In the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship, writing a compelling job description often gets overlooked. However, an effective job description is a powerful tool that not only attracts the right talent but also sets expectations and cultivates success from the outset.
Based on Indeed’s survey findings, a significant hurdle for most employers (62%) is the inundation of applications from unqualified candidates. The research points out that this hiring obstacle could be linked to less-than-effective job descriptions.
So, let’s dive in into this guide to writing a job description to attract qualified candidates and grow your company.
What Is a Job Description?
A job description provides a comprehensive overview of the expectations, responsibilities, and qualifications associated with a particular open role in an organization. It serves as a bridge between the employer and prospective candidates, providing a comprehensive overview of what the job entails.
This includes the daily tasks and duties the employee will be expected to perform, the skills and experience required, and often, the reporting relationships within the organization. A good job description may help job seekers understand the role and gives them a sense of the company’s culture and values.
The Job Description Components
If you want to learn how to write a successful description, you need to be aware that the job title serves as the first impression the best candidates have of your role. It should succinctly describe the job in one to four words, aligning with industry-standard job titles of similar roles while conveying its content, purpose, and scope. It’s also crucial to stay away from jargon and stick with industry-standard language that candidates are likely to search for.
A study by Indeed suggests that clear and concise titles get up to 40% more responses than creative ones. Remember that the job title doesn’t just communicate the nature of the role, it also reflects your company’s culture — a classic, straightforward title might imply a more traditional corporate environment, while modern, unique titles could suggest a start-up or innovative atmosphere. Be thoughtful in crafting a clear job title that accurately represents the role’s demands and aligns with your company’s ethos.
The job purpose is a short, concise statement that gives candidates a high-level overview of their role within the organization. This section is an essential part of the job description. It should clarify the job’s impact on company objectives and illustrate how the alignment between the role and your company. It should answer questions such as “Why does this role exist?” and “How does it contribute to the overall success of the company?” While it’s important to keep the job specification part succinct, it should be comprehensive enough to give candidates a clear idea of what they would be working towards and what their key contributions would be.
Job Duties and Responsibilities
Writing an effective job description involves providing a description of the duties and responsibilities of the position. These should provide enough detail for candidates to determine if they’re qualified for the position. They should also be specific and actionable, giving candidates a clear understanding of the type of work they will be expected to perform on a day-to-day basis. It’s useful to list these in bullet points, starting each with an action verb. For instance, rather than writing “In charge of sales,” write “Develop and implement sales strategies to achieve monthly targets.”
This provides clarity and conveys expectations much more effectively. Also, prioritize the list from most important to least important tasks so candidates understand the key areas of focus. As per a LinkedIn report, job descriptions with a clear list of responsibilities can increase the application rate by up to 30%. Keep in mind, however, that while it’s crucial to include all major tasks associated with the role, you should avoid making the list too exhaustive as this can be overwhelming. Aim to provide a comprehensive yet concise overview that successfully paints a realistic picture of the role.
The required qualifications section plays a pivotal role in the job description, offering a comprehensive overview of the skills, knowledge, and experience required for the candidate to be able to perform the job duties. This segment should provide enough detail, encompassing technical skills, educational background, industry experience, and any necessary certifications.
Let’s consider a job description example: in the case of hiring for a Software Developer position, you may specify the need for a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, proficiency in specific programming languages, and relevant industry experience.
A good job description provides a section that lists all qualifications which are not necessarily essential, but they do provide an advantage to candidates who have them. This section includes any additional, nice-to-have skills that could be beneficial for the job and may include foreign language fluency or experience in specialized areas that are not required but would help the individual excel in the role. For instance, if you’re looking to recruit a Graphics Designer, listing Adobe Creative Suite as a preferred qualification can attract the best applicants.
A robust job description gives details about the working conditions. These refer to the environment and circumstances under which the job is performed. This includes physical aspects such as the office layout, equipment provided, travel requirements, and whether the job is a remote or in-office position.
It may also cover details about the work schedule – is it a traditional nine-to-five, does it involve night shifts, or is it flexible? More importantly, this section should elaborate on the physical or emotional demands of the job, if any. For instance, a role requiring regular heavy lifting or high-stress decision-making should clearly state this in the job description.
Why are Job Descriptions Important?
Well-crafted, detailed job descriptions play a pivotal role in the recruitment process and the overall success of an organization. They serve as the blueprint for outlining the responsibilities, skills, qualifications, and working conditions of a role, enabling candidates to assess their fit with the job. A well-structured job ad not only attracts the right talent but also fosters transparency by setting clear expectations and minimizing misunderstandings.
Moreover, job descriptions contribute significantly to the strategic planning of workforce needs and the alignment of employees with organizational goals. They help identify the competencies and skills necessary for a job, thereby guiding professional development initiatives and performance management processes, such as appraisals and promotions. Importantly, they provide a legal basis for recruitment practices, aiding in compliance with anti-discrimination laws and regulations.
10 Steps How to Write Effective Job Description
1. Be Creative With the Title
While job titles should be clear and reflective of the role, don’t hesitate to infuse a bit of creativity into the title to make it stand out. Every entrepreneur or hiring manager should be aware that the job title is the first thing candidates see, and it can make a significant difference in attracting the right talent. A compelling job title can pique interest, convey your company culture, and even communicate what makes your company unique.
However, it’s important to strike a balance between creativity and clarity – while an intriguing title can catch the eye, it should also clearly indicate the nature of the job so as not to mislead candidates. For instance, instead of using the traditional title “Sales Representative,” you might opt for “Customer Success Advocate” or “Brand Ambassador.” These are more engaging and can better represent the role and its responsibilities while still maintaining a clear connection to the expected duties.
2. Think About Your Ideal Candidate When Writing Your Job Description
When drafting your job description, visualize your best candidate and what attributes they would bring to the role. Consider the competencies, experiences, and personal qualities that would make them successful.
Are they team players or do they thrive in autonomous roles? Do they need strong analytical skills or is creativity more pertinent? This doesn’t just pertain to technical skills, but also soft skills and cultural fit. By having a clear image of your ideal candidate, you can tailor the job description to attract these individuals specifically. This approach will help you write in a way that resonates with your ideal candidate, making them feel as though the job is suited for them.
3. Be Concise With the Job Duties
The job duties section is the heart of the job description, detailing the day-to-day tasks and specific job responsibilities. However, overwhelming candidates with an exhaustive list of every single task can be counterproductive.
Instead, focus on the core duties and responsibilities, prioritizing the most significant ones that will take up the majority of the candidate’s time. Be concise and clear, using action verbs to describe each task and avoiding unnecessary jargon. Clarity in this section allows candidates to quickly understand what will be expected of them.
4. Only the Most Critical Skills Should Be Listed
When listing the required skills, it’s vital to focus only on the most crucial ones. These should be the skills that are absolutely necessary for someone to be able to perform the job effectively. By doing this, you can avoid deterring applicants who might be discouraged by an extensive list of requirements. This focus on vital skills also helps to streamline your selection process, as it minimizes the risk of attracting applicants who are unfit for the role.
Skills can be divided into two categories: hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are the technical competencies that are job-specific, such as proficiency in certain software or knowledge of a specific process. Soft skills, on the other hand, are related to how people work and interact with others. These could include skills like communication, teamwork, or problem-solving. Both hard and soft skills are important, but you need to consider which are most essential for the role. For example, for a graphic designer role, proficiency in Adobe Creative Suite might be a critical hard skill, while creativity could be a necessary soft skill.
5. Explain the Working Relationships
Identifying and explaining the physical and virtual interactions of the role within the organization is an important part of a job description. This segment of the job description often remains overlooked, but it plays a vital role in providing candidates with a clear understanding of their place within the company and with whom they’ll be working closely.
This could include interactions with different departments, relationships with clients or vendors, or collaboration with team members. For example, a project manager might need to coordinate with different teams, stakeholders, and clients. On the other hand, a graphic designer might need to work closely with a marketing team and a team of copywriters.
Explaining these relationships not only helps candidates understand the scope of the role but also provides insight into the company’s structure and culture. A collaborative work environment may attract candidates who are team players and enjoy cross-functional work. Conversely, a role with minimal interaction may be more suitable for someone who prefers working independently.
6. Reflect the Voice of Your Company
Every company has a unique voice and tone that reflects its culture, values, and identity. A well-written job description infuses this voice into the text, making it not just a list of requirements or duties, but a reflection of who you are as a company. Whether your brand voice is formal, friendly, innovative, or humorous, let it shine through in your job description. This will not only make your job posting stand out but will also attract candidates who identify with your brand and resonate with your company culture.
For instance, a startup might use a casual, energetic tone to emphasize its fast-paced, vibrant work environment, while a law firm might opt for a more formal tone to highlight its professionalism and seriousness. Be authentic and consistent with your company voice, and you’ll attract the talent that fits not just the role, but also your company.
7. Hint on Growth and Development
Entrepreneurs who value their employees understand the importance of professional growth and development. Your job description should highlight any opportunities for advancement and learning within your company. This is particularly important as a LinkedIn survey found that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.
Identify whether the role comes with opportunities for training, seminars, workshops, or mentorship. Is there a clear path for promotion or lateral movement within the company? Address these points in your job description. For instance, you might say, “This role offers opportunities for professional development through regular training sessions and access to industry-leading seminars.” Or, “We believe in promoting from within and offer a clear career path for advancement.”
By clearly indicating that you invest in your employees’ futures, you attract ambitious candidates who are eager to grow and improve. These individuals are likely to be more engaged, motivated, and loyal to your company, contributing to a productive and positive work environment.
8. Do Not Add a Salary Amount
While it may seem helpful to include a specific salary information in your job description, it’s often more beneficial to avoid doing so. When you include a salary range, you might limit the pool of applicants, either deterring those who might feel underqualified for a high-paying role or discouraging those who might aspire to a higher salary range. Furthermore, salary negotiations often play a crucial part in the hiring process, and listing a specific figure can undermine this aspect of the discussion.
Instead, consider using phrases like “competitive salary package” or “commensurate with experience.” This approach can ensure you attract a wide array of candidates from varying backgrounds and experience levels, providing you with a more diverse selection to choose from. This strategy also leaves room for salary negotiations, allowing both parties to come to an agreement that reflects the candidate’s experience, skills, and job responsibilities.
9. List the Benefits
In today’s competitive job market, a comprehensive benefits and perks package can make your job description stand out. As an entrepreneur, outlining the benefits you offer can set you apart from other employers and attract the right candidates to apply for a job.
For instance, you can highlight healthcare benefits, retirement plans, paid time off, flexible work hours, remote work options, or even unique perks such as gym memberships, wellness programs, or company retreats. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Fractl, 88% of respondents claimed they would give heavy consideration to job perks and benefits before accepting a job.
Remember, the goal is to showcase how your company values its employees’ well-being and work-life balance. Your benefits package is a reflection of your company’s culture and values, so be sure to depict it in a way that appeals to your ideal candidate.
As an example, you might write, “We offer a competitive benefits package that includes comprehensive health insurance, a 401K plan with company matching, generous vacation time, and flexible work-from-home options. Plus, enjoy unique perks like weekly yoga classes and annual company retreats.”
10. End with a Proposition
The closing of your job description holds immense significance, just like the opening. It’s your last chance to captivate candidates and spur them into action. A thoughtfully crafted proposition entices applicants to envision themselves in the role and contemplate the next steps in their application journey.
Your proposition can encompass instructions on how to apply, what to include in their application, and any relevant deadlines. It can also reinforce the distinctive selling points of the role or your company. This final message reinforces your company’s allure and ensures it remains fresh in the minds of prospective applicants.
For instance, you could write, “If you possess a deep passion for sustainable energy and aspire to make a meaningful impact in a rapidly growing company, we eagerly await your application. Submit your resume and a compelling cover letter that demonstrates why you’re the perfect fit for our team. We can’t wait to hear from you!”
A proposition like this acts as an invitation, a call to action that motivates candidates to take the next leap. It’s your final opportunity to convey the unique culture and remarkable opportunities your company offers, so make it truly remarkable!
The Difference Between a Job Description and a Person Specification
While both job descriptions and person specifications are crucial elements of the hiring process, they serve different purposes and focus on different aspects of a prospective role.
A job description is a detailed account of the specific duties, responsibilities, and requirements of a given role. It provides a comprehensive overview of what the role entails, including the tasks an employee will perform, the skills required to execute these tasks, and the role’s contribution to the larger aims of the company. A well-crafted job description can help attract potential candidates by giving them a clear understanding of what the job entails and how it aligns with their skills and interests.
On the other hand, a person specification outlines the ideal characteristics, skills, qualifications, and experience a candidate must possess to perform the job effectively. This could include specific skills, relevant experience, educational background, personality traits, and other competencies. The person specification is used to screen applicants, ensuring they possess the right qualities fitting for the role and the company’s culture.
What to Avoid When Writing Job Descriptions?
While crafting a compelling job description can attract top talent, there are a few pitfalls to be cautious of:
Avoid overloading the job description with too many details, which can overwhelm potential candidates. Keep it concise and focused, mentioning only the key responsibilities, requirements, and benefits. A job description should give a clear and brief overview of the role, not an exhaustive list of every possible task.
Using ambiguous language can lead to confusion and misinterpretation. Be precise and clear in your descriptions. For instance, instead of saying “Occasional travel may be needed,” specify how often and where the travel will be, such as “Travel to regional offices once a quarter.”
In line with equal employment opportunity laws, ensure your job descriptions do not contain any language that may be perceived as discriminatory. This includes age, race, religion, gender, or disability. For example, avoid phrases like “recent graduates” or “digital native,” which could imply age discrimination.
While it’s important to define the skills and experience desired for the role, setting unrealistic expectations can dissuade qualified candidates from applying. Avoid asking for excessive experience or qualifications that are not truly necessary for the role.
Neglecting Company Culture
A job description should reflect your company’s culture and values. Neglecting to share this information can lead to a mismatch in expectations. Highlight what’s unique about your company culture, giving candidates a sense of what it’s like to work for your company.
Are there legal considerations when writing a job description?
Yes, there are indeed legal considerations when writing a job description. It’s critical to comply with employment laws and regulations to avoid any potential legal issues. For instance, under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers must adhere to laws prohibiting job discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.
Therefore, your job descriptions should be free of any language or requirements that could be viewed as discriminatory. Additionally, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that job descriptions accurately reflect the essential functions of the job, including any physical tasks. It’s always advisable to consult with a legal expert or HR professional when writing job descriptions to ensure compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.
How often should I update a job description?
Job descriptions should be updated regularly to reflect the evolving nature of roles and responsibilities within the organization. As a best practice, reviewing and updating job descriptions annually is often recommended. However, they should also be revised whenever there are significant changes to a position, such as new tasks, tools, or reporting structures.
Regular updates ensure that job descriptions remain accurate and relevant, providing a true reflection of what the role entails. This can help in setting clear expectations, evaluating employee performance, and identifying training needs.
How long should an ideal job description be?
The length of an ideal job description can vary, but it’s generally recommended to keep it concise and informative. Typically, a job description should be between 300 to 700 words. This allows enough room to clearly and effectively communicate the key responsibilities, requirements, and benefits of the position without overwhelming the potential candidate.
Remember, the main goal of a job description is to provide a comprehensive overview of the role, entice qualified candidates, and give an insight into your company culture. Keep your language clear and engaging, and focus on the essential skills and qualifications needed for the role.
How can I make my job description more engaging?
To make your job description more engaging, focus on the prospective employee’s perspective and what they stand to gain from the role. Use a compelling job title and opening paragraph to grab attention. Clearly detail the key responsibilities but also emphasize the opportunities for growth, learning, and career development. Mention any unique benefits or perks your company offers, such as flexible working hours, wellness programs, or continued education opportunities.
Be transparent about your company culture and values, providing a glimpse into the organizational life. Additionally, consider using bullet points for easier reading, engaging yet professional language, and action verbs to convey responsibilities. Always remember, that an engaging job description not only outlines the role but also sells the opportunity and the organization.