Job Seekers Another Culprit in the ‘Black Hole’ Effect

Recruiters wanting to write long, clever and incredibly detailed job postings probably should rethink the strategy.

A new study by online job-matching service TheLadders shows that job seekers spend an average of about 76 seconds looking at a job posting — and that’s for ones they determine to be a “good fit.”

For postings deemed not the right fit, job seekers spend an average of just about 50 seconds on the page, according to TheLadders’ study. “Job seekers really don’t spend the necessary time needed to assess properly if the job is a fit for them or not,” said Selena Hadzibabic, director of product and user experience for TheLadders.

As a result, many job seekers apply for jobs that they are not qualified for, in turn exacerbating the so-called “black hole” effect — when job seekers apply for a position and never hear back from the company, largely because of a glut of applicants and a small number of recruiters hurrying to fill positions quickly.

Interestingly, when asked how much time they typically read a job posting, job seekers who participated in the study self-reported that they spend roughly 10 minutes examining the description in detail if they believe the job is a fit. This shows the difference between perception and reality.

The study also examined what portions of a job description people spent the most time on. To do this, TheLadders use heat maps and eye-tracking technology. The study found that, by and large, job seekers spent most of that 60 seconds focused on the top left-hand corner of a job posting — typically the portion outlining the most basic details of a job, such as job title, compensation and location.

What does this mean for the recruiter or other talent acquisition professionals writing job descriptions?

For starters, Hadzibabic said recruiters have to be quick and to the point in writing descriptions. They should refrain, for example, from calling a job for a software developer a “software development ninja,” she said.

Instead, be simple and clear with position profile information. Trying to be clever or funny with job descriptions is more likely to eat up critical time readers spend scanning the page — and, as the study shows, time is of the essence.

Elaine Orler, founder and chairman of the Talent Board, a nonprofit that specializes in recruitment studies and improving the online applicant experience, said the study confirms a problem the industry has known for years: that the practice of writing job descriptions could use improvement.

“I’m not surprised by those numbers,” Orler said, referring to the amount of time the study found job seekers spend reading job descriptions. Because job seekers are spending more of their time searching for positions on mobile devices, Orler said it has become even more important that recruiters become better at writing job descriptions that are brief and to the point.

She said the job description should provide job seekers with just enough information to get them to the next stage in the process.

And as TheLadders study shows, often that can be as little as the information traditionally included at the top left-hand corner of a computer screen — or, as is increasingly the case, whichever mobile device job seekers are using.

Frank Kalman is an associate editor at Talent Management magazine. He can be reached at fkalman@talentmgt.com.