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Why You’re Only Attracting Job Candidates You Can’t Really Afford

Topics: Comp Strategy

Editor’s Note: This blog post is an excerpt from our upcoming ebook created with BambooHR “Your Talent Acquisition Ecosystem: Managing the Employee Lifecycle”

If you find that your job postings tend to attract over-qualified, “shiny” candidates who have salary requirements that are way above what your comp budget called for, it may be time to revisit your job descriptions.

With our busy schedules, job descriptions are often whipped up in a hurry. Some of us may have job descriptions that haven’t been updated for several years. But bad, out-of-date, job descriptions are often at the root of recruiting headaches and eventual challenges with retention.

Many Job Postings Deviate Far From the Job Description

A job description describes the essential functions of the role, the required skills and experience. A job posting/ad is the external collateral that job applicants see. Talent acquisition teams and hiring managers often fail to make a distinction between a job description versus a job posting/ad. As a result, organizations end up attracting job candidates who are so overqualified that you must give them starting salaries above your range in order to get them in the door.

But if you keep on hiring “shiny” candidates and starting them at the top of the range, you will create pay compression, invite unfavorable comparisons between your employees, and create a whole host of issues that lead to turnover next year.  

Let’s walk through how this tends to play out: Let’s say that you’re hiring for a brand-new business. The hiring manager outlines the basics for the position in the job ad, puts it out on the market, and they end up with a great catch: Lance.

Not only does Lance meet the basic requirements, but he grows into the role. His unique talents start to make a difference in his department and in the organization as a whole. So the hiring manager for Lance’s team decides that she wants another Lance. But she can’t put “basically another Lance” in the job ad and have candidates understand what she’s talking about.

So she updates the job ad and emphasizes some of Lance’s unique qualifications in the picture she paints of the position. It’s not an exact picture of Lance, but it includes a lot of Lance’s “nice-to-haves”.


Now here’s the problem: candidates can’t see the underlying requirements of the job description. They only see what you post. In this example, the caricature of Lance overemphasizes the nice-to-haves at the expense of clarity on the basics of the job description. Also, when the manager posted it, she didn’t pay attention to where it was facing (where she decided to post the ad).

Based on what she emphasized and where she posted the job, this manager ended up with a completely different species of job candidate. And while her budget called for less compensation than Lance, all of her candidates had much larger salary requirements. So it was either reopen the position, or start the new candidate at the top of the range without any room to grow while setting up a salary compression scenario for Lance.


Do Your Job descriptions Match What You Really Need?  

The better you can translate the essentials of the job description into your job postings, the easier it is to find candidates that fit into your organization’s ecosystem: both in the skills they bring and the compensation they expect. Also, it’s important that you review your job descriptions on a regular basis. If you can’t review all of your jobs every year, at a minimum reveal the ones that have seen significant changes in their market value. This helps avoid several recruiting pitfalls:

  • You don’t have to go through several recruiting cycles looking for the unicorn candidate, or trying to duplicate Lance.
  • You don’t have to stretch to the top of your salary range because all of your candidates are overqualified.
  • You don’t have to redo a posting when you realize that none of your candidates have a skill that you failed to mention or hadn’t considered.

Defining the real job description is an essential part of creating a matching salary range. And sometimes, it takes going beyond the traditional job descriptions for a given field.

At BambooHR, the sales department had a spike in turnover, leading to concerns about retention. We were continuing to get applicants, and they went through the same applicant tracking system and onboarding programs as other departments, but we were still losing salespeople at a higher rate.

After taking a closer look at the realities of the position, they quickly realized that a sales team for HR software uses different skills than a traditional sales team, collaborating with each other and helping to educate clients as much as persuade them. But because they were advertising for a typical sales position, they ended up with a typical sales applicants. And they encountered other problems, including the fact that they were attracting one female applicant for every ten male applicants.

So they set aside the traditional sales job description and focused on hiring people with a background in HR or recruiting. This shift in target helped attract a much more diverse group of people, not only in characteristics like gender, but also in background.

As a result, their ratio of female applicants to male applicants grew from one in ten to four in ten. And the new employees had greater job satisfaction working in their unique, out-of-the-norm sales environment.

BambooHR has two values that help address how to put the job description in its proper perspective. The first is Grow from Good to Great. In a nutshell, this means that there’s always room for improvement, whether someone came on in an entry-level capacity or they were recruited to head the marketing team.

The second is Lead from Where You Are, and it helps provide a perspective that helps people grow from good to great. Because in the end, it’s counterproductive when employees feel that the only time growth can happen is when they can add a Sr. in front of their job title. Or when employers send the message that the only way that employees can progress in their career and earning potential is to take on management duties, effectively limiting growth to a single member of each team.

When your strategy for employee training and growth is matched up with a market-based salary range, you set the stage for lasting engagement. Whether your employees make their way into the management track or continue to lead from where they are, it doesn’t matter. You’re continuing giving them growth opportunities.

Other Considerations For Job Descriptions 

As you consider new positions, take the time to fully define your job descriptions and the salary ranges. When you price a job, make sure that you’re factoring in the essential skills, years of experience and education someone needs to do the job. Talk to your managers about what they’re really looking for in a role. When you spend the time to take care of these factors, you can avoid the common recruiting pitfalls.

The next question is, how do you do this efficiently when you’ve got a hundred other things on your plate? Typically, HR and talent acquisition professionals spend a lot of time trying to chase down managers to gain feedback on jobs. There’s usually a lot of back and forth via emails and countless meetings for both parties to review the jobs.

The good news is that this work can be done much faster with technology. Earlier this year, PayScale released a new Job Collaboration tool as a part of our compensation management platform. This Job Collaboration feature that helps managers and recruiting/HR professionals streamline and speed up the process of updating job descriptions and pricing positions. HR can send managers requests to give feedback on jobs. Managers can log in to give HR their input on how each job is defined. For example, managers can provide feedback on essential skills, years of experience and certifications they need in a position, all critical factors in pricing a job.



When you’re confident that your job description fully captures what’s needed in a role and that the job is priced right, talent acquisition professionals and hiring managers can focus their time and energy on candidates who make sense for the job, rather than wasting time trying to woo overqualified “superstars”.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have tips on how organizations can avoid “shiny” candidates in the recruitment process? If so, share them with us below or on Twitter.

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