19 tips for making your job posting simply amazing

Published on: May 17, 2017

We need to talk about job postings: For a long time, we’ve been using the same format, the same tired language, and the same archaic requirements. We need to do better. Unemployment is down, meaning there is more competition for talent. Plus, while we talk about bringing diversity and inclusion, many of our job posting practices are helping to exclude diverse candidates.

I asked my Facebook community for feedback on things that irritate them about job postings, and what they wish to see. I got over 200 comments, which I distilled down to a few key points, listed below in no particular order. Though this is by no means a comprehensive list, it would do a lot for our organizations, and our sector as a whole, if we could commit to doing many of these things.

  1. Sound like a human being. A job posting is an ad, designed to entice people to check out your organization. For some reason, we seem to think of them as some sort of legal document, making them sound boring and stuffy, full of academic terminology and a formal tone. If they are ads, the majority of job postings are the equivalent of commercials for cholesterol-lowering drugs. Ditch the big words and talk like a human being. Show a sense of humor and personality. You are trying to attract candidates – not put them to sleep.

  2. List your salary range. Besides wasting everyone’s time, not listing salary range screws over people of color and women. There is no good reason for salary cloaking. None. For equity’s sake, just list the range and end the charade. And make sure it’s reasonable, not something like “$28,000 to $94,000, DOE.” (If you’re going to argue with this point, please make sure to read my post about it.)

  3. Be realistic with job duties. Yes, especially in the nonprofit sector, employees have to be able to do multiple jobs. But it’s ridiculous to cram three or four jobs’ worth of essential duties into one listing, plus ridiculously grandiose requirements. Says one colleague, “I saw one that required a ‘proven history of creating lasting social change.’ Who is this candidate?” Figure out what the key responsibilities are, and focus on those. You are looking for a team member – not MacGyver or the next Pope.

  4. Do not force people to send a resume and ALSO fill out an application. Those online application forms are time-consuming and torturous, so don’t ask candidates to fill one out when all that information has been carefully formatted into their resume. If you do require an application (instead of a resume), make sure it’s user-friendly: asking only for recent positions (not every one since high school) and presenting a list of any essay questions in advance so candidates can prepare their thoughts.

  5. Do not ask for references with initial applications. People don’t want to bother their references until they are in the final stages of a hiring process. Plus, some candidates may not have informed their current employer that they are looking for a job, and it puts them into a bind when you ask for references with the initial application.

  6. Accept equivalent experience for degrees. I’ve written about the sad irony of nonprofits requiring formal degrees for even entry-level jobs, when so many of us in the sector are trying to fight education inequity. I’m not against formal education, but it is only one way to determine if a candidate has the skills you need, and it leaves behind many candidates who may have incredible experience. Yes, some specialized positions do need a degree or certificate, but the vast majority – even positions like CEOs and EDs – do not.

  7. Talk about values, culture, and what makes your organization awesome. Organizational culture is a huge reason people stay or leave their jobs, and yet we barely talk about it in job postings. Discuss your values, why your team is amazing, and what sort of culture you have. If you’re dog-friendly or kid-friendly, mention it. If you’re in an amazing neighborhood with 30 diverse restaurants and two artisanal ice cream stores, throw that in too.

  8. Describe your hiring process and timeline. Tell candidates when you plan to interview, for what length of time, how many rounds in total, whether and when writing samples or other supplemental materials are required, when you hope to make a decision, and when you hope candidates will start. There’s too much tendency to make this up as we go along, which is disrespectful to job candidates and builds a narrative that your organization is disorganized and treats people poorly. I’ve heard stories of people going through five rounds of interviews, or waiting in limbo for six months, without any warning. If you are not clear about your process and timeline, you are not ready to hire.

  9. Describe the work schedule and how flexible it is. “Occasional nights and weekends” is meaningless. How occasional? One weekend a month? Two evening meetings a week? Seventy hours a week during gala season, followed by three days off? Are you closed between Christmas and New Year? Can people work from home regularly? These factors make a huge difference, especially in the nonprofit sector, where the pay may not be as competitive as we wish.

  10. Break down responsibilities by percentage. Says one colleague: “I always appreciate knowing what the priority or majority of work will be – ie, 70 percent donor stewardship, 25 percent database management, 5 percent other duties.” This is not just helpful for candidates, but a good exercise for employers to prevent misalignment of expectations and priorities. It’s especially helpful for dual positions such as the common Development/Communications combo.

  11. Ensure requirements match the level and pay of the position. If a position requires a master’s degree and 10-plus years of experience in a variety of tasks, maybe you should offer more than $30,000 a year? Alternately, if you can only afford $30,000 a year, maybe you should re-examine your wish list and prune it down to more realistic levels. Many job postings seem to miss this point completely, making the organization seem completely out-of-touch.

  12. Stop requiring a car, driver’s license, car insurance, etc. Unless you are hiring a driver to deliver hot meals or something similar, think about whether a candidate really needs a car – you may be excluding candidates with disabilities or a low income who rely on public transportation. As a colleague says, “If y’all would just hire me already, maybe I could actually afford a car.” Plus, cars are terrible for the environment: We should be discouraging their use, not requiring it as a default.

  13. Knock it off with “must be able to lift 50 pounds.” Again, this is another requirement that discriminates against candidates with disabilities or others who may not be able to lift heavy things. When have any of us had to lift a 50-pound anything that we couldn’t ask a team member for help? Though some jobs do require heavy lifting – certain food bank positions, for example – I’ve been using my veganism to get out of such tasks for 12 years, so I know it’s not exactly essential.

  14. List reporting relationships. To whom does this person report, and who do they supervise? Spell out the titles and, if possible, the names. Remember the adage about management: People don’t quit jobs, they quit supervisors. It’s weird that a potential hire may have no idea who they’ll be reporting to.

  15. Spell out benefits. The commonly-used “generous benefits package” line is a wasted opportunity to attract candidates. List your policies for vacation, sick, and personal days, holidays, 403b plans or other retirement options, how much employees are responsible for paying towards medical benefits, etc. If you have awesome benefits, tout them.

  16. No more “other duties as assigned.” This phrase has become a joke, another way of saying, “Stuff we can’t think of right now, but we want our butts covered in case we need you to do it.” It’s lazy and unnecessary: In this sector, we all know we’ll be doing stuff that’s outside the scope of a job posting. Instead, spend more time thinking through the job, its priorities and desired outcomes, and the primary duties entailed in reaching those outcomes, then be clear in your job postings so that candidates are not surprised.

  17. Don’t surprise people. Says a colleague, “Five minutes into the interview, they asked if I was okay with the position being part-time. This was not anywhere in the job description, nor did the HR person who scheduled the interview disclose it. And this was for a Chief Development Officer position!” If you have information that might discourage candidates from applying, put it out there. Don’t think you can get people in the door through deception, hoping they’ll fall in love with you despite whatever sensitive information you left out.

  18. List a contact, in case people have questions. Good candidates will be thorough with their research and ask really great questions, so assign one person they can come to with them. Usually this is the person in charge of the hiring process; sometimes it is not.

  19. Have a thoughtful statement of equal opportunity and non-discrimination. This statement, often at the end of job postings, serves more than just a legal role: It provides reassurance to diverse candidates that diversity, equity, and inclusion matter to your organization. Unfortunately, many employers just copy and paste a statement without thinking much about what it means to live up to it. If you haven’t examined your equal opportunity statement in a while, spend some time reviewing it with your team and board, update it, and check to see if you are living up to it. You can find an example here.

Job postings are often the first connection people make with our organizations. Do we want this impression to be one of mutual respect, shared goals, and collaboration; or one of arrogance, boringness, and thoughtlessness?

For reference, here’s an example of a job posting from my organization. We still have some improvements to make, but I’m proud of my team for putting time and attention into it. By the way, it may not too late to apply – and we are in a neighborhood surrounded by 30 diverse restaurants and shops, including two artisanal ice cream stores!

Vu Le is a writer, speaker, consultant, and the former ED of Rainier Valley Corps. This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on his blog, Nonprofit AF.

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