How to write a good job description

A great job description will save you time if you effectively communicate the nature of the job. The result? Better applicants to choose! Aside from your organization’s overall brand, the job description is the first piece of communication you have with prospective hires. Let it work for you.

9 tips for writing an effective job description

1. Describe the company and workplace culture

Most candidates will do their research, but in the era of one-click applies, you want to make sure your prospective candidates have all the information they need at their fingertips before applying to a position that will not work for them—because that candidate will not work for you and the process will waste your time. Are you hiring in a “fast-paced, competitive environment?” Is the job located in a remote area or downtown? Present your organization positively and paint job searchers a picture of what it’s like working within your organization.

2. Be succinct

Fewer words can have greater impact. A quick read that effectively communicates all the main points of your job description will reach more candidates. Avoid buzzwords, clichés, and contradictions, and pare your description down to the essentials.

3. Write for skimmability

The first and last sentence of any paragraph or section of your job ad should be impactful. Imagine the process from the job browser’s perspective, scrolling through hundreds of potential listings. Make bullet points of skills or required experience. Don’t make candidates search for basic information they need to determine if they should read more carefully and apply.

4. Keep SEO in mind

The language you use should include common search terms. There are of course other ways to optimize how many candidates see your job description, from social media to job ad boards and recruitment tech, but all of these rely on a well-written description that can connect that job seeker’s search terms to your job description.

5. Craft a good title

A good title for any open position uses a common term that is accurate to the job’s experience level (manager vs. coordinator or junior vs. senior). It should be standard in the industry, and as specific as possible. For example, a “marketing specialist” may be a job in public relations or alternately require graphic design experience. If you need a graphic designer in your marketing department, your job ad may miss the target if you post the title simply as “marking specialist.” Whatever you do, do not call this position a “Graphics Specialist”—no one in the industry will use or search for that term.

As the header for most job ads, an accurate position title does a lot of work to get you the right job candidates.

6. Be specific about job duties

Paint a picture for prospective hires. What does a typical day on the job entail? You want to be clear about job requirements and the day-to-day workflow, as well as make it clear how this position fits into the organizational structure. Is a new hire going to work independently or report to a department supervisor?  However, going back to tip # 2, you’ll want to determine what level of specificity is necessary. Don’t list every single duty—just enough.

7. Don’t try to “oversell”

Our culture is inundated with the language of advertising, and while your job description may be similar to an ad, it shouldn’t sound too much like one. For example, the question “Are you ready to join a dynamic team?” may be an attention-grabber, but it can also turn off some candidates by sounding unserious.

Stick with communicating the facts of the position. You want to grab your readers with strong language and active verbs, but not sound like you’re selling something. The job itself is what should entice the right candidate—not how fun you make it sound. Overly effusive language or attention-grabbing language runs the risk of attracting the wrong candidate, only to make you have to start the process over again when reality hits and someone is fired or quits.

8. Include experience, skills, and educational requirements

It is a good idea to list required skills and experience, as well as preferred skills and experience. If you want someone with a certain education level, but a hire may not necessarily need that to perform the job successfully, your description can open the possibility for more candidates who may prove to be a good match in other ways. Candidates can easily determine if they meet the required skills. You can also easily determine the best candidates if they match up with your preferred skills list.

9. Get as specific as possible about salary

Not every candidate will know job codes or have a good sense of what “salary commensurate with experience” actually means. These are ways around effectively communicating the salary for a position. While you may not want to reveal the specific number, an accurate understanding of the salary range is key to finding the right candidate. You wouldn’t want to interview waste time interviewing the candidates only to discover their salary expectations are way off.

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