job videos

Talent Exec Has Proof You Should Be Using These Types of Job Descriptions

Do your job descriptions suck? Are they boring candidates to sleep? If so, you need to listen to the latest episode of RecTech. We chat with Chris Mulhall a talent executive who actually commissioned a study of what works and what doesn't when it comes to promoting your jobs. 



Chris Mulhall: My name is Chris Mulhall and I'm next on RecTech.

Speaker 2: Welcome to RecTech, the podcast where recruiting and technology intersect. Each month, you'll hear from vendors shaping the recruiting world, along with recruiters who tell you how they use technology to hire talent. Now, here's your host. The mad scientist of online recruiting, Chris Russell.

Chris Russell: All right, let's do this. Chris Russell here, managing director at RecTech Media where I consult with employers and HR tech [00:00:30] vendors on navigating the world of recruiting technology. We're going to talk today about job descriptions, specifically why you need to revamp yours and make them more engaging. But first, RecTech is sponsored by Job Fairing. If your company's hosting a hiring event or job fair, post it for free at jobfairing.com. Job Fairing helps employers and event organizers to promote their career event to local candidates via the web and social media. Learn more at jobfair-I-N-G.com.

Today's guest is Chris Mulhall, VP of talent [00:01:00] acquisition and planning at PointClickCare. I'd like to introduce Chris from a recent article I saw on LinkedIn. "How are you supposed to find the right candidate if they're not even going to consume a job description end to end or even get to the skills and qualifications section?" He asked during a session at Talent Connect 2016. "That's the challenge. How do we create more engaging content that a candidate will actually view?" At PointClickCare, a software company, Chris and his team have come close to solving this problem after realizing their [00:01:30] boring, traditional job descriptions were turning candidates away. From one Chris to another, welcome to RecTech.

Chris Mulhall: Thanks for having me, Chris.

Chris Russell: Excellent. Well, glad to have you on the show. So Chris, few employers recognize job descriptions for what they should be, which is really a marketing tool. I'm so glad I discovered this article about you guys and what you're doing with yours. When did you come to realize that you had to change your job descriptions to focus on becoming more of an advertisement that sells the job itself in the company?

Chris Mulhall: [00:02:00] Yeah, sure. For us, our company PointClickCare, we don't have that well-known employer brand, so we find that we have to be pretty scrappy with our candidate outreach, whether it be on LinkedIn through InMails or just direct headhunting. So what we were finding is our company culture is really great. We're very innovative, we're really entrepreneurial, and we would send these messages out to candidates to say, "Come check out our company, we're so cool." And [00:02:30] the candidate says, "Okay, great. Okay, send me the job description." Then we'd send them this job description, which is long and bureaucratic and lengthy paragraphs and 30 bullet points and the candidate says, "Oh, that doesn't sound so innovative in the end." So there was this huge disconnect, really, between how we were positioning ourselves in the market, which I think was accurate, versus what candidates were seeing on our job descriptions. So really, I think that was our aha moment to say, "Hey, we can do this better. We're not walking the walk [00:03:00] here. Let's start at that initial outreach, which most often cases is the job description, and figure out ways to do it better.

Chris Russell: Okay. So according to the article, you commissioned a study on the different formats, which are three of them. So video, infographic, and a comic strip. What did those results tell you?

Chris Mulhall: Yeah. I'll start first with just the context of commissioning a research study on job description. So we engaged a third [00:03:30] party to conduct a study for us and they reached out to 600 candidates, 300 technical, 300 non-technical with across the board on demographics. So between different age groups, education, gender, time in their current role in the industry that they were in. We had them consume job descriptions in four different formats, so the three you mentioned there: infographic, job descriptions, a video job [00:04:00] description, a more fun and casual question and answer type format description with a comic strip included, and then the fourth version, which is your traditional, let's say, boring text-based job description.

Chris Russell: Were these your own candidates, Chris?

Chris Mulhall: No. These were independent people who most often hadn't even heard of PointClickCare, so there's no biases coming into it, completely objective. So they consumed our job descriptions [00:04:30] in each of those different formats, and really we were trying to accomplish two things. I guess number one was, does certain type of job descriptions resonate with candidates more so than others. So depending on the field they're in, their age demographic, male or female. Did they prefer one of those formats versus the other? Then number two was to test my theory I mentioned earlier, which was, are candidates influenced, at least the perception of the company's culture based on the job description the consumed? So for example, [00:05:00] if somebody consumes a really boring and bureaucratic job description, do they may inferences about the company also being very boring and bureaucratic. So we wanted to see if that carried any weight there. So that was really our objective coming into the research study. Do you want me to go into any details on some of the findings that we got?

Chris Russell: Yeah. So what are the big takeaways, would you say?

Chris Mulhall: I guess if we look at, to answer that first point about the different job description formats and how they resonated from [00:05:30] one candidate to the next, we found that for technical candidates, so those in an IT profession, whether it was male, female, in the broad buckets of 18 to 35 or 35 and above, all four of those groups preferred the more casual language, question and answer, comic strip-type job description format. I can dig on that in a little more detail later. That form across the board was the most popular. [00:06:00] For the non-tech candidates, interestingly enough, male, female, 18 to 35 and 35 and above, all of those four groups preferred the video job description. Then we start to see more statistically significant data on the non-tech side. For women and for those 35 and above, significantly prefer the video job description over all four of the different formats. So something to keep in mind for any diversity hiring initiatives. 

[00:06:30] When we asked all candidates, both tech and non-tech to stack rank those four formats, so again, the text-based, the infographic, the video, and the casual language question and answer comic book one, all four groups or all four descriptions, the text-based, the traditional text-based description was ranked as the least favorite for the tech candidates 34% of the time and for the [00:07:00] non-tech 35% of the time. We found that really telling because, again, a stack rank last 35% or 34% of the time, but it's the description that we probably use 99.9% of the time in our job descriptions, right? So there's a huge disconnect between what candidates want to see versus what we're always reverting to when it comes to job descriptions. I think that's the first group of major themes that we saw coming out of the research study.

The second one that we saw was, [00:07:30] to my earlier question about, okay, does the content or the format really influence what the perception is of the company culture? So for that, we had a pick list of about 15 different attributes that someone might associate with a company. Things like innovative and inspiring, bureaucratic, boring. We had the candidates or the survey participants consume all four job description formats and then provide [00:08:00] some feedback from that pick list to say, "Based on that job description that you just consumed, how would you describe the company that posted it?" What we found for the tech candidates is when they looked at the comic strip and the video, they used terms, so they selected terms like innovative and adaptive, inspiring, flexible. Then when it came to the traditional text-based description, key words that came out were boring, bureaucratic, [00:08:30] things like that. On the non-tech side, very similar, as well. They really gravitated towards the video again and almost half the candidates selected innovative as being a top word that they would associate with the company that's using these types of descriptions. Again, very high levels of bureaucracy and boring-ness when it comes to what the company was probably like. We certainly saw some assumptions being made based on the types of job description [00:09:00] formats that the folks consumed.

Chris Russell: Okay. I watched the video for the Java developer ones. I loved the casualness of it. I think the first 30 seconds or so, you were interviewing people about the company, but it was more of the off the cuff remarks and funny moments while videoing. So it wasn't scripted out, I thought, and it came off as very genuine. Was that a very specific thing [00:09:30] that you wanted to convey?

Chris Mulhall: Exactly, yeah. I'm glad you picked up on that. That's really the authenticity, right? We wanted our engineering organization as to be shown as innovative and it's hard to be innovative unless you're willing to make mistakes and try different things, so I think that first 30 seconds just shows some humility, which we value, as well. You know, not being afraid to say, "I screwed up," and putting it out there, and also the willingness to take some chances and try things over again until you perfect it. So [00:10:00] really, yeah, that's the tone with the video descriptions. We want to give an authentic and realistic preview into the job, so later on in that video, we take the camera over to the work environment and again, you see that all of our engineers sit at a big long table right beside another engineer, and that's not for everyone, right? Sometimes it's tough to articulate that in a job description, let alone an interview where sometimes it's not discussed, as well. So showing that up front is a great way [00:10:30] for candidates to self-select out and say it's not for them and never apply, or they say, "You know what? I can get behind that. I like that teamwork and collaboration," and they're going to click that apply button, so really that was [crosstalk 00:10:41].

Chris Russell: I thought you went really deep into the department, too. You talked about different technologies you used, a little bit of what you're currently working on, and I thought it was pretty detailed, too, in terms of the information you got for candidates.

Chris Mulhall: Yeah, yeah. We talk about some of the technologies that we're using, as well, because again, it somewhat functions like a job description, so we want to [00:11:00] see specifics about the role, as well, not just cool shots of the environment.

Chris Russell: Can you tell us anything about the cost of creating this video? Is it expensive, is it cheap? I don't know if you could kind of give me some baseline here of what it costs.

Chris Mulhall: Yeah. We're very fortunate, I'll say, that we have an in-house videographer who was happy to partner with us on this initiative. So the cost, I mean, we covered the cost of a camera [00:11:30] for the day and equipment. It was just a couple hundred dollars. If someone were to look at outsourcing it because they don't have a videographer, again, you can probably get away with that half day or a day rate and just call around and get quotes, as well, just for the editing. One of the things we're experimenting right now is having basically no tech and basically having a higher manager function, like they're carrying a GoPro and just kind of walk them around and have the [00:12:00] voiceover lay. So yeah, there's definitely some low tech options if you don't want to look at some of the editing pieces, too.

Chris Russell: Sure, definitely. Okay. The infographic, first of all, tell the people where you created those, I think you used an online tool. Secondly, I guess that didn't work well with some of the respondents, right? Talk about that, too.

Chris Mulhall: Exactly, yeah. So we use a tool called Piktochart. In annual licenses, [00:12:30] it's about 500 dollars, and you get access to a whole bunch of different templates that you can use or you can create your own from scratch. Essentially, we went into this with creating infographic job descriptions with the thought process that we could probably articulate the information on the infographics better than we could through a traditional text-based description. You could show visuals such as the typical career path, both upward and lateral mobility. We could show some cool graphs on the industry [00:13:00] growth that we're in, which is longterm care software, and just with the aging population, it's great for sales roles that they can see they could be selling into a really fast-paced and growing market. So again, things that we felt like would be better through visuals than through a traditional bullet point on a resume. 

To your point about how it resonated with candidates. So infographics was one of the formats that we had candidates provide feedback on. As fun as it is to make [00:13:30] them, if you have the creative juices, they didn't score as well, in particular with non-tech-based candidates. The feedback that we got was that candidates sometimes saw them used more as advertisements than they did actual job descriptions and felt like they were trying to be sold something, almost like a marketing document. So there was, "Hey, does this company have an ulterior motive here? This is pretty slick." So I think it just got the guard up [00:14:00] of a few candidates for them to say, "You know what? This is a little too smooth for me. Let's go back to the tried and true text-based description." For some groups, it fared better with. So the tech candidates preferred it more so than the non-tech candidates, but overall, it didn't fare as well, especially when compared to the video and the casual language one.

Chris Russell: On that one, it looks like you're using some Dilbert strips as sort of the head lede in the Java [00:14:30] development team that I'm looking at right now. The questions listeners, I'll just kind of read you some of those. It starts out with the Dilbert comic, it goes into, "I've never heard of PointClickCare, what do you do?" Then you talk about that. "So what does a development team lead at PointClick do?" You talk about that. "What does a typical day look like for a development team lead?" You get four or five bullet points there. "What does potential growth look like? What qualifications do you look for?" And finally, "How do I apply?" Those are the questions [00:15:00] that are based in the job description itself. I like that, Chris, because it's a lot more interesting to read than just, like you said, a boring old job description. I saw somebody on Facebook recently complain they just read a job description with 23 different bullet points all in a row.

Chris Mulhall: Wow.

Chris Russell: He said that he wanted to go to sleep after that. A Q&A format like this I think is a great way to describe a job listing no matter what kind of job it is overall, [00:15:30] right?

Chris Mulhall: Yeah, totally. I agree. I feel for that person, I'm sure. We still need a better name for this. We kind of call it the one with the comic strip just because it's easier to remember. So it kind of starts with a comic strip at the top, and it doesn't have to be, it's just something that we've used not all the time, in some formats. Again, we use it as a hook. So it could be a Dilbert comic strip, which we paid for because we don't want to get sued, so we'll pay [00:16:00] the license, the comic strip from Dilbert, which is about 30 or 40 dollars. We'll create our own if we don't want to pay the money using a website called Pixton, which is a pretty fun and intuitive tool, as well. So either way, we can put that in there and you save it as a jpg, if your ATS supports jpgs to be embedded in your descriptions.

From there, then we transition to, as you said, more casual language, question [00:16:30] and answer-type format. These are typical questions that the candidates have about the job and we position ... All the essential skills and qualifications are in there, as well, but it's just more of a relaxed language rather than long paragraphs and lengthy bullet points and things like that. It's fared really well with candidates. I think they appreciate the more casual tone. Again, because descriptions get scraped and aggregated off different job boards, these translate well to different websites, too, that might not necessarily [00:17:00] support a visual. But instead, at least the text is getting picked up to different job boards. So yeah, we found it really valuable and really versatile as far different job description formats, and that's resonated really well with candidates.

Chris Russell: We'll link to all these tools in the show notes. Chris, how longs have these postings been out now? What kind of feedback have you been getting from candidates? Tell us more about the results you're getting.

Chris Mulhall: The results have been really well. So we've been doing this for about a year now, so I think we have a pretty large sample size to look at pre and using the [00:17:30] boring descriptions versus post where, again, we still have some of these boring descriptions, but we've sprinkled in some versatility in here, as well. Looking at the results, I think there's probably three common themes that I would pull out of it. The first is that we've certainly seen a reduction in our new hire attrition. What I attribute that to is just more authenticity and more of a realistic job preview within our job description. So I mentioned earlier about the video and how you can see the work environment [00:18:00] and where you'll be seated, and that allows candidates to opt-out and just not apply, rather than [inaudible 00:18:06] and two weeks into the job, they go, "Oh, I wish I knew I was sitting at this giant table with somebody's elbows right up against mine. I would have never applied." So we just look for all opportunities to be more authentic and more transparent in the description process, and in turn, I think that that transparency's related to a direct reduction in our new hire attrition. I think that's been one key result.

[00:18:30] Another result that we're seeing is there's certainly more sharable content on different social media channels. So take the typical employee that maybe isn't as active on LinkedIn as you and I are. They see a funny comic strip or a cool job description or a link to a job description video, and they're far more likely to like or to share than they would a boring text-based description, because who actually reads those when they're shared on social channels? Because of that, we're [00:19:00] seeing the regular employee that has a LinkedIn profile and a decent network sharing content that they typically wouldn't share in the past. So it's got that longer shelf life to our postings.

That really leads into my third point, which is we're seeing a significant increase in the amount of passive candidates. So because our content is more sharable and has a longer shelf life and we have engineers sharing their own job descriptions because they're fun, we're seeing candidates [00:19:30] reach out to us directly to say, "Hey, I'm not on the market right now, but your video job description came up in my feed today. I thought that was pretty cool and would love to know more about the opportunity." So it's been a great way to really expand the reach of our job postings, as well.

Chris Russell: Nice. So you think overall, it will help to increase applications across other companies?

Chris Mulhall: Yeah. I think both applications and the quality of the applications because one thing we try to make clear on all of our job description formats is that PointClickCare is not for [00:20:00] everyone and that's okay. We talk about how it's fast-paced, there's a lot of ambiguity, high growth, and that's not for everyone. So if we can be more tailored with their descriptions, as well, and not just have them far-reaching with a wide net, I think the more targeted approach has been successful for us to ensure that the quality of candidates has been increased, as well.

Chris Russell: Right. Chris, would you be able to share some of the results with me so I can share them with our audience at all in terms of some of the data you got from that [00:20:30] research study?

Chris Mulhall: Yeah, sure. I'd be happy to do that.

Chris Russell: Awesome. I guess final question, Chris. What advice to have for other employers who want to revamp their descriptions? What kind of tips can you give them?

Chris Mulhall: I think first, when we chatted about this before with different folks, there's always some apprehension from a change management perspective. I think the best advice I can give is that it's really an easy sell with [00:21:00] the managers. I mean, they all want better candidates and they all want to find the right cultural fight, so I'd encourage you to engage your managers in this process, your hiring managers. Ask for their opinions on the format, figure out what might resonate with them if they were candidates, and it's tough to kind of shoulder this on your own. I think the more information you can get, the more data points, the more feedback from people that might consume it, I think, is helpful. We do the same thing with candidates, as well. I get real time feedback. [00:21:30] What do they think of the job description? Does it influence them in any way? Same with our new hires, as well, we want to get that feedback. So I think it's important to get some feedback from the different stakeholders, whether they be managers or candidates.

The other feedback I have, as well, is we don't do this across the board with every description, whether it just be from a bandwidth or capacity perspective. We still have quite a few traditional text-based job descriptions, as well. We're gradually moving things over as we convert to a new ATS in the near future. [00:22:00] What we try and to is apply the 80 20 principal. We look at the positions that get the most hits, we'll use it for pipeline recs or feeder recs because we know that those typically have a longer shelf life. I'd give that advice to the audience, as well. If you don't have the time to overhaul all your job descriptions, start small. Take a look at a few of those pipeliner feeder recs or those high volume recs, they [00:22:30] have a longer shelf life, especially if you're sharing them on social channels. Nobody wants to click onto a dead link. Those perpetual pipeline recs are good candidates for video job descriptions, as well, and especially if you're going to pay to hire a videographer for your video job description, you might as well get a better ROI out of it and link to a position that will be posted for many months rather than just a couple weeks.

Chris Russell: Nice. Well, Chris Mulhall from PointClickCare, thank you very much for joining me today. How [00:23:00] can people connect with you and see these jobs online?

Chris Mulhall: Yeah, no. Thanks, Chris. I appreciate it. The best way to reach out to me or connect with me is through LinkedIn. Send me an invite and connect, and if anyone has specific questions outside of your show notes, I'm happy to discuss them with them. We start with LinkedIn and go from there.

Chris Russell: Really appreciate it, Chris. We'll link to everything in the show notes and you're definitely one of my new recruiting heroes, Chris. I love the fact that you went out and did your own study. I mean, I've never heard of an employer doing that sort of stuff, so [00:23:30] kudos to you and kudos to your team there.

Chris Mulhall: I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on, Chris.

Chris Russell: That will do for this edition of the RecTech podcast. Thanks again to our sponsor. Remember to check out jobfairing.com for promoting your hiring events. Follow me on Twitter @ChrisRussell or visit rectechmedia.com. You can find the audio and links for this show on our blog. Subscribe vie iTunes, Google Play, or SoundCloud. Thanks for listening.