(This article is an updated version of one originally authored by Jen Picard)
You thought you'd posted the perfect job description, yet you're not getting the right candidates at all. Why? Maybe you're making it more complex than it needs to be.
Surveying the recruiting blogs and hiring sites reveals why: there as many recommendations for how to write a job posting as there are job postings themselves. Often they can contradict each other outright. Write "normal job titles" so they show up in the right searches, says one. Advises another: "You need to grab their attention. Do this by writing creative job titles." Many remind you to portray your company in the best light possible, to entice job seekers to want to work there. Most, if not all, guidelines advise you to write for an online audience and to keep things short and simple. That may be true, but it's practically a given. By now, everything's online. That's a big part of the problem.
When all it takes to apply is clicking a button, you can easily wind up getting hundreds of applications. The perfect job posting isn't the one that elicits an avalanche of response but that draws the kind of candidates you want. To accomplish that, you need to be clear, specific and honest.
Clarity: You have to state what you're looking for. If you're looking for a software developer who knows Ruby on Rails and your post says, "Candidates should know the latest programming languages," you're opening yourself to a world of misinterpretation, frustration and lost time. Be clear about what the position is, the qualifications you're looking for, who your company is and what you're offering.
Specificity: For every position, there are things you will be willing to accept in candidates and things that you won't. If there are mandatory qualifications a successful candidate must have, specify them. If you desire something but don't require it, specify that, too. Yes, this may reduce the number of applications you get, but remember: quantity isn't the problem with online recruiting. Finding the right match is key.
Honesty: If your company is a startup where late-night coding sessions prevail, say so. If your next hire needs to be an email marketing wizard who also happens to have a head for SEO, make sure that's apparent. You don't have to air dirty laundry in a job posting, but in the end you won't do yourself any favors by poring through a pile of resumes that don't fit the bill.
Notice that being clear, specific and honest doesn't preclude being unique and appealing. All things being equal, a dry and uninspiring post will get you fewer bites than one that gives applicants a taste of what makes an opportunity at your company unique. But while highlights about all-night coding marathons, flexible work schedules and free meals may help an applicant decide whether or not she likes the company culture, they won't help her determine whether the job itself could be a match.