Latest ONS figures show 806,000 live job vacancies – almost double 2009 figures. And the unemployment rate stands at 4.2%, as low as it was in 1975. It truly is a candidate’s market once more.

Despite that, many companies still use job descriptions which are at best dull and uninformative, and at worst downright off-putting.

And the result? Wasted time, and irrelevant candidates with the wrong skills, if you believe 59% of HR managers.

And you should. Of those job seekers who have left a job within the first 90 days of starting, 43% do so because their day-to-day role is not “what they expected”. 

It’s not rocket science that applicants who have been misled, naturally result in weak candidate pools, poor employee fit, and ultimately high turnover and repeat recruitment costs.

We’ve all read one bulleting every single minute duty (this screams micromanagement, by the way). And those which are all about what the ‘give’, and not a word about what the ‘get’. Or those with a single vague paragraph, because you will “make the role your own” (translation: we’ve not thought this through).

So, what should you do? 

The key thing to remember is, it’s not all about you. In a very big way, it’s about your audience. Put yourself in their shoes, and think about what they need to know, to make a decision.

Presenting comprehensive information, clearly, and with a considerate and inclusive approach, helps candidates make the right decisions both for them, and for you. And your employer brand simply isn’t working as hard as it could, if those messages aren’t getting out to applicants right from the start.

Here’s what you should be doing:

Tell them what they need to know

The information job seekers most want from employers should come as no surprise. Of course they want to know the salary, benefits and basic company information. They also want to know what makes it an attractive place to work (after all, why is this role empty? Is it an interesting job? Will I like it?), and something on the company vision and values wouldn’t go amiss.

A 2017 study into youth recruitment found 1 in 3 descriptions left out salary, 2 in 5 descriptions left out working hours, and 1 in 7 didn’t even specify the job’s location.

For those younger applicants in particular, lack of basic information presents a major barrier. When you can’t identify which roles are entry level, the experience requirements, and what the role involves on a day to day basis, it’s much harder to understand whether it’s the right role for you. 66% of the young people in this vacancies study, didn’t understand the role they would be applying to.

With clarity like this, why would you apply?

Make it clear

Candidates are time-poor. Our own data suggests that based on average reading speed, only 38% of users who visit a text based job description, spend long enough on the page to fully read it.

Jargon and confusing skills requirements are among the top deterrents for applicants of all ages. Research also suggests jargon negatively affects confidence in younger applicants especially, who can feel they are “not good enough” to apply to intimidating-sounding roles.

You may be surprised at what puts people off; terms like “SLAs” “procurement”, “fulfilment service”, “KPIs”, “compliance, “mergers and acquisitions” were all identified by young testers as jargon. Be sure to clearly explain any acronyms you do use, and keep technical language to a minimum.

For those without extensive experience, the application process itself can be daunting. Particularly those without access to “working role models and networks”, so explaining the process clearly on your career site is a good move.

“Talking up” roles i.e. making them seem more complex and senior, not only creates unrealistic expectations but can equally be off-putting to the right candidate. 

Be realistic

A recent report on Marketing Recruitment found that “despite there being fewer strong candidates in the market, employers’ requirements are remaining highly specific - making sourcing candidates that fit the exact specifications of the role much harder”.

Be clear on the requirements, but be realistic also – the candidate who 100% fits the bill will be impossible to find, and you’re ruling out plenty of suitable candidates along the way. 

What do you need now, and what can you train later?

Distinguish between what’s essential, and what’s just ideal. This should improve the diversity of your talent pool; research suggests women are more likely to apply for positions when they meet 100% of the required qualifications on a job advert, whereas men are likely to apply when they meet only 60% of those qualifications (Mohr 2014, cited in CIPD). 

And consider what sometimes just comes with time and experience. Not everyone arrives as the finished package. Naturally you’re looking for a top candidate, and you might well describe the ideal person as ‘highly confident’, ‘polished’ or ‘high calibre’. But these descriptions are cited as “extremely off-putting” in research findings. Less experienced or younger applicants will be discouraged by the intrinsic focus on high self-worth.  

What’s it worth?

Ask the question and you’ll find some people work to live, and some live to work. (Although, with 72% of Brits doing their job just to “pay the bills”, and 66% of Millennials prioritising life above work, you could theorise as to which bucket the majority of people are in).

Either way, when you feel what you do is worth something, and your values and that of your employer are aligned, you’re naturally more likely to stay engaged. “Mission-driven” organisations can expect 40% higher levels of retention, and also tend to be at or near the top of their market segment. 

The CIPD advises you “consider not just the tasks that make up the job, but also the job’s purpose and how it fits into the organisation’s structure”.

We’re not all working for a pioneering healthcare start-up, and even there, not every role is going to directly change the world. But you can communicate the intrinsic value that each and every role has, as part of the organisational whole. 

So, when you find yourself reviewing a job description, consider the person on the receiving end of it. What are you not telling them? What would you want to know, in their position? How can it be made shorter, clearer, more informative? Are you looking for a unicorn or a real candidate? Where can you demand less, and train more? And what unique value could this person bring?