Recruitment Marketing

How to Write Job Descriptions to Attract High Performers and Diverse Talent

Profile photo of Susannah Sack
Written by Susannah Sack
How to Write Job Descriptions to Attract High Performers and Diverse Talent
4.2 (84.62%) 13 votes

Used strategically, a job description can be much more than a list of duties and qualifications. With some small but significant changes to your template, you can use job descriptions to attract higher quality and more diverse applicants.

Here are 5 things you can do to create more attractive job descriptions:

1) Focus on Format

Job seekers respond to the structure and writing style of a job description, according to findings from Textio, a writing technology product that synthesizes data from companies around the world to uncover patterns between language and job seeker engagement.

Textio reports that job descriptions perform best when they contain:

  • Bullet points (aim for having one-third of your content in bulleted lists)
  • Conversational language directed to the reader (“you will” instead of “the selected applicant will”)
  • Concise writing: aim for about 13 words per sentence and fewer than 700 words total
2) Reduce Requirements

Long lists of required qualifications will deter job seekers, especially women. According to the Harvard Business Review, female job seekers tend to apply for promotions only when they believe they meet 100% of the listed requirements, while males apply with only 60% of the requirements met.

Some studies suggest this is evidence of a “confidence gap,” but when HBR surveyed job seekers about their reasons for not applying to jobs, “I didn’t think I could do the job well” was the least cited reason among females and males alike. The top reason for not applying? “I didn’t think they would hire me since I didn’t meet the qualifications, and I didn’t want to waste my time and energy.”

So, what does this mean for your job descriptions? It means job seekers are using the required qualifications to screen themselves out before even applying, especially female job seekers.

The solution? Only list the absolute minimum requirements needed to perform the job. Keeping the required qualifications to a minimum will invite a more diverse applicant pool.

3) Avoid Unintended Gender Bias

Do the words in your job description signal whether you are seeking a male or female for the role? A growing body of linguistics research suggests yes.

This University of Waterloo and Duke University study investigated masculine words (e.g. active, confident, superior) and feminine words (e.g. committed, dependable, interpersonal) in job descriptions. The study found that the presence of masculine wording in job advertisements significantly deterred women from applying.

As Newton explains, masculine worded descriptions subliminally tell women that they are not the right fit for the role and should not apply, regardless of qualifications. To mitigate gendered language in your job description, try running it through a free gender bias decodor, like totaljobs.

4) Skip the Jargon

If job seekers can’t understand your language, they will stop reading. Avoid insider terminology that will distract or confuse readers. If it won’t make sense to someone outside of your organization, or it isn’t absolutely needed to understand the role, skip it.

Also monitor your use of industry jargon, especially for early career positions. In this Business Insider study, 66% of young professionals reviewing entry-level job descriptions did not understand the roles they would be applying for.

Some of the jargon terms they found most confusing were:

  • SLAs
  • KPIs
  • Fulfillment service
  • Procurement
  • Compliance
  • Mergers and acquisitions
5) Do Your Research

The best way to appeal to a wide audience of qualified talent is to put yourself in their shoes.

Search for similar jobs as if you are your own future hire. What keyword searches result in the most appealing jobs? Consider whether industry terminology has evolved in recent years and research how other companies describe similar roles.

Know what you’re up against before posting the same old job description you’ve always used!

Need more tips to get started? Check out the Undercover Recruiter’s blog, 15 Science-backed Tips for Writing Job Descriptions.

Looking for inspiration? Check out companies like Atlassian, Cisco, and Salesforce to see some examples of concise, engaging job descriptions.

How to Write Job Descriptions to Attract High Performers and Diverse Talent
4.2 (84.62%) 13 votes

About the Author

Profile photo of Susannah Sack

Susannah Sack

Susannah Sack is manager of talent acquisition strategies and solutions at Marriott International. Previously she led employer branding and recruitment marketing at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).

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