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How to write a job description that attracts better candidates

Avoid the cookie-cutter job description. Instead, follow these five best practices to help attract the best talent.

How to write a job description that attracts better candidates
[Photo: Christina Morillo/Pexels]

If your organization has open positions, your job descriptions (and job titles) need to be on point, easy to digest, and sell not only your open positions but your organization and employer brand, too. After all, a job description is your most valuable hiring tool.

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But that can be a tall order for equally busy hiring managers, who may default to simple cookie-cutter job descriptions that, unfortunately, undersell what makes their company and positions unique. And that invites the less qualified to apply.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at five best practices for writing great job descriptions:

Best practices for writing great job descriptions

Conduct a job analysis

If we were to boil this whole guide down to a single How to Write a Job Description for Dummies piece of advice, it would be this: Always perform a job analysis before you write your job description.

Even if you’ve hired for this job before or have even done this job yourself, you should still conduct a job analysis.

You’ll at least want to research how competitors are advertising and compensating this position, new requirements for the position, and other position-specific details crucial to accurately describing your open job in your job description.

How to conduct a job analysis and write a job description

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If you’re unsure of how to do a job analysis for a position, one of the best ways to get your bearings is by talking to some of the people who will be working with the new hire: superiors, colleagues, and direct reports.

Other than getting job analysis info, these are the people you want to fit well with the new hire, and getting to know them will increase your chances of making a slam dunk hire. If this is going to be an entirely new position for your company, this will be even more important.

As you write your job analysis, make sure to ask yourself these questions:

  • What internal/external pressure on your company or team has caused this job opening?
  • How have the demands of this job changed over the past five years at your company? How has the role of this job changed within your industry in the past five years?
  • What differences do you notice when viewing an example of a job description and job specification posted for this job by a competitor in your area?
  • What falls outside the typical requirements of this position?
  • How will this job support other roles in your company?
  • What technical skills and soft skills will a new hire use to meet the demands of the job?
  • How does the compensation you offer for this job compare to competitors?

Know what to include in a job description

Though every section of your job ad is relevant, there are a few job description sections that are key in catching the eye of candidates and showing them if your job is a good fit for their careers.

Every section of a job description needs to accomplish a specific goal, and understanding how to develop a job description into a fantastic job opportunity means understanding the ins and outs of what each section is supposed to accomplish.

Job title

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Your job title needs to be engaging and the correct title for the role. People won’t find your job ad if you use a “creative” job title like “web design wizard,” because they don’t search using that title.

Job profile

Understanding how to write job profile summary sections effectively has a lot to do with understanding what candidates will find most appealing about the big picture of your job. When thinking about how to explain job profile highlights to readers, consider what your ideal candidate will find most interesting about the job’s real-world impact or its unique place in your company.

Responsibilities and requirements

These sections need to give candidates the specific responsibilities of the role and criteria that they will be evaluated against. Always make these lists as concise and reader-friendly as possible.

About us

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This section needs to give readers a positive sense of your brand and employer brand.

Create a great job title

Job titles are the first introduction candidates have to your job, so they need to be engaging.

When thinking about how to write an attractive job title, the first thing to consider is what your ideal candidate finds attractive. The second thing you need to consider when deciding how to write a job title is including the keywords you need for your job ad to be seen in search results.

What your ideal candidate finds attractive

Candidates are attracted to their specializations, so be sure to be specific with job titles. Along with the job title, include a detail about the job. This would turn your “Marketing Manager” job title into something like “Marketing Manager – Online Community Engagement.”

Job description search volume

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Your job title needs to contain the most commonly used and accepted job titles for the position, even if your company’s specific needs will make it somewhat different from other roles with the same title.

Hone the requirements and responsibilities

The requirements and responsibilities section may seem like a boilerplate in many job descriptions, but if that’s the case, it isn’t actually a great job description.

The importance of job description accuracy in the roles and responsibilities sections cannot be overstated, as mistakes here will cause applicants to stop reading your ad. There’s lots of info to cover, but it is still possible to be engaging and reader-friendly in these sections of your job description.

Responsibilities

In this section, focus on a high-level list of responsibilities that don’t get too technical. Here’s an example “Responsibilities” section for a Marketing Manager position:

  • Research, segment, and understand our audiences and how to engage them effectively.
  • Help define our brand. You’ll work on what our brand stands for and how we bring it to life across a variety of assets and channels.
  • Manage paid media campaigns across all channels.
  • Lead end-to-end marketing campaigns. You’ll lead messaging development, creative development, production, and distribution. You’ll be responsible across functions and agencies for pulling everything together into a compelling story for our prospects and customers.
  • Lead our customer marketing. You’ll take our customers’ stories and turn them into compelling videos, case studies, sales collateral, and so on.

Requirements/Qualifications

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In this section, you will be laying out the specific requirements for candidates, from the years of experience required to the required level of competency for specific tools they will use.

Here is a “Requirements” section example for the same Marketing Manager position above:

  • 3+ years experience as a Marketing Manager, or comparable position.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Self-directed, able to create a plan, prioritize initiatives, and execute independently and in collaboration with others, to agreed deadlines.
  • An experimental and creative mindset, you relish the opportunity to try new things.
  • You’ve mastered a few marketing automation and CRM tools already—bonus points for Salesforce and Marketo.
  • You have a track record of consistently achieving or exceeding marketing goals.
  • High-energy, outgoing, can-do personality, ability to prioritize and triage real-time demands of ongoing marketing projects, campaigns, and company initiatives.

Edit your job description

Editing your job description is one of the most important job description best practices on your to-do list.

If you’re interested in writing a good job description, you will edit it thoroughly, and you won’t shy away from making changes that should be made.

Here are some tips to help your job description editing process:

  • Evaluate each section of your job description individually as well as evaluating how each section fits with the other sections of your job description.
  • Have several people read your job description who have some of the skills you are asking for. These people will be able to tell you if your job description passes “the credibility test,” which is essential for attracting top candidates.
  • Try reading your job description out loud. This is the best way to test how well your job description “flows” from one piece of info to another. This exercise will also make awkward sentences very apparent as you read them.
  • Don’t be afraid to make changes. The editing stage is your last chance to change out things that aren’t working for your job description, so use this opportunity to reshape parts of your job description that are awkward, vague, or just uninteresting.
  • Editing can be a painstaking process, so be patient and persistent as you edit, and you will get better results (and avoid pulling your hair out).
  • If you have trouble line-editing for typos, you can try downloading an app like Grammarly.

This article originally appeared on Glassdoor and is reprinted with permission.

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