There is no doubting the importance of job candidates always making a great first impression by delivering a polished resume and cover letter in response to a job post. A simple web search will yield thousands of blog posts on that very topic. Equally important, but not as equally touted, is the importance for the company to make a great first impression with a well-written job post.
No matter the economic climate, it's wrong to think that the onus is only on the job seeker to be professional and set great expectations. A recent poll of our StartUpHire candidates showed that 44 percent wouldn't apply to a job post that was poorly written, even if they met the qualifications. "Poorly written" can cover everything from mistakes with grammar, to the tone, to the details. Simply put, if a company wants to attract the best they need to put their best forward too.
A job post is an advertisement. You're letting the world know about a fabulous (hopefully) opportunity at your organization. Ideally you'd like to quickly get to a short list of people who look to be a good fit for the open position. You want people to be lining up to apply, but the goal is to make them the right people. A polished job post goes a long way in helping that process.
Here are some tips for building a great post and attracting the best candidate:
1.) If you want an exciting candidate, give them a reason to be excited!
Build some excitement for the company and highlight all the elements that make the job a great opportunity. Why is it a great place to work? How is the mission important? What can you say about the company that's inspiring? Explain why this is a great opportunity for the right person.
2.) Know what's most important, and convey that. If you're looking for an experienced sales person what type of sales will they be doing? Will it be inside sales or outside sales? If sales at your company typically involve large price tags and multiple stakeholders signing off over six to twelve months, that's a very different job than the one doing inside sales where the product is a few thousand dollars and deals are closed in a few days. Explain the role to the reader. The more insight you can give them into the position the more of everyone's time is saved.
3.) Reality vs. Fantasy. Don't let the fantasy find it's way into the job post. Yes, ideally you're looking for a developer with deep experience in scaling complex databases to handle mammoth loads and the ability to create elegant user experiences for web and mobile. That would be great. That would solve your current and future challenges while keeping your costs under control. That person doesn't exist. Or if they do exist, they're so rare and in demand that it's going to be nearly impossible to hire them. Be realistic about your expectations. What's the most important task that needs to be done right now to grow the company? Hire the best person to complete that task!
4.) Are you looking for a specialist or a generalist? The key stakeholders need to have a conversation envisioning the new person. What does your ideal candidate value in a job and an organization? What role will they be playing? What skills are absolutely required? What are will they be doing during a typical week? The less specific you can be at answering that question, the more of a generalist you should be looking to hire. The clearer you are on your needs the better chance of attracting the type of person that you want.
5.) Developers aren't HR experts. I've seen it before. You're a small company where everyone wears multiple hats and no budget for full time HR. The person leading the hiring process doesn't necessarily have a good understanding of the technology and so the natural thing to do is ask the people in the organization with that knowledge for requirements. Those people aren't very familiar with the hiring process or the position so they send back a list of technologies. Bringing those two things together isn't as easy as you think. The final post ends up as company boilerplate with technology keywords sprinkled in. The best solution is to work collaboratively, face-to-face, not over email. Have a conversation about all the important aspects of the position and the future hire. When everyone involved can explain the position to a stranger, you're ready to write the post.
6.) Let the culture of the company show through. Make sure the culture is reflected in an honest and balanced way. You want to give candidates a sense of your company culture. That attracts the candidates that are most likely to fit in and is a subtle signal to those that aren't.
But don't go overboard. We see the occasional job post that takes this to an extreme. If all you're talking about is ping pong tables, happy hour and beer in the fridge, then you stand a good chance of coming off more like a frat house than a serious company that balances a lot of hard work with blowing off a little steam.
7.) Don't focus on pay or benefits. List them of course -- candidates generally want to know if the opportunity will cover the bills -- but you probably don't want someone for whom that's the main focus. Sales people may be the exception to that rule.
If writing a job post seems like a lot of work, good. It should be. Hiring well is a requirement for success. Bad hires suck up vast amount of resources. At the end of it all a bad hire leaves you back where you started. Best of luck with all of your searches, and here's to a successful 2013!