Attracting top talent in today’s competitive job market is no easy task. Nowadays, it’s no longer enough to simply write a compelling job description and hope for the best. With so many opportunities available to job seekers, your first step must be to ensure that your posting can be easily found in online search results.
Just as marketers try to optimize their web pages to rank highly in Google, savvy recruiters optimize their job postings to rank highly in job search engines when candidates do job searches. To get the most out of placing your job postings on major job boards, start thinking like a search engine and following best practices for search engine optimization, or SEO.
How does that work? To get the inside scoop on what employers can do to optimize their job descriptions, we sat down with the head engineer in charge of Glassdoor’s job search engine, Bhawna Singh, to learn more.
From our chat, we found six easy ways to jumpstart your posting performance immediately:
1. Make your job title easily searchable
Most job seekers search by job title, so knowing how to optimize your title is the first step to getting your job posting in front of qualified candidates. To perform well, keep your title straightforward and consistent with the language typically used in your industry. Steer clear of creative titles like “Excel Wizard” or “Coding Ninja,” as these tend to rank poorly compared to frequently searched titles like “Software Engineer.”
Another important point Singh stressed was that, “Glassdoor’s algorithm will rank your jobs higher if the job title closely matches what the user typed in the search box.” Despite what you may think from an immediate ‘incentive’ perspective, Singh makes it clear that, “Additional phrases in the title, like ‘apply now’ or ‘competitive salary,’ make it less likely that your job will match well to the user’s query. These types of modifiers are best saved for the job description.”
2. Watch your abbreviations
When it comes to abbreviations, most search engines are advanced enough to recognize commonly used abbreviations such as “Sr.” for “Senior” or “RN” for “Registered Nurse.” However, things start to get tricky when the same abbreviated term may be used among different positions in different industries. To prevent your description from getting advertised in the wrong place, make sure to expand your abbreviations to specify whether your “PA” job is referring to “Physician’s Assistant,” “Production Assistant,” “Personal Assistant,” or “Personal Accountant.”
3. Keep location out of the job title
Unlike search engines such as Google or Bing, which filter queries through a single generic search field, all major job search sites feature two fields, one for job title and the other for location. When these search engines try to match your job to the user’s query, they match title-to-title and location-to-location.
Users search for specific job titles more than any other group or combination, including location. If your job title is “Assistant Manager North Canton Store” and your location is “North Canton, OH,” including the location within the job title only makes it a less exact match to a job seeker’s query of “Assistant Manager.” To help boost click-through rate, ditch redundant information like location so that your title will more precisely mirror what the job seeker is searching for.
4. Front-load your title
A 2014 eye tracking study conducted by Mediative revealed that the way people view search results differs from the way we read other kinds of text. As opposed to reading a piece of text line by line from left to right, people consume search results vertically, scanning the beginning portion of results from top to bottom. Applying this to job search results, job seekers scanning through dozens of job results are likely to view just a fraction of job titles, focusing their attention at the beginning.
To make sure that important pieces of information don’t get passed over, orient your job titles so that the most relevant words fall within the scanning window of the first 1-2 words. In the image below, you’ll find an example of a job title not optimized for search result viewing. Because the first two words don’t include any job title related terms, it’s more likely that a job seeker will skip over it. Avoid this mistake by beginning your title with the most pertinent words.
5. Keep an eye on character count
When crafting the right title for your job posting, it’s useful to keep length in mind. Singh says at Glassdoor, the job search engineering team has found among the site’s millions of job postings, the most typical length for a job title is between 12-20 characters. What’s more, titles within this range also have the highest click-through rate. Think titles like Product Manager (15 characters); Sales Associate (15 characters); Business Analyst (16 characters); and Non CDL Truck Driver (20 characters).
If your title’s character count falls on either extreme of the range, you run the risk of experiencing a significant decrease in your number of click-throughs. For example, on Glassdoor, job titles over 60 characters get clicked on about half as often as titles in the 10-20 character range.
If this is the case for you, consider either shortening or extending your job title to fit within the 12-20 character range. Look into what titles are most commonly used in your industry for the level and skill you’re looking for. If you’re worried about your title not being detailed enough, remember that you can always provide more detail later on in the description.
6. Formatting matters… a lot
Job seekers tend to skim job descriptions, so it’s crucial that yours is easy to digest. However, beyond simply making your description easy on the eyes, there is an SEO incentive around formatting as well.
“Good search engines take into account the quality of the job title and description. Misspellings and bad formatting can negatively impact how your job ranks,” Singh said.
To give your description a well-defined structure, break up your text with separate paragraphs, section headings, and bullet points where appropriate.
Paying close attention to formatting is particularly important when advertising the same job on multiple sites. Be cautious when copying and pasting descriptions that your posting doesn’t convert into a single blob of text.
Singh advises, “If you’re using multiple sites, it’s always a best practice to check how the formatting of each one looks.” Be aware that some job boards do a poor job of preserving your original formatting, which will reflect poorly on you as the employer.
When developing your job posting, remember that your goal is to craft job titles and descriptions that will match a job seeker’s search query as closely as possible. Try putting yourself in their shoes and think about how you would conduct a job search for your particular position. The more you can imitate the way job seekers interact with search engines, the better your job posting will perform.