The hardest part of recruiting? It’s not business development, nor is it finding a bountiful applicant pool. We rarely struggle with vetting candidates to present to our clients and I have yet to work on a search for a position I have never heard of. No, the most difficult part of recruiting is getting a company to fully understand what it wants. As I meet with HR managers and in-house recruiters to discuss a potential opening, I like to begin by listening to the answer to two questions: What are you looking for and Why now?

The questions seem simple enough, but more often than not, what a company is looking for and what they are actually marketing are completely different things. As a recruiter or hiring manager, your ultimate goal is this: Find the ideal candidate who meets most of the job and skills requirements, supports the company’s philosophy and mission, enhances the culture, and has a track record of high performance. The best and most efficient way to make that happen is to bring in fewer, more qualified, culturally aligned candidates from the get-go; not a parade of 10-12 candidates who are close to the mark, but not really, hoping 1 or 2 will stick. And the best way to attract those few highly qualified candidates… take the time to develop a good job description.

Job descriptions serve as more than a list of responsibilities and educational background. Your company’s job description, is a marketing brochure, highlighting what it’s like to be an employee in your organization. When a company is rolling out a new product the marketing department works tirelessly to create materials that highlight the benefits of the product – pricing, problem-solving, how it gives the buyer an “edge” or “leg up” in a competitive market. In addition, they strive to make the product alluring, unique, and desirable. A marketing brochure that is lacking in visual appeal and substance, while incorporating an overabundance of clichés or jargon that have no relevance to the job, is not going to inspire your target audience to buy your product – in this case, the job. During the recession, companies could get away with unengaging or dull descriptions. Those days are long gone!

Top talent will not stop to read your job posting if it does not draw them in. They don’t care that you want to hire someone with “Microsoft office skills” or “good communication skills” or “solid problem-solving abilities”. What company doesn’t expect these things? So how do you draw in those high-quality candidates? Tell a compelling story.

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 alluring. 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 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” describe it as “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. Go beyond a simple list of skills and degrees. Include the desired traits and characteristics that the ideal candidate would possess. Years of experience are important but even more important are the specific scenarios, environments, and activities the candidate has been exposed to. The more realistic and “real world”, the better. Include requirements that indicate accountability: “Demonstrated track record of successful sales leadership in a privately held, lean, technology manufacturing company”. Include keywords and familiar job titles that job seekers will use when searching for a new job, allowing you to draw in the most qualified talent and relevant. Be honest about expectations and how they are measured (e.g. the amount of travel).

3. If you want a well-rounded candidate, paint a complete picture. A good job posting includes skills and experience. A great posting does much more than that. It includes an introduction to the company, including it’ culture, structure, and philosophy, in addition to highlighting the future vision 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 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 still useful today – somewhat. However, they are not the only place to fish for excellent candidates, and the higher the demand for the skills you’re seeking, the less likely you are to find them in response to a job posting. 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, including your posting in each of those industries: marketing, communications, hospital, and healthcare. And remember, 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 pipeline.

In the end, recruiters and hiring managers are looking to do more than just fill an opening. Finding the best candidate that will bring the skills and characteristics necessary to get the job done well, in addition to adding to the value of the company as a whole is the ultimate goal. However, that candidate will remain elusive if those involved in the recruitment process forget the importance of presenting a compelling, exciting, and unique picture. This is the perfect time to showcase the company, the reason why the candidate would benefit from joining the team, and what the future will hold.