I think, for the most part, people were on board. I can say that now, working with newer to the company hiring managers, there are times when there is some level of questioning as to what’s the value. It’s definitely a big investment of time up front and I think being really straightforward about that is important.”

Schmidt: “What has been the impact on both the kind of quantity and quality of applicants based on that shift to impact?”

Metteer: “Over the years, there’s always been some questions around like, is this the right way to go? And so at one point, we did some A/B testing. We actually found that there was no impact on the quantity of applications we were getting even though they are so meaty, as there was some concern that they were too long and that candidates were going to stop reading. But what we actually saw was that we were getting better candidates. So the quantity was not different, but the quality was significantly better with our impact descriptions.

And I can tell you, time and time again, the reason someone decided to apply was really the impact description. Candidates find them to be incredibly thoughtful, they feel like they really understand the role coming into that initial call, and so people are taken aback by the level of thought and care that goes into these roles.”

Schmidt: “I imagine that conversation and developing the impact description is hugely beneficial because you’re forced to sit down with the hiring manager and really talk through the background, the experience, when you focus it around impact rather than tasks. How helpful is it for you as a recruiter to have that discussion and depth setting at the beginning of the search?”

Metteer: “Oh, it’s a game changer. I think having the opportunity to really sit down as a consultant with my hiring managers to better understand what their vision is and also to be there to push back at times and to challenge them a bit, I think has really led to much greater alignment going into a search.”

Schmidt: “I’m curious, with having the foundation of the impact measures for their first one, three, six, and twelve months, how does that then carry over once they’ve been hired?”

Metteer: “We have an employee experience team that focuses on L&D, our people programs, and then we also have our HRBPs that sit on that team. So we think about the one, three, six, twelve-month plan as the beginnings of an onboarding plan and the beginnings of performance management plans.”

Schmidt: “Does your employee experience team get involved in the front end of mapping that out before a role goes to market?”

Metteer: “Yeah, that’s a great question. Most of the development sits with the hiring manager. So our employee experience team is sort of there as a support to ensure that the structures and those sorts of things are in place, but really the recruiter and the hiring manager are the ones shaping the impact description from the beginning and then the hiring manager who then, at that point, is just the manager, is really sort of ensuring that the employee is growing toward those milestones over the course of that first year.”

Recap: Attracting right-fit talent starts with better job descriptions

Relying on a list of job responsibilities and requirements, without investing time to woo competitive candidates, puts your company at a serious disadvantage (especially if your company is smaller, in a competitive job market, or a non-profit).

That’s why shifting your focus from a laundry list of qualifications to an inspiring call to action of real goals and skill sets each role entails can help you attract more of the right-fit talent your company needs for the future.

Ready to craft postings for maximum effect? Get started today with our guide, How to Create Job Descriptions that Attract Top Talent.