Tips for Writing Great Job Descriptions

Kat Jenkins
2.15.2017 »
Strategy
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As competition for top talent becomes increasingly fierce, companies are turning their focus to communicating their employer brand through an outstanding candidate experience – one that captures their culture, and sparks interest and response from candidates who will thrive in their environment.

One area that has remained largely unaffected by this trend is the traditional job description. Most are lengthy, highly technical and very detailed, but still manage to fall short in answering key questions for candidates – even for the few who slog through the entire lengthy piece. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some companies go so far in the opposite direction that the details of job responsibilities, expectations, and requirements are too high-level to be useful.

Neither approach offers candidates what they need in making an informed decision to apply for a position, but there are some straightforward tactics that will make your organization’s job descriptions stand out, communicate clearly, and help attract the right candidates.

Think Outside In, Not Inside Out
The purpose of a job description is to help a candidate determine whether they’d be a good fit for the role, for your company, and for your culture – so when you’re writing a job description, remember you’re writing it for someone who has no knowledge of your organization’s inner workings. Provide background and perspective – but don’t include a large paragraph explaining what your company does – that’s what your careers website is for.

Conversational Tone
Think about how you’d describe a job to a candidate if you were speaking directly to him or her, then write the job description that way.  Regardless of how formal or casual your culture is, the person reading the job description is just that – a person. Talking to them in a relatable way through your job descriptions can help create the connection that drives them to apply.

Kill the Buzzwords
Internal jargon and buzzwords may be a day-to-day part of any company – but to an external candidate, they’re meaningless – and can even have a negative impact. Read through your job description and look for words you have to explain to others, and cut them out. Better yet, have someone external review your job descriptions and see what words confuse them.

Help Them Visualize
One of the most important questions candidates have across every type of job is what it’s really like to work there. They want to know who they’ll be working with, where they’ll be working, and what their day’s going to be like. A great tool for helping candidates visualize themselves in the job is to address them with the personal pronoun “you,” as in “You’ll review daily sales goals and results, and lead your team in formulating strategies to hit sales targets.”

Get to the (Bullet) Point
Of course you’ll need to include details about qualifications and responsibilities, but don’t write long blocks of text. Keep your sentences short, and use bullet points to summarize key information. Internet users skim copy rather than reading it, so this approach communicates key information more effectively.

Do a Day in the Life
For so many roles, every day is different. But there are some key responsibilities and regular happenings that will help a candidate better understand the job, its goals and objectives, and the company culture. Ask individuals in the role you’re hiring for to outline a day’s schedule, with some basic notes or commentary to provide perspective, then adapt it to a bulleted list in your job description.

Share Attributes of Top Performers
You know what qualities and attributes star performers in your organization tend to possess, so call them out in your job descriptions (realizing they may be different for different functions and roles, of course).  Listing them in short, engaging bullet points is a great format for this content.

Do a Reality Check
Have someone who’s been in the role review the job description and provide feedback. It’s a great way to ensure you’re capturing the heart of what the job’s really like, and attracting the candidates who will succeed and thrive. If it’s a new position, reach out to people outside your organization for ideas and insights, then adapt what you learn to your company’s culture.

Creating an outstanding candidate experience is key to attracting top talent - get in touch with us to learn how we can help your organization.

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