People & Leadership

Attract young people with your job description using these 8 simple rules

Have you ever found yourself none the wiser after reading a job description? Or been so overwhelmed by the jargon that you don’t actually understand what the job is?

Have you ever found yourself none the wiser after reading a job description? Or been so overwhelmed by the jargon that you don’t actually understand what the role is?

Research shows this is a major problem, especially among entry level applicants.

Young people are put off by overly complex job adverts bursting with business-speak, resulting in them not applying at all and, much worse, left feeling demoralised and somehow not up to the role.

The effect is not only a bad candidate experience for the applicant, but also marks a real loss for companies who might be losing out on talent as a result.

HR and recruiting teams would do well to learn from their colleagues in marketing.

Just like marketers seek to attract and retain customers in an increasingly competitive market, so too should HR leaders seek to attract and retain the best. This is part of what we call People Marketing.

HR and people leaders need to segment their audiences into personas and decide who it is they want to target, and then communicate to them clearly and in a way that they will understand.

In light of this, here are eight handy tips to write clear and effective job descriptions in order to market your company to young recruits.

1. Talk to your audience

What kind of job are you advertising? Think about who you want to apply for the role and communicate to them in a way that they understand.

If you are looking for a young person at entry level, think about what they might want to know about the company and the role.

They might be interested in your community initiatives. They may even want to know more about your culture and opportunities to get involved in company initiatives.

Research shows younger people will have different expectations from their jobs than their older colleagues.

HR teams need to be aware of this when looking for candidates, creating job descriptions and selling their employer brand.

2. Don’t use business jargon

According to a survey by American Express OPEN, 88% of US workers pretend to understand business-speak, even when they don’t have a clue what it means.

Jargon that you may take for granted within your organisation might not be understandable to anyone outside of your business or industry – and a first-time job applicant is certainly not going to understand.

3. Spell out and explain acronyms

What are SLAs, KPIs, CMSs? Don’t assume your applicant will know what these are.

Understanding jargon is not an indication of how clever or able they are. And if they don’t have a knowledgeable parent, friend or career adviser to ask, then they have no hope.

So if you are looking for someone to update your CMS system, explain that you are looking for someone who can enter data into a content management system, which is used to manage content on the website, called a CMS.

Ask yourself: does the language and terminology used in the job description relate to the level of experience that you are looking for?

4. Ask the existing jobholder to help you write the job description

If the role you are looking to fill is an existing one which someone is leaving, ask them to input into the job description.

They know their role best and can provide a good overview of what it involves in terms of day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.

5. Don’t over complicate or talk up the job role

State the role, responsibilities, day-to-day tasks and qualities needed in a frill-free way. Don’t be vague and obscure.

Many job descriptions don’t make it clear what level the position is aimed at, with many organisations ‘talking up’ roles, making them needlessly complicated and creating unrealistic expectations of what junior roles will involve that will not match the reality.

Be clear in the job description. What does success look like in the role? What are the key metrics that will indicate how the person is performing in the role?

6. Provide details of interest to the applicant

As well as telling potential candidates what you want, tell them what they will get.

Where is the job located? How much does it pay? What are the benefits? Will they gain any qualifications as part of the job? What are the opportunities for career advancement or work abroad?

Being as clear as possible will ensure that only appropriate candidates who are interested in the job will actually apply, and that those who are capable of the job are not put off.

If someone applies thinking the job is in the city, only to find out in the interview that its actually two hours away, then that person may choose not to go through the process and everyone’s time is wasted.

7. Don’t make the job descriptions unnecessarily long

Don’t use long, abstract sentences which are likely to be meaningless.

Don’t have reams of text extolling the company’s values.

And don’t have excessive bullet points explaining the responsibilities, when a couple of succinct paragraphs and a handful of bullet points will suffice.

For example, in its quest to find a receptionist, one company listed ‘constantly seek to improve corporate knowledge’ as a key responsibility of the role.

What does that mean? What is corporate knowledge, and what does the receptionist have to do to improve it?

8. Ask young people in your organisation to review the job description

If they can’t understand it, then it needs re-writing. Barclays asked young people to review its job descriptions and as a result changed the way it wrote entry level job roles.