June 16, 2018

Why Outcome-Based Job Descriptions Drive Up Quality and Quantity of Candidates – Part I

Leah Daniels
June 16, 2018

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If you’re a recruiter, you’ve heard the repetitive story of how job descriptions should be formatted: be specific, state realistic required skills, and avoid impractical wish lists from hiring managers.

This agenda is getting old.  

How can you enforce a culture of creating realistic and compelling job descriptions that land high quality candidates if we do not address key elements of jobs that actually speak to the right candidates?

Let’s start by throwing out traditional job descriptions… or should I say, ‘person descriptions.’  Take a minute and read the last job description you posted.  We can wait. Does it describe the actual job or does it describe a fictional person that your hiring manager thinks they are looking for?  Does that required MBA ensure this person will excel at the objectives of the role? Will having 10 years of experience in the industry ensure that this candidate will be any better than someone with 5 years, 1 year, or no experience?

This being said, more and more companies are adopting outcome-based approaches to the rest of their organization, expecting leaders to focus on results more than the prescribed path. Product management is the latest macro example outside of HR. Product and technology departments have stopped building features and buttons that customers, sales or the market requests and instead, have started solving problems. The question is no longer ‘what do you want?’ but rather, ‘what is the problem you are trying to solve?’ It’s so simple, yet companies are constantly pushing to progress forward with the biggest and best features, while forgetting the foundation of what their business is based upon.

How do we adapt this concept to work within recruiting?  

Adopt an outcome-based approach to your job descriptions, and then overlay key marketing tactics to drive the maximum applies to your job ads.

The first step in an outcome-focused job description, is easily the hardest step.  You must find a way to force your hiring manager to write down the job, not as a description, but as a set of expected outcomes for the first 30 days, 90 days, 6 months, a year, and so on.  This will encourage hiring managers to stop writing job descriptions that assume your new employees are temporary; candidates want to see what their future at your company looks like.  It also forces your hiring managers to think beyond their immediate pain and truly envision how this person will become an integral part of your organization.

Consider this: most hiring managers write down the one year goals for their new employee, 30 or 60 days after the role has begun. This is something they have to do regardless, but by doing it before the hire ensures you don’t have a new employee who doesn’t make the 90-day mark when they discover the job they accepted is not the job they now have in front of them. Outcome-based job descriptions can reduce your failure to launch candidates, thereby reducing your first year churn.

Even jobs that you hire for consistently can always use an outcome-based refresh.  What has a star customer service representative, for example, accomplished in the first few months, year, two years?  You can measure their growth and contribution to your organization the same way you would evaluate a senior-level engineer (PS – speaking of engineers, learn how Rocket Fuel achieved a lower cost per hire for software engineers).

Once you have clear outcomes, turn them into ‘you’ focused job descriptions that are personalized towards the candidate.  Spend a minute and read your current jobs descriptions. Do they reference language such as ‘us’ and ‘we,’ or are they focused on the reader, ‘you.’ The more companies talk about themselves, the faster the candidate will leave. Candidates want to be spoken to, encouraged, and inspired to apply to your job descriptions because of how the role will help them progress. They want to see themselves in the role, which can also help them during the interview process. This will help you to envision them in the role, too.  This language adjustment inspires candidates who want to be part of your organization, not just accept a job.

Here is an example of an outcome-based job description:

You must be fully ramped on product X and delight Y customers every day with a net promoter score of Z by the end of your first three months. You will aim to become a full-fledged SME on two of our industry leading products within your first 6 months and apply to be a team lead by the end of the first year.

This approach lets your future employees know what is expected of them, while filtering out the people who lack the ambition, drive and results-focused approach of your organization. Thus, only high quality, extremely driven candidates will apply for the job.

Outcome-based job descriptions also help with the ever elusive state of diversity within your candidate pool. Outcomes eliminate the need to use unnecessary adjectives that subconsciously eliminate part of the population. The fastest way to an entirely non-diverse white, male slate of candidates is to include terms like ‘guru,’ ‘rock star,’ and ‘ninja’ in your job description.  These are crutch terms leveraged by recruiters who don’t know, or understand, what the new employee’s responsibilities and goals will actually be.  Would you exclude a successful entrepreneur who doesn’t have those 10 years of experience or an MBA or even a college education? What about the returning military vet who can run circles around most of your operations team but hasn’t ever opened Salesforce? Eliminating these vague terms, will attract more diverse, high quality candidates to your open jobs that you otherwise would not have reached.

For more resources on crafting your job ads, download our free white paper on ‘How Job Descriptions, Titles, and the Apply Process Impacts Conversion Rates and Sourcing Costs.

This post was originally published in 2016, and has since been updated.

To be continued in Part II

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