How to Write Good Job Descriptions – 10 Tips From Experts

How to write good job descriptions - featured image Recruiteze

If you’re a small business owner or HR manager, your primary goal when you conduct a round of hires is to attract applicants that are good fits for your open positions.

Outside of personal contacts and networking, job postings represent your primary way of attracting applicants. This means you need to focus on writing job descriptions that sell!

When hiring for an open position, there are several goals you need to meet:

  1. Attract a large number of applicants that are a good fit for the position.
  2. Compare applicants to decide which ones to interview.
  3. Interview a variety of applicants in an attempt to make a final decision.
  4. Bring the right person on board at the right time.

Before you do any of the above, you must first write a job description that provides the necessary details and attracts the right type of talent.

A solid job description will help you attract interest from the most qualified candidates. Conversely, if you cut corners, you are only harming your company.

Why the Job Description Matters Most

Why the Job Description Matters Most - Recruiteze

Whether you realize it or not, the job descriptions you release for openings at your firm are one of the most important factors for attracting the right talent. Here are three of the reasons why carefully crafted job descriptions matter so much:

Increases accuracy – A great job description ensures the right people apply for the job. You’re much less likely to get an array of under-qualified or confused applicants. For the most part, the people who apply will be candidates that clearly understand the position and are at least minimally qualified for it if you’ve published a solid description of the post.

Reduced the number of uninterested candidates – A good job description gets potential applicants excited. It ensures qualified and interested people don’t get the wrong impression about the position and decide it’s something they wouldn’t be interested in. An accurate and well-crafted description tells them exactly what the job is and encourages them to apply.

Reduces questions – Finally, a good job description removes ambiguity and eliminates repetitive questions. It can greatly diminish unnecessary communications and enables you to focus on reviewing promising applications and resumes, not answering basic questions about the job.

Nine Essential Tips for Writing Great Job Descriptions

With those goals — increasing accuracy, preventing a lack of interest, and reducing the number of questions — let’s take a look at nine ways you can write better job descriptions.

Focus on a Descriptive Title

Why the Job Description Matters Most - Recruiteze

The title is the first thing a job-seeker will see, so you should spend some time developing a descriptive yet accurate heading. Avoid using vague or over-flowery job titles; instead, home in on accurate descriptors.

For example, instead of saying “Store Manager,” use something along the lines of “Part-Time Store Manager for XYZ Location.”

Clearly Outline Duties

This is where you can either hit the proverbial nail on the head or completely miss out. The key responsibilities and duties should be comprehensive and succinct.

Begin each duty with an action verb (present-tense) and mention how frequently the duty will be conducted (hourly, daily, weekly, quarterly, etc.). A good example would be: “Research new B2B marketing trends and develop a weekly report.”

Generally speaking, this part of the job description should contain anywhere between five and ten key responsibilities.

Explain the Chain of Command

Explain the Chain of Command - Recruiteze

One thing that’s commonly left out, but applicants usually want to know, is the chain of command, which gives them a sense of reporting lines and working relationships. Who will they report to, and who will work beneath them?

This is particularly informative for higher-level positions because some seasoned professionals reach a point where they prefer not to have a complex chain of command above them. If you briefly indicate where the position ranks in the overall organizational structure, you will help potential candidates see where they would fit in.

List all Educational and Career Requirements

List all Educational and Career Requirements - Recruiteze

If you have hard-and-fast requirements for the position in terms of education or skills, make sure they’re clearly listed. You can eliminate a lot of unqualified applications by being explicit about this upfront.

Furthermore, be open about the competencies and traits you expect the candidate to display once he or she occupies the particular job. These may include functions such as teamwork, leadership, or willingness to adapt.

Use Very Specific Language

Dancing around the issues or disguising the role with fancy descriptors does nobody any favors. You should use very specific and straightforward language to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Sentences should be constructed using as few words as possible without leaving out critical facts. Terminology should be industry-specific but not limiting or restrictive.

You should also avoid using vague adjectives or adverbs that are wide open to interpretation. Some examples would be “complex,” “some,” “several,” and “occasional.”

Incorporate Bullet Points

Incorporate Bullet Points - Recruiteze

Job descriptions should be easily digestible and effortless to skim and scan. By incorporating bullet points, you can break up large chunks of text and help the reader navigate the material better. It’s a simple trick, but one that can greatly enhance your visibility.

Mention a Salary Range

Many companies are hesitant to discuss salary in their job descriptions (or even during the interview process). It becomes the elephant in the room that’s obvious to everyone.

But what’s the purpose of not discussing money? After all, candidates apply for the purpose of earning a salary. By putting it off until after a job offer, you’re setting yourself up for unnecessary challenges and hurdles.

Don’t be afraid to mention a salary range (the keyword is “range”; you don’t have to get too specific). It removes ambiguity and discourages overqualified people from applying.

Preferred Form of Contact

Preferred Form of Contact - Recruiteze

In order to reduce unnecessary communications with candidates, clearly mention your preferred form of contact, how applications should be submitted, and when applicants can expect to hear back.

The latter is especially important. If you don’t provide a timeline, you can end up fielding dozens of calls and emails before, during, and after the process.

Show Some Personality

Show Some Personality - Recuiteze

Finally, don’t be afraid to indicate your company’s character a bit in your job description. Not everything has to be cut and dry.

Communicate a little flavor and let candidates know exactly who you are. In the end, your goal is to attract the right people, so don’t sugarcoat concerns or avoid relevant issues.

You can do this in many ways:

  1. Be creative with your job description.
  2. Discuss what the culture is like (snacks, games, etc.)
  3. Explain why others enjoy working at the company.
  4. Have a little bit of fun (but not too much).

Applications are only valuable if the candidates behind them are good fits for your business.

By incorporating these nine points into your job description, there is a greater chance of attracting the top applicants and making a hiring decision in a timely manner.

Experts Explain How to Write a Perfect Job Description

If you want to succeed in the business world, it is important to take cues from others. This is particularly true if you can collect information from experts in a given field. There is always somebody out there who knows more. There is always somebody who can help you.

Below are 10 pieces of advice from experts creating better job descriptions. If you learn just one point from each expert/website, you will have everything you need in order to write job descriptions that you can be proud of.


Forbes - Warren Buffett

Liz Ryan is an expert in this field, and her piece entitled “Are Your Job Ads Attracting Talent – Or Driving It Away?” is one of the best you will find.

If you only take away one point, let it be this: your job ad shouldn’t be boring. Instead, it should tell applicants why the position will be “fun and interesting.” Here is what Ryan has to say about this:

“The best job ads tell why the job will be fun and interesting. Lousy job ads skip that part entirely. They drone on and on about the Essential Qualifications that a job-seeker has to bring to the party, in order for the lofty company to stoop to notice him or her.”

This may sound like a small change, but it can go a long way in altering your approach to writing job descriptions. Don’t be boring. Don’t stick with the facts and anything else. Instead, share information on what makes the position interesting.

University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh

The best job descriptions are thorough. They don’t leave out any details. They provide potential applicants with everything they need in order to decide if applying would be in their best interest.

The University of Pittsburgh shares four essential details of every job description:

  1. Position details
  2. Job duties
  3. Performance standards
  4. Job factors

If you don’t touch on each of these details, it goes without saying that your job description will be incomplete. And an incomplete description is one that will turn applicants off.

Note: this resource shares examples of what a good job description looks like. If you need any guidance, you can always use one of these samples to point you in the right direction.

U.S. Small Business Administration

U.S. Small Business Administration

As a small business owner, you know one thing to be true: the U.S. Small Business Administration doesn’t take a backseat to any organization in regards to the information, advice, and guidance provided to small business professionals.

This definitely holds true when it comes to writing an effective job description.

The U.S. Small Business Administration takes a businesslike approach to this process. It explains that a good job description does more than attract applicants. It is also meant to do the following:

  1. Describe the most important parts of the job.
  2. Serve as the ground floor for performance expectations, job training, evaluation, and advancement.
  3. A reference point for how much to pay a new employee.
  4. A reference point for unfair hiring practices.

It is easy to look at the process of writing job descriptions and think about nothing more than attracting candidates, but it goes much deeper than this.

To go along with advice on how to write a meaningful description, the U.S. Small Business Administration touches on what to avoid:

Don’t be inflexible with your job description. Jobs are subject to change for personal growth, organizational development, and/or the evolution of new technologies. A flexible job description encourages employees to grow within their position and contribute over time to your overall business.”

Flexibility is key when creating a job description. Don’t write yourself into a corner, as this could come back to haunt you.

Rice University

Rice University

Another source from a well-known university touches on a variety of points. While you are sure to benefit from reading all the information made available to you, there is one section that will catch your eye: Why is a Job Description Important?

This section explains that a job description should be looked at as a tool that can do the following:

  • Communicate expectations to potential employees.
  • To bring all recruitment efforts under one roof.
  • To better manage employee performance in the future.
  • To set both company and employee goals.
  • For better workload management.
  • For succession planning.
  • For the job evaluation process.
  • To create training documents and other training-related plans.
  • To establish a fair pay rate throughout the company.
  • To develop careers that provide an opportunity for growth.
  • To maintain compliance with all state and federal regulations.

These points should help you understand that a job description is more than a few paragraphs that explain the responsibilities and pay. It goes much deeper than that. How deep is up to you.

The University of Illinois at Chicago

The University of Illinois at Chicago

Here is the school’s reasoning on why job descriptions are necessary:

“We understand that this is not one of your most exciting responsibilities, but let’s face it. Job descriptions are important and if done properly set the framework for everything that gets done in an organization.

As Human Resources continues to develop new technologies and employ new human capital programs, there must first be a solid understanding of the work/jobs performed. Appropriately defining and documenting jobs helps accomplish this goal.”

If you have always been under the impression that job descriptions are not necessary, this resource will show you how to change your thinking and ensure more success in the future.