four applicants sitting in chairs waiting for job interview
From a clear and concise title to a detailed list of responsibilities, a good job description will entice candidates without overwhelming them. — Getty Images/Moostocker

Looking to hire? You’re not alone. Recently, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 3.6% — the lowest in 50 years. That means more companies are competing among a dwindling pool of job seekers and are often having to do without needed talent or settle for less than desired. In fact, per a recent Robert Half survey, 84% of human resources managers say they’re willing to hire candidates who don’t meet all the skills for a position.

Small businesses seeking to fill positions need to devise smart strategies. That starts with carefully crafting a job listing that effectively describes what the role requires and rewards — one that targets the right kind of candidates and weeds out the wannabes. For guidance in writing a winning job description, we queried a handful of industry pros who offered the following recommendations.

Be clear and concise

A well-written job description that will attract strong applicants is easy to read, brief and to-the-point, insisted Brett Good, senior district president of Robert Half.

“This initial point of contact can make or break a candidate’s impression of your organization and the position, so it’s essential to put the time and effort into getting it right,” he said.

First, be succinct and specific in the job title.

“Choose common titles job seekers are searching for that will give them a good sense of the role before even reading further,” said Good.

Make note of other key details right away, too. Indicate the department that will house the position, the supervising manager’s title, and whether the open role will have managerial responsibilities. Also, provide a list of the specific job functions and a reasonable list of key requirements for the position, including educational background, work history and personal qualities necessary for success.

[See more: Best Hiring Strategies to Attract Top Talent.]

“Be mindful that position descriptions with a laundry list of key requirements may turn off job seekers. Employers who focus on a handful of necessary requirements will see the most success,” Good added.

Be mindful that position descriptions with a laundry list of key requirements may turn off job seekers.

Brett Good, senior district president of Robert Half

Lead with what candidates really care about

In such a competitive hiring market, prospects may only spend a few seconds on your job description to decide if you're worth their time. That’s why it’s crucial to entice them up front first with information that matters to them, not necessarily what matters to you.

“Through a heat map study, LinkedIn was able to identify the parts of a job description that job-seekers find most attractive. Sixty-one percent of participants ranked salary information and benefits as most important,” said Andrew Chimka, senior product manager at LinkedIn.

When asked what parts of the job description were most important, candidates studied by LinkedIn rated detailed information about the company last — with mission and culture close behind.

“Integrating pay transparency into your hiring models and including the salary range within your job description lets your applicants know exactly what to expect from you, streamlining the hiring process from the start,” noted Chimka. “Posting salaries also serves as a natural marketing tool and sets the stage to open conversations and honest answers.”

The bottom line, he added, is to “make your first interaction impactful and lasting. Get them hooked and build from there.”

Use a self-filtering mechanism

With the number of available jobs surpassing the number of unemployed candidates by 1 million, it’s important to cast a wide net for prospects. Yet, you don’t want to waste a lot of time sifting through a pile of unqualifieds, either. The solution? Employ a self-filtering mechanism.

“In other words, require proof that the applicant actually read the entire job description,” said Max Pollard, president of 25 Eagles Publishing. “A common tactic I use to filter out spam applications is to include a sentence in my job description that will reveal if the individual read the entire post carefully.”

For example, Pollard suggested using a sentence like “If you read this entire job description, please include the word ‘Eagle’ in your application or cover letter.”

“This way, you can automatically filter out low-effort candidates based on which applications don't include the word ‘Eagle,’” said Pollard, who added that this process quickly cuts his application pile in half. “I’ve found that some will even find a clever way to include the term that reveals a bit about their creativity.”

The lesson to be learned here is simple.

“Providing more accurate and specific keywords increases your relevancy to job seekers. And, for those who follow your directions, it shows they are really interested in the job,” he said.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published June 18, 2019