ALERT – Job Descriptions and Job Postings are NOT the Same!

ALERT – Job Descriptions and Job Postings are NOT the Same!

by Sara Bennett | November 16, 2020

0 Author-Jeanne, Candidate Sourcing Strategies, Hiring Strategies and Tactics get connected

Turning Your Job Description into a Job Posting is a Recruiting No No! 

I am always curious when I see a company use a job description 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 how they will go about finding the few candidates who might be the “right fit” amongst the stacks of resumes they are likely to receive. Unfortunately, most job descriptions look alike, and when they get turned into job postings, they end up being anything but interesting or compelling to the high talent candidates they were intended to attract.

From our perch, re-purposing a job description to become a job posting is a “recruiting no no”. Not only will it do harm to your recruiting identity, but it will seriously expand the amount of time you end up spending with wannabes.  

What’s a Job Description?

In our business we see a lot of job descriptions, created using different formats and in some cases different types of content. For sure, some job descriptions are more informative than others. The recent trend towards more results focused job descriptions, for example, has been a big step forward for recruiters who use a results focused hiring process. That said, it is obvious that most JD’s are an HR or administrative product – focused on information the company needs to pass regulatory scrutiny – to protect a company from claims of employee misclassification, to place jobs into the right workers comp buckets, and to set pay rates in the right range. They capture data needed to set up an employee record in a company’s HRIS, and are often used by a supervisor to course correct an employee whose performance gets off target.

From an HR perspective, 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 a completely different purpose and for that reason  has a different content and format. Job postings are used to inspire the right job candidate to get engaged, to take action – to start thinking about what it might be like to be hired by this company, to do this job, to eventually decide to apply.

Recruiters who are good at creating high impact job postings typically have a secret sauce – using the right content and a format to make their posting stand out from the crowd. At PACE, for example, we focus on job postings that tell a story – to appeal to a targeted type of candidate, using words that are likely to appeal to them, play to their motivational profile. While we want readers to get some sense of the job and the company we are recruiting for, we try to avoid the technical details – knowing they can come later. Our goal is to make sure our job posting differentiates our recruiting story from all the other job postings competing for our targeted candidate’s attention.

 Measuring the Effectiveness of a Job Description and a Job Posting

A job posting is considered “good” 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 a job posting isn’t producing these results it needs to be changed, using different word choices, different formats. Good job postings contain the facts but are not driven by the facts.

A job description, on the other hand, is considered good depending on how accurately it describes key facts – the actual work to be performed, the incumbents responsibilities and tasks. Unfortunately, in today’s fast moving work environments, job descriptions can get outdated quickly. Most end up being approximations of the real work. Many contain information that is factually incorrect.

Relying on an outdated or inaccurate job description as a job posting, is like enhancing your on line dating profile by attaching a picture of yourself 20 years ago – a younger, sleeker version of what you really are. That type of misrepresentation never works in the light of day and if used to attract candidates can actually do more harm than good! 

Why do recruiters use job descriptions as job postings even when they know better?  

We might have some insights into that question…and sometimes it starts with what a hiring manager is able and willing to provide to their recruiter.

When a client’s calls us for help with a hiring project, they often don’t know how to describe the profile of the candidate they need to hire. When we ask questions about the candidate they believe would be the “right fit” they often point us to the job description, believing that is all we need to know to start the recruit. Hold on, kimosabe!

There’s nothing wrong with using the job description as a starting point. In fact if that’s all our client knows about the job, it’s where we’ll start. That said, the homework we go thru to create a profile of the “ideal”  candidate goes far beyond the job description.

While some recruiters won’t or don’t take the time to profile the preferred candidate, a good recruiter will always go outside the job description to ask questions about the purpose of the job, what results it is intended to achieve, and anything about the context in which job will be done that will have an impact on the candidate’s work experience. These are the pieces of information that are key to developing the profile of the “right candidate” and for us is the foundation of recruiting success. It is information we use to focus our efforts on the right candidates, engage those candidates in the process we go thru to get them hired, vet them to be the right solution and ultimately give our clients the information they need to select the right employee for the job.

What information traditional job descriptions don’t provide. 

Sometimes our work with customers ends up being as simple as taking the set of tasks listed on their  job description and exploring why those tasks are being done – what results the person hired will be expected to achieve.

We also ask questions about the context in which the job will be done – factors that are never part of a traditional job description.

  • …why former employees have liked the job?  what challenges they faced?  why they decided to leave the job?
  • …the personal qualities important to success?  or the qualities that “won’t work” – the knock out factors.
  • …the bosses management style – how they manage people.  Are they performance nazi’s or do they take a more developmental approach?
  • …what we need to know about the culture the employee will be working in.

We know that it is the answers to these questions (and other similar probes) that make a difference to how we describe the preferred candidate and what we use to create the story that can make a job posting stand out from the rest.     

If job descriptions represent the scientific side of recruiting, job postings represent the art! 

Final Thoughts!

At the end of the day, recruiters need to know all about the work the employee will end up doing, the results a successful hire will be expected to achieve, and the unique context in which the work is performed before they can write a compelling job posting. These are very different pieces of information from what is typically available in most job descriptions. Great job descriptions make administrative sense;  great job postings significantly impact the effectiveness, costs and timeliness of a recruiting project.

Thinking of the two as being one and the same, even altering the job posting with some cut and pastes from the JD, is likely to compromise the effectiveness of a job posting plus will create extra work and hassle down the road.

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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 45 years.

A 5-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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