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How to Write Great Job Descriptions

6 min read

The hiring process starts with the job description. Like a fisherman using the right bait, it’s important your job descriptions attract the right candidates.

In this business guide, you’ll learn what to include in your job descriptions, as well as some tips that can make them standout to quality candidates.

What to include in job descriptions

Writing a job description is like doing a puzzle. You need to connect all the right pieces to give candidates a complete picture of the role. Here are the components of the common job description:

  • Job title
    This where you first catch the candidate’s eye. You need to come up with a job title that makes the right people instantly think, “I can do that.” There are two parts to job titles. What the person will do and their level in the company’s organizational structure (i.e. Marketing Director).
  • Job summary
    The job title gets people to look at your description but it’s the job summary that convinces them to apply. It should cover the overall purpose of the role, the specific day-to-day duties, who the hire will report to and the goals and long-term expectations for the role. The job summary should also include other information job seekers need to know upfront, like if the role is part-time or a 1099 contractor position.
  • Job requirements
    Before a candidate applies to your opening, they need to know exactly what type of person you’re looking for. Job requirements include the skills, technical knowledge, years of experience and educational background needed for the position. Note that skills can be both hard (i.e. Microsoft Excel knowledge) and soft (i.e. emphatic and team player).
  • Company description
    Now that all the nuts and bolts of the role have been covered, start to sell your company and culture to great candidates. Describe what your company does, its values, the workplace and what’s great about being employee. You should also link to your “About Us” page so people can learn even more.
  • Salary + benefits
    At the end of the day, salary and benefits are most important to candidates. We’ll get into sharing salary details later in this guide but it’s generally best to give applicants some idea of how much you’re willing to pay. You should also list the benefits your company offers, like 401k, health insurance and PTO.
  • Instructions for applying
    Every job description should end with application instructions. Include an email address for candidates to send their materials to or use an application tracking system to make applying easy. You can also lists other documents you require, in addition to the resume and cover letter, and ask questions that help you learn more about the candidate.

Tips to keep in mind when writing a job description

Now that you know what to include in your company’s job descriptions, let’s talk about how you should go about writing them. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Get input from the hiring manager and other employees who understand the role
    They know the role better than anyone and can provide important insight for the job description. Without their help, you can end up with an unclear or inaccurate job summary that deters the right candidates from applying.
  • Don’t stress the word count
    Provide enough information about the role but don’t overdo it. Say what you have to say and leave it at that.
  • Avoid gender-specific pronouns
    Using he/she or him/her in your job descriptions implies you’ll only consider candidates of a certain gender. Keep it ambiguous (i.e. “We’re hiring a marketing leader. This person will…”)
  • Be realistic so you don’t scare off great candidates
    Serious professionals understand hard work is part of any job worth doing. It’s okay to mention your role requires commitment but avoid unreasonable expectations and condensing language (i.e. “We want passionate people who live and breath this company. If this isn’t you, don’t apply.”)
  • Ask valuable questions
    It’s a good idea to include questions on job descriptions that help you learn more about applicants upfront. It shows them what your company values and their answers help you get a better idea of who should move onto the interview stage.
  • But don’t ask for too much
    Like unrealistic expectations, excessive application requirements turn off a lot of good candidates. Don’t ask for video resumes or sample blog posts unless there is good reason.
  • Proofread and optimize for search
    Include keywords in your job descriptions ideal candidates will likely search for when job hunting. And of course make sure there aren’t any grammar mistakes.

Creative job descriptions or classic job descriptions?

Some companies go off the wall when writing job descriptions. They come up with job titles that include terms like “rockstar” and “ninja.”

Creative job descriptions can be a relief from the same old stuffy ones we’re all used to. But keep in mind they tend to appeal to young people who are looking for a hip company to work for. Seasoned professionals search for more traditional job titles that align with where they are in their career (i.e. manager or director).

In most cases, writing a standard job description is the way to go. Getting too cute with your word choice can make your company seem unprofessional to the majority of job seekers. They’ll roll their eyes and chose not to apply. Additionally, creative job descriptions aren’t search optimized. Most people with a background in data analysis don’t go to job boards and search for “data ninja.” They search for common job titles, like “data analysis” or “data scientist.”

Unless your company culture and role requirements allow for it, try to avoid creative job descriptions.

How to include salary in job descriptions

Earlier we mentioned it’s important to share salary in job descriptions. Many companies omit this information but progressing through the hiring process with candidates who have different pay expectations is a waste of time and resources. Here are three ways you can share salary details in your job descriptions:

  • Share exactly what the role pays
    This approach makes sense if the role has a fixed salary and you can’t negotiate.
  • Go vague yet reassuring
    You can imply you offer a reasonable salary but avoid sharing an actually figure by saying “Salary commensurate with experience” or “Generous compensation based on industry standards.”
  • Share the salary range you’re willing to pay
    You can include the salary range on the job descriptions so candidates have an idea of what they’ll earn, if hired.

Since most roles don’t have a fixed salary and vague language leaves too much to interpretation, the third approach is often best. Most candidates also have a salary range in mind and will be happy to proceed through the hiring process if they know their pay expectations are reasonable. When you get to the offer stage, salary negotiations will be quick and painless since neither side will be caught by surprise.

Job descriptions bring great candidates to you

Job descriptions connect you with the right people. Follow the instructions in this guide so your hiring process gets off on the right foot.

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