Context is everything. Words carry weight because of their context.
This explains why opening up a letter not addressed to you does not carry the same significance as one that is. Or why hearing fragments of a conversation as we pass strangers on a busy street might elicit a chuckle but is routinely tuned out.
In the same way, we filter our conversations based on who we are talking to. When meeting someone for the first time, you likely omit superfluous details that may not be relevant or require too much background. Instead of using a friend or colleague’s name when telling a story, you opt for a more general qualifier. You may even add additional detail to provide needed context. These adjustments happen naturally in conversation.
Lost in Translation
When it comes to the way we write, it is more challenging to add these filters to our language and remain aware of what is relevant when we don’t know who we are talking to. We can forget that we are not our own audience.
When writing a job description, which details are important to include? We’re creatures of habit, and many of the staples that we include, we have not given much thought as to why. Out of habit, we throw in years of experience. But how is this quantified, and who might we be pushing away when we use these arbitrary numbers. When you are clear with who you are trying to attract and understand that qualified candidates likely have diverse backgrounds, you can better think through what you need to say in the job description and why.
Additionally, we often assume adding a list of bullet points as requirements will make the recruiter or hiring manager’s job easier. The idea is that those who are not qualified will self-select out of the process, saving the recruiter’s time. In practice, qualified candidates who only meet 8 of the 10 requirements are dissuaded from applying. Stop writing to attract a unicorn. These requirements don’t make sense when you’re writing to attract a broad set of diverse candidates.
Who Is Your Audience?
It makes sense that knowing who you’re talking to would come in handy when sourcing and attracting talent. So how do you clarify your audience? Here are three questions to help you narrow in on who you are talking to.
1. Why are you hiring?
This may seem like a no-brainer, but asking yourself why you are hiring for a given role will help you narrow in on the skills needed for the job. Instead of leaning heavily upon past hires to dictate future fit, clarifying the required skills will open you up to consider more diverse and qualified candidates. Maybe technical skills are paramount, industry experience a must, or interpersonal skills essential. Whatever it is, asking why you are hiring and what skills are needed will help you avoid arbitrary details when writing your job advert.
2. What does your company need?
New hires should augment your workforce. Focus on making a hire that will bring something new or needed into your team. What are you currently missing, and what types of backgrounds, perspectives, and skills would your company benefit from? What diversity gaps are you trying to bridge? Keep these answers in mind as you attract, screen, and consider candidates.
3. Where are these types of talent found?
After identifying the gaps that you are looking to bridge, ask yourself where you can reach these audiences. Sourcing talent may look very different depending on whether your focus is junior-level, senior-level, females, persons with disabilities, people of color, those with an entrepreneurial background, or those with a defined skill set. Look for a tool that will allow you to reach your audience and ensure the words you use are not discouraging qualified candidates from applying to your jobs.
Focus on Your Audience
Spending a little time upfront to clarify your audience before you start recruiting will save you time in the long run and help you stay focused on what you are looking for and the skills necessary for the job. Knowing your audience and writing job descriptions with them in mind will give you access to a broader pool of talent and attract diverse candidates that will add to and strengthen your workforce.