Now hiring: a “customer support hero” who is “a ninja with the keyboard,” “a spreadsheet guru,” and a “magical multi-tasker.”
A quick skim through recent job descriptions – like the one above – reveals plenty of buzzwords but not a lot of substance. When a company says they’re looking to hire a “customer support hero” or “keyboard ninja,” what does that mean?
In today’s tight job market, companies are trying to leverage their company culture as a competitive advantage for hiring. One way to do this is through job descriptions. Unfortunately, companies mistakenly think squeezing in as many buzzwords as possible will prove their “cool factor” with Millennials and attract more applicants. The effect can be just the opposite: Millennials prioritize authenticity and value alignment, and a buzzword filled description is the exact opposite.
Most candidates will gather information about company culture from multiple sources, including LinkedIn connections, ratings websites like Glassdoor, and your employer brand reputation, not just a job description. Job descriptions are like a trailer for a great movie. They need to tease just enough of the story to pique interest, showcase what’s unique, and get the right people in the door for the full experience–all while avoiding red flags that could scare your audience away.
Here’s how to get your job descriptions back on track:
1. Focus on values, not buzzwords.
A job description should bring your company’s core values to life. One way to do this is through soft skills. Rather than a “customer support hero,” describe what that means. Maybe at your company, this is someone with “integrity, tact, a positive attitude and welcoming communication style.” Or, it could be someone who “doesn’t take negativity personally” and can “generate trust.” Don’t leave your audience guessing. Spell out the type of qualities you’re seeking in a new hire.
2. Prioritize “non-negotiables” versus “nice-to-haves.”
It’s not just buzzwords that can backfire. Long, detailed lists of highly specific skills and leadership “musts” can also be problematic. Professionals who might be an excellent fit for the role will self-select out because they don’t meet every single qualification perfectly. Worse, people who aren’t at all qualified will end up applying because they recognize one or two items on the list and think, “I can do that!” Trim down your requirements list to the essentials and be realistic about which skills you can teach on the job. Hire with an eye towards potential, not just what’s currently on paper.
3. Speak to candidate needs.
When you’re eager to hire, it’s natural to think about job descriptions from your perspective and focus on urgent skill gaps. I encourage you to take a step back and read the description from a candidate’s viewpoint. Does this description give candidates a clear understanding of job responsibilities? What about growth potential or career opportunities? Speak to their needs rather than just summarizing yours.
There’s still a place for company culture in job descriptions, but this is not the only place. When you bring a candidate in for the interview, ensure that the interview experience matches their expectations. When you follow through on the values and promises you made in the job description, you’ll be positioned to land your top choice candidate.