Are your job ads repelling applicants?

by Stephanie Zillman09 Jul 2012

Are your job ads repelling applicants?If you have found the number of applicants for positions waning, it could be time to revise your job descriptions and consider whether you’re turning away candidates from the outset by setting overly specific (or excessive) criteria.

As many as one in three employers struggle to find candidates with the required skills and experience. The major reason standing in the way of filling the positions is a lack of experience – or at least a perceived lack of experience as against the listed requirements.

According to one senior HR professional, lists of mandatory experience are all-too-often arbitrary in nature. “Despite the serious shortage of some skills, the disconnect between employers and job seekers is not surprising given how many job descriptions fall victim to the ‘experience-needed syndrome’,” Tammy Johns from ManpowerGroup wrote in the Harvard Business Review. Johns said the problem is often two-fold. Job descriptions for entry-level positions ask for experience, which shuts out many young workers. On the other side, seasoned workers find the “experience-needed syndrome” becomes the “exact experience needed syndrome.”

One issue that remains a challenge for HR is how to transform converging workloads, formally done by two or more individuals, into one new job description performed by one individual.  When poorly executed, candidates can be left confused as to whether they in fact meet the job requirements. As job descriptions and skills change at breakneck speed, Johns offered tips of how to better manage new listings:

Create job-success profiles
Be specific about the key skills, mindset, and core competencies required to succeed rather than itemise every skill and duty one will conceivably encounter during the workday. Specificity about what is most important will generate a smaller pool of stronger candidates who can see themselves in that job.

Be contemporary
Use job titles that clearly describe the skill or profession as it is today. Young workers may not know what a bank teller actually does (because they have always used an ATM machine) or that a Proof Operator is a data entry job. This is true for describing emerging skills too. Jobs in emerging areas like the green economy and cloud computing are just being defined and described —recycling coordinator or cloud specialist, for example — so ensure that your postings are contemporary and relevant by staying on top of the way this work is described. In the online job-posting world, the way you describe a job defines who will — or worse — who will not apply.

Practice inclusivity
As you describe the work to be done think about all of the combinations of talent sources and work models available. Re-thinking tired mindsets about whom and how works get done might help you make a better match. In cases where you really do need exact experience consider reconstructing the work so a retiree could do the specialised part while a new graduate trains on the more general work.

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