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How To Write A Job Posting (The Right Way)

Three Tips

May 19, 2022 by Ashley Beauchamp and Tim Hatton

Job postings aren’t anonymous little “Help Wanted” ads buried on page twelve of the newspaper anymore; they’re a communication tool that introduces your business to employees and builds trust in the job market. 

But only if you write them well—a posting only works if it is competent, honest, and strategic. That’s easy to say, but harder to pull off. 

The Emsi Burning Glass Open Titles Library collects information from millions of online sources every day, aggregating them into cohesive, consistent data we use to generate our best-in-class insight into the labor market. That data includes millions of job postings, and it also shows which ones work and which don’t.

Here are three tips to avoid easy mistakes and attract the talent you need: 

Be competent

It should be obvious, but spelling mistakes can be the biggest obstacles to attracting the right candidates. That especially applies to real words that spell check can’t pick out: if a jobseeker is hoping to be an “account manager,” they aren’t going to be searching for “account manger” jobs. Customer Service is so often misspelled as “Costumer Service” that real costumers get lost in the shuffle, and misspelling “artist” as “artiest” makes it sound like a competition. 

As likely as not, a job posting is a candidate’s first impression of a company, and a sloppy posting can ruin their opinion of you for good. If an organization is careless with their writing, it can seem more likely they’ll be careless in how they treat their employees. That’s a risk no HR department can afford to take. Writing an error-free posting is a low bar to clear, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

Be honest

To get the right people to apply for your job, they need to know what job they’re applying for: be clear about the job requirements, typical working hours, and seniority level.

One practical way to be honest is about the job level: steer clear of job title inflation. If you are looking for a receptionist, don’t ask for an Ambassador of First Impressions.  If every other person in the company is an Assistant Vice President, nobody is actually an assistant vice president. 

If there is a descriptive, traditional name for the job you’re advertising for, call it by its name. Never take any job for granted—don’t try to disguise a good job behind a fanciful title that doesn’t communicate anything helpful.

When it comes to tone, aim for professional, not cool or cute. We’ve seen job postings calling for unicorns, ninjas, and superheroes, but those turn out to be exaggerations. Writing “Come hang out with our rock star UX peeps!” doesn’t tell a jobseeker what they need to know about the position, and it runs the risk of discouraging well-trained workers from wanting to work with you.

If you want to attract professionals, keep the tone professional. 

Be strategic

Even if you’ve been writing competent, honest job postings for a long time, today’s historically tight job market means that you should consider looking for workers in places beyond your current talent pool—which may also mean changing your posting style. 

One practical way to attract more candidates: communicate as clearly as possible and offer explanation where necessary. Industry-specific jargon can discourage even the bravest job seeker from applying, even if their skill sets overlap well with the opening.  If they don’t know what you mean, they probably won’t apply. 

Acronyms, in particular, can cause unnecessary communication breakdowns. When in doubt, spell it out. Advertising for a job in “SET” might mean “Software Engineer in Test” to your hiring manager, but the word “set” has 430 possible definitions—the most in the English language. Don’t risk those odds.

You should also be strategic about what skills and requirements you ask for. Think about what a potential new hire will need to know on day one, and list those as hard and fast requirements. You may need them to add more as time goes on, but consider offering on-the-job training for those instead. The same holds true for education requirements; if your job asks for a college education, does it really need to? Our postings data show that fewer and fewer employers are requiring degrees for their workers.

The more qualifications you include, the fewer candidates will feel qualified enough to apply. In today’s historically tight job market, there are no jobseekers to spare.

Standing out among the millions of job postings isn’t an easy task, but being competent, honest, and strategic go a long way toward making it happen. 

Emsi Burning Glass has the resources to help. Our free Job Posting Optimizer tool lets you confirm that the  skills in your posting match the job title, and our Job Postings Dashboard allows you to see who is hiring, identify which skills are in demand, and analyze trends in your region’s economy. Learn more about the data powering those resources at skills.emsidata.com

Ashley Beauchamp and Tim Hatton

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