Case Study: Why Good Candidates are Ignoring You

The quality of a job posting can have a huge impact on the quality and quantity of job seekers who apply. But what constitutes a quality job posting? To better understand what makes a good job posting, we examine specific examples and their results.

Job Titles

Three jobs were posted on, from comparable locations, for mid- to senior-level software engineers. The best-performing posts, numbers 1 and 2 below, were viewed by nearly twice as many people as job post number 3. Here are the titles along with the factors that helped determine their appeal to job seekers:

1. Senior Software Engineer/Software Architect

2. Senior Software Developer

3. Software Developer/Senior Software Developer

If you are willing to bestow a senior-level title on the right candidate, lead with that information. The first two jobs put the senior title first, while the third buries it after a more junior title. A job title like  post 3 might make a mid-level candidate question whether he is senior enough to apply, while a senior candidate might feel overqualified and not bother clicking on the listing.

Varied terminology can help job listings show up in more searches and clarify candidates’ impressions of the role. Job post 1, the best performing title, uses the words “engineer” and “architect” in the same title, while job post 3 repeats the word “developer.” Make sure you include the most relevant, descriptive keywords in the title itself to be considered by the largest number of qualified candidates.

Job Descriptions

Once you have job seekers looking at your posting, the job description should encourage the most qualified candidates to click through and begin the application process. The following two job posts both have the title “Graphic Designer,” but the descriptions vary greatly. Job A received more than twice as many clicks from applicants as Job B. Let’s take a look at the reasons why.

Here are the introductions for the two jobs:

  • Job A Introduction
    Graphic Designer produces visual solutions for [Company’s] retail and web channels, including: Interior and exterior store signage, campaign and event collateral, direct mail marketing, advertising media, and web imagery, which includes homepage and email announcements. The ideal candidate has imaginative flair, is aware of current visual trends for [retailers in our industry], has extensive knowledge of the latest computer design software, and an understanding of material costs and time limits which can impact projects.
  • Job B Introduction
    We’re looking for a Graphic Designer who thrives off using design to make a business more efficient and in collaboration to the businesses overall marketing strategy. Someone who thinks outside of the box, and can take their design concept across different medias such as: Print, Web, Products, Advertising and Social Media. We hope to find someone that enjoys a high-energy environment, as much as we do, and is motivated and enthusiastic.This person should have an interest in [our industry] and wants to work with a company that is at the top of their industry game. This position can offer you the chance to have your work seen anywhere, we need someone who is able to stay on task, by setting priorities, and doesn’t get sidetracked by the everyday duties such as phone calls and emails.Candidates should have a degree in design or similar field. If candidates do not have a degree in design or related field, they should have at least 2 years experience in the field.

The introduction to Job A is short and to the point. It clearly calls out the major duties of the graphic designer and gives a brief list of important personal characteristics. Job B’s introduction is twice as long due to its use of clichés and catch phrases (e.g., “think outside the box,” “top of their game”).

Job Requirements

Each of the two jobs detail the requirements for the job – both in an easy-to-read bulleted format.

Job A provides a snapshot of what the designer’s day-to-day duties might look like under the essential job functions. The list starts with concrete actions and then progresses to softer skills (“think creatively,” “work within deadlines”). Job A then lists the knowledge and skill requirements needed for the job. Again Job A’s list starts with explicit concrete requirements (degree, software proficiency) and then moves to softer skills (“motivated & committed”), and completes the list with nice to haves (Knowledge of Word, etc. a plus).

Job B jumps straight to the requirements section, but intersperses nice-to-have qualities with required skills.

  • Job A Requirements
    • Essential Job Functions:
      • Design collateral including: all exterior/interior signage, event signage, product brochures, sale flyers and coupons
      • Develop original campaign graphics for special projects and major retail events
      • Design web graphics for homepage, web banners, email announcements, and social media content
      • Manage printing production process with print vendors
      • Think creatively to produce new ideas
      • Work well with tight deadline constraints
      • Perform other tasks and responsibilities not yet identified, deriving from the changing need of the business
    • Job Requirements:
      • Graphics Design degree and 3-5 years of professional design work experience
      • Strong writing and communication skills
      • Expertise in desktop publishing tools such as InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Flash
      • Ability to develop strategies for layouts and artistic concepts and create visual images that engage, attract and sell concepts
      • Highly motivated & committed to the development of high-quality work and personal productivity
      • Working knowledge of Word, Excel, Outlook & Access a plus.
  • Job B Requirements
    • All candidates should meet the following additional requirements:
      • Proficient on Mac with knowledge of PC
      • Proficient in Microsoft Word with knowledge of PowerPoint and Excel
      • Proficient in Adobe Creative Suite including: Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop
      • Photoshop retouching skills a plus
      • Basic web knowledge
      • Video, editing, or motion skills a plus
      • Strong typography skills with an eye for cohesiveness and branding
      • Stays current on [our industry’s] trends
      • Ability to copy write and proof read
      • Highly organized with attention to detail
      • Knowledge of and experience with Social Media
      • Ability to work independently with little supervision, as well as, in a team
      • Ability to juggle multiple projects often under a tight deadline
      • Comfortable with input, criticism and changes

Both jobs finish by listing company benefits and instructions on how to apply for the job. Although the two job postings are similar in length and look for similar candidates, Job A received more than twice as many clicks as Job B. By clearly and articulately laying out the functions and requirements of the job, candidates were able to quickly browse Job A’s description, decide if they were a fit for the job, and apply.

Job seekers looking at Job B’s description were faced with the more daunting task of wading through the initial rhetoric to understand what the job required. They also needed to mentally reorder the skills list to determine which skills were required and which were merely nice-to-haves. Faced with this challenge, more than half of the qualified candidates who might have applied to Job B decided to keep looking and ultimately applied to other jobs.


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