Job postings suck. We all know it. It’s been said many, many times. And it doesn’t seem like complaining about it is helping. I’m experimenting on NextMontreal with a job board hack, but I’ve also been thinking about practical advice I can provide on how to improve job postings. Instead of getting people to completely change how they write job postings from scratch, I thought it would be more effective to focus on how people edit them. So after you’ve written a job posting, walk through these steps, and let’s see if it comes out better!
- Read out loud what you’ve written. Make note of anywhere that it sounds funny, awkward or sentences run-on forever. Attempt to fix those things.
- Count the bullet points. If there are more than 5 in any list, take some out. Force yourself to prioritize. Find a way of replacing bullet points with paragraphs (but don’t go crazy with long paragraphs either!)
- Take out anything that’s absurdly obvious. The worst offenders are usually in the “Skills” area. For example: Must be an excellent communicator (both verbal and written.) Duh! Other common offenders: Great attitude, like to work in teams, ability to work in a fast-paced environment, a quick learner, works well without supervision, ability to work in a high-pressure environment, detail oriented, goal oriented, proficient computer skills.
- Pretend you’re looking for a job and read it. Does it speak to you at all? Does it interest you? Does it encourage you? Does it answer the questions you might have?
- On that note, write down a list of questions you think a potential candidate would have about the job opportunity. Now go back and read the job posting again. Are the answers in there? Do you know what matters to potential candidates?
- Count how many times the word “we” is there. Compare that to the word “you”. Hhhm…
- The company description should be short. And it should be centered around why someone would want to work there, not around all the awesome awards you’ve won, or how much money the company makes. What matters to job seekers? Focus on those things.
- Look at the number of years experience you’ve listed for various skills. Usually these are written as hard and fast rules: “Must have X years experience in Y.” Really? Are you sure? Why? Have you looked at other team members to see what number of years experience they have, and how successful they’ve been? What happens if someone has 4 years experience instead of 5? And does the number of years experience matter as much as the number of projects worked on? Think about ways to gauge experience differently. For example, you could say, “You know the difference between A and B.” A and B could be very specific things that typically would only be understood by a senior person. When someone applies, they should make note of the difference between A and B in their cover letter so they stand out. If they don’t, ask ’em about it.
- Take out your company name and replace it with a competitor’s. Can you tell the difference? Does it matter? If not, imagine how a job seeker feels.
The road to high-quality, meaningful and useful job postings is a long, painful one. Perhaps too painful. But we’ll keep trying anyway…