Job Postings and Job Descriptions Are Different in Ways That Matter!

Job Postings and Job Descriptions Are Different in Ways That Matter!

by Sara Bennett | November 16, 2020

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Job Descriptions and Job Postings are Very Different.  And Their Differences Matter! 

I am always perplexed when I see a formal job description used as a job posting.  I wonder not only about what kind of responses a recruiter might get from these lengthy and often times  boring descriptions of “the work” but also about how much work it will take them to find candidates who are the “right fit”.

Unfortunately, job descriptions tend to look the same, and definitely aren’t written to persuade people to take action.   I would think a candidate looking thru a bunch of job postings would not be attracted by a post that looked more like a job description…or let’s say a candidate who applied to that  type of job posting would likely also be applying to “all job postings”.  Being from the “small batch, high touch” school of recruiting, I don’t think this is a great way to focus your recruit on the right candidates.

From our perch,  re-purposing a job description to become your job posting is a “recruiting no no”,  not only does it compromise your recruiting outreach, but it seriously expands the time it takes to weed thru the candidates who apply to figure out who might fit.

What’s a Job Description?

I think of a job description as an HR product – a document primarily designed to be used internally to answer questions that often get raised under regulatory scrutiny.  A well crafted job description will protect a company from claims of employee misclassification, workers comp misclassification issues, etc.   Yes, the job description does describe the work, plus the skills, knowledge, and experience considered necessary to do the work, but again, primarily to help managers manage an employee whose performance gets off target.

Questions that get answered in a job description include….

  • Is there heavy lifting or other physical requirements required to do the job?
  • What are the expectations for performance?   (Words like timely, accurate, comprehensive, etc. are commonplace in job descriptions)
  • If the position warrants an exemption from overtime requirements?  (ex. “will work independently to achieve key results” etc.)

Bottomline, a job description, is  a document HR uses to support legal compliance, to determine equitable pay, and to rationalize personnel decisions.  A good job description delivers the most value when it provides a timely and accurate description of the “facts” about the job.

What’s a Job Posting?

A job posting, on the other hand, has completely different set of objectives.  It is designed to engage a prospective job candidate and inspire them to take action – to apply for the job.  Recruiters who get good at creating effective job postings typically have a secret sauce – selected content and a format to make their “job advertisement” stand out from the crowd.  At PACE, for example, we know that the first few lines of our posting are the grabbers, and need to be written as if writing to our target candidate, using their typical word choices, describing their typical job motivators.  While we want our readers to get a good picture of the job and the company we are recruiting, we try to avoid the technical details – knowing they can come later  Our goal is to make sure our job posting differentiates our customers recruiting story from all the rest of the postings for the same or similar jobs.

Measuring the Effectiveness of a Job Description and a Job Posting

Aside from content, the effectiveness of a job posting and a job description is measured very differently.  A job posting is successful to the degree it  attracts the kind of candidates we are looking for and weeds out the candidates who don’t fit that profile.   If it isn’t working, the job posting is changed.  Its “truth” can shift in terms of how its told.

The effectiveness of a job description,on the other hand, depends on how accurately it describes the current facts about the job, the actual work to be performed.  Its truth can not shift unless the facts shift.  ( A common HR practice is to update a job description each time an existing employee has their performance reviewed, or a new employee is hired into the role.)   

And it is around the accuracy of a job descriptions that creates another set of challenges when they are used to recruit.   In the reality of today’s fast moving work environments, job descriptions are rarely up to date.  Most are only approximations of the real work, and many contain information that turns out to be factually inaccurate.

 Relying on an outdated and inaccurate  job description to attract the right candidate, is like enhancing your on line dating profile by attaching a picture of yourself 20 years ago (when you were a younger sleeker version of yourself today).  That type of misrepresentation never works in the light of day and can actually do more harm than good! 

Why do so many recruiters use job descriptions as job postings?

We can speak to our own experience working with hiring managers about why and how that happens.

When most client’s call, they have no clue how to describe the profile of the candidate they need to hire.  When we ask questions about the profile of the candidate they believe would be a good fit for the job,  they often suggest they just send us the job description.  They believe that the job description is all we need to know.  Hold on kimosabe!

Now there’s nothing wrong with the job description as a starting point in a profiling process.    And if its all our client has, it’s the start we’ll use.

But in our world, the process we go thru to create a profile of the “ideal”  candidate is very different from the process that goes into creating a job description.  Some recruiters either don’t have or don’t take the time to profile the preferred candidate,  but its a key step in our service process and the questions our recruiters are trained to ask in order to to profile the “right candidate” take time.

I’ll be honest profiling questions are far more interesting and can dig up a lot of interesting insights.

The job description, for example, doesn’t tell us why former employees have left the job or what their comments were about why the job wasn’t the right fit for them.   It doesn’t tell us about those critical factors that are the common pre requisites for  success or the factors that the client knows “won’t work” – the knock out factors.  The job description doesn’t describe the boss, or how that boss manages the expectations of the role.  Are they performance nazi’s or do they take on a more coaching or developmental approach to staff performance?   The job description doesn’t tell us what we need to know about the culture the employee will be working in.  Is it a “rules” culture where employees need to consult a procedures manual before making a move, or is it an “entrepreneurial” culture, where solving a problem quickly is all that matters (there are no manuals).   Is it a culture that gets work done thru lots of collaboration, or does it reward the lone wolves who make the big break thrus on their own.

The answers to these questions makes a difference to which candidate profile is the “right fit”.  It also makes a difference in how you write your job posting. 

Great Job Descriptions Capture the Science of Recruiting.  Great Job Postings Capture the Art!

At the end of the day, recruiters need both good job descriptions and compelling job postings to get the kind of hiring outcomes they need.   Great job descriptions are important documents that will make an HR leader and a compliance officer happy.  Job postings on the other hand significantly impact the effectiveness, costs and timeliness of your recruiting outcomes.  Mistakenly thinking of the two as one, even doing one too many cut and pastes that compromises the effectiveness of your advertisement, is almost sure to create extra work and more hassle down the road in today’s fast moving recruiting environment.

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PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest employers find and hire employees based on the “right fit” for over 40 years.

A 4-time winner of the coveted “Best in Staffing” designation , PACE is ranked in the top 2% of staffing agencies nationwide based on annual surveys of customer satisfaction.

PACE services include temporary and contract staffing, temp to hire auditions, direct hire professional recruiting services, Employer of Record (payroll) services, and a large menu of candidate assessment services our clients can purchase a la carte.

To learn more about how partnering with PACE will make a difference to how you find and hire employees,  contact our Partner Services and Solutions team at 425-637-3312, email us or visit our website.

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