As the job market tightens and top talent are highly in demand, it may be time to evaluate the ways in which creative leaders advertise openings to attract job applicants. The job description is THE first formal introduction of your open job to prospective talent, and it deserves the necessary time and effort to put the best foot forward advertising the role!

In full disclosure, I do not believe the traditional route of hiring matches the simple steps of posting a job to some job boards and your internal website; receiving applicants; interviewing a select handful of those applicants and ultimately hiring from that pool of candidates in most cases. So, to put it simply, I do not believe the job descriptions and postings you make use of are the only ways you will find candidates and fill your openings. Typically most hires I see in my role partnering with large in-house creative teams follow a less direct path including referrals, networking, etc. That being said, the job description utilized for your opening will be scrutinized by candidates--even those who were made aware of the opening outside of finding the job posting themselves.

Below are the two major areas of job postings/position descriptions that most organizations can improve upon based on my experience of partnering with in-house creative teams to fulfill contingent hiring needs.

1. Requirements overload!
The goal of the requirements section of your job description is the showcase to potential candidates what they need to come equipped with to be considered for your role. Make this as clear and simple as possible for the candidate by breaking down non-negotiable expectations and additional nice-to-have skills and experience expectations.

I recommend breaking down the portion of your job description that speaks to those things candidacy will be evaluated upon including past experience and software skills into three distinct categories.

  • First, what are the must-have skills the appropriate candidate needs in order to be successful in this role? These should include the skills the candidate must have to functionally work in the role. For example: proficiency in InDesign, PhotoShop and Illustrator at an expert level. In addition to must-have functional skills, include must-have soft skills here as well. For example, if your team moves very fast with ever-changing deadlines and priorities, be sure to require candidates to have experience managing multiple priorities and meeting deadlines.
  • Second, what are nice-to-have skills or previous experiences to truly set the candidate ahead of other interested job seekers? These items can include skills that maybe your team is lacking and would be nice to add to the mix or skills that you know your highest-performers have but are not critical to meeting expectations in the role, for example.
  • And finally, what is required in terms of their work history and education to be considered for the role? List here specifically what criteria are non-negotiable for the talent to be hired into. Items here could include number of years of industry-specific experience and degree requirements.

2."General descriptions"
Similarly to how the requirements should simply provide your candidates an overview of what they need to be considered for the role, the description section of your posting should provide a glimpse of what the candidate will be doing day-to-day in the role. This would, ideally, provide a lot of detail about the type of work the candidate will produce all the way through how their success will be evaluated.

I do realize many corporations mandate standardized descriptions based on job title or corporate style. But realize that, just like the above requirements overload, a sub-par job description may dissuade candidates from moving forward with interest in your opening. If your job descriptions are hampered by corporate style, make sure you talk to HR about this challenge--it may not be as mandatory as you thought, or perhaps you are able to create two versions of your job description. If this is not officially possible, consider still writing the alternative description to send to interested candidates and those you may be moving to the interview process so they have a clearer picture of what to expect.

Some additional points to consider for the description:

  • Include selling points to working on your team! Keep in mind the recruiting and interviewing process it not just about candidates selling themselves to you, you need to sell the company and role to them. These selling points can be anything from fun perks to awards your team has won. Some less obvious attractive selling points include career path potential and growth in the department. If this role is open due to sheer growth on the team, that is very exciting for a job seeker!
  • Include some personality in the description. If the team is truly collaborative and dynamic be sure to include this. If the team is very corporate and conservative include that! You want to be sure your description includes some indication of the culture that would fit with your unique department.
  • Include very clear expectations for applicants when they are submitting their candidacy. For example, if you prefer to review online portfolios, request this. If you prefer a designed resume versus a simple word document, request this.
  • Finally, whenever possible, have someone who currently works in the role you are advertising review the description to see if it is either misrepresented or whether items have been missed.

With proper attention your job descriptions can help properly frame your opportunity to a candidate and help talent better understand whether or not they may be a fit for your opening--creating a more efficient recruiting process for you and your candidates. Be sure to give job description writing the time and attention necessary to produce the best possible candidate results. And don't forget to revisit job descriptions at least once a year ahead of posting for a new role.