Job Posting Best Practices Guide
For many HR professionals and hiring managers the job posting process seems fairly simple and straightforward. So much so, in fact, that too often not enough time is spent ensuring that the job posting is thoroughly and carefully designed to attract top candidates.
As noted in CompTIA’s Workforce and Learning Trends report, the persistently competitive hiring environment means companies of all sizes must learn to navigate the talent constraints era. But even in times where employers have the edge and candidates are plentiful, you still want to attract the best possible candidates to fill your open positions.
Taking the time to practice some important best practices and to pay attention to the little details that can make your postings stand out will serve you well. Here we take a look at some top tips and important terminology to help you stand out from the masses.
The job posting process is an opportunity to make your company shine. Jennifer Hartman, an HR staff writer for Fit Small Business suggests that, during the hiring process, employers should “make a strong and consistent representation of your company culture online and off.” This, she says, “includes creating a positive online presence for your company, using effective social media channels, and creating a respectful workplace environment.”
Here we take a look at some important best practices for the job posting process.
Establish and Maintain a Strong Employer Brand
As Hartman suggests, establishing and maintaining a strong employer brand is foundational to positioning your company as a great place to work in the minds of potential job applicants.
An employer brand, just like a company or product brand, is the impression job candidates have of your company when they’re considering applying for a job. This impression is formed from a myriad of interactions they may have online and off where they learn about or interact with your company and its employees.
In today’s digital environment, employers must be especially vigilant about monitoring comments being made about them in channels ranging from Glassdoor, to LinkedIn, TikTok, and more. A disgruntled applicant can readily post about what they perceived as a bad experience and that post can quickly be shared with thousands—even millions—of people around the globe. In fact, Inc. reports that “more than half of job seekers say they wouldn’t apply to a company with bad online reviews.”
The process of maintaining a strong employer brand is ongoing and something that needs to be attended to by everyone in your company from the top down. An important must do, of course, is to actually be a great place to work. Without that in place, no amount of brand ambassadorship will change your company’s reputation.
Speaking of brand ambassadorship, your employees are your best brand ambassadors. If they believe your company is a great place to work, they’ll share those beliefs with others—friends, family, neighbors, etc. And they’ll do so not just in person but also online where their comments can have a wide reach.
Believe it or not, your job descriptions play an important role in conveying a strong employer brand.
Job Descriptions vs. Job Postings
Once a hiring need has been identified, your next step is to review and update the job description for the position as necessary. First, it’s important to clarify a couple of key terms and their difference: job description and job posting.
A job description is a document that contains information about the position—what it is, what it does, and other key facts that are integral to the role. The job description tends to be a lengthier internal document maintained by the HR department.
A job posting, while containing some of the same information, is a notification that a job opening exists. The job posting is designed to interest potential candidates in the job, provide a realistic job overview, and provide information on how to apply.
These two terms are often used interchangeably, but there are key differences as we’ve seen. Not understanding the terms and their use could result in not providing precise and accurate information about the job (job description) and failing to attract candidates (job posting).
Creating both the job description and job posting should be a collaborative process that involves HR and the hiring manager—e.g., the CIO, VP, or director of IT, etc.
Standard Components of a Job Posting
There are a number of common elements in job descriptions. These include:
Job title. The name of the role, e.g., IT support specialist, which often starts with a review of jobs taxonomy, such as the U.S. Department of Labor O*NET framework. From there you may opt to tailor the job title (within reason) to your organization.
Job purpose. What is the job intended to do? What value does it provide to the organization? Again, for an IT specialist job description, the job purpose might be: “to set up, manage, and maintain computer and software systems.”
Job duties and responsibilities. A list of the major tasks the person in the job will carry out and the outcomes they are responsible for.
Qualifications. The knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) required to serve in the role. These tend to fall into an essential category covering technical and soft skills, and a secondary or situational category that are a plus for the job candidate (although this can lead to overspecing if too expansive):
Essential technical skills
Essential soft skills
Secondary or situational skills that are a plus
Experience and credentials.
Classification. Whether the position is exempt (from receiving overtime pay) or nonexempt (eligible for overtime pay). Classification of positions is governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); there are very specific considerations that need to be considered when classifying positions to ensure they comply with FLSA standards.
Salary grade level. Most organizations have pay ranges that are assigned to each job giving an indication of the minimum and maximum pay for the position.
Reports to. An indication of the role (not the individual) the position reports to. For instance, for an IT specialist job description, the position might report to the IT manager.
Scope and limits of authority. An indication of the type of decisions the person in the role can make and what, if any, other positions they are responsible for overseeing.
Working conditions. The demands and environmental conditions associated with the job. For instance, will the position require standing for long periods of time, lifting, and moving equipment, etc.?
In addition to providing a summary of the key elements of the job description, the job posting will also include:
How to apply for the job—e.g., apply in person, apply online (provide link), apply to a specific individual via email, etc.
Timeline. The timeframe for accepting applications. A best practice is to include both a start and end date.
Best practices for creating the job description and job posting
There are some important best practices to be aware of when creating the job description and job posting.
Be realistic in conveying the level of job experience, education, and qualifications actually required to perform the duties of the job. This is important both to provide an accurate picture of the position to candidates and to avoid limiting the number of potential candidates by only appealing to “unicorn”—those very few who could possibly have the combination of requirements you indicate. In addition, overstating the requirements (e.g., indicating a Master’s degree is required for an entry-level IT specialist position) could unintentionally impact people in protected classes—e.g., people of color.
Avoid the use of biased language that may be offensive to candidates who may be marginalized based on age, race, gender, etc.
Keep it simple. Job seekers, like everyone these day, are busy and inundated with communications from a wide range of sources. Get to the point, include only the most essential information, and make use of bulleted lists and headings to help make your content easy to read and scannable.
Think of both the job description and job posting as documents designed to attract and interest job candidates—in a sense these are marketing documents and should be written from the point of view of the candidate clearly conveying the benefits of the position and the company.
Create the Recruitment Plan
The recruitment plan outlines the process and strategy for finding candidates and filling a position. It will include information on the timeline for recruitment, the target audience (e.g., the types of people you hope to reach based on experience and educational background), and the methods you will use for outreach.
The recruitment plan will also include details about the screening and interview process, how screening and interviewing will be done, who will be involved, timeframe, etc. For instance, will screening be done by phone? Via video? How and where will interviews be conducted? How many people will be involved in the interviews? Who are they/what roles do they represent? How many interviews will there be?
Creating a recruitment plan can help to streamline the hiring process, giving everyone involved a clear understanding of what will be done, how potential applicants will be reached via various communication channels, and how a hiring decision will be made.
The recruitment plan will then drive the process of promoting the position through various channels. The more critical, or important, the position and the fewer potential applicants that might exist, the broader and more extensive the promotion process. For instance, a help desk position located on site would likely involve a local search while a Chief Security Officer position would likely involve a national, or global, search.
Promote the Position
There are a wide range of communication channels you might use in some combination to get the word out about the job opening.
One of the most important things you can do when promoting jobs is to ensure easy access to information that candidates may be seeking—not only information on your website which should be well organized and easy to find, but also information from representatives from your company. Provide a phone number that will be answered promptly and/or email that will be checked regularly. Ongoing communication with candidates throughout the hiring process is a critical best practice.
Throughout the hiring process it’s important to provide candidates—including those who are not interviewed or hired—with a positive experience and to treat them professionally. How you do this impacts both your employer and overall brand image. In addition, as we’ve noted, candidates who feel they have been poorly treated may post negative comments about your company on social media channels which could create a reputation risk for your organization.
Be very clear in your messaging and make it easy for potential candidates to find the information they need whether it’s on your website or on a job board. Also keep search engine optimization (SEO) in mind, using the key words and phrases that candidates are likely to be using when they search for open positions.
Find out what your current employees like most about your company and emphasize those things in your job recruitment communication materials.
Offer flexibility. Since the pandemic, people have come to expect and often prefer the opportunity to work remotely. If it’s possible to offer hybrid or remote opportunities, be sure to include that information in your promotional materials.
Be creative. Employers have become very creative during the pandemic as their ability to communicate with job candidates shifted dramatically. From virtual tours to give candidates a feel for the company to the use of short videos on YouTube, Instagram and other channels to share employee testimonials, being creative can help you start out from other employers.
Include salary and benefit information in your job postings. Salary and benefits are important to candidates and have an impact on their decision to apply for a job. If you’re not offering competitive salary and benefits, take steps to get there. If you are, communicate it loudly and proudly.
Finally, leverage data and analytics to help you identify what works best for you when communicating about open positions. For instance, where do most of your applicants come from? Where do most of the top candidates come from? When potential employees visit the jobs area of your website how long do they stay on the site? What search terms do they use? The more you know the more you can optimize your process to make continual improvements.
By now you’ve probably realized that although the job posting process may appear simple, it is anything but. There are a lot of steps in the process and a lot of options for getting the word out about your job openings. There also is a lot of competition so taking the time to think strategically about your job posting and recruitment process is critical. Do it well and do it right to keep a steady flow of qualified candidates for your open positions.