Some companies are quick to identify a lack of talent as the reason for a poor candidate pool. Others blame the slow-moving post-recession job market or job seekers with unreasonable expectations for their longstanding open roles. Is this an accurate assessment? Has the top talent candidate pool run dry?
If our record year is any indication, the answer is a resounding ‘no’. The number of top notch professionals both actively and passively searching for their next role is quite high. So where is this perceived lack of quality candidates stemming from? Let’s put it this way. If you want to catch the best fish, you need to lure them in with the best bait. The same is true for hiring the best candidate for your company’s role. And your bait is your job description.

If companies are not happy with the caliber of talent they are attracting, it’s highly likely they are throwing out the wrong kind of bait- a weak, inaccurate, and vague job description. In our 20+ years of experience we have often found that the problem is that what a company is looking for doesn’t what they are marketing.
Job descriptions should serve as more than a list of responsibilities and required skills. It is your company’s marketing brochure, highlighting both the breadth and depth of role, in addition to what it’s like to be your employee. Just as weak product marketing fails to bring in the buyers, a poorly written job description will certainly not attract the best candidates.

So how do you attract those high quality candidates?

1. Make it alluring. According to Ken Sundheim, CEO of an executive search firm in New York, “Smart people don’t buy stupid products.” If you want smart, top quality candidates to apply to your posting, make the posting enticing. Anyone can write a list of requirements and expectations, but ask yourself this: Would I want to apply for the job I just described? Is there anything uniquely appealing in the job or company description? If your answer is no, chances are your ideal candidate’s answer will be the same. Rather than the traditional heading “Responsibilities”, use “In this role, you will be able to …” Instead of “Requirements” use “You will be successful in this role if you…”

2. You can’t GET what you want if you don’t communicate exactly what you are looking for. Be specific in your job description. Include necessary skills and experiences; but do not forget the expectations and measurements for success. In addition, include the corporate climate and types of clients they are likely to encounter. Another way to attract solid candidates is to list recommended experiences that indicate accountability: “Demonstrated track record of successful sales leadership in a privately held, lean, technology manufacturing company”. Lastly, insert key words and familiar job titles that job seekers will use when searching for a new job, allowing you to draw in the most qualified talent.

3. Include the things you’d never think to include. A great job posting obviously includes the technical elements discussed above. But to a job seeker, where they will work and who they will work for are also important. Do not forget to include an introduction to the company, including its culture, structure and philosophy. In addition, share the trajectory of the company, where this position could eventually lead and who it will report to. Discuss the reason for the opening – the most ideal of which is an internal promotion or addition of a brand new position. Talk about the company’s recent growth and successes (perhaps include a link to a recent press release). Remember, you’re not just looking to add to a department, you’re adding to the company. Make sure your hire will fit in both technically and culturally.

4. Know where to cast your net. Traditional places such as general job boards and even niche job listing sites are useful – to a limited degree. However, they are not the best place to fish for candidates in higher demand. In fact, the higher the demand for the skills you’re seeking, the less likely you are to find those candidates responding to a posting on typical job boards. Incorporating a mixture of traditional and social media marketing, in addition to your corporate website, is ideal. Pick the platforms where your ideal candidates “hang out.” More importantly, engage your network and tap into your referral community. Surveys show that candidates hired through an employee referral have longer tenures and tend to “fit in” to the culture much more quickly. When possible and appropriate, incorporate visuals into your postings – remember, you are selling a product! Don’t forget to address all industries where your target candidates may reside. Searching for a Marketing & Communications Manager for a hospital/healthcare provider? Post the role in each of those industries: marketing, communications, hospital and healthcare. (Side note: The way you treat candidates who don’t get an interview is just as important as how you treat your new hire. Word travels fast when companies ignore or fail to engage their candidate pipeline. Be sure to have a consistent strategy for how to engage with and manage those candidates so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.)

The ideal candidate will remain elusive if job postings fail to reflect the importance of presenting a compelling, accurate, and unique picture of both the company and the role. So cast your line using high quality bait to reel in top notch professionals.