How to Write A Job Spec That Attracts Your Dream Candidate

Despite Brexit uncertainties, the UK unemployment rate has dropped to a record low of 3.5% this year. With the war to hire top talent continuing to rage on, it’s become increasingly hard for employers to find the perfect candidate for their vacant positions.

Standing out from the sea of job vacancies is key to attracting the best talent. The job specification is essential; a well-written spec not only attracts more of the top candidates but helps filter out applications outside the target audience. You may think you don’t have the luxury to sit and carefully write a job spec, especially if there’s pressure to fill the position quickly. But hiring processes are time-consuming and becomes even more so if more CVs need to be filtered out, so it’s worth investing some effort on the job spec before the hiring process begins.

Don’t forget these tips when it’s time to write your next job spec:

Align criteria with stakeholders

You may have done this already, but it’s worth stressing anyway. In most cases, the hiring manager takes the lead when deciding what needs to be put into the job spec. But it’s essential that others involved – whether that’s the board members, recruitment team, or other employees – are also included in deciding the criteria. Gather the relevant people and find out how they will be impacted by this role.

Is this to lessen the workload of others in the team? Will it involve working on projects with different departments? Are the responsibilities manageable for one person or will they need to be further split into separate roles?

Attracting the right candidates starts from knowing what skills and attributes the role requires. Otherwise, you may end up with a mismatch between your description and reality.

Think about your USPs

For many people, job hunting means skimming through countless specs of similar-sounding roles, so ask yourself, what is it about the role – or organisation – that would grab the attention of my ideal candidate?

Then structure your job spec to provide all the relevant information and a clear call-to-action (CTA).

Make sure you include the following:

  • Job title – unless you are splurging on advertising or have a brand people are queuing up to be a part of, avoid the temptation to come up with clever names. Use what you know people search for.
  • Mission – lots of people want to do a job that has a purpose – so if you have one explain it
  • Culture – trust, belonging, work/life balance is very attractive to lots of people – if you let people work from home on Fridays, encourage dogs at work or are genuinely family-friendly, talk about it
  • Training and development – younger folk especially are keen to know about what opportunities they’ll have. Even those with more experience won’t want to be thrown in the deep end
  • Salary (+bonus) – not every job ad needs a salary, but it is a good way of sending out a signal about the level of candidate you want to attract.

Also, ensure the job spec is an appropriate length. You want to strike a balance between including all the key information, so you don’t leave anything out, but making it concise enough so that you don’t overwhelm potential candidates, e.g. with a long list of requirements.

Be aware of the gender-skewed language

Be careful not to limit your talent pool by mistake. A recent survey by Censuswide on behalf of LinkedIn found that just over half (52%) of the UK women surveyed said they would be put off applying for a job if the workplace was described as ‘aggressive’ (compared to 32% of men) and 24% said they would be put off by the term ‘born leader’ (compared to 17% of men). The same survey found that 40% of employers do not think about the impact of the language used in their job ads. Not recognising the gender-skewed language in job specs puts you at risk of losing the chance to attract a diverse range of candidates. It’s just a small consideration, but it can support your efforts in building a team with a varied set of skills and talents. 

Boost your chance of being found 

How frustrating would it be if you spent time and effort putting together a great job spec, only for no one to find it? Before you can attract your dream candidate with your masterpiece, you need to make sure it can be seen.

If you are planning to post your vacancy to one or more of the many job boards, you’ll want to find out who they target, and how they’ll help you promote your vacancy. That will mean writing your job spec to fill the available space – and making sure you lead with the key information.

Also, you might think Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is more the marketing team’s bag, but if you plan to post your vacancy on your website it’s an essential practice that allows your job specs to be found by more people. Choose the right keyword(s) that your ideal candidate will most likely search for (such as the job title) and focus your copy around these keywords ensuring it’s highly relevant. Make sure the copy is long enough for Google to ‘notice it’ (450 words is generally recommended) and try to include key phrases as headings, and in the body copy. Use free keyword evaluation tools like Google Keyword Planner to find keyword combinations that you can add throughout to optimise your job spec copy.

Know your next steps and follow up fast

In a competitive market, being the first to get back to a candidate – whether to invite them for an interview or make a job offer – can make a huge difference to how your organisation is perceived. And, even once your offer has been accepted, a survey by Cloud HR software company Cezanne HR found that the reason 14% of workers never started a job after accepting an offer was due to poor or no follow up from the organisation. Don’t lose the talent your job spec brings you by not engaging them straight away.