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Write Great Job Descriptions : An Overview

The job description. At its best, it’s an art form; an inspirational marketing document that will frame the entire dialogue you have with candidates. So why do so many job descriptions read like an electronics manual?

The answer is that most people just don’t do the work needed to produce something great. It’s understandable. You want candidates and you want them now, the sooner you just get something up on job boards, the sooner you’ll fill the position, right? Well, not really. In fact, the wrong job description can make your search take even longer.

The right job description is an outline for ideal applicants. It’s how they pick up on who you are and what you’re all about, and it lets them know before they apply what you’re looking for and if they have it. The right job description inspires applicants to show you the best if themselves.

The best place to start? Assemble your team and fill out our kickoff worksheet. This should take in the neighborhood of 2-4 hours, so commandeer the conference room, order pizza and settle in. 

Anatomy of a Job Description

Great job descriptions help job seekers imagine what it’s like to work at your company and inspire them to apply.They go viral. They’re advertisements that make people want to learn more. Some pointers:

  • Keep it short. People have limited attention spans.
  • Do your research. Look at job boards for similar job postings. Incorporate ideas you like, but don’t plagiarize! Part of what makes a job description great is its unique
  • Personal style. Share a bit of yourself in job descriptions. Great job descriptions aren’t boring. Be yourself: funny, inspirational, sarcastic, poetic, whatever. You want like minded people to apply and for those who won’t fit in with your team to move on.

Job Title

The job title should be simple, straightforward and something that people are likely to enter into a job search, “Accounting Manager” or “Software Engineer”. You can make your posting more click-worthy with a compelling headline once you've nailed the job description. For example, “Accounting Manager, Quickbooks expert for Outdoor Adventure company” or “Software Engineer, Java superstar for hot startup. 

About Us

Just the facts, Ma’am. Highlight why someone should want to work at your company, ideally in two sentences or less. Include: 

  • Your industry: what do you do?
  • Your work environment: Is it like a museum or a frathouse? Is your office pet friendly?
  • Your Mission: What is your company trying to accomplish?
  • Statistics about your success, market position, growth, etc…
  • How big you are: Number of employees, revenue, years in business.
  • Key aspects of your culture and values.
  • About veteran leadership.

The “About Us” section is not set in stone. What attracts salespeople to your company is likely very different from what attracts engineers, so customize this section for each position.

Still stuck? Use our guide to great “About Us” sections and see examples here [link About Us].

About the Job

Why is this a great job? In a sentence or two, sum up the opportunity and where it can take the candidate professionally. Some ideas:

  • Why is the job open? Company growth? Was the person in the position promoted?
  • Opportunity. Will you provide training? Do they get to work with a great boss? Develop leading edge skills? Work on a special project? Does the job pay exceptionally well?
  • Lifestyle. How many hours will they need to work? Is travel involved? Will they hire or manage others? What does a day in the life of the job look like?
  • Team Style. What kind of person will fit in with the team? Are you silly or serious? Bookworms or party animals? Procrastinators or planners?

Follow the introduction with short bullet points about day-to-day responsibilities of the job. [Link to About the Job]

Requirements

This is a bare minimum of what a person needs to succeed in the position, not a laundry list of everything you wish someone had. Boil it down to 4 one sentence bullet points or less. Remember, every requirement you add equals 2 more weeks of searching.

Nice To Have

This is your wish list, but limit it to 10 bullet points or less. The point is to generate as many candidates as possible, not to discourage people from applying by making them feel under qualified. [link to requirements & Nice to have]

Keywords

Pepper your job listing with standard industry lingo and buzzwords that job seekers are likely to search for. You can work these into the “Nice to Have” section or simply add a keywords section at the bottom of the job description.

Media

Adding images and video makes your company come alive in a way words alone can’t. That’s why JobScore allows you to add up to 6 pictures or videos to each job listing. Get creative with our pictures and video tutorial here [link].

Don’t go it Alone 

Refine your job description by getting feedback. Your team, your marketing department, and even people outside your company can help you fine tune your description and generate referrals [link to referrals guide]. 

Ask your team for help.

  • People will think you are a better manager.  If people feel like they have a say in who gets hired and why, in their mind you instantly become a better boss.
  • Occasionally, team members will “step up” and volunteer to climb the learning curve for a hard to fill role, immediately solving your “hard to fill” job and replacing it with an easier to fill one.
  • The more you tell a story, the better it gets.  The best way to craft a great story is to tell it, see how other people react and ask for suggestions on how to make it more compelling.  You don’t have to incorporate every idea, but some of the best copy in job descriptions has come from people “parroting back” part of your story, often simplifying it.  If you go through this feedback and iteration before you publish your job description, you are likely to get better results.
  • Your team will interview better.  Some groupthink and consensus around what you are looking for and why people should work for you and your company can be a good thing,  If everyone participates, the team will provide a consistent and unified message about what’s going on, what the job will really be like, and who will likely be a good fit.
  • You can’t see it all.  The people you work for and the people who work for you have a different perspective of what people are doing on a day-to-day basis and/or what makes a job good or bad.  Capturing this information prior to meeting candidates can help you avoid pitfalls in the interviewing and hiring process.

Ask people outside your company for help.

People who don’t work for you are more likely to be honest. They can tell you if your job description is engaging and understandable to outsiders and tell you if your expectations are realistic. Asking for advice is also a great way to network and spread the word about your job opening. 

Ask your marketing department for help.

Posting great job descriptions can be some of the best PR and marketing work your company will ever do.  Job descriptions are usually how people within your industry first hear about your company –  and often how they will keep track of it over time. Great marketers will often have interesting angles on how to differentiate your job in the marketplace and how to attract attention for key company needs.

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