The hiring process needs to be a designed experience, and job ads are the first touchpoints for potential candidates. A great job ad should be human-centered, focusing as much on the business needs as on the needs of potential candidates.

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☕ Writing great job ads

The number one priority for any design leader is hiring. While the best is to already have a passive pipeline when looking for new team members, more often than not we need to reach candidates who might be not even looking. And that’s where we will need a great job ad, the first step in the hiring process.

Why you need a job ad and not just a job description shared on LinkedIn comes from the difference between the two types of candidates, the active and the passive ones. Active candidates are looking for a job, and have a high motivation to see themselves in a role. They only need the points to understand what the job is about. Passive candidates are not necessarily looking at the moment. They need more inspiration to imagine themselves in your team. To cater to both, a description so a list of vague facts about what’s generally needed is not enough. A job ad that directly connects what the role is about to what potential candidates are interested in, is what will attract great candidates.

To get great team members, the hiring process needs to be a designed experience. As the first touchpoint with potential candidates, a job ad fits into a user flow. Just like in a design project, besides the flow (the hiring process up to onboarding), there is also the target persona (performance profile for the ideal candidate), and principles (how we evaluate). You’d also want to get input from partners, so there is a shared understanding of what the ideal outcome - the new team member - should look like.

If there is a good understanding of what sort of candidates we are looking for, it’s easier to get started with the job ad. Job ads cannot be just copied between companies, and often not even between teams or roles. While there might be some generic expectations, being specific will help to get a better fit with candidates.

Generic expectations like “creating innovative experiences” are not helpful, as they could fit any team or any company. A simple test when describing expectations is to think if there are companies that would want the opposite. For example, if you are a startup, would an enterprise would want the opposite? If there is no opposite, the expectation is too generic and needs to be rewritten.

A good way to get specific beyond trivial tasks is to describe the journey the new team member would take in the next 3-6-9 months in the team. This can include even the hiring process, something that should be shared early in the process, and details of onboarding. These both manage the expectations of the candidate and tell about the team’s culture and growth paths. While describing a journey format is not the only way to go, it connects well with the candidates’ perspectives.

Connecting to the candidates, so taking the human-centered route is how great job ads are created. Regardless of the exact approach this is probably the most suitable for design leaders and is the best approach to finding great designers.

🍪 Things to snack on

Jared Spool writes and talks extensively about the hiring process, and especially about creating great job ads:

  • The best designers will want to learn certain things about the role, and the job ad should describe those in detail, as Your Job Ad: The Start of a Great Hiring Experience explains. Job ads need to be helpful, to be helpful they need to be concrete, and to be concrete the hiring manager needs to understand what are your expectations for the role.
  • The Thank you note is a tool to get a better understanding of the position we hire for by sketching how the future employee would benefit the team. Or more precisely we write in the thank you note what are the things we are1 grateful for, that the future employee has done. Similar to design sketches the thank you note can be shared with other stakeholders to make sure there is a common understanding about the position. Writing about what we expect the new team member to do is also a good first step for creating the job ad.
  • A more extensive process to describe new roles (at least compared to the thank you note) is the performance profile. A performance profile contains what the organization expects from the new hire and is shared with stakeholders. Jared Spool describes in UX Hiring: The Performance Profile is a Game Changer sections in a performance profile: position summary, position objectives, expected organizational structure (reporting lines, peers for collaboration), situational needs (what makes this role challenging), basic requirements. Getting all these details on paper will help in writing the job ad, as expectations and tasks are well formulated.

Chris Avore’s and Russ Unger’s book, Liftoff! is generally a great book about design leadership. They write quite extensively about hiring and topics like inclusion, hiring processes, interviews, and offers. There is a great section about using performance profiles, as a basis not only for the job ad but also for the hiring process, and the interview guides.

Emily Esposito describes types of job ads in 5 UX job ads that will help you hire great designers: Define day-to-day tasks, Clearly define projects, Focus on the why, Promote cultural fit, Lay out the challenges. She lists some examples giving ideas on how to start creating a job ad.

Irene Au’s Writing a Job Description for UX People is more targeted to non-designer people hiring designers, as it also gives a longer explanation of various skill sets for designers and UX people as the first step to figuring out what’s needed. Thinking about basic skills (like user research, interaction design, or visual design) helps non-design leaders better understand what sort of candidate they want. In turn, the desired skill set also informs the job ad for more concrete on what’s needed to do in the role.

For design leaders, taking the user-centered approach in everything we do comes by nature. That should be also our approach when writing job ads argues Andy Budd in How to Write a Job Ad that Doesn’t Suck!. Job ads should focus on things people, especially designers care about as that is what will sell the company and the role to potential candidates. He lists 8 things that people, especially designers care about: disclosing the salary band, listing learning opportunities, talking about culture, showing career opportunities, providing potential candidates with the right job titles, describing an attractive work environment, sharing a story that people can belong to or excited about, and most importantly the company’s commitment to design. He also gives great examples for each. I thought the most important message was (besides including the salary) to think about what the candidates would look for as a human.