This article was written as a blog post for my friends at AptoZen, the company in San Francisco combining science and art to change how companies build their teams.
In 1978 when Eddie Money sang, “I’ve got two tickets to paradise,” some of his fans thought they heard “two ticks and a pair of dice.” Misunderstood song lyrics are a cottage industry on the internet. A Google search will turn up long lists of entertaining examples. Fortunately for them, rock singers have no incentive to make themselves understood, but sending a confusing message in a job description is unlikely to get you many fans.
Good communication skills are fundamental to any job in the modern economy. Job seekers take care to submit flawless resumes and cover letters. Similarly, your job postings will create a first impression that influences how a prospective employee perceives your company. Words do matter. Here are some things you will want to think about:
Don’t age your job description.
Standard on every application is a statement of non-discrimination which necessarily includes age. Yet job descriptions that use words like ninja, guru, rock star, and wizard reveal that the ideal candidate is expected to be energetic and young. On the other hand, I’ve seen descriptions that say the ideal candidate must have gravitas, which would imply that an older person is desired for the position. You can further confuse things by saying you’re looking for an “experienced ninja.” Keep in mind, these words don’t have commonly understood meanings. In fact, I’m sure most companies aren’t looking for stealthy trained killers.
The Culture Club.
Consider carefully before referring to cultural fit as an attribute for evaluating future employees. These words will mean different things to different people. The applicant could be left to wonder whether they will be judged for their hairstyle or recreational interests, or be expected to have a “fun personality.” Even more concerning, it could signal a lack of tolerance for diversity. Describe what makes your culture unique to make sure you’re drawing in rather than excluding potential applicants.
A job posting is no place to show off your mastery of insider jargon. Sure, you may argue that anyone qualified for the job would have to understand its idioms and acronyms, but the use of specialty terminology pretty much eliminates your chance of attracting a high-potential candidate from outside your industry. And besides, don’t you think it makes you sound pretentious?
The tone of your job posting can say as much as the list of qualifications. Most of the ones I’ve seen stay in a safe, but unremarkable, middle ground. Yes, you should add a little personality, but be sure the style reflects your company’s character, not the individual writer. If the writing skews either overly stuffy or casually laid back, it will make an impression on the candidate and influence their own assessment of how they might fit.
You are a rock star recruiter, so be sure your job descriptions have everyone singing along in tune. Through clear and motivational word choice your job postings can set your company apart and help you attract the right applicants.
Copyright Liz Behlke, 2016