How Job Description Length Affects Responses

Recent surveys have revealed some interesting information about the length of job descriptions and the applications that result from them. The surveys looked at a total of 400,000 job seekers and the 30,000 plus applications they submitted to companies using various electronic media during the course of their search.

The study showed that there is an optimal length of job descriptions for eliciting responses from job seekers. If the job description is too long or too short, there are fewer responses. Very short job descriptions, those in the neighborhood of 170 to 250 words, generated a response rate of just about 7 percent. For job descriptions even shorter than this, the response rate fell to a mere 3 percent.

Long job descriptions, those over 2,000 words, also produced anemic results similar to the short ones, with a response rate also in the 7 percent range.

But for jobs descriptions in the 250 to 2,000 word range, responses were five times higher than the outlier job descriptions.

The researchers reasoned that the short descriptions produced such dismal results because they did not provide enough detail or context about the job. The long descriptions, researchers said, may have given the impression of a work environment too regimented and stifling, and may just have demanded too much effort to get through. The mid-range descriptions gave enough detail without being too long.

The length – or lack of it – of job titles did not appear to have as great an influence on responses as job descriptions did. The study showed that job titles in the 50 to 60 character range did produce a 30 to 40 percent increase in responses. But, overall, the study showed that very long or very short titles did not produce a big decrease in responses, compared to those of the job descriptions.

Not surprisingly, the survey also showed that longer, more complicated application forms reduced response rates. Response rates drop off drastically once applications require 15 minutes or more to complete.

Recruiters should take note – every superfluous question or fact that increases the time it takes to complete the application process deters applicants and costs money.

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