Optimizing Your Job Description for the Candidate Search


When you’re feeling thirsty, so thirsty that you’ve just got to pull over at the nearest convenience store, so thirsty that you’re feeling light-headed as you browse all of the refrigerated beverages that the modern age has to offer, which drink do you grab? While the drink that a particular person finds to be the most refreshing will vary, you can bet that the vast majority of people have a similar set of criteria for a cool beverage on a hot summer day. For instance, let’s consider two groups of Gatorade bottles: one group arranged neatly behind a layer of frosty refrigerator glass and one group that’s sitting on the bottom shelf of the last aisle in the store, nestled between cans of cat food and instant ravioli. Now, tell me, which drink are you more likely to pick up on your mission to quench your thirst?

Though the product (Gatorade) is identical, the drinks that are presented in the place where we expect them to be, the way that we want them to be (ice cold), will get a lot more attention than those sitting in some obscure corner, gathering dust. The same goes for marketing your open jobs. Today’s job seekers will head to the internet for some or most of their job search, utilizing everything from Google searches to niche and industry job boards to try and get their next big break. Just like on the tightly packed shelves at your local convenience store, there are a finite number of job ads that can fit on the first few pages of search result and just like most people head to the refrigerated drinks, most people won’t go further than the first few pages of search results while on their job search. Because so much of the job seeker’s process relies on search engines, it’s important to make sure that your job advertising is search engine optimized. More than anything, it’s the number and relevance of the keywords in your job ad that will determine how many job seekers come into contact with it. This means that, above all else, you want to make sure that your job ad is properly packaged and sitting pretty in a place where people are actually looking for what you’re selling, not next to the cat food.

First off, if you don’t think being on the first page of search results is that important, think again. According to this Infographic from instantShift, 75% of search engine users never go past this first page. While you can assume that job seekers will practice a little more due diligence than someone who’s searching for “Buffalo Wing Recipes,” this statistic just goes to show how people approach the internet. People use the internet because it delivers the information that they want quickly and in an easily consumable format, not to spend a whole afternoon getting to page 10 in search results. This being the case, it’s absolutely in your best interest to make sure that your job ad is showing up in the right place to be seen and that it’s engaging enough to grab your ideal candidate’s attention within the first 30 seconds.

Search Engine Optimization

A good place to start looking for examples of the keywords that companies in your industry are using, is in the job ads of your competitors. Chances are that you have been competing to fill similar positions (or the exact same positions), so take a look at their job advertising to see how they promote the job:

  • What job title have they chosen to use? (Web Developer vs. Java Developer)
  • How do you see them trying to appeal to job seekers? (Are they stressing salary/benefits, employee friendliness, company culture, etc.)
  • Which technical or industry terms have they chosen to include in their ad?
  • Which job boards are they using?
  • Are you given the option to go to the company’s career page somewhere in the ad?

Once you’ve taken a good look at the strategy of your competitors, it’s time to start emulating what they’re doing right and start burying them with your own, superior piece of job advertising. While you wont find a collection of superb job descriptions in the “classics” section of any bookstore, writing an effective job description is a challenge and quality absolutely counts. In order for a job description to be effective, it must both: have the right keywords to appear in those first few pages of search results and be compelling enough to stand out from the competition for job seekers.

Now, walking this line between engaging candidates and appearing within the first few pages of search results isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. Besides looking at the keywords that the competition is using, you can use SEO resources like Google AdWords to see what positions job seekers in your industry are searching for on job boards and search engines. Once you know what job title and which keywords will get your ad the most relevance in an internet search, the next step is to integrate those words into your job description without sounding like everyone else on the first few pages. While it’s great to get creative when writing an appealing job description, keywords are not optional. Search engine results are based on little more than these key words and, no matter how brilliant your job description is, it won’t mean a thing if nobody sees it.

Quick Tips

Stand Out From the Crowd

Try looking up the position that you want to fill on any major job board. If you type in “Senior  Web Developer,” you’ll see about 10 job descriptions with the same, or nearly the same job title: Senior Web Developer. A great way to grab attention is adding a subtitle to your job title. Try summing up the primary responsibilities of the position in a few words that will grab the attention of someone who comes across the job description. For example:

Senior Web Developer – Revolutionize America’s Favorite Hobby!


Senior Web Developer-

Always Include Location Keywords

(Project Manager in San Francisco, California) Besides listing your job as the job title that job seekers are searching for, it’s crucial to list the location of your job. This gives your job more exposure on location specific job boards as well as giving your ad much more prevalence in the search results for candidates searching for work within your city.

Link to Your Careers Page

By including information about your company and a link to your company’s careers page (you should have a careers page on your company website), you’re giving job seekers everything that they need to learn about your company and interact with your brand. This will give interested job seekers the chance to find out what your company is all about and, hopefully, give them the chance to get excited about the prospect of working for you.

Use What Works

If you don’t know much about SEO, talk to someone who does! The words that work are not a matter of opinion, and using key words that you “think” job seekers are searching may not be very helpful. Like I said before, use programs like Google AdWords and check out your competitors to see which words are consistently popping up within the first few sentences of their job descriptions. Remember, you’re trying to get the language of your job description to match the actual terms that professionals are searching for.


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