As founder of a career-coaching service, I sometimes hear these scenarios from employers: They’ve posted a job on Indeed, received resumes and followed up with their desired candidates. But many candidates weren’t the right fit — and those who were either aren’t responding or say they never applied. 

In my experience, most of these problems are due to “operator error.” And that means both job seekers and employers aren’t using the platform as best they could. 

The solution? Add steps to the application process to weed out those candidates who aren’t actively applying or who don’t have the proper qualifications. The last time I used this technique on Indeed, I got so many qualified candidates that I took the post down within 48 hours. I even ended up hiring three people instead of two because they were that good.  

What did I do differently? I focused on creating the right job description. Let’s look at what your descriptions need to drive these kinds of results.

Don’t cast too wide a net

Indeed’s technology has made it easier than ever to post a job and get applicants. They’ve worked hard to become the most-used platform by job seekers, many of whom have set up their Indeed accounts to get alerts about jobs that match their desires. They’ve also agreed to have their profiles passed along for jobs that seem like a fit. 

However, in an effort to learn about as many jobs as possible, many job seekers say on their profiles that they’re capable of a wide range of roles — more than they’re actually qualified for. The result? The job seeker gets pushed to employers for whom they aren’t really a match.

What’s more, many employers are using job descriptions that unknowingly encourage nonqualified job seekers to apply. If your job posting is just a list of skills and education requirements, you’ll end up with a job posting that looks like a fit for anyone. Add to that an easy online application process, and all of a sudden, you’ll be getting hundreds of candidates — and very few matches. 

Add these five elements for more effective job descriptions 

So how can you help nonqualified applicants see clearly that your job isn’t a fit? Paint a picture of what it’s like to work at your company and bring your culture to life. To do that, you must include five things in your job description:

1. A focused summary of your company’s “wow” factor. Your wow factor is what makes you stand out. For example, why are the company’s products and services so amazing? What do customers say when they rave about you, and why is it important to deliver this wow factor on a consistent basis?

2. A personalized explanation of your company’s leadership style. Let applicants know what the executive team values in their employees and what employees say about leadership. Offer examples if you can.

3. An outline of the company’s core values and beliefs. What do you stand for, and why does it matter to your customers and your business model? Share the mission statement and examples of how this is carried out.

4. A profile of “standard” employee traits. Explain the characteristics all employees must have to succeed at your company. What skills and capabilities should come standard with every applicant in order to be considered?

5. An overview of what “fun” looks like day to day. Share the things your company does to bond as a team. What activities can the right candidate expect to participate in as a way of showing they respect and enjoy the company culture?

By offering these types of details, you will help the right job seekers get excited at the idea of working for you — and save time and effort for job seekers who aren’t a fit. 

Narrow the candidate pool by expanding the application process 

Here are some additional tips for creating a job description that gets you only the applicants you want:

  • Speak in your unique brand voice. Give your post some personality. If your company was a person, how would it talk and act? Be thoughtful, and compose something that reads more like a dating profile. The more unique it is, the more memorable it will be — and the more likely you’ll get people who relate to the style.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell them what you don’t want. Think about people who haven’t stayed at your company. Why weren’t they a fit? It’s just as important to explain what you’re not looking for to potential candidates.
  • Get them to jump through a hoop or two. The Indeed platform lets you ask qualifying questions to hone in on why the job seeker wants to apply. For example, “Why do you feel connected to our company’s mission?” or “What has taught you that what we do is important?” are great open-ended questions, requiring the job seeker to give an informed answer and prove their attraction.
  • Ask for a cover letter — and tell them to make it disruptive! In a previous article on the Indeed blog, I shared the power of disruptive cover letters. If job seekers don’t quite meet the requirements, these letters give them a chance to show you that what they lack in experience, they make up for in transferable skills. In turn, it can help you see why a nontraditional candidate might be worth calling!

Getting the right candidates from the Indeed platform requires a little thought and creativity. The good news is, you’ll stand out quickly in a sea of lesser job descriptions — which will make the best talent want to apply. Invest time and energy into crafting a job description that will get you what you want; it sends the message that you’re an employer who is seeking only the best!

J.T. O’Donnell is Founder and CEO of, the largest web-based career coaching service for workers on the internet. Follow J.T. online at LinkedIn and Twitter.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Indeed.