Long Job Descriptions and Titles Can Hurt You. And So Can Short Ones

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 11.47.10 AMMarketing is recruiting’s next frontier. If you’re a marketer, you’re trying to generate a lead or a sale, so you dedicate a tremendous amount of time, energy, and expense to achieving the highest conversion rates possible.

Similarly, you can maximize the return on investment of your recruitment campaigns when considering click-to-apply ratios. Click-to-apply tracks the number of candidates viewing a job advertisement who then go on to complete an application.

Let’s take a look.

Impact of Job Descriptions on Click-to-apply

We at Appcast.io recently tracked nearly 400,000 job seekers looking at job advertisements across various platforms and the 30,051 applications that resulted from those views. The data supports a “Goldilocks” logic when it comes to optimizing the ROI of job descriptions.

  • Too-short job descriptions of 1,000 to 2,000 characters (170-250 words) returned a click-to-apply of just 6.7 percent. For job descriptions containing less than 1,000 characters, click-to-apply dropped to 3.0 percent.
  • Too-long job descriptions over 10,000 characters (around 2,000 words) achieved a similar click-to-apply of 6.7 percent.
  • Click-to-applies are up to five times higher for job descriptions between 2,000 to 10,000 characters. For descriptions between 4,000 and 5,000 characters, click-to-apply spikes at just under 15 percent.

Too-short descriptions do not influence candidates who need sufficient context in order to make an application decision. Too-long job descriptions may suggest a stifling working environment and demand too much effort from candidates who already are investing a great deal of time in their job search. The “just right” description is detailed, without being too long, as the bell-curve shows.

job description - click to apply

Impact of Job Title on CTA

Appcast.io’s analysis also shows a clear ROI hot spot for titles containing 50-60 characters. Titles of this length outperform other titles by 30 to 40 percent.

However, the overall data is murky. Very short job titles (less than 30 characters) and very long titles (80 characters or more) do not suffer the sharp click-to-apply drop off experienced by non-optimal job descriptions. So, while opportunities exist to optimize the length of job titles, clear and descriptive title content may have greater influence on a candidate’s decision to apply.

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job title - click to apply

Impact of Apply Processes on Click-to-apply

Lengthy, complex, and time-consuming applications act as a barrier to applicants. Candidates are 365 percent less likely to submit an application that takes more than 15 minutes to complete, as the chart below shows.

On a cost-per-click recruitment advertisement pricing model, recruiters pay per click regardless of what the candidate does next. When completion rates are low, applicant sourcing costs are commensurately high. The data suggests that recruiters can slash their cost-per-applicant by 250 percent simply by reducing the time it takes to complete an application from 15 minutes to 5 minutes.

click to apply - time long applications - higher costs

Recruiters should think like online marketers to analyze their conversion path and boost recruitment ROI. By applying data-driven strategies to job postings and apply processes, recruiters can generate optimal interest in their advertisements, create leads, and compel a greater number of qualified candidates to toss their hat into the ring.

The data indicates that job descriptions and titles should be “Goldilocks” length to maximize click-through rates, and suggests a built-in business case for streamlining the application process. Recruiters may benefit by analyzing their online application and removing every “nice-to-have” question that is not required to evaluate a candidate. The reality is that every superfluous question lengthens the process, deters applications, and costs money.

Chris Forman is the CEO and founder of Appcast Inc. He has previously served as CEO of StartWire (which he founded), CEO of AIRS, and Chief Development Officer of The Right Thing. Chris has worked in the recruiting industry for 20 years, developing smart recruiting tools that have helped hire millions of people around the globe. He is a nationally recognized expert in recruiting and talent management and has been quoted in publications such as The Wall Street JournalThe New York Times and Staffing Industry Review.


14 Comments on “Long Job Descriptions and Titles Can Hurt You. And So Can Short Ones

  1. It’s not about length of copy, it’s about the message within. You can’t compare like for like on word count alone. The results indicate nothing, because in each instance the message will be of varying quality and allure (sometimes even lacking both)

    1. I think it’s both. You can have an ideal size posting, which allows you to provide enough of the right type of information to make it extremely alluring and compelling.

      1. Whatever the length, an alluring and compelling posting, can make any posting more effective than just posting a boring position description and requirements, which is how over 85% of jobs are posted.

      2. Here’s an example from the ‘too short’ category, as defined above:

        Corporate Communications Manager

        Stimulating debate. Increasing viewing. Protecting a reputation. Our Press & Publicity team isn’t short of challenges to rise to. And, when it comes to
        managing corporate communications across the whole spectrum of our activities, it’s you they’ll turn to. Whether it’s devising a PR strategy for a new online initiative, managing an issue or risk or organising a speaking event, your flair for corporate PR will have every chance to shine.

        You may already work in TV. Perhaps your expertise has been honed within a large organisation or working on a well-known brand. You might even be a journalist who wants to experience life on the other side of the fence. What is for sure is that you’re focused, flexible and creative, know how to connect with people at all levels and have a good working knowledge of the media industry. Oh and we’ll also be looking for a strong news sense, excellent media contacts and, above all, an innate ability to deliver PR strategies that will enhance
        people’s perceptions of our brand.

        Now I would argue with anyone that that advert needs any more saying in order to get a response. Equally, I could find you a thousand and one examples of advertisements of the same length that have absolutely no allure whatsoever. As I say, it’s not about length, it’s about what you do with it 🙂

    2. Agree with Kevin L., it’s a balancing act. Too much info, not enough context, forget it. Too short and you won’t have context and that’s no good either. Get to the point in a well-written, appealing, job posting without dragging it out. Done.

  2. As a recruiter, I’m always having to edit out the “fluff” on job descriptions to cut them down to the essentials. For professional hires (i.e. people who have been working for a few years at least in a given industry) I don’t believe it’s necessary to have things like “must work well in a team environment”, “fast learner”, “have good communication skills”… all those should be a given. Give me specific skillsets and daily tasks of what the person will be DOING. A one page job description with strong bulletpoints should be enough to pique someone’s interest.

    1. Agreed. The cardinal sin of most job postings is you can read them and not have a clue what they actually want someone to get done on a daily basis. Most of them are descriptions of the person the poster thinks can do the job, and not a description of the job itself.

  3. Chris, great article. I’m always impressed with you. Daylon, I agree with you completely about editing out the fluff. Alconcalcia, I agree with you 100% as well. Making job posting alluring, is what over 85% of job postings are missing. We teach all of these things as a part of the award winning Post Perfect Training Program: http://www.postperfect.com

    1. My point is that a good job ad can be 100 or 400 words. Size really isn’t as important as the message. I get asked to write succinct copy for some clients and more expansive copy for others. What is common to both is that the ad contains some kind of allure and intrigue – a sell rather than just a cut & pasted list of duties that bores the reader senseless, as so many job ads do. Analytics based on word count alone is pointless. it’s like saying 30 second tv commercials are more effective than 40 second ones without even stopping to take into account who the client is or what the product is they are selling. There cannot be a like for like scenario, hence the stats mean zilch.

  4. Mr. Forman – When you’re doing the character count on the impact of job descriptions, are you counting characters with or without spaces? I’m analyzing our current postings but Word gives me both counts and it’s about 1,000 character count difference. That would make a pretty signifact difference in your data.

  5. Thanks, Chris, great points! I agree that good job postings can make all the difference. Recruiters who spend that extra half hour or hour up front to develop something well written and ATTRACTIVE will find that the right
    candidates apply and the wrong candidates don’t. You can manage your
    applicant pool this way.

    The best job description has the right words (from the candidate search perspective), the right tone (culture), the right length (as you point out), and a call to action (EVP). Recruiters who don’t take the time to do this are making their job harder.

    Nice looking MG, by the way. Is that yours? Or just a generic “let’s peek under the hood” photo? 🙂

    1. Steve: It’s not his MG. I just found that photo to illustrate the idea of looking under a hood. I probably could have taken a photo myself to illustrate the concept but I took my car in for an oil change last weekend and they said there’s a rat living under the hood (it goes there at night to keep warm apparently and leaves in the morning). Maybe that photo would fit a different article.

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