What a job seeker wants to see in a job posting (An article to employers)

by Tiffany Newton, Head Editor, INALJ Missouri

What a job seeker wants to see in a job posting (An article to employers)

tiffany n2I’ve been volunteering at INALJ since January of this year, and I’ve looked at thousands of job postings. Some of them are fantastically written and sadly, some of them could use a little help. All comments are just my opinions, and I am no expert on writing job postings. Organizations have rules and regulations to follow, so please, if your organization has guidelines that disagree with my opinions please, follow the appropriate procedures where necessary.

1.  The first thing to think about when writing a job posting is where the job posting will be located. Generally, they’re on the Human Resources page, under “Employment Opportunities,” “Jobs” or “Work at XYZ”. The link to this page ideally, should be on the main company website. Don’t make job seekers look through several different pages before finding the correct page.

2.  Next, try to make the application process as easy as possible. Yes, I understand, you don’t want to make it too easy, because then you’ll get thousands of applicants, but make it fairly easy. I’ve a few companies that require the job seeker to email HR to request a username and password, then log in and fill out the online form. My favorite jobs to apply for are the ones that include the email address and say, “Send your PDF resume, cover letter, and application to abc@xyz.com”.

3.  Also, in the job posting, make sure to include the location clearly (preferably an address too). Sometimes, I hear about a job posting from a friend, or through a listserv, and all they mention is the company name. If it’s a company I’m not familiar with, I don’t know where it’s located, and even if I am familiar with the company, there might be several different branches or locations.

4.  Please include a deadline for applications (even if it’s just a rough deadline). If possible, remove the job posting from your site as soon as the position is filled. Sometimes jobs get on other sites (such as INALJ) and are not removed right away, but this is why it is good to have a deadline. Please do not include “open until filled”. I understand you want someone to fill the position, but if I see an opening that’s over 3 months old that says that, I won’t apply because it might already be filled and someone just to remove the posting. If you need to extend the deadline if it has not been filled yet, then do so.  Another solution I’ve found for this is to include a date of when you will begin reviewing applications. I have seen several openings that have said, “Review of applications will begin on 8/1 and will continue until the position is filled.” This simple statement tells me that I can still apply after 8/1, but if I wait until October, the position might already be filled.

5.  A general start date is helpful in the posting. Most employers are flexible on start date, but others are not. Including the start date on the posting does several things: first, it lets the applicants know when you need them, is this job for an immediate opening, is it for one starting the following January. At universities and schools, often positions will begin in August. Second, this gives another idea of a deadline for applications. Third, this will let applicants know if they are available to work then. While I was in school for my MLS, I applied for several jobs during my last semester, but they wanted someone to begin working before I was finished with school. I was not able to do that. Had they simply included a start date, it would have saved me time in applying, and would have saved them time in interviewing me. Lastly, including the start date will help give applicants an idea of the time line – so if they don’t hear anything from you by that date, they should assume they didn’t get the job.

6.  And that brings me to my next pet peeve. Please contact applicants as soon as possible and let them know the position has been filled. A simple email, letter, or phone call will suffice. If the process is taking an extremely long time, notifications letting them know when a decision can be expected (especially for those that have already had interviews) are polite. Personally, I have had several interviews that I never heard back from. Please do not make the job seeker constantly seek you out for answers. Usually job seeking is a stressful time anyway, making them wait weeks, or even months, for an answer just puts more stress on them!

7.  Make the job title and description clear. If you want to use unique names like “Smart Fulfillment Coordinator” please use a good description so applicants can get an idea of what the job entails so they can get an idea if they’ll enjoy the job or not, or if they can even do the job. Most employers do a good job with this, but there have been a few that I’ve seen that just include the job title and the requirements. Yes, I have an MLS, but that doesn’t mean I’ll enjoy doing this job!

8.  Please think about requirements for the job, compared to pay. You won’t get any applicants if you require an MLS and another Master’s degree, but only pay $25,000 a year. In addition, if you require an MLS and a second Master’s in very specific fields, such as microbiology, maybe broaden the second master’s to something relating to biology or even just science. However, do include preferred qualifications, as well as required. Not many applicants will have all of the exact qualifications, so think about which ones are most important for the job, and the others can be preferred. Then set the pay range to something reasonable for your area, the job, and the requirements.

9.  Let the applicants know what you need from them. Some companies will require only a cover letter and resume, others want official transcripts and letters or recommendation, and others will be fine with unofficial transcripts and a list of references. Be sure to include how many letters of recommendations or references you need, and if you need transcripts from undergrad as well as graduate work, or if you only need transcripts from the most recent school attended.

10.  On salary, that seemed to be a very controversial topic (especially on Hiring Librarians). Personally, I do like to see at least a range. I search for jobs in different states and would like to know how much I’d be paid to see if I think it’s worth it to move two states away for that pay. If the cost of living in that area were higher, I’d expect to see a higher salary. I think it is perfectly okay to include a range then say “depending on qualifications”. If you are unsure about how much you can pay, give an estimate, and be sure to say it’s an estimate. Just give the applicants something to work with.

11.  This shouldn’t have to be said, but include how to apply for the job in the posting. Some jobs require a physical copy of the application to be mailed in. In these cases, please include the mailing address and the name of the person receiving the letter. Sometimes the address is the same as the location of the job, but often the application is mailed to HR at another location. If you will accept digital applications only, include that, as well as an email address. Also, if you have a preference on format, let applicants know. Employers might want everything in one document; others might want pdf files only. Let applicants know

12.  Last, but not least, include a contact person. Applicants generally will want to check up with the company to assure their application was received, when interviews are, and when the search committee is going to make a decision about hiring. They might also have other questions about the organization or the job. Please include the name, address, email address or phone number of someone at the organization who will know about the position. This is especially helpful when you want applicants to mail their print applications to a generic address such as “Human Resources” or “Library Board.”

As I said earlier, I am not an expert, these are just my opinions on things I believe should be included in a job posting. Please check into your own organizations procedures and follow their regulations before following my advice.

Job seekers, what else would you like to see in job postings? What is being done right, and what do employers need to work on?

  9 comments for “What a job seeker wants to see in a job posting (An article to employers)

  1. March 25, 2014 at 1:38 am

    Yeah i agree with the comments of writer that the job application should be made made easy and the location should be furnished so that it will be easy for anyone whether he wants to apply or not.Thanks for such a wonderful article.
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  2. kwikoff
    August 19, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    I wish we were ALLOWED to let candidates know sooner that they are out of the running. But we aren’t. HR sends the regrets and does not do so until the very bitter end, just on the off chance that ALL the finalists don’t pan out and we want to go back to the pool. Some candidates fall into that category, but we also get a lot who are clearly and obviously not qualified and I wish I could kindly let them know immediately that they will not be considered any further.

    Almost all the beefs above are not in the control of the hiring committee or even the library — nearly every complaint is something decided in HR and not in our hands. (P.S. I wish they’d include the name of the person chairing the committee too — candidates make the most creative guesses! But I suppose HR doesn’t want people looking up our e-mail or phone number and contacting us outside the process. :-(

    • August 19, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      It reads to me as if this article is to HR/employers not hiring committees. They aren’t mentioned and the beefs are clearly described as personal preferences, and no mention of hiring committees except #12 and once again it is just a suggestion, not a demand or even “beef”. I think we need to get these discussions out there but I do not see any misunderstanding on the part of the author about who is involved in these decisions.

    • Illinois to Missouri editors
      August 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      Yes, I understand not all these things can be changed due to certain policies. These are just some things I would like to see in my perfect little world. :) Thanks for your insight though! – Tiffany

      • August 29, 2013 at 4:03 pm

        I love your list :)

  3. August 15, 2013 at 10:37 am

    That’s a great start, but I would include the following:
    11) Never, EVER use the phrase, “x years of progressive responsibility”. Do you want to know how long I’ve been a liberal and in what capacity, or do you REALLY mean “progressively GREATER responsibility”? Be clear.
    12) Don’t feel you have to work the entire mission statement, commitment to diversity, and the results of last year’s student shelver’s cart derby anywhere into the advertisement. It would really be better if you placed hyperlinks to those pages of your website in the advertisement, then had simple check-off boxes (I have read and will adhere to this policy, etc.). I did a paper on this subject last year and was astounded by the level of writing skills expected of HR professionals.
    13) Your school has an English department. Don’t be satisfied with HR’s proofreading skills. You can avoid mistakes like the school that wanted a list of “Strategic Planning Strategies”.
    14) I’ve been around the education field long enough to know that if the ad asks for REALLY Specific requirements, they already have someone in mind, and not to bother. Case in point: an elementary school in the School District of Philadelphia asked for a teacher with dual certification in Science and Chinese. In the words of the Spice Girls, “Just tell us what you want, what you really really want”

  4. Mary Spiro
    August 15, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Great post. Yes, definitely include salaries. If the salary is too low, I won’t waste my time applying and thereby won’t waste the employer’s time having to look at my application.

    Also, write the job description in plain English and not buzzwords, jargon, etc. I read a description once and had to reread it three times and still had no idea what it was they wanted.

    Thanks again for this post. Much needed!!

  5. Michelle M Young
    August 14, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Great article! First, I really don’t enjoy the surprise online application that pops up and then asks you to repeat practically verbatim what you have just painstakingly spent hours writing and uploading (aka, your cover letter/resume). Actually, the word “parsing” now literally makes me crazy. The impersonal online systems are aggressively non-user friendly. I have spent hours trying to deal with (ok, fight with) DOS-intelligence level, inefficient online applications that require multiple attempts to send. Employers need to be notified that filling out an application correctly is no reflection of a future employees’ capability, reliability and intelligence, and that the organization may be missing out on a great employee that just couldn’t figure out how to correctly parse themselves. I mean, no one goes to school to learn how to fill out these things?!
    One more thing–If an employer is not posting salary, it is not fair that applicants in turn are then required to share in advance previous salary(s) or salary requirements. Please save this for the in-person interview.

  6. Valerie Flowers
    August 14, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    GREAT post, Ms. Newton. I would also like to add this: it would be very helpful if there was some standardization in terms of requesting a resume versus a curriculum vitae. When applying for jobs in an academic library, I assume “resume” to mean curriculum vitae, but I am unsure, and then feel as though I might be preceived as being unable to follow direction if I send a curriculum vitae. By that same token, if I do send a resume, I worry it might be too brief, and that I will be knocked out of the running accordingly, right off the bat (sorry for the mied metaphor). Some clarity on those two words would go a long way. Again, thanks for writing your post, and so comprehensively.

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