“Job descriptions suck!”

We’ve heard it a million times. With an abundance of job openings for the exceptional 90th percentile, every ad for tech talent looks and sounds the same: a list of demands sandwiched between flowery sentences describing creative work environments, snazzy perks, and products that will disrupt billion dollar markets.

Since I started recruiting in tech more than 15 years ago, little has changed. To the talented individuals you’re looking to attract, your job ad is nothing but noise. I firmly believe that expecting success from a posting alone is insane, but I’ll save that for another day. Invariably, a job profile of some sort fits into your overall strategy to hire for any role. And a bad one will sabotage all other efforts.

Why do most companies get it so wrong?

Know your audience. Most companies forget that a job description and a job ad are two different things – and are written for 2 different audiences.

Often written by a hiring manager, traditional job descriptions are intended to communicate to the team the specific responsibilities and duties that a new employee will perform. They typically include a list of skills, experience and knowledge required to do the job well.

The job description tells us “what’s in it for the company“:

  • What will the new employee do for us?
  • What does the new employee need to know and be really good at in order perform the tasks listed in above.

It’s likely full of technical jargon and obvious catch-alls like “must be a team-player.” In most cases, it’s generic enough that it can be cut and pasted for every similar job opening for the next 3 years.

Often, the writing of a job description is a painful and rushed exercise. The result is something resembling a shopping list or purchase order.

This approach to a job description is actually not wrong. Of course every search for a new teammate starts by identifying what needs to be done and by whom. What is wrong is that companies usually stop here and use this document as an ad.

So, what the heck is a job ad?

A good job ad is a marketing tool. It is designed to attract and engage your ideal candidate. It is honest and inspiring. Most importantly, it focuses on “what’s in it for the candidate”.

Use these questions to get you started:

  • What exciting project/product/strategy will I be working on?
  • What will I be working on in the first 60-90 days, and what can I expect to learn?
  • Is this somewhere I’ll make a big impact on a market/company/technology?
  • Describe the leaders and teammates I’ll work with, are they smart, fun and inspiring?
  • What other interesting challenges will I get to tackle?
  • Describe the market opportunity. How does this role impact business objectives?
  • Your company is on an exciting path, tell the story of how this role plays a key part in the thrilling adventure.

Think about your dream candidate.

What will make them excited enough to stop what they’re doing and pay attention to you? This is a marketing exercise. It needs to be full of excitement, authenticity and truth— no cheese, no fluff. You need to know your intended audience, and then give them a genuine summary of what you can do for them and how they’ll truly make an impact as a member of your team.