How To Write Good Job Descriptions

Job descriptions are a candidate's first real interaction with your company. A good job description goes a long way in engaging candidates, explaining the opportunity, and encouraging the right candidates to apply to the job.

Yet, poor job descriptions are extremely common. If you put a little effort in writing good job descriptions, you can stand out as an employer and attract better candidates. What makes a good job description? Several things. Let's take a look at them one by one.

Start with the job title

Good job titles help you with two things: (a) they connect with the right candidates, at the right level of experience, and (b) make your job discoverable on job boards.

For most jobs, writing a good job title is easy. Define specifically who you are looking for, without being verbose.

If you advertise a job opening with a title that isn't commonly searched for, you may find that the volume of applications you get is low. Sometimes, for certain types of jobs, that is what you want, but if it isn't, it's a good idea to go with a job title that's broadly used. Indeed has a great list of job titles that can help you come up with the right one.

Describe who you’re looking for

Once you’ve got a title, the next step is to write about the job’s details. Who are you looking for? What will they help you with? What kind of experience are you looking for?

Many candidates will skim the job description to try and figure out if it’s for them. Any tip that applies to writing well applies to writing good job descriptions too. Divide things into sections, use headings, use bullet points, write clear and short sentences, proofread, run it by someone else. It's important to strike the right balance between clarity and verbosity.

If you are using terms that are specific to your organisation (for example: experience levels), make sure you clarify what those mean. It could be as simple as linking to another document with a description, but do not assume that candidates understand terms that are specific to your company's policies.

While you describe the ideal candidate, make sure you aren't using gendered or otherwise exclusionary language. Lastly, skip jargon and buzzwords. Nobody is looking for jobs that include rockstar or ninja on job boards, so you do not really gain anything from using those in your job titles.

Describe the job

What are this job's responsibilities? Are there any key things that make this job stand out? If it's a technical job, what's the stack? What does an average day look like? Who do they report to? Which teams do they work with?

Good examples of day-to-day work are extremely helpful. You want to make sure that candidates have a clear idea of what the job looks like after reading the description, and describing the day-to-day work in details is a good way to achieve that goal.

When you describe roles and responsibilities, it's also a good idea to differentiate between the things that are non-negotiable and the things that are nice-to-have. Many really good candidates will disqualify themselves if something is mentioned as a requirement even if it really isn't. It's for you to communicate clearly. For example, if you are looking for a UI Engineer, you may want a little bit of experience with server-side languages, but it may not be required. Having that clearly defined will ensure that you get more, relevant applications.

Another thing you could do is describe how a person in this role grows in their career. It doesn't necessarily go into the job description; you may want to link to a separate document explaining these things. Basecamp has published their internal policies and there's a great section that describes the career trajectory at their company.

Describe the company

Great candidates will likely have multiple job offers by the time they are done with their search. So, for you, selling the opportunity is a must, and the process of selling the opportunity starts with the job description. Why is your company a great place to work? What kind of impact will this person’s work have? How do you help them grow in their career?

In fact, job postings are a great place to show a little bit of your company’s personality too. Including a few images of your team and your office on your careers site can make it more relatable and help you build a good employer’s brand at the same time.

Salary and benefits

Depending on your company’s policies, you may or may not want to share salary details upfront. I would definitely recommend doing it because it avoids wasted time and effort for both you and the candidates.

Apart from the salary, it's a great idea to list all the benefits that you offer with the job. It could be anything, but the most important ones are health and dental insurance, paid leaves, company equity, flexibility to work remote, an education budget, etc. Anything that you offer as a benefit, make sure your job description conveys that as well.

Proofread and proofread some more

Just like a candidate’s cover letter is (often) your first impression of them, your job descriptions is their first impressions of you. So, it’s important to proofread your job description before posting to make sure you haven’t left out critical details or made other small mistakes.

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