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Putting candidates first in job descriptions

Attracting the best candidates is a key objective for employers hoping to hire apprentices and trainees that are the ideal fit for their organisation.

One of the first steps in the recruitment process is writing a job description for the role, but how can you advertise your position in a way that will entice motivated, hard-working employees?

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When building your job ad, you may also want to take into account recent research that highlights the importance of putting candidates’ interests first.

Associate Professor of Business at the University of Vermont David Jones claimed many hiring managers focus too much on ‘demands-abilities’ statements when compiling an advertisement. This means they concentrate mostly on what skills and qualifications they want from the prospect. An example of a demands-abilities phrase is “The applicant will have excellent communication skills”.

However, by manipulating real-life examples, Professor Jones and peers at the University of Calgary and the University of Saskatchewan found a ‘needs-supplies’ approach was much more successful in attracting top talent. Needs-supplies refers to statements outlining what a business can offer a candidate to satisfy their career aspirations, such as mentioning opportunities for advancement or worker autonomy. A typical example would be “You will have the chance to work with many talented individuals”.

Finding the right balance

The findings, which will be published in the latest issue of the Journal of Business and Psychology, found that three times as many A-grade applicants put themselves forward for a ‘needs-supplies’ fit position than a demands-abilities job description.

So why do so many job ads still take the latter approach? Professor Jones believes it may be down to a number of factors.

“A hiring manager in a specific unit or a supervisor of the second shift in manufacturing with little training in this stuff may be crafting the ad,” he explained.

“So it’s not surprising that it’s filled with demands-abilities statements because they want someone with a specific skill set that they don’t have to spend a lot of time training and who can start day one.”

Despite this, simply adding needs-supplies criteria into a job description is something you may want to avoid. Professor Jones said if the statements aren’t true, it could have a significant impact on the employee’s satisfaction if they do accept the role.

“If you create what is called a psychological contract, where the applicant has an expectation of what is going to happen as an employee and then it doesn’t, the people you hire are less likely [to] go above and beyond and are more likely to quit much sooner than they otherwise would,” he explained.

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