106 Communications

6th Sense

The 18-metre long job description

June 2018 | Employer Brand

At a recent conference entitled Tipping Point, hosted by the wonderful people at Talint Partners, Adrian Thomas (Executive Resourcing at the Civil Service) told the story of a recent job description for a Business Partner.  It wasn’t just full of acronyms and slightly turgid language; when printed out, it was measured at 18 metres long!  Now this may be an extreme example, but the truth is that job descriptions have for far too long been out of control.

So many other parts of recruitment have changed beyond all recognition:

We can find talent with the help of AI.

We can target candidates with sophisticated programmatic tools.

We can do video interviews, shortening timescales and improving experience.

We have the technology to assess all kinds of skills online.

Yet the job description hasn’t changed one little bit.  Okay, so the argument might be that the job description is a legal document and thus it must be comprehensive.  Of course, we need some kind of legal framework – whether’s that a job description or part of an employee contract.  But when you’re selling a car or a house, you don’t send out the contract to prospective buyers, you entice them with 3D images, virtual tours, entertaining videos, technical specifications and more.  Because if you did dangle the legal contract in front of them, you’re more than likely to frighten them away.

So what should organisations do to make their job descriptions more appealing (apart from setting fire to them)?

  • First, acknowledge that the job description used to sell a job is not a legal document; it’s marketing the job.
  • Start with the ‘what’s in it for me?’ – tell people why they should consider the job (and read any further).
  • Tell people where the role is located – and put the salary on it.
  • Bring the role to life by describing the typical tasks and responsibilities in words which people can relate to – and use examples of projects or work – and even quotes from people doing the job right now.
  • Don’t ask for a long list of skills.  Take a deep breath and just describe what’s really essential; forget all the desirable stuff.  I’d love a Maserati but I didn’t put it on my Christmas list!
  • Be visual.  We live in a visual world – so keep the words brief and use some visuals – preferably of things that relate to the job.  Maybe products or the work environment, colleagues or images from your brand campaign.
  • Then take a look at Textio, and see if you can learn anything from this AI piece of kit that will help you be more inclusive in your job descriptions.

So, I hear you say, ‘how do I get 200 different job descriptions rewritten and reformatted?’.

First of all, it’s worth the cost and time – it will make it easier for people to apply and join.  It will open up jobs to people who will have the right skills, but may never have considered the role.  And you don’t have to revamp every single one.  Put them into job families, tweak the opening ‘what’s in it for me?’ to apply to different areas, and get a professional writer to do it.

Of course, some might say, you could always make video job descriptions.  Yes, but same principles apply.  Don’t just think that because it has a play button and sound, it makes it entertaining.  God, no!  If it’s longer than a minute and about as interesting as an annual report, then you might as well stick with the 18-metre job description.  At least then, people don’t think you’ve tried – and failed!

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