Previously I posted about “How to Write Good Job Descriptions” but it seems like that post needs another installment: what you shouldn’t do, and how to figure it out.
Recently someone forwarded me a job posting (the company shall remain nameless) below. At first, I was just appalled at one line in the job description:
"Insanely long workweeks are a big 'no no' here--core hours are 10-4PM"
which for a startup felt a bit too ….ummmm…..cushy, but then I realized what really bothered me about the job description it was that the job description described more about the perks than the job or the company! No joke – see for yourself”
Below is what I would consider a good job posting for comparison (from Facebook):
Notice the differences?
And the bad post got me thinking about what you should and shouldn’t put in a job description.
What you shouldn’t say in your job description
A lot of companies want to compete with Google and Facebook for top talent. There are a couple things to know about their strategy though,
The types of people you want to recruit are really smart, hard-working, and dedicated employees. These are the type of people that will buy into your vision and work really hard to help you achieve it.
These are not employees that are going to take two-hour lunches and stop working early each day.
These are the people that are so dedicated that when you serve dinner at the end of the day, the majority of them will stick around to eat and contribute. On their weekends these employees are always thinking about the problems at the office, and even when they are doing leisure activities (such as playing video games) they are thinking about how to leverage new ideas to help their employer achieve even more.
While perks and benefits certainly can be worth mentioning, they should not be the central focus of any job description.
You don’t want people to work for you because of the great medical and dental insurance, or free snacks around the office. Instead focus on the things that really, truly matter to the candidates you want to attract (the hard working and dedicated ones); and leave the perks to speak for themselves.
Showcasing your perks
Perks are one of the easiest things to show, not tell. When someone is researching your company, how does your about page showcase the culture? And when candidates come to interview what do they see?
As you can see from the example job description above, companies like Google and Facebook don’t call out their perks. Instead they make these much more subtle, but still very obvious to a candidate that makes it to a job offer.
Both companies have great about pages that highlight what it is like to work there, including videos from real employees. On Google’s Life at Google page they barely call out the benefits, and instead focus on solving hard and meaningful problems with other smart people. Their tagline from their jobs page is “Do cool things that matter.”
When I interviewed at Google I was so impressed by the bins of treats of many varieties, the excellent food in the cafeteria (they had a wealth of vegetarian choices), and large assortment of drinks. I was walked to my interviews I saw the workspaces, high tech video conferencing setups, and the ample lounge areas they provided. You can just look at the desks and see people have the hardware and software they need to do their work. When you get an offer, you get all the information and details on their benefits with your offer, and some Google Swag along with it – they make you feel special from the start.
You don’t go to work at Google because of the perks. You go to work a Google because you want to work at a leading technology company is making a difference in the world with a really smart people that put engineering and science and innovation first.
Apply these ideas to your company:
Have a compelling Jobs, or About page, that doesn’t focus on perks, but focuses on the interesting problems and fun challenges for your company and business. Showcase the real employees so they can see what the people who work there are really like. If you want to highlight your culture, take a page from their book, use photos of your office space, videos of your employees, and informational pages off your jobs or about pages. Don’t waste valuable space in your job description for the perks.
Make interviews about more than assessing the candidate. Give them an office tour, take them to lunch or breakfast, or offer them your drinks and snacks. Maybe even challenge them to a game of ping-pong. Make the interview process more than just technical and knowledge-based and use it as an opportunity to showcase your culture and fantastic office perks.
Make the offer more than just a letter. Send them a package with some fun company stuff, and all the details on your benefits. This is a great way to make them feel special, at a time when it really matters. Go over and above the norm.
How to figure out the job description for you
Most job descriptions have a few key parts (although all of them are not required). And the trick to doing effective recruiting is to figure out what sort of verbiage and format attracts the best candidates for your company. And if you don’t want to take my word for it about perks and benefits, you can test it! After all, ones man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so you may well find you like the results you get with a different approach. So test away!
Tip: Don’t be afraid to run multiple posts for the same job
One thing that I do is write different versions of each key section and then combine them and omit them in different posts to find the right blend for the candidates that I want.
For example if you have the following components:
- About the role
- About the company
- About the candidate
You can write different versions of each and test them.
Craigslist makes a great testing ground because there are a lot of posts, and a post is only $25, so it is relatively cheap to run a new one every few days. And it is a best practice to run one per week (at least in the Seattle area where there are so many software engineering jobs that candidates seldom page back more than a week or two).
Tip: Post at least once per week.
And don’t worry about doing at the same time/day each week. Different days and times work well to reach varied candidates. Sundays, Mondays, and Fridays tend to work best for me (my theory is that is when people are dreading work most or have the most spare time during the day). Obviously higher priced job sites like LinkedIn and others, this strategy may not be feasible, but could be a good best practice if you have several open roles.
Tip: Track which job posts generate the most leads.
Just like you would do with web site traffic and advertisements or referrals, track which job descriptions generate the most leads. While it can be challenging to get an exact count of how many see and click through on a posting, using some of the tricks below it is easy to get a good approximation of effectiveness.
- Append a query parameter to the link to your website to track click throughs via that job description. This page gives an overview on how to do this with google analytics by appending a variation of the following string to your urls in each post, la:
- Use different submission emails for different job descriptions (this is easy to do if you have people reply directly to the job description on most sites)
- Use drastically different job titles and ask people to reference the role
- Ask candidates you like directly which job description they liked and why (it can be a fun and useful interview question)
Think of your different posts like A/B (or multivariate) tests. And in addition to the different sections I mentioned here are some actionable experiments to consider:
- Title – including different variations of the role
I once tested Web Developer, Front End Engineer, UI Software Engineer, and UX Developer and was surprised that most of the great candidates were drawn to the UX Developer title by a large magnitude.
- Description: Short vs. Long is one the biggest ones. So many people have told me shorter is better, but longer job descriptions have tended to yield more qualified candidates for me.
- Info about the role (bullets or text). A lot of people will test different years of experience, or omitting knowledge of certain technologies. Or even just moving things from requirements to nice to have sections.
- Company description. I would include having one and then omitting it. Sometimes not putting the company in the description can you get some interesting candidates (although pretty much any smart one will figure it out from the email address – a lot of recruiters use this tactic when they are working with a few companies so it is a more “shady” method, but does pique one’s curiosity).
Of course you can try mentioning perks too, if you so choose.
Just like marketing though, think about your audience and qualified candidates.
If you want my opinion (which I guess you do, since you have read all the way down to this part) focus on:
- Career growth and opportunity – what can they learn and where can they go from this role? Ambitious and driven people want growth opportunities to stretch themselves and build their skill set.
- Interesting problems and challenges – what kind of problems will they get to work on? Why are they interesting and special?
- Exciting things about the business and the vision of the company – where are you headed and how much traction is there? They want to feel proud of the work they do. This means having a product or service that people use it means having some success or traction in the marketplace, and it means feeling rewarded and happy by the fact did accomplish something each day. Humans are driven by accomplishment.
- Great people that work there – we spend 40+ hours at work with people, shouldn’t they be awesome? Smart people want to work with other smart people, and be around others that are going to teach them things, share their knowledge, and have a lot of fun.
Well all of us would love to have a cushy work environment fancy hardware and software, free food and services, and lots of extra time. Most of us want to make a difference and have fun doing it and are willing to forego all of these little perks and exchange friend meaningful and substantial job with people that we like.
There is no amount of perks that can make up for dreading going to work every day. It can be fun for a time, but it’s not sustainable for the long haul and it’s certainly not reporting or durable.
Excitement and enthusiasm are priceless.