As mentioned previously, there are two basic questions job seekers have when "window shopping" potential employers. The first, "who are you," I've already touched on. The second is "what jobs do you have open?"
There are, of course, good and bad ways to answer this critical question. I've already ranted about conventional company profiles, suggesting that most you see on Web sites miss the mark. The same is true of the majority of job postings. They are often sparse and incomplete, and they fail to tell the reader what he or she would really do as part of the posted job.
Worse yet, many job postings take the form of long lists of technical job requirements, intended (as mentioned before) to scare off unqualified job seekers. These "no trespassing" signs create adverse selection. You have to win over good job seekers, and they have no patience for (or interest in) laundry lists of dry technical job requirements. Only desperate and incompetent job seekers will remain undeterred by poorly written job descriptions.
So, what do really good job postings look like?
Before I dive into that, I want to make the case that your job postings are more important than they seem. They aren't just temporary, transactional "lures" that simply serve the purpose of filling a specific position. Rather, they are a key aspect of your employer brand. As online documents, they 1) may be read by a lot of people and openly discussed, and 2) have a life of their own, and may get archived, emailed, cross-referenced, spidered and otherwise stored in databases. Once you launch them, they have a life of their own.
Now, there are three basic characteristics to a great job posting. First, recent studies suggest that the ideal answer takes a "day in the life" format. There are a number of ways to summarize what a job consists of. What prospective employees want to know is, "what will I actually do, day to day?"
The second basic characteristic of the ideal answer is that it eschews bullet lists and technical descriptions, favoring instead imagery and "stories." Here's why: every job seeker has an internal dialog regarding what type of employer they want to work for, and what sort of job they want. It isn’t comprised of technical specifications or definitions. Rather, it’s comprised of images, memories, fears and ambitions, imaginary dialogs with friends and colleagues, visceral reactions, things like that. Therefore, your goal should be to paint a picture in your company profile and job postings that resonates with the "stories" in the heads and hearts of your ideal candidates. I know that sounds rather poetic. Exactly! You may need to get help from your marketing communications staff (or other good writers) to put together the best job postings -- which are essentially ads. You may also want to seek input from employees similar to the ones you are trying to attract.
The third characteristic is that good job postings are different. Spend some time browsing MilwaukeeJobs.com, as an example, you will see that even the job postings that are carefully crafted (and well constructed by conventional standards) tend to all sound alike. You have to get a little crazy and break out of that mold. A CPA firm recently posted a position which specifically indicated that they were looking for a Ringo Starr (male or female) -- "No Keith Moons need apply." Another firm manages to work recipes into job postings. These clever hooks often appeal to the best and the brightest candidates. (By the way, remember my earlier comment that your job postings become part of your employer brand -- when they are so clever that people remember them and talk about them, you've hit a bullseye!)
(Note: if you are worried that appealing job postings will "open the floodgates," I've got you covered -- see this article.)
The job market of a couple of years ago -- post a job, get 700 applications -- is remembered painfully by many employers and recruiters, who still wish to avoid the pain of that kind of scenario. But as the demographic trends leading to the "war for talent" shape up, the paradigm underlying hiring responsibilities is changing ... has changed already, in fact. We can no longer see ourselves as gatekeepers, fighting off the unqualified masses. Rather, we have to become champions devoted to getting the best talent on board. That requires some tactical changes, and better job postings are a great place to start.