10 Steps to Write a More Effective Job Description

June 21, 2021 by Silas Buss

The job description. Maybe the most crucial part of the hiring process, but also potentially the most annoying. In many situations, it can seem impossible to effectively convey the core responsibilities of a position while making it attractive and realistic for a wide range of candidates.

And, yet, you have to get it right. It’s your gateway to turn someone just browsing open positions into an active, high-value applicant.

So, let’s strategize. By following these ten steps, you can create a job description that both stands out to prospective talent and still accurately reflects everything the job – and your company – is about. Heads-up: we’ve even included a bonus step at the bottom of this guide, to truly take the interest in your open positions over the top.

1. Understand Your Job. Really Understand It.

This might sound like an obvious step for some, but it’s absolutely crucial. The person writing the job description should have an in-depth understanding of the position being hired. That includes analysis on a few levels:

  • What, exactly, did the previous occupant of the position do?
  • What new responsibilities or qualifications need to be added to the position?
  • How might the position change and adapt within the next five years?
  • What do positions like this look like for close competitors?
  • What other positions do ideal applicants for this one tend to apply to?

This step takes time. So much, in fact, that most companies just go around it. But if you truly want to write a great job description, it’s absolutely essential. In fact, your job analysis will inform and impact every single other step that follows.

2. Create a Great Job Title.

Think of your subject title like an email subject line: if you get it right, you have your audience’s attention. If you don’t, they’ll scroll right by and look for other opportunities.

Of course, the title needs to be representative of the position it describes. It also needs to match what others in your industry are calling a similar position. If every one of your competitors is looking for social media specialists, you probably don’t want to hire the same position under the online manager moniker.

Unless you only plan to list the job title on your own website and know you’ll get plenty of interest from that step alone, your job title also needs to be searchable. The most important takeaway: keep it simple, and avoid getting weird. When in doubt, some keyword research can help you make sure your job gets seen in search results.

3. Summarize the Position in One Paragraph.

In your introduction, avoid adding too many details. Instead, use just 2-3 sentences to describe on a high level what the position occupant does, and how the role performed fits into larger organizational objectives. If needed, borrow a marketing copywriter to get this first part, designed to draw potential applicants in further, just right.

4. Clearly Outline Basic Information.

Avoid jumping straight from your introduction into qualifications and responsibilities. Instead, take some time to outline clearly what basic information a candidate should take away. Ideally, that includes:

  • The job title.
  • The organizational unit within which the job resides.
  • Expected salary or salary range.
  • Basic benefits.
  • Potential growth opportunities.
  • Information on whether the job will be in-person, remote, or hybrid.
  • Amount of travel required. 

Putting this information front-and-center serves a few purposes. First, it ensures that only candidates whose expectations match reality apply, narrowing your funnel to more qualified applicants. Second, it generates goodwill among your audience; for instance, while most employers don’t list salary information in a job description, job seekers now consider it the most important part of a job listing.

5. Fine-Tune Your Qualifications and Responsibilities.

For most job descriptions, these two sections take up by far the most amount of space. Unfortunately, they’re also where candidates tend to get lost, either considering themselves unqualified or just not understanding the nuances of a position due to a lack of clarity. Time to fix that.

Let’s start with the qualifications. First, ditch the required and preferred sections, which often invites confusion. Instead, focus on a single list of the baseline qualifications any applicant needs to successfully fill the position. You can always consider a master’s degree in a related field as a bonus when reviewing resumes. But if it’s not required to get the job done, don’t list it in this section.

Similarly, simplicity is key to responsibilities. The sweet spot is listing just enough to be comprehensive, but not so much to be confusing. What that means differs for any position, but we’ve seen great job descriptions focus on around 5-7 bullet points of core responsibilities to avoid digging too far into the weeds.

When in doubt, run a draft version of your qualifications and responsibilities by current employees, who are the position’s future co-workers. See if they understand it, and think it reflects well on the position. If not, now is the time to make some tweaks.

6. Format for Quick Reading and Reference.

A candidate applying to your open position will likely read through any type of job description multiple times. To get them there, though, that same description needs to be optimized for skimmability. 

Fortunately, a few tricks can help you avoid those walls of text that cause potential applicants to shy away:

  • Use bullet lists, but only for lists where each item has 15 words or fewer.
  • Use short paragraphs, with no more than 3 sentences per paragraph at most.
  • Strategically use bolding to highlight key terms, but don’t overuse it to a point where every paragraph has multiple bolded words.
  • Use short sentences where possible.

7. Include a Section on Company Culture.

Some people just want a job. Top hires in a competitive field, though, need to be sold that yours is the right fit for them. 

That’s why a section on company culture is absolutely crucial. A description of what work is like at your organization helps employees understand whether they’ll be a good fit. 

Here, you can highlight benefits, employee perks, and professional development opportunities. You might even want to link to a more in-depth exploration of your culture on your careers pages. Tell (or show) your audience what it’s like to work for you, so nothing is left to surprise.

Interview handshake | Concept3D

8. Highlight Next Steps, Including the Interview Process.

The final part of your position description should be an exact outline of what, exactly, happens once a candidate applies. When can they expect to hear back, and from whom? Will they hear back, should they not be invited to the next stage?

Speaking of the next stage: ideally, this section also serves as an opportunity to talk about the interview process. Outline what a job interview at your organization is like, and who they’ll interview with, and how many rounds of interviews a successful candidate will go through. The more transparent you are, the more goodwill you’ll build for your audience.

9. Check Your Description for Diversity.

At this point, you should have a great draft of your job description in place. Now, it’s time to refine it to get the text just right. The first checkpoint: diversity.

Language that shows bias against other genders or people of color can be subtle, but immensely damaging. To avoid alienating applicants in underrepresented groups, check yourself (and bring in someone else to check you, too) by avoiding some common diversity pitfalls:

  • Bias against older workers by focusing on language (like “fresh out of college”) that skews young. 
  • Bias against people of color, implicitly or explicitly drawing in race and country of origin in the qualifications.
  • Language that describes typically masculine characteristics, such as competitive or outspoken.
  • Bias in describing your company culture, especially when it doesn’t include mention of diversity and inclusivity.

In other words, diversity in your job description is more than just an EEO mention at the end. Every bit of it should be fine-tuned to ensure that you’re not accidentally alienating potentially qualified applicants.

10. Perform a Third-Person Edit Before Publication.

Finally, never let the job description leave the house (or go online) without a final check from someone who wasn’t involved in the writing process. This third-party perspective can be absolutely vital to ensure that the final product is as good as it could be.

Third-party editing also ensures that your job description passes the credibility test, avoiding superlatives and accurately (but engagingly) describing the position at hand. If no one else is available to help you edit, run it through a proofreading tool like Grammarly and read it to yourself out loud to make it flow as well as possible.

BONUS: Add Visuals and Job Previews.

So far, we’ve focused on the written word. But who said that modern job descriptions are limited by that? Especially when focusing on your own website, you have plenty of other options. 

At its most basic, you can add images that better represent the job. Especially in the culture section, visuals can be much more effective than words to get your point across.

Of course, you can also take it to the next level, with interactive and immersive job previews that showcase the position and the environment in which it will work. And that’s where we come in.

At Concept3D, we’ve helped plenty of other companies enhance their recruitment marketing through visual job previews that engage more qualified candidates. If you’re looking to enhance your own employer brand and add immersive visuals to your job descriptions, contact us today.

Topics: Support Your Business

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