Careers & Business

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Effective job descriptions can help attract stronger candidates

Men and women looking for a new job know full well how difficult it can be to stand out among a crowded pool of applicants. But businesses seeking to fill positions may find just as difficult to discover qualified applicants among the numerous responses to their job postings.

Though many businesses can count on receiving plenty of responses to their openings, from qualified and unqualified applicants alike, writing more effective job descriptions is one way businesses can reduce the amount of applicants for their openings. An effective job description attracts the most qualified applicants while making it clear to unqualified applicants that they are unlikely to receive a response.

* Be clear about the position and what it entails. An effective job description is clear and accurately defines the position, including the tasks involved, the responsibilities associated with the position and its relation to the company's mission. The job description also should include how the company wants each task completed, including which programs applicants will be required to use and how fluent applicants must be in each of those programs. This can be included in both the description of the job and among the items listed in the "Qualifications" section.

* List responsibilities in order of significance. When the position you're looking to fill has multiple responsibilities, these should be listed in order of their significance. Don't put the least significant responsibility first, as that may repel qualified applicants while attracting applicants who are underqualified. Qualified applicants want to apply for a positions that make the most of their experience and provide the best challenge, so list the most significant responsibilities first so job seekers are not turned off by the smaller, less interesting facets of the job.

* Be flexible if possible. While an effective job description will not mislead prospective applicants, it should be flexible and reflect opportunities for growth if such opportunities exist. When a job description suggests prospective applicants will have the chance to grow within a company and advance their careers, then respondents to that description are likely to be the type of hardworking, motivated individuals that companies want, as opposed to applicants simply looking for their next paychecks. But job descriptions should never imply that there is an opportunity for growth when no such opportunities exist.

* Include benefits and perks when possible. Benefits and perks are sometimes more important to employees than salary. For example, established professionals with families might be more interested in a position that allows employees to work remotely than they are a position that offers a high salary but few perks. In addition, a company that matches its employees' contributions to retirement accounts may be more attractive to some applicants than a position that pays better or offers a more comprehensive healthcare plan. When writing the job description, keep the benefits and perks that come with the position in mind, as such benefits and perks may prove to be just what qualified applicants are looking for.

Finding a job in a market filled with qualified professionals can be difficult. But hiring managers often find it just as difficult to fill their positions, a process that's significantly easier when job descriptions are more effective.