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How to Write a Compelling Job Description

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The best recruiters are dedicated to several parts of each candidate’s hiring process, from providing a seamless interview experience to ensuring that all hiring managers and interviewers are aligned. But when recruiters become absorbed in these later stages, it’s easy to forget that the job description is often what piques a candidate’s interest in the first place.

How to Write a Job Description

This week, we were excited to host a webinar with Lou Adler, CEO and founder of the Adler Group, on how to toss aside your traditional job descriptions in favor of ones that reflect the high bar you set.

His secret for attracting top performers? Performance-based job descriptions.

Writing performance-based job descriptions:

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We’ve all seen job descriptions (like the one above) that obsess over skills and requirements like “Strong organizational skills” and “Must be customer focused,” but Lou stresses that it’s “What you do with what you have, not what you have that counts.”

Instead of focusing on what skills and experiences the candidate brings to the table, Lou suggests performance-based job descriptions that focus on a candidate’s capacity to “do,” and that outlines the performance expectations for the role. Language like “You will launch a new product line,” “You will restructure the interview process” and “You will design a new landing page,” for example, shows candidates that they will have the opportunity to hit goals and deliver results. While you may choose to mention a few skills you are looking for, the performance expectations should be the primary element of your job description.

This type of job description, or performance profile, draws qualified candidates in to considering a career move, rather than weeding unqualified candidates out. When you turn a job description into a bucket list of requirements, you risk driving away top performers who don’t check off every box. Recognize that the skills variable does not predict success; you can have no skills and be a top performer, or have a mountain of skills and not be a top performer.

Show applicants that joining your team is a strategic and advantageous career move; no top candidate wants to stay in the same place. They want to visualize the impact they’ll have in their new role, and you want to give them the tools to do that. Also, the more details and context you give them, the better they are able to assess whether or not the environment, culture and goals of the company match what they are looking for. A job description that emphasizes skills over expectations communicates the prospect of a lateral transfer, or a transition into a role that will be stagnant rather than impactful. It fails to prioritize the action and progress that top candidates will find compelling.

As an added bonus, the process of creating a performance-based job description challenges your own hiring teams to think deeply about what success would look like for your candidate. Then, when you later evaluate whether or not your candidate would excel in the role, you have a list of expectations to measure them against. Would they deal with objections from customers, as you told them they would in your description? Would they help build a new sales process?

Conclusion: How to Write Job Descriptions

You can increase the quality of your talent pool through improving the quality of your job description. When your job description centers on performance rather than skills, you energize top performers by providing them with clear expectations and goals to hit. You also allow your team to better assess your candidate’s ability to raise the bar. Ultimately, more investment on your part in the early stages will lead to a huge returns at the end of your process. 

To delve deeper into Lou’s thoughts on this topic, listen to the full webinar “How Dumping Skills-Infested Job Descriptions Will Improve Your Quality of Hire,” posted here