Job Postings Are Not Dead (despite what Zappos is doing) – Part 1

Every now and then, a high profile company does something so ground breaking, unique or radical in their talent management strategy that everyone takes notice, often resulting in the question, is this a new trend? Is ___ dead? For example, when Yahoo! announced the end of telecommuting for their employees, pundits questioned whether the practice as a whole was coming to an end. That was ridiculous of course, as it was a decision made by one company for valid reasons that applied to their own situation.

The latest company to do something dramatic at this level was Zappos, when they announced recently that they would no longer use job postings as a part of their recruiting process. This story captured national attention with articles in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. A big, bold move indeed, and one that was probably bound to happen at some point somewhere. But does this spell the beginning of the end for job postings?

Absolutely not. Job postings serve a very practical purpose and are the primary source for attracting relevant candidates in many organizations. The problem isn’t with job postings themselves, but often with the volume of unqualified candidates that they generate, which is often directly related to how they are written and how they are used. The truth is that well-crafted, properly placed job postings can have a tremendously positive impact on a company’s sourcing strategy. In the first part of this series of posts on job postings, we’ll explore what makes for a highly effective job posting.

Job Postings Suck
Let’s face it, your job postings suck. Well, maybe not yours specifically, but there’s a high probability that yours do, and that’s not just my opinion, but the opinion of most job seekers. After writing, editing and reading job postings for the past 20 years, I can honestly say that 90%+ of the job postings that I see are either too bland, too long, too generic, have boring job titles, are just a bullet list of duties and qualifications, and/or have a list of must have qualifications (with a plethora of acronyms) that no one single person on earth could possibly have all of.

So let’s take a step back and understand what the purpose of a job posting really is and what it can achieve. A job posting is an advertisement, plain and simple. That’s not a surprise to you I’m sure, but what do most job postings end up as in reality? Job descriptions. Please repeat after me…job postings are not job descriptions. Job descriptions have the purpose of classifying a job type within an organization. They are bureaucratic documents that serve an internal purpose, not an external one. There are components of a job description that should be included in a job posting, but they are not one and the same. Job postings require you to take your HR hat off, and put your marketing hat on.

The goal of a job posting should be to attract and engage the right candidates, and discourage the wrong ones from applying. They should be inclusive enough to appeal to top performers who meet the minimum qualifications of the role, yet exclusive enough to educate irrelevant candidates as to why they are not the right fit.

So what’s the formula for a well-crafted job posting? It’s quite simple actually. Here’s my 5 keys to job posting success:

  • How descriptive is your job title? The job title is the first thing that a candidate sees, and will often drive whether the candidate clicks on it to learn more and apply. Is your job title generic, does it include uncommon acronyms? Job posting titles have one purpose, to get the candidate to want to click through and learn more. It should be descriptive in 3-5 words. At the very least, it should include level, function and specialty. But it shouldn’t embellish. If you use ‘Rockstar’ or ‘Ninja’ in your job posting titles…Please. Stop. Now.
  • Know the job, really know it. The job description is just the beginning, but you need more than a list of duties and qualifications. Ensure that must have qualifications are a brief, reasonable list. Understand what can be taught and where there can be tradeoffs and why.
  • Put the candidate in the role. Get rid of your bland list of duties and describe what will this person accomplish in this role and how will success be defined, such as “In this role, you will be responsible for designing the next generation of X…” “You will have the opportunity to work with a bright, collaborative team on Z…”. Use ‘You’ a lot, it’s personal and it connects.
  • WIIFM? What’s the sell? Why would an employed top performer at another organization consider leaving their current job to take yours? How well does your job posting reflect and align with your employment value proposition and/or employment brand? Does the job posting with start and finish with the sell and a call-to-action? Do you test-market the job with top performers in the same or similar roles (if you get funny looks or any hesitation to provide feedback on their end.)?
  • Keep it brief and descriptive. Let’s face it, candidates don’t read job postings, especially long ones. Once they click through, they should see a job posting no longer than 3-5 paragraphs. 1-2 that focus on the sell, one that puts the candidate in the job, one that has a brief list of qualifications and why they are relevant, and one that has a call-to-action. Top performers should be highly motivated at this point to take the next step and apply.

Job posting get a bad rap, and in most cases, deservedly so. Take the time at the front end to follow these tips, to think critically and creatively about your job postings, and you should see greater quantities of quality candidates as a result.