We’re starting with a list of tips and tricks on how to write a job description, then we’ll break it down to provide specific guidelines for your company profile, requirements and benefits.
How to write a job description in 10 steps
1Discuss the role with someone who already does this job, or its nearest equivalent within your organization, and get them to describe their average day.
2Describe the role using words that feel inviting and evoke an emotional response. Resist the temptation to use jargon, buzzwords or a flat corporate tone.
3Keep it short (but not too short) or it can become confusing. As a general rule, don’t use more than a half-dozen bullet points and don’t exceed 700 words.
4Be specific. Vague meaningless prose won’t cut it here. Know your industry and where your company stands. Make sure you’re familiar with the role and what it consists of and spell it out. Add a start date to create a sense of urgency.
5Think like an applicant. What would make you apply for the job? Is it just perks and benefits or the chance to work with a smart group of people? Perhaps it’s the clear career path, the opportunities to learn and add to your skills, the company’s vision or the way you do things.
6Help applicants to picture themselves in the role. Share details of the team they could be working with on a regular basis; include quotes or links to social media accounts.
7Leave out trivial tasks or minor details. It’s all about what’s important in the role.
8Offer value. It’s not all about how great your company and the job you’re offering is. This is about the potential candidates. Share content that interests and attracts them, talk about knowledge, ideas, and working methods.
9Don’t write job descriptions in isolation. Talk to other departments to gain their expertise, content writers for wordsmithing, marketing for promotional ideas, designers for smart-looking visuals.
10Spell-check and proofread.
And once you’re done, do it again.
Your company versus all the companies out there
To stand out in a crowded market you need to show some personality in your company profile. Your company is a unique combination of people, culture and knowledge, and your target is to attract candidates who share your approach and values. Make a pitch. Tell them the story of where you are, how you got there and where you’re going. Invite your candidates to join you in getting there.
Make it visual; an image of your workplace, a video or a quote from one of your employees offers an inside look at your company. Two-thirds of jobseekers admit to being influenced by the presentation of a job ad. Make yours memorable.
But don’t be self-absorbed. Many ads brag about how special their company is, how they only employ the best. This can come across as boastful, which is a turnoff for some candidates and will make others suspicious or fearful of applying. Brevity is your friend, keep this part to no more than 200 words and focus on your candidate; what’s likely to capture their attention.
This job versus every other job out there
The two most common approaches when writing a job description are to present a detailed list of daily tasks or a vague run-through of responsibilities. Neither will make the role compelling. Focus instead on deliverables and explain how these will contribute to the success of the business.
Here you can use bullet points (not a laundry list) that describe the nature of the work and how the role functions within the broader team. Rather than describing tasks, focus on the type of decisions they’ll be making, who they will be working with and reporting to.
The requirements list
You get what you ask for, so it’s tempting to go all out with a wish list. What you actually need is someone who can do the job and has the potential to grow. Candidates aren’t sitting on a shelf waiting to be picked. Distinguish between what you “want” and what you “need”. Come up with a list of 15 requirements. Read, rethink and cut the list in half.
A good approach is to rank skills by importance and frequency and be clear about it. Treating all skills as equal will demoralize jobseekers. The wrong emphasis could cost you good candidates who are concerned that they lack some skills which could really be picked up with a few hours basic training. Likewise don’t dwell too much on experience. Keep in mind that skills can be learned, people can be trained.
Benefits & perks
Here you can knock yourself out with as many bullet points as your actual benefits deserve. Still, you would be wise to focus on what’s special about your company. Keep in mind that attracting people through perks isn’t the best recruiting strategy. You’re looking for someone to meet the challenge and buy into the company as a whole, not a benefits shopper.
Make it easy to apply
We’ve all come across job ads that require a lot of patience to apply. Sending resumes to email addresses, filling out a bunch of fields with basic personal details or even worse rewriting your entire resume in individual form fields. Don’t be that guy. The candidates’ application experience is important.
An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that automatically fills in required fields and offers a simple resume upload is all you need. Screening questions are useful and can weed out poor candidates to save you valuable time. A simple question like "What attracted you to this job?" can say volumes about the candidate. But go easy on open-ended questions that require candidates to write an essay. Multiple choice questions to check on skills and knowledge should be the default.