Job Description Mistakes that Repel Great Candidates and How to Fix Them

Posted by Andrea Anderson on 1/2/24 9:16 AM

Better Job Descriptions

“There just aren’t any great candidates out there right now.” I hear it all the time, usually from battle-weary hiring managers. They’ve taken the time to craft a solid job posting, only to watch a handful of not-quite-right resumes trickle into the system. While it’s true that, depending on your industry and the role you’re attempting to fill, talent is still painfully scarce. But before you blame the lack of candidates, I have a question for you to consider:

Is it the labor market, or is it your job description?

If you’re still leaning heavily into the same job posting template you were using pre-2020, I’m going to go out on a limb here. It’s time to take a fresh look at your template, your process, and the way you think about talking to talent these days.

Here are three of the most common job posting mistakes I see, and a better approach to attract the applicants you need.

A Job Description That Is Too Detailed

Is your job description too detailed? It could discourage qualified applicants from submitting their resumes. This isn't the first time we've explored this phenomenon.

In search of the perfect new employee, many hiring managers try to include every conceivable job responsibility in the description. While this may sound like a good idea, it almost always backfires, especially in a tight labor market. Candidates who find themselves staring into the abyss of endless requirements will quickly realize they don’t meet all of them. Why take on the hassle of applying for something that screams, “You’re not qualified?”

But the damage done often runs deeper than that. Even the unicorn who meets every requirement is likely to be turned off by a job description stuffed with demands and details. It suggests a hyper-demanding hiring manager, is too focused on the small stuff to inspire big things or meaningful work.

A Job Description That Is Too Vague

Phrases like “willing to wear many hats” or “other duties as assigned,” used to be job description norms. Hiring managers love these kinds of blanket phrases because they imply that, in a pinch, it’s okay to throw anything at an employee (because it’s “within the job description.”) But for job seekers, these expectations are red flags. A post-pandemic survey by Paychex revealed that they are among the “job post phrasings most likely to dissuade applicants.” Not surprisingly, 57% of respondents said that “clearly explained job responsibilities” are a green flag.

Too much aspiration, not enough reality

And then there’s this… the pie-in-the-sky job descriptions that portray everything about the job as ideal. The team is “one big, happy family.” The job is a rocket ship to career greatness. The company is a paragon of virtue. After encouraging so many hiring managers to be more promotional and aspirational when writing their job postings, it pains me to point this out. But when job descriptions are soaked in superlatives, smart job seekers see it for what it is: too good to be true. Once a candidate feels like you’re misleading at this early stage, they’re unlikely to pursue more.  

Try this instead

Take a step back from the laundry list of everything you need your new hire to do. Yes, there is a hole in your roster that needs to be filled. There is real urgency. But the candidate you need is someone who has the right core competencies, enough experience, and a set of career priorities that mesh well with your organization’s values. Start by defining those things. Outline the top 5-10 responsibilities that your new hire will need to fulfill competently. Think of the must-have qualifications that a person should possess to be successful. What level of education is non-negotiable? How much experience? Which core competencies are make or break? Write your job description around those. In the preferred section, add some (not all) of your nice-to-haves and highlight them there.  Do describe your organization and your team’s culture in their most positive light. But stay real. Talk about shared goals and cooperation and keep the vague adjectives and adverbs to a minimum.

Finally, spend some time reviewing the LinkedIn profiles of your dream applicants: people you know or know of, who would be ideal hires for you. What do they have in common? What past work experiences? Life experiences? Educational backgrounds? Career priorities? Choose keywords from their profiles and incorporate them into your job description to get like-minded candidates interested in your position.

But won’t this approach bring in more underqualified applicants?

Yep, probably. But it will also capture the interest of those candidates you need: the right ones. If you would like to know how SkyWater Search Partners can help you find, recruit, and successfully hire the right talent for your team, please reach out. We would love to learn about your business goals and hiring priorities!

Find Talent



(952) 767-9000



More From The SkyWater Blog

Topics: Interviewing For Job Seekers, For Employers