11 Reasons You're Not Getting Applications to Your Job Postings

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When a client/manager/recruiter becomes frustrated that they’re not generating any applications to their open jobs, or responses to their outbound inquiries, the first thing we evaluate when we are engaged in "troubleshooting" is the quality of the information they provided potential applicants, and how they are framing and presenting that information.   In the majority of cases, a lack of interest by the candidates that’d be great fits for the role aren’t applying or responding to calls/emails because of “information quality,” in the sense that key information that’d help trigger their interest isn’t included! 


First, recognize that posting a job on your website and/or job boards isn’t typically enough to generate the candidate pool you’re likely looking for.  Especially if it’s a very senior, niche or in demand role, you need to have a customized sourcing/candidate generation strategy where you, or the person supporting your hiring and generation of candidates (i.e. Recruiters or internal Talent Acquisition), are utilizing multiple channels to increase the likelihood of finding candidates who have strong skills and are a culture fit!

When we do informal “audits” of a Manager hiring process, here are the 11 major reasons that are typically preventing the Manager from receiving strong candidates!

1. Not customized for the position at hand.

It can be frustrating for a job seeker when they see a “blanket” job description.  How are they supposed to be excited about the role and want to apply when it looks like every other job description out there?  We understand that some information may be proprietary / confidential, but there are still ways to include information about a project without giving everything away.  The position should accurately reflect the nature of the job and the duties being performed.  The job title should also be an industry standard. For example, if your company or end client labels a Programming position as ‘Application Support Specialist III,’ it’d be beneficial to re-label that as a Senior Software Engineer.

2. Too many unrealistic requirements, and/or stating skills are required when they should be labeled preferred.

We like to joke that some managers list everything under the sun on their job descriptions, hoping to identify what’s called a “purple squirrel” (i.e. rock star candidate who has strong experience with every technology/skill on a long requirements list!).  Yes, you should have high expectations and an ideal candidate in mind, but you also need to be realistic about what skills exist in one person, and you need to be flexible and understand what’s negotiable.  Ask yourself “what are the essential tools and technologies this individual needs to possess to successfully perform this role?” and “are there any tools/technologies that can be learned / we provide training on?”  Apply the “skill vs. will” concept here.  What skills do you truly need them to walk in the door with vs. what skills, if they have the “will” to develop, could they learn on the job?  Include only those essential tools and technologies on your list of requirements. 

3. No clear idea on actual job duties and priorities.

The job description has to clearly state the day to day responsibilities, not just list out vague details and then a long list of requirements.  When I’m speaking with a manager, I always ask “what does a typical day look like for this individual?  What do you want them to come in and accomplish within the first month, 3 months, 6 months, etc.?  What are the major deliverables you’d want them to achieve?”  These are great questions to ask yourself to help guide you when formulating a job description.   I’ve seen some descriptions represented as a percentage breakdown, and that’s a great option too! 

For example, if it’s a SQL Server Development role, a position description could read:

  • 70% development, with a balanced mixture of new development vs. enhancements/customizations
  • 10% requirements clarification, analysis and client interaction
  • 10% unit testing and debugging
  • 10% operations support

Regardless of what format you choose, ensure that your posting contains a list of duties/responsibilities associated with the role at hand.  This helps paint a picture of what the work environment is like, along with giving the candidate a deeper understanding of the activities they’ll be exposed to on a daily basis.

4. No details on the key projects they'll be supporting and/or running.

How does the project they’ll be working on impact the goals/vision of the group, company, client, and/or industry?  Almost all candidates we speak with want to know details about the project and who they’ll be supporting.  An interesting project can seal the deal for certain candidates!  Again, we understand that some details may be confidential, but share what you can.  Some examples may include: joining a 5 person team to develop custom database and BI solutions for a mid-sized bank or upgrading 75 servers from SQL Server 2014 to 2016 for a nonprofit organization focused on environmental issues.

5. Minimal insight on the who.

The “who” refers to a few different audiences, including client(s), management, and team.  Who will this person be working alongside (i.e. team) and what’s the culture?  Who will they be reporting to?  Who will be on the receiving end of any products they’re involved with creating, optimizing, etc. (i.e. clients)?  Who else might be benefiting or using their work?  For many strong candidates, it can make or break their interest level depending on who these three audiences are (i.e. management and their style, team and culture, and client(s)), so provide insight on these audiences on the front end.  For example, if a role will directly be supporting a nonprofit, think about how attractive that can make an opportunity for individuals who love social good initiatives! 

6. No mention on the “how” your team does things.

What methodology do you use?  What processes do you follow?  What other concepts do you use?  What other best practices do you apply?  Your best technology professionals want to work for organizations that care about doing things the right way, and communicating the “how” behind your operations is a great indicator of that!

7. Blocks upon blocks of text, with the details hidden inside.

As with resumes, blocks and blocks of text are hard to read and digest.  Bullet points are the best option, especially as you list core duties, requirements, and preferred qualifications.

8. No trajectory on career growth and/or technology roadmap.

It’s important to share current vs. future state, especially around technology.  We did a hiring audit for one group who was really struggling to get candidates to accept their offer(s).  One of the issues was that the team was using extremely outdated technologies.  We then learned that they were adding more perks to Developers and implementing a number of new technologies and tools within three months, yet they weren’t advertising that “future state.”  Once they started explaining their current landscape and their plans of what they were implementing and when, they saw an increase in their offer acceptance rate! 

9. No salary range provided.

We know a lot of companies and managers shy away from this, but not including this information is one of the easiest ways for your job to be skipped over.  There’s no need to assign a specific salary, rather list a competitive, market salary range that it’s line with potential variations of your candidate’s education and experience.  Don’t forget to include any other aspects of the compensation or benefits package worth sharing, such as bonuses, profit sharing, strong 401K contribution, education/conference reimbursement, benefits contribution, etc.

10. Not optimized for job boards/websites, so receiving less traffic and overall visibility by job seekers.

Organic SEO (search engine optimization) isn’t just a strategy that should be applied to your website, social platforms and other online channels.  One of the goals with job descriptions is delivering quality information that’s also optimized in order for it to receive more “traffic.”  Learn some basics of SEO, and apply organic principles to your job descriptions to increase the likelihood that your target audience sees it!  

11. Minimal information on perks, benefits, culture, and other details that will attract your “target audience” of quality job seekers.

Often times, these are the items that are a deal breaker for candidates.  We spend the majority of our time at work, so emphasizing your culture, office perks, and anything else that makes your company unique, can play a huge role in someone applying for a job vs. them passing it over!  Think through the things that keep you coming back.  What do you love about your job?  What excites you about your role, team, company, etc.?  Take it a step further to understand what your team members enjoy about their job and appreciate about their environment, especially those doing a similar or the same job to what this opening would be doing.  Make sure those items are clearly stated for job seekers!

Next Steps

Keep in mind that one major job board found that 85%+ of applicable candidates do NOT apply/respond to a posting/inquiry because the position isn’t appealing to them.  Therefore, do some quality assurance on each description and ensure you’re not making any of the above common mistakes! 

If it helps, here are some “audit questions” you can ask yourself:

  1. Is this written for the current need/opening at hand?
  2. Are the requirements realistic?  Is there enough of a target candidate base out there that would meet these requirements?  If you’re unsure, consult with members of your team and/or a strong skills-focused Recruiter who supports these types of jobs! 
  3. Do I communicate the top priorities and expectations?  Am I explaining what I want this individual to come in and accomplish over the next one month, 3 months, 6 months, etc.?
  4. Will they be doing project-based work?  If so, what’s the purpose of the projects, size, scale and scope?  Who is the project going to benefit?
  5. Are you providing information on the stakeholders/clients they’ll be supporting?  The team function, size and dynamics?  Insight into the culture of the organization, group and team?  Details on why you and/or your team members like coming to work?
  6. Are you explaining the processes, standards and methodologies you follow?
  7. Is it structured effectively?  Are the key points easy to distinguish?
  8. Especially if you’re working with older technologies, versions, and tools now, are you explaining what you’ll be implementing in your environment over the next 1-12 months and the timeline of those implementations?
  9. Are you sharing a salary range, and bonus or profit sharing potential, and other strong benefits your company offers via description or at least with the Recruiter/Partner you’re working with?
  10. Is there a clear delineation between what skills/technologies are TRULY required vs. what’s preferred?  Are there any technologies, tools, etc. that are easy to ramp up on that you could move to the ‘Preferred Qualifications’ category to open up a candidate pool?  This differentiation serves two purposes – it ensures good candidates aren’t ruling themselves out if they’re missing one skill/technology/version from the “required” list AND it can also make your position more attractive, as “pluses” are learning opportunities, which is a huge perk of any opportunity!
  11. Did you apply organic SEO techniques to ensure your job description, when posted via any online channels, receives more traffic and visibility? We recommend investing 15-30 minutes to learn some basics around organic SEO tactics which you can add to your descriptions! 
  12. Ask yourself “what are the main reasons why I think someone would be interested and excited about this opportunity?”  If you’re not sure, ask someone who does that job now why they like their job or what they think someone would find exciting about your current opening.  Then, do a little quality assurance and a “Job Description Audit” to ensure those details are easily visible! 
About the author
Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Cate Murray Cate Murray is responsible for managing the nationally-based talent acquisition strategies of the Apex Systems PMO and Business Analysis Practice and holds her PMP certification from PMI.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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Comments For This Article

Monday, April 24, 2017 - 9:20:32 AM - Jimbo99 Back To Top (55136)

End of the day, every job description I see is a bundled staff role. So yeah, contracting anyone for a single hourly wage and no benefits to be the all in one wonder employee is a big issue. You know what else I see, The contract project that has already hot critical deadline and the client has done nothing about staffing their project all year long. Clients can't expect to bring in a contractor around Thanksgiving to work 20 working days of December for a New Year's deadline for a multi-role position to be performed by one contract employee. My last client, a major healthcare insurance company, expected to model their 17 vendor contracts by New Year, dancing around Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year's holidays, and that didn't even factor in employee's taking PTO vacations. Their 3-5 business day response time for IT requests to configure work stations for software and connectivity tured int 7-10 days. That's not on the contract employee, that's a client issue. Add that the contract was "automation" and now you're fighting the staff to get anything done. The futility and frustration at that play was a project killer.

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