Why are we still using job descriptions to attract talent?

Job descriptions add a lot of noise and very little signal to the screening process. Why do we still use these things? What value are we really expecting they will generate when we attach them to an open job vacancy? They don’t help the applicant clarify the role and they certainly don’t help hiring organizations weed out unqualified applicants.

I look at job descriptions every day and I’m shocked with how little they have changed over 20 years, especially considering they are largely ineffective.

It doesn’t matter if the hiring organization is large or small, job descriptions are all structured almost exactly the same and all filled with the same vague language.

This creates a rather large problem for talent acquisition teams, especially if they receive a high volume number of applicants. The result…too many unqualified applicants. Why? Because companies are leaving all the interpretation up to the applicant.

Case in point: Just this week I was reviewing a job posting for a software engineer position at a large software company. The “Skills” section was riddled with vague terms such as:

  • Demonstrated proficiency in programming to include a solid foundation in computer science, with competencies in one or more of: data structures, algorithms, object-oriented software design, and working with cloud-based distributed systems.
  • Experience working in modern programming languages such as Dart, JavaScript, Go, Java, Kotlin, Python, or C#
  • Some experience debugging systems or applications
  • Familiarity with one or more of the following areas: Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, relational databases, REST, and other modern web protocols, and/or Mobile computing

What exactly do “demonstrated proficiency” and “solid foundation” mean? How do you define “experience”? What is the difference between “experience,” “some experience,” and “familiarity”? What if the person has “experience” with 1 of the 7 programming languages (Java), but that experience was 25 years ago and lasted 3 months? Is that really what you’re looking for?

Most job applicants will interpret “experience” or “demonstrated proficiency” to their benefit, which means that more applicants that don’t match what you’re looking for will apply. And this means more time reading and filtering resumes.

It’s probably time we find another way to articulate the qualifications that we are looking for with open job vacancies!!!