Cut the Jargon, and 3 Other Tips for Entry-Level Job Descriptions

December 13, 2017

“Seeking an entry-level associate to support procurement, helping the organization exceed logistical KPIs and comply with client SLAs”

If you’ve been working for a few years, that sentence (as painful as it is) probably makes sense to you. But, it probably reads like a foreign language to most entry-level candidates—and that’s a problem.

If you’re hiring for an entry-level position, you need to be able modify your job descriptions and see things from the candidate’s perspective. To help, we did some research and discovered four quick ways to make your roles sound more enticing to the next generation of candidates:

1. Cut the business jargon

According to a study by Business in the Community (BITC), a business-led nonprofit based in London, jargon is one of the most significant barriers that keeps talented young people from applying to entry-level positions.

The study asked young candidates (ages 16 to 24) to evaluate 65 different companies’ entry-level job descriptions for accessibility. Startlingly, 66% of the participants felt they “didn’t understand the role they would be applying for,” while over a third felt discouraged about applying due to “unclear jargon, acronyms or technical language.”

Not only were terms like “KPIs” and “procurement” foreign to young job-seekers, they also led them to feel the job descriptions were confusing and unnecessarily complicated. In the end, the job-seekers felt less confident and even “intimidated,” despite the fact that they may have been fully qualified for the role.

The researchers’ advice? Eliminate business jargon completely to attract qualified young applicants. You can still describe a role’s responsibilities without resorting to business speak. To start, try to remove any mystifying acronyms (like SLAs or P&L) and aim for simple explanations of day-to-day duties and expectations, like “supporting customers” or “paying attention to details.” In the end, the sentence above should read something like:

“Seeking an entry-level assistant to support the buying process, helping our team meet goals and deliver on our promises to customers.”

2. Describe your company’s core values and unique benefits

Time and again, research shows younger candidates have different expectations than their older counterparts. For example, according to a study by the Human Resource Management Center (HRMC), millennials care more about company values and career flexibility than older candidates.

Your job descriptions should reflect this by tying each role into the company’s core values, while also revealing opportunities for learning and career advancement. For example, the Siegfried Group’s job descriptions boast that candidates will be “tackling unique, challenging and one-of-a-kind Accounting & Finance projects” while pointing out that “no two career paths at Siegfried look the same.”

“Millennials are looking for evidence of cultural fit and purposeful work,” says Taylor Cotter, writing for Workable. “Be sure to describe how someone in this position would make a difference in the future of the company, and in the company’s overall mission. Name your opportunities for professional development within the company—both hard and soft skills.”

Younger candidates also look for different perks and benefits. Millennials tend to respond to lifestyle and community perks—like free meals, flexible scheduling, and reduced summer hours—so make sure to highlight these in your job description.

In other cases, you might simply re-word certain benefits, like describing the details of your 401(k) plan for the uninitiated.

3. Keep job descriptions short, sweet, and concise to increase application rates

According to a study by Microsoft, the smartphone revolution has reduced the average person’s attention span to an even-shorter 8 seconds. And since young millennials and Gen Z’ers are glued to their devices more than anyone, they probably have the shortest attention spans of all.

That means that in order to attract younger candidates, your job descriptions should be brief, informative, and most of all, concise. They should get to the point right away—quickly capturing the reader’s attention, then describing the role, including qualifications and benefits. As soon as you get beyond three or four paragraphs, you’re just boring the reader.

4. Make sure your job descriptions are easily searchable and mobile-optimized

Steer clear of terms like “ninja” or “rock star”. You might think they are quirky and fun, but actually they are just confusing to job seekers of any age. Plus, if you want your jobs to be findable, they need to contain easily searchable keywords that point the right candidates to the job. This will help your postings show up in more online searches while focusing your text on what matters to the candidate, like specific skills and titles.

In addition, to attract young job-seekers, it’s especially important to optimize your postings for mobile devices. Just having a mobile site isn’t enough, though—you’ll also need to write and format the description with the understanding that candidates might be glancing at it while they’re waiting at the bus stop or standing in line at a cafe. That could mean using larger text, more images, or skimmable formatting like bullet points. In fact, well-formatted mobile description should be readable in just “two scrolls.”

Final thought

Cutting down on jargon is a great first step toward writing job descriptions that appeal to young and entry-level candidates. That said, writing job descriptions is an art form, and you can always get better at it. Leverage these tips to reach these notoriously hard-to-reach candidates and you’ll soon be miles ahead of most recruiters.

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