Are Your Job Descriptions Getting Lost in Translation?

job postings scare students.jpg

Want to hire college students and recent grads?

We talk a lot about building your brand, strengthening your relationships with students and faculty, and hiring passionate people to participate in on-campus events. But job-seekers still find the majority of the positions they apply to by visiting company websites and through online job postings.

Unfortunately, a lot of things get lost in translation between your thoughts and goals when writing a job posting and how it gets interpreted by a student.

We surveyed hundreds of students about how they look for jobs, and 24.2% said that the most challenging part of the job search process is knowing which positions to apply for.

They also made comments like “Everything requir[es] 3+ years of experience I don’t have and can’t get without already having 3+ years of experience.” When we asked them what companies could do to simplify the job search process, 9.7% responded “Make job descriptions less confusing.”

We also observe that many job-seekers on the AfterCollege site will take the time to read job descriptions for jobs they’re qualified for, but the majority of them don’t end up applying to the positions. In fact, in a recent survey, 64.9% of job-seekers said they chose not to apply for a job because they believed they didn’t meet all the qualifications.

So how exactly can you improve your job descriptions? Here are a few tips to get you started. Some of these tips are specific to AfterCollege job postings, but the majority of them apply in any other setting where you’ll be publishing your openings.

Job Title: What is the official job title of the job posting you are recruiting for? It should be relevant, clear, and creative. Key words like “Internship”, “Entry-Level,” or “University Hire” can also help students and recent grads feel confident that the position is a good match for them. Include a call-to-action like an application deadline to encourage job-seekers to act more quickly.

Location: If the position is available in multiple cities, you’ll want to create separate postings for each location. This will generate the best Explore results in a candidate’s job feed. [Not sure what we’re talking about? You can learn more about Explore here.] This is also the place to specify whether this is a remote or telecommuting position.

Basic Company Details: This can be as simple as one to three lines in the body of the job posting explaining your organization’s mission, values, or what it’s like to work for you. Briefly describe the work environment. Is it casual? Lively? Competitive? Independent? Ask a few of the people on the team to write a few words to describe their jobs and the atmosphere in their office.

On AfterCollege, you can keep this brief and to the point because your Employer Profile will allow you to go into greater depth about your company description, history, and background. This way job-seekers can focus on the position first and then learn more about your company if they’re interested.

Job Description: Quickly review the most important tasks and explain what contributions the future employee will make to the company. Be sure to include any training they will receive and what career growth they could expect from succeeding in the role.

There are a few simple things you can do to make the content easy on the eye. Don’t write it all in capitals. Break up the description logically (bullet points are your friends!). Don’t forget to put a deadline on applications so people don’t miss out.

Qualifications Needed: When writing this portion of the job posting, think about the ideal candidate for the job. Think of the person who’s being replaced or another superstar employee from the same team. Then, list their skills, personality traits, and qualifications.

Remember that many students will take this section very seriously. In a recent AfterCollege study, all students looked at this section of the job description first, and wouldn’t even bother to read the job description if they felt they didn’t match all the qualifications. So be sure to outline which points are “need-to-haves” and which are “nice-to-haves.” Use words like “encouraged” or “preferred” to make this obvious.

As we saw earlier, students get scared off by things like “Three years’ experience,” so if you have any requirements like this, be sure to clarify with phrases like “internship and/or volunteer experience will be considered” or “applicants with a combination of educational qualifications and work experience are also encouraged to apply”—anything that spells out that you are looking for current students or recent grads.

Perks and Conditions of Employment:

Got ping pong tables, kegs, and free lunches? A dog-friendly office? Flexible hours or telecommuting options? Do you give employees paid time off to volunteer? These little things help give your job posting a little personality and get job-seekers excited to learn more.

If a criminal check, certification, or other requirements are needed, be sure to include them in your job posting, too.

Salary and Benefits:

Try to include as much info as you can about compensation and any benefits like pension, company car, private healthcare, holiday entitlement, flexi-time etc. You could also include things like:

  • Sign-on bonus
  • Tuition reimbursement benefits
  • Relocation bonus or assistance

How to Apply:

You can choose whether you’d like to encourage email applications or have the job-seeker apply via your Applicant Tracking System. AfterCollege has the ability to include both options.

Now you’ve got all the tools you need to make a job description that doesn’t scare students away!


The next step:

Take a look at your current job postings. Can you make any changes based on our suggestions?

P.S. Need a little more help? We like this example from Edwards Lifesciences.


2 Responses to “Are Your Job Descriptions Getting Lost in Translation?”

  1. Why Start a Company Blog? - Melissa's Blog

    […] We can even take those questions and frustrations and turn them into content for the blog. So for example when one student complained about the functionality of our Explore feature, we realized that we could write a blog post that explained how to get the best possible results. Or on the employer side, many organizations struggle to write job listings, so we wrote a post that offered some tips and best practices. […]


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