5 tips to improve job descriptions that attract early talent

Oct 5, 2023 | Attraction & marketing, Home Featured, How-to

A job description is often a candidate’s first impression of your organisation. Handshake offers best practice advice for attracting early talent.

With the competition for hiring early talent stronger than ever, job descriptions are one of your most impactful opportunities to stand out from the crowd.

For job seekers with an undergraduate degree, 24% have been turned off by a job description’s tone. So how do you write a job description that resonates with the candidates you’re trying to reach?

Some of the things that students and recent graduates look for in a job description include:

● What type of position is it?
● Will the role help me gain experience?
● What is the salary?
● Do I meet the qualifications?
● Where is the position located, or is it remote?
● Does this job require work authorisation i.e. a visa?
● What is the employer’s reputation?
● What are the employer’s values?
● What makes this employer and this job special?

From writing with inclusive language to highlighting the skills that can be learned on the job, use these tips to uplevel your job descriptions to attract early talent.

Best practice for writing job descriptions for early talent

1. Use a relevant job title

Consider how students might search for your role and treat potential job titles like keywords. Be literal—new job seekers want and need consistency.

Ensure the title in the job description is the same everywhere you post and promote your role. For example, if you’re hiring for a position your industry commonly refers to as a “Business Development Specialist,” but you label it “B2B Corporate Sales” elsewhere, you could miss out on a potential pipeline.

Did you know? When a student saves your job on Handshake, they automatically receive updates and reminders. This increases the likelihood that a student will apply to your job. Students receive personalised job recommendation emails based on the preferences you input into your job.

2. Focus on skills, not experience

For your job description to resonate with early talent, clearly state what is required to be successful in your entry level roles – based on skills that students have.

Most recent grads have less than three years of experience, so you don’t want to put in a job description that five years of experience is required.

Shift your focus from experience to coursework, skills, and certifications so that the job description is relevant to someone just starting out in their career.

Highlight skills that a student can learn on the job to excite them about the opportunity to grow professionally. Use bullet points to help students and job seekers of all backgrounds easily identify what soft skills you’re looking for.

3. Write with inclusive language

As the most diverse generation yet, Gen Z wants to see that organisations are taking action to increase representation in the workforce. In fact, more than 60% of Gen Zers indicated that they either always or usually research company leadership diversity, according to a Handshake Network Trends report.

Gen Z job seekers also factor an employer’s core values and social responsibility into decisions about where to buy and where to work. Your job description should highlight your mission, your values, and your culture, and be written using inclusive language.

Job descriptions are an important part of your overall DEI strategy, too. Making tweaks like replacing ‘talking’ with ‘communicating’ is more welcoming and inclusive for an applicant with disabilities. Another important example is to avoid gendered words to be more welcoming towards women.

4. Remove or loosen requirements

Degree classification requirements, rigid application windows, and requiring additional documents can deter the best and brightest from pursuing an extensive application process.

One way to show candidates that you understand their competing priorities is to be transparent about the application process.

If you’re recruiting students, remember they already have another job—studying for their degree. Provide a thoughtful timeline that takes final exams and key deadline periods into account to give them time they need to complete an application. Build relationships with promising candidates so they feel they can connect with you for any support.

Also consider that men are more likely than women to reach out to employers about potential opportunities even if they don’t meet all requirements.

And since certain degree subjects can be gender imbalanced, you can expand your candidate pool by dropping a degree of study requirement.

Keep in mind that many students don’t yet know the variety of roles that their degree can map to, and engaging with recruiters is part of that learning curve!

5. State compensation and benefits

Salary is the number one motivator for staying in a job across all candidates, and Gen Z is behind a growing movement toward salary transparency as a lever for equity.

In addition to clear expectations for how much they can earn, Gen Z is looking for competitive differentiators like flexible work schedules, mental health benefits, and learning and professional development stipends.

They also want to know about dress codes, paid time off, and other details that explain the work environment so that they are comfortable entering the working world.

Showcase opportunities for building social connection and community, such as through ERGs or volunteering. As early career professionals explore where to live and the type of culture they are drawn to, these are important details.

Handshake tip: Fill out as many fields as you can in the details page when you create a job on Handshake to include helpful information about the application process, eligibility, employment duration, job type, benefits, values, and other indicators that help candidates evaluate their potential qualifications with the job.

Reach the candidates you want with improved job descriptions

Writing engaging, inclusive, and clear job descriptions takes practice and patience—but the payoff is worth it. Once you evolve your job descriptions, you can better attract early career candidates excited to apply—and see a future with your employer.

Make sure your posting gets in front of as many potential candidates as possible by connecting with institutions and posting your jobs on Handshake.

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