To Recruit Top Talent, Rethink Your Job Postings


Everyone in talent acquisition understands the importance of the hiring process -- it is an organization's only chance to add top talent to its teams. The steps within that hiring process, however, often become something that the talent acquisition team manages efficiently but rarely examines carefully.

This lack of attention, for most organizations, starts at the very beginning with job postings.

Often times, talent acquisition team members doing screening and interviewing (including recruiters) don't really know what they are looking for. They have a clear picture of whom they want -- imagining a top performer or departed colleague who performed the job masterfully -- but don't have a clear picture of what the job realistically entails.

For example, one Gallup client completed an audit of their hiring process, which included interviews with recruiters and hiring managers. The organization found that just 5% of recruiters and hiring managers strongly agreed that the company's job postings were an "accurate reflection" of the roles' actual job demands.

Lack of alignment and clarity on role expectations among members of the hiring team may be keeping you from recruiting and hiring the best.

The organization found that just 5% of recruiters and hiring managers strongly agreed that the company's job postings were an "accurate reflection" of the roles' actual job demands.

Without clearly articulating what performance excellence looks like in a role, it is impossible to accurately evaluate during the interview process who out of your candidate pool is most likely to meet or exceed expectations.

Furthermore, a publicly posted job requisition can be an organization's only opportunity to describe the potential role of a talented pool of candidates. Many people decide whether to apply for positions based on the job requisitions they review on career sites, job boards, and professional networking platforms. A poorly or inaccurately written job posting could unintentionally be preventing the exact candidate you are seeking from ever entering your hiring funnel.

Paint a Clear Picture of the Job, Not a Vague Persona

An interview, either in person or virtual, often serves as the final step in the hiring process. This is an opportunity for the candidate to persuasively describe how they would embrace and successfully perform the responsibilities of the job. Writing an accurate job posting gives candidates a better chance to explain and showcase their potential fit for the role. For the person conducting the interview -- be that a recruiter or hiring manager -- having clarity about the responsibilities of a role helps them develop relevant situational and behavioral interview questions that facilitate better hiring decisions.

A poorly or inaccurately written job posting could unintentionally be preventing the exact candidate you are seeking from ever entering your hiring funnel.

So, what can hiring leaders do to fix this problem?

An effective job posting should reflect what the employee will be expected to do in the job, not just whom the organization expects them to be.

It's easy for writers of job postings to get caught in the trap of thinking about a "persona" rather than thinking about what excellent performance in the job entails. The job posting ends up being a list of things the organization wants a person to be rather than a precise and accurate description of what excellent performers will do.

Here's an example of a persona-based posting:

We are seeking someone who is:

  • customer-oriented
  • positive
  • able to solve problems quickly
  • a team player

The problem here is that the qualities listed could apply to so many different jobs. A candidate reading this job posting may see themselves as a good fit based on the qualities that are described, but that candidate still doesn't have an accurate picture of what the job is and if they could perform it successfully.

Moreover, for those familiar with the CliftonStrengths assessment, Gallup research shows that there are many ways for people to apply their unique strengths to accomplish the same task or goal. While one person might provide timely and helpful responses to customers with an empathetic nature and desire to get work done quickly, another person may accomplish that same job demand with engaging communication and a love of problem-solving.

Instead, job postings must describe what the employee will need to do.

We are seeking someone who can:

  • communicate strategically to simplify complex ideas for others
  • motivate people to act by providing compelling next steps
  • engage colleagues in authentic relationships
  • collaborate to deliver defined, measurable customer satisfaction outcomes

Job postings written like this will allow the right candidates to select in, or the wrong candidates to select out, based on a clear picture of the role.

Ensuring that your organization writes job postings that clearly describe what candidates will do in the role is the first step in hiring future stars.

Attracting talented candidates is no easy task -- but it starts with alignment among managers, recruiters and talent acquisition team members on the actual expectations of the role to ensure everyone's time and efforts will be spent targeting and recruiting the right type of candidate.

Gallup's research indicates that talented candidates are attracted to jobs that give them an opportunity to apply their unique combination of knowledge, skills, and strengths to make a difference. Ensuring that your organization writes job postings that clearly describe what candidates will do in the role is the first step in hiring future stars.