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Careers: Overhaul Your Job Postings

Last week a reader, Steve, responded to an issue I raised by drawing a parallel to the need for a better fax machine. Thanks, Steve. For a while I thought I was the only one who wondered why there hasn’t been one improvement to fax machines in 20 years. They still make that weird sound when the fax is being transmitted and it can still take forever for a fax to go through even though emails and phone calls are almost instantaneous. I don’t mean to call out folks working in product development, but come on people–it’s time to step up to the plate.

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Last week a reader, Steve, responded to an issue I raised by drawing a parallel to the need for a better fax machine. Thanks, Steve. For a while I thought I was the only one who wondered why there hasn’t been one improvement to fax machines in 20 years. They still make that weird sound when the fax is being transmitted and it can still take forever for a fax to go through even though emails and phone calls are almost instantaneous. I don’t mean to call out folks working in product development, but come on people–it’s time to step up to the plate.

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This week I want to talk about more than my love of fax machine enhancements. If there’s one thing I think we all enjoy, it’s the logistics of recruiting a new employee; posting job descriptions, screening resumes, interviewing, following up with candidates who weren’t selected. My department is looking to fill a newly created position and, as part of that process, we spent a considerable amount of time crafting and tweaking the job description. Because it’s one of the first touches we have with potential candidates, it’s important to think about how we’re going to market the job and our office. Based on what I’ve heard from job seekers and recruiters over the years, I’ve narrowed down what can make or break a job posting to the following:

The locationally challenged. I don’t care where you’re located, with the right marketing touch you can overcome any obstacle. For example, I grew up near Sharon, Pennsylvania—home of the world’s largest shoe store and the world’s largest candy store (am I the only one who ever wonders who verifies this stuff?) Whether your company is headquartered at the North Pole, Death Valley, or points in between, when you create your job description it’s important to focus on positive aspects of your location. For example, if you’re in an area where it snows year round, highlight how much new employees will save on air conditioning bills.

Too many/few requirements. Be specific. If you are looking for an MBA, say so. Many candidates pass over openings that don’t specify minimum educational requirements and also, on the flip side, those that list too many requirements. Take an honest look at the skills and experience candidates must possess to be successful in the position. Include nothing more or nothing less. If you’re job description is five pages long, you’re doing something wrong.

The “arbitrary years of experience” stipulation. This one always kills me. Minimum 11 years of experience required. So you’re saying someone with 10 years and 10 months of experience can’t do the job but in a mere 3 months they’ll be an expert? I know we have to set cut offs or else everyone under the sun will apply, but wouldn’t it be a better idea to focus on relevant experience and accomplishments instead of an arbitrary number?

Infinite deadlines. Candidates need a sense of urgency. Posting a position with an application deadline six months from now we’ll cost you strong candidates for two reasons; 1) because most people put off for five months what they can do today and in that time there’s a pretty good chance the opening will fall through the cracks, and 2) if they’re looking for something more immediate, the rolling application deadline will likely scare them away. Try two to four weeks.

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Advertising. Depending on the scope of your search, posting openings through local media outlets might work but that should just be one part of an overall campaign. I’m becoming more and more of a fan of the job posting section of LinkedIn. A recruiter looking for referrals forwarded an opening to me last week and I was able to circulate it to colleagues in other departments quickly and easily.

Monster and CareerBuilder are okay, but most candidates I speak to feel as though applying to openings on job boards and company websites is like throwing your application into a black hole. Remember—this wouldn’t be the case if more companies would follow up with candidates to 1) acknowledge receipt of their application and 2) to let them know whether or not they were selected for an interview. Sorry, I’ll get off my soap box about the importance of following up with candidates.

Also, don’t forget about professional associations and alumni career offices at colleges and universities in your area. They generally offer low cost alternatives for advertising your openings. Plus, depending on what you’re looking for, you’re less likely to get bombarded by hundreds of applications from candidates without the right background that you would if you were posting on huge job boards.

The next time you have an opening in your organization, don’t just dust off the job description you used four years ago and throw it on a few websites. Take a subjective look at what you say from the eyes of a potential candidate and ask yourself, “if I were looking for a job right now, would this job description pique my interest?”

Shawn Graham is an Associate Director with the MBA Career Management Center at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (courtingyourcareer.wordpress.com).

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About the author

Shawn Graham partners with small businesses to create, implement, and manage performance-driven marketing strategies. His knowledge base includes media relations, business development, customer engagement, web marketing, and strategic planning

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