Are your recruitment practices attracting top talent to your business? If you feel that despite a large pool, the best candidates aren't applying, maybe it's time to change your recruitment practices. A good starting point is the job description.
If your current talent recruitment efforts are leaving you cold, you're not alone. Research from SHRM shows that 83% of HR managers reported having trouble recruiting suitable candidates in the past year. And 75% of them believed there was a skills shortage among their applicants.
With many experienced older workers applying for jobs (AARP), and large numbers of unemployed workers (Reuters) with skills, it seems logical that top talent is out there. The issue is how do you find them and hire the right people?
In this guide we'll look at some issues to think about with top talent staffing, such as hiring practices, job descriptions, and alternative approaches to recruitment. These will help you hire talented candidates more easily.
Attracting Talent in Management - Why It's Time to Reexamine Your Hiring Practices
A good starting point when thinking about attracting top talent is your job description. If you look at recent job description examples, you'll see that best practices have changed. If your job descriptions are out of date, that makes it hard to hire high quality talent. We'll look at tips for how to write a job description to attract the best candidates later in this guide, but here are a couple of issues to think about.
Sometimes your job descriptions can be too specific. That may mean some of the best candidates don't apply because they think they won't fit. Ultra-specific job descriptions can also discriminate against candidates with non-standard backgrounds, such as:
- those who have taken career breaks
- spent time working for themselves
- raised families before returning to work
- and so on
And the wrong kind of job description and hiring practices can reduce the diversity of your workforce. Bad HR practices can be a turnoff for potential high quality talent who are Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC), who identify as LGBTQIA+, who have a disability, or who are women.
The bottom line is that being too prescriptive about job requirements can result in a homogeneous (non-diverse) candidate pool. And that's bad for business. Diversity is good for business—and diverse talent recruitment across all levels of an organization will help you stay creative, productive and competitive. In other words, limiting your talent pool with a poor job description is bad for business.
Learn more about diversity in the following articles:
- 10 Benefits of Gender Equality in the Workplace (International Women's Day 2020)Sharon Hurley Hall08 Mar 2020
- 10 Top Resume Tips for Experienced Older Workers (30s, 40s, 50s) in 2022Sharon Hurley Hall29 Sep 2020
- A New Look at Diversity in the Workplace for 2020Sharon Hurley Hall14 Jan 2020
It's also important to think more broadly about your hiring process and how to write a job description that helps you recruit top talent.
Top Talent Recruitment: Think Outside the Box
Here are some key issues to address with job descriptions and the hiring process when thinking about how to find good talent:
1. Don't Specify a Location
If we've learned anything recently, it's that more jobs than we thought can be done remotely (some of us knew that already, but still). That means you can hire top talent from anywhere in the world. Specifying a location when hiring can discourage talented applicants. So, if you don't actually need people to be in a particular place, leave it out.
2. Avoid Focusing on Years of Experience Only
Many job description samples ask for a certain number of years of experience for a given role. Sometimes that can get pretty silly, like asking for 10 years' experience with an app that was only launched five years ago.
But the more serious point is that people's ability and potential to do the job are far more important than meeting a given number of years of experience. There are plenty of people out there who take non-standard paths to a job. That doesn't mean they can't do it. It's a requirement that tends to reduce diversity in the workforce, by discriminating against otherwise excellent potential applicants.
3. Avoid Unrealistic Expectations
Another issue in talent recruitment is having long lists of must-haves on your job description. The more detailed this is, the less likely it is you'll find people who literally tick all the boxes. It reduces your pool of potential hires, so consider paring that list right down. Another option is to change your language, focusing on attributes you'd love candidates to have rather than "required experience".
4. Beware of Unconscious Bias
Unconscious bias can play a role in both creating job descriptions and the interview and recruitment process itself. For example, when thinking about top talent staffing some recruiters might subconsciously avoid certain names or have preconceptions about people who don't look like them, or who dress in a particular way. This is something you'll have to overcome with training and consistent work. If you don't, you could end up with a pool of job applicants who are all similar to each other.
5. Forget About Culture Fit
Related to that, some job descriptions emphasize fitting into the company culture. There are two issues with this.
- It's subjective and nebulous. Who determines what culture fit is, anyway? And wouldn't any company's culture be enriched by adding people who don't fit a particular template?
- An emphasis on fit isn't an attractive prospect for applicants whose culture, ethnicity or gender identity doesn't match the perceived norm. Applicants who have been burned by bad experiences in the past are unlikely to apply for jobs where it seems likely to happen again.
Remember, diversity is good for business. So; remove this outdated requirement from your hiring process. Instead, talk about your values, and that will attract candidates who share them.
6. Don't Ignore Past Applicants
Some job description examples explicitly prohibit applications from past applicants. Again, this doesn't make sense, especially if time has passed since the role was last advertised. In the interim, past applicants may have gained new skills and abilities that would enhance your workplace. So, you might be ignoring top talent with this rule.
7. Don't Depend Too Much on Software
Recruitment software can help when you're looking to hire talent, but it's still no substitute for human oversight. Though many recruiters use application tracking software (ATS) to make the hiring process fairer, it can actually have the opposite effect. Some studies show that algorithms can be biased (such as this study from Brookings). In addition, people who don't tick every box can be excluded even if they would be excellent candidates.
8. Showcase Inclusion
While this doesn't explicitly relate to the job description, note that applicants will check out your company. They'll want to know you have an inclusive and welcoming culture. Ideally this will be a company value, so make sure this information is easy to find. The advantage of this is that people who know they'll be welcome and can see a future with the company are more likely to apply.
Learn more about inclusive workplaces in the following articles:
- How to Build a Culture of Diversity and Inclusion in Your WorkplaceAndrew Blackman13 Apr 2017
- Spirit Day 2020: Making Your Company More LGBTQ InclusiveDaniel Strongin15 Oct 2020
How to Write Inclusive Job Descriptions to Attract Top Talent
Here are some tips on attracting top talent with inclusive job descriptions:
1. Avoid Gendered Language and Discrimination
Depending on where you're hiring, there may be anti-discrimination laws related to the recruitment process. Make sure your job description complies with those. For example, in many countries you can't specify gender or ethnicity in a job description.
However, some job descriptions exclude potential top talent with gendered language. This doesn't break the legal rules but can have the same effect. For example, if you ask for a "rockstar" or "guru", you might limit the talent pool. Plus, it doesn't give a lot of information to applicants. If you're looking for people who are "competitive", you might get more men applying. While asking for "reliable" applicants might result in more women applicants. For best results, go for straightforward job titles instead.
2. Stick to the Essentials
To hire top talent, you need to widen the pool of applicants. One way to do that is by reducing the list of must-haves. An oft-quoted statistic is that women only tend to apply when they meet all the criteria, while men will apply even if they only meet two-thirds. A recent LinkedIn report shows that women are 16% less likely to apply to a job after viewing it. A long checklist can leave qualified applicants out. Another option is to ditch requirements and encourage applicants to showcase the results they've achieved, even if these are in a different field or position.
3. Avoid Jargon
Overusing jargon is a bad idea for most writing, and job descriptions are no exception. While people who've been in the business for a while might know all the industry acronyms, less experienced applicants may not. However, that doesn't mean they wouldn't do a great job. Keep language simple and easy to understand and sentences short so more top talent will apply.
4. Request Diversity
If you want to diversify your top talent search, you can specifically ask for applicants from non-standard backgrounds. A statement to that effect can give you a lot more candidates to choose from, and help your company become more innovative and competitive. Remember, diversity helps the bottom line.
5. Highlight Inclusiveness
Some of the best job description examples include a statement about the company's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. This can range from being an "equal opportunity employer" to spelling out exactly who will be considered. Some companies even share their vision for having a diverse workplace. This can help potential employees make the decision to apply so it's worth including on the job description.
How to Find Good Talent - An Inclusive Job Description Example
Here's an example of a job description that ticks those boxes, from Cisco. This starts well with a non-gendered title Business Architect. We've divided it into three parts:
- job opening
- candidate description
- company description
It starts by letting people know a little bit about the company.
In the next section, there are no must-haves. Instead, the job description focuses on what the role entails and the knowledge required. The job description does not require any particular years of experience.
The third section explicitly speaks to the company's values, and to the people it wants to attract. It calls out some of the personal attributes that might be seen as out of the norm, such as bright hair and tattoos, and says these are welcome. And it rounds out the job description with a pretty inclusive diversity statement.
This is a great example of how to write inclusive job descriptions that make it easier to hire top talent.
Update Your Job Descriptions and Hire Top Talent Today!
Writing the right kind of job description can be the difference between getting your top talent staffing right, or getting it wrong. Make your recruitment process more inclusive. Amend your job descriptions to attract a wider pool of qualified candidates. It'll make your business more diverse and creative, which is great for profitability and growth.