How to Write Good Job Descriptions: Learn from the Experts

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

  • Attract a large number of applicants that are a good fit for the position.
  • Compare applicants to decide which ones to interview.
  • Interview a variety of applicants in an attempt to make a final decision.
  • 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.

In the past, we have discussed how to write the perfect job description. In addition to the overall importance, we provided nine details for getting started. These include:

  • Focus on a Descriptive Title
  • Clearly Outline Duties
  • Explain the Chain of Command
  • List all Educational and Career Requirements
  • Use Very Specific Language
  • Incorporate Bullet Points
  • Mention a Salary Range
  • Preferred Form of Contact
  • Show Some Personality

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 resources for 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

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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 takeaway 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 you 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 nothing else. Instead, share information on what makes the position interesting.

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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:

  • Position details
  • Job duties
  • Performance standards
  • 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.

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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:

  • Describe the most important parts of the job.
  • Serve as the ground floor for performance expectations, job training, evaluation, and advancement.
  • A reference point for how much to pay a new employee.
  • 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 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.

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Rice University

Another source from a well known university, this one 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.

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The University of Illinois at Chicago

Believe it or not, there are companies out there who don’t believe that job descriptions are important. For this reason, they don’t put much time into the process. Worse yet, some don’t think twice about what they write. All they care about is attracting a few applicants and hoping that one fits the position.

This is a mistake, and the University of Illinois at Chicago explains why. 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 (or PAPES, a type of job description used at UIC for Academic Professionals) 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 (e.g. compensation, succession planning, training and development) there must first be a solid understanding of the work/jobs performed. Appropriately defining and documenting jobs (i.e. the job description) 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.

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Inc.

When writing a job description, it is easy to think about the here and now. It is absolutely true that you want to include information that brings in as many applications as possible. Additionally, you need to think about the future.

Remember, the job description is the first thing that a person sees. It is their first impression of the company. Once you hire the person, you need to live up to the promises in the job description.

Here is an excerpt from the Inc. piece that explains this concept in greater detail:

“Clark’s advice: think ahead. A new employee needs to be part of the long-term corporate strategy – and if you can visualize where you want to be in five years, or even by next quarter, it will be natural to see how a new employee fits into that matrix.”

When you think ahead, it is easier to write a job description from the point of view that the applicant will be with the company for an extended period of time. Don’t make promises you cannot keep. Don’t say anything that doesn’t fit in with the corporate culture. Be honest at all times and all parties will be happy with the present and future.

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CIO

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If you want to write an effective job description, sometimes all it takes is a simplified approach. You don’t want to overthink it. You don’t want to put so much on your plate that you overlook the most important details.

CIO makes this clear in its eight slide presentation. Here is the title of each slide:

  • How to write an effective job description
  • Get the job title right
  • Focus roles and responsibilities on growth, development, change
  • Involve current employees and workers in writing the job description
  • Create some urgency for the position
  • Culture, culture, culture
  • The devil’s in the details
  • Make the process as interactive and innovative as you can

Each point is extremely important, with each one touching on a variety of details. For example, creating a sense of urgency for the position is crucial. Not only does this attract applicants, as it shows them that you are interested in moving quickly, but it ensures that you will be able to move onto the next step in the process without delay.

As noted by CIO, even if you are not in a rush to fill the position, you want candidates to feel that it is urgent. This often pushes them into applying on the spot.

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FindLaw

FindLaw shares a variety of information on this topic, but there is one point that stands out in the crowd: keep each statement, regardless of what it may be, as crisp and clear as possible.

There are times when you need to get into greater detail. There are also times when this is a mistake. Writing a job description is one such time.

FindLaw suggests that you “structure your sentences in classic verb/object and explanatory phrases.”

The last thing you want is to confuse job applicants with a lengthy description that doesn’t really say much. When you get to the point, when you cut out the clutter, you have a better chance of attracting applicants that are willing to move forward with the application process.

Tip: once you write a job description, let it sit for a day or two. Once the appropriate amount of time passes, review the description again with an eye toward cutting out unnecessary information. You may be surprised to find that you can eliminate some passages, thus making for a stronger overall job description.

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Officevibe

Here is something to consider: applicants don’t want to read job descriptions that look like they were written by a robot.

When you take all the personality out of a job description, it is easy for an applicant to become bored and wonder what life at the company is really like. In other words, this is not the best way to attract talent.

Here is a tweet shared in the Officevibe post:

“70% of job candidates have a terrible candidate experience. That’s a terrible number! Think about your brand reputation.”

You may not think that your company is part of that 70 percent, but don’t overlook the fact that you could be missing the point during the recruitment and interview process.

A bad candidate experience will leave you at a dead end. If you continually put applicants off, it won’t be long before you are left with the bottom of the barrel. This can make it very difficult to find and hire the right person for the job.

Take the robot out of the equation by showing that your company has a personality. You can do this in many ways:

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

There is stigma that job descriptions have to be “all business all the time.” This is not true. As long as you explain the position, including the responsibilities, there is also space to show that your company is not a robot.

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Mashable

If you want your company to standout in the crowd, you need to write standout job descriptions. And Mashable does a great job providing advice on what it takes to write a job description that will set your company apart from others.

In addition to tips on actually writing the description, Mashable touches on a number of important points in regards to formatting. Yes, this can have a big impact on how much success you have.

In regards to formatting, these tips will come in handy:

  • Use bullet points when possible.
  • Use direct language.
  • Be specific.
  • Embody the company’s personality.

You can put as much time as you want into writing a good job description, but formatting is every bit as important. Do you know how to present the information in the best light possible? Do you know what it takes to format the description in a manner that is easy to read and digest?

Tip: experiment with a variety of formats until you find the one that generates the best response rate.

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Put it All Together

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All of this information is extremely important in its own way. Maybe you need help with one portion of writing the perfect job description. Or maybe you need assistance with everything from start to finish, from what to say to formatting and much more.

What matters most is that you put everything together. This is the best way to create a killer job description with the goal of attracting a large quantity of high quality candidates.

To ensure that you are on the right track moving forward, it makes sense to consider what you have done in the past. Answer these five questions:

  • How many job descriptions have you created?
  • How much success have you had attracting high quality talent?
  • Do you find that your current approach has a high rate of success?
  • What types of mistakes have you made in the past that you can avoid in the future?
  • Have you focused too much time on the details of the job, and not enough on what the company itself has to offer?

Now that you have answered these questions, you have a clear idea of the process you have followed to this point and what you can do in the future to make a change for the better.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of company size, industry, or number of annual hires, the hiring process always starts with a well crafted job description. If you have missed the mark in the past, you don’t have to go down the same path in the future.

By implementing a new strategy for creating job descriptions, you will quickly find your company achieving more success.

If you need help in this area, there are three things you can do:

  • Review your past and current approach.
  • Learn from others, including the 10 resources detailed above.
  • Take the time to consider the changes that will have the most impact on your company.

When you get serious about writing good job descriptions, it won’t be long before you are reaching all your goals and being rewarded as a result.

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