Emily Heaslip, content writer at Vervoe
We’ve all heard the stat that a recruiter spends less than 10 seconds looking at a candidate’s resume. But, on the other side of the hiring equation, job seekers are scrolling through dozens of job descriptions at lightning speed. On average, a job seeker spends 11 hours a week looking for a new job: reading career sites, clicking on open positions, and evaluating job descriptions. Eventually, the endless lists of preferred qualifications and responsibilities start to look the same.
Formulaic job descriptions cause companies to miss out on top talent. Conversion rates on career sites are down: fewer than 9% of visitors to a company career page apply for an open position. Job descriptions aren’t generating excitement about the open roles. In a competitive job market, making your job descriptions stand out is more important than ever. Here’s what recruiters need to know about writing a great job description.
What is a job description?
A job description is a detailed outline of an open position’s duties, responsibilities, and qualifications necessary to succeed in the role. It details logistics such as the type of work, how the work will be completed, and the purpose of the role within the larger organization.
Step 1: Speak to the hiring team
If you’re an internal recruiter or someone to whom the company is outsourcing the hiring process, the first step must be to learn more about the role and required skills. Speak to the team to find out what skills would make a candidate successful in this position. Include hard skills and soft skills in your evaluation of the role and the ideal candidate. Gather all the required responsibilities and skills required from the start to inform the rest of your job description.
Step 2: Write a strong headline
The job description usually starts with a job title or phrase that identifies the open position. A strong headline includes keywords a candidate will be using to search, as well as some familiar title. From there, you can customize your headline to stand out. For example, instead of “Sales Representative,” make it “Sales Representative at the Fastest Growing E-Commerce Company.
Step 3: Use the right language
Keywords are equally important in your job listing – you want SEO to help boost your open position – but the language you use impacts whether a candidate will click to apply. Avoid sterile, robotic language that blends in with other job descriptions. Corporate buzzwords like “synergy” and “thought leadership” will quickly make a candidate’s eyes glaze over. Instead, try adding video or images to your description to make the role come to life.
Step 4: Provide background on the company
Often, recruiters add a company’s mission statement to the job description. Vision statements, values, and company culture can help a candidate assess if they’re a good fit before applying. “The best potential hires want to know what your company stands for, why you do what you do, and what core beliefs you will never compromise,” writes one expert.
Step 5: Format your description properly
Candidates apply to jobs on-the-go more than ever, which is why mobile recruiting is on the rise. Make sure your job description is formatted with headers, bullet points, and a clear “apply now” call to action for viewers scanning the page quickly. It’s also important to make sure your page is mobile-optimized and readable on any device.
Step 6: Check the details
Before you post a job description, make sure you’re including the following details:
- Where the job is located
- The salary range
- Application deadline
- Application instructions
Proofread to make sure there are no errors, and make sure that the initial stakeholders who helped you develop the responsibilities and ideal skills get a chance to review your final draft.
Step 7: Post and share the job description
If you’re an internal recruiter, post the job description on the company’s careers page. Some recruiters also post on career sites like Monster.com or Indeed. If it’s a technical position, look for a niche career site like Hackerrank or Mediabistro. Use your company’s social media pages to spread the word and get employees to refer their network.
10 things to avoid when writing job descriptions
There are a few common mistakes that many recruiters make when writing a job description.
The job description is too vague
A generic job description will draw in a large pool of candidates. But, the downside is that many of these candidates won’t have the skill set necessary to perform the functions of the job. Vague job descriptions cause issues for both the hiring manager and the candidate. Both parties’ time is wasted during screening and interviews, and there’s still a chance a candidate may be hired for a position for which their skills haven’t prepared them.
There are too many responsibilities listed
When you get the responsibilities section of the job description, it can be tempting to try to be thorough in what the job requires of a candidate. However, listing too many goals makes the job seem “unfocused.” In addition, research shows that women won’t apply for jobs unless they feel 100% qualified. You could be missing out on diverse candidates if you list too many responsibilities or requirements. Prioritize the responsibilities that are most important in four to six clear, concise bullet points.
The language is gender-biased
There are some words in a job description that can discourage female candidates from applying: vocabulary like “strong” or “competitive” is perceived as male-specific. Likewise, terms like “sensitive” prevent male candidates from applying to a certain role. Make your job descriptions gender-neutral to ensure you are recruiting a diverse pool of talented applicants. One of our favorite free sourcing tools, The Gender Decoder, can help you strip biased words from your job description.
Expectations are unrealistic
The first step to writing a job description – working with the hiring team – is so important to making sure your requirements align with the position title and salary level. “You can’t necessarily expect to get a candidate with 15 years’ experience in web development but a young energy and a great design sense,” writes one expert. Purple unicorns don’t exist, so be realistic about what you’re asking for.
You use an outdated job description
Some recruiters try to save time by reposting the same job description from the last time this role was open. Reusing outdated job descriptions is a quick way to make candidates lose interest. Update the language, add some personality to the description, and make it sound like a new, exciting opportunity.
The job description is written in the third person
Some job descriptions are written in the third person, such as “Vervoe is hiring a software developer…” Switch to first or second person (i.e., “We are hiring a software developer…”) to personalize your brand and make your candidate feel less distant from your brand. Speak to the candidate in “you” terms to help them picture themselves in the role.
The job description doesn’t sell the company
Recruiters often forget that a job search is as much about the candidate as it is the company. In a competitive hiring market, like the one we’re currently in, it’s important to impress a potential new hire and beat out the competition. A job description must involve some employer branding to entice the job seeker to apply.
The job description includes too much jargon
Jargon can quickly turn someone off applying for an open role. Technical words or abbreviations can scare off even the most qualified candidates. Jargon often makes a candidate feel insecure or underqualified, even when they might be perfectly suited for the role. Instead, use simple, regular words – which will also help your listing be seen in organic search results.
You don’t highlight the benefits
Benefits and salary are two major things candidates look for when deciding whether or not to work for a company. Millennials, in particular, have proven to show interest in benefits packages that span past compensation and health insurance. Expand on what perks your company offers: things like working remotely or pet sitting, for example. These benefits can draw candidates to take your listing more seriously than others.
You don’t show what the company can do for the candidate
Research by The Wall Street Journal found that responsibility- and requirement-focused job descriptions may alienate potential applicants, preventing them from submitting their resumes. Job descriptions that focus on what the company can do for candidates have a higher response rate. Make sure you write your mission and vision statements to show how a candidate will fit into the company’s long-term goals.
What goes in a job description
The experts over at Monster.com recommend using the following structure to guide your job description:
- Job title: what position are you hiring for?
Pro tip: Avoid using made-up titles or uncommon words in your job title. While “chief officer of happiness” might sound enticing, it won’t show up in a candidate’s job search – ”HR director” will, however. Stick to titles that are recognizable and save the creativity for later in the job description.
- Summary: discuss your company’s key features, what your business does, and what makes you unique.
Pro-tip: Use the summary section to help the candidate picture what it would be like to work for you. Your pitch should communicate what makes your organization appealing – a small business owner, for example, might talk about what led them to get started and their passion for their product or service.
- Responsibilities: an overview of the role’s day-to-day activities.
Pro-tip: focus on the big picture. Keep the listed job functions limited to five to seven bullets and spend more time describing how the position can contribute to key business objectives. Sentences like “Be a part of the marketing team that works toward X% growth this year” or “Help us as we roll out X new products by the end of 2019” can spur goal-minded candidates to submit their resume.
- Requirements: a list of the skills and experience a candidate must have to perform the job successfully. Often this is a list of requirements (must-have skills) and preferences (“nice to have” skills).
Pro-tip: don’t go crazy on your list of requirements. Research has found that women are unlikely to apply unless they meet 100% of the requirements. The “nice-to-have” skills should be kept to a minimum; otherwise, you could be scaring away perfectly well-qualified candidates who are intimidated by the requirements.
- Benefits: outline details about compensation, primary benefits, and perks of working at your company. Include things like healthcare, 401l, on-site childcare, and a salary range.
Pro-tip: Salary and benefits are the top two factors a candidate considers before accepting a job offer. Be transparent about what those specific perks are – whether it’s Friday afternoons off or free bagels in the morning. Opportunities for advancement or to learn a new skill may also be the thing that sets you apart from other companies.
- Link to apply: make a big, clear, easy to find call-to-action for candidates to click. Don’t hide the link in some other section. A candidate who is scrolling quickly or scanning won’t be able to find it.
Job descriptions vary based on the level of the position and the company, but these basic ingredients should be included no matter what the industry. Find ways throughout to make your job description unique to your company while avoiding cheesy buzzwords or boring corporate language. Your candidate experience metrics will skyrocket.
Designing for accountability
How can you tell if your job descriptions are written well? Recruiters use a few key performance indicators (KPIs) to make sure their job posting are performing as they should. KPIs like the number of active candidates, number of CVs submitted, candidate experience, and adverse impact can all provide insight into how job descriptions impact an applicant’s decision to engage with the company. If you’re posting a job description on a company-owned careers page, website analytics can also give you a detailed breakdown of your candidate pipeline. Metrics like click-through rate, time spent on-page, and heatmaps showing where candidates spent the most time reading can tell you where your job descriptions work well.
Some hiring teams prefer to measure their job description success with objectives and key results (OKRs) in addition to KPIs. OKRs are set up to help a team or recruiter achieve a tangible goal. Each OKR consists of a high-level objective, and under each objective is three to five measurable results. For example, in relation to writing great job descriptions, your objective might be “Grow our company with top talent.” Under that objective, a measurable result might be “survey every candidate interviewed to get feedback on the application experience.”
Other recruitment teams use probationary periods and performance reviews to inform their job description writing process. An organization offers a probationary period to a potential new hire to experience what it would be like to work with that person for a short trial period. Under the terms and conditions, the employer offers a contract with a set time frame (usually 30, 60, or 90 days). The candidate works at the organization with no guarantee of full-time employment to allow both the company and the candidate to assess if they’re a good match for each other. When job descriptions are accurate and attract the right person, the probationary period inevitably leads to a full-time offer.
Likewise, employee performance reviews can provide feedback to recruiters as to whether or not their job descriptions are accurate. Performance reviews measure the employee’s ability to succeed at the listed responsibilities in the job description; if employees are routinely underperforming, it’s a sign the job descriptions might be setting them up to fail.
Intern job description
An intern’s job description will vary based on the department with which the person is interning. This intern job description is catered to someone interning in an advertising agency. Generally, an intern job description should be geared toward a college student or new graduate; this is an entry-level position, so the responsibilities and required skills should reflect that. In addition, if your company makes it a habit of hiring former interns, focus your summary section on the potential for growth that may result from a successful internship.
We are seeking an intern to join our advertising agency this summer to help manage client projects and provide creative ideas for new campaigns. You will work alongside our creative team and account managers to develop advertising campaigns and assist with administrative duties. The internship will provide mentorship and hands-on experience with real client campaigns. You will learn the entire advertising process from start to finish: from pitching creative concepts to buying ad space.
- Support the account managers with administrative tasks
- Perform competitive research and market analysis
- Collect data and insights from advertising campaigns
- Prepare client pitches
- Participate in creative brainstorm sessions
- Organize the CRM and maintain client records
- Assist in the ad buying process
- Understanding of different advertising channels
- Excellent verbal and writing skills
- Coursework or familiarity with the advertising industry
- Familiarity with different advertising tools and software (CRM, Google Analytics, etc.)
- Professionalism and good attitude
For internships and entry-level positions, it’s a good idea to focus your requirements on soft-skills. People at the start of their careers must show a willingness to learn while on the job since they won’t bring a ton of experience to the table.
Administrative assistant job description
A good administrative assistant possesses a unique combination of soft skills and technical talent, depending on the company and role. Administrative assistants use a diverse set of skills far beyond answering phones and scheduling appointments. These employees are often the heart and soul of an organization. When writing your job description, focus on the company culture and the opportunity to grow with the organization. Admins are more often asked to take on work that previously would be allocated to middle management. Many assistants are able to work remotely and enjoy flexible hours – another big perk for prospective candidates.
We are seeking an administrative assistant to join the HR team. The administrative assistant will be responsible for making meeting arrangements, scheduling interviews and trainings with potential candidates and new hires, preparing reports, and maintaining HR files. Our ideal candidate will have excellent communication skills and be well-organized. You will have experience with various scheduling and calendar tools, as well as office tools like MS Excel and the Google Drive. Our ideal administrative system is interested in growing with the HR team and learning more about hiring in our industry. Ultimately, this person will be the backbone of our team and one of the first faces of our company to new hires.
The responsibilities of our HR administrative assistant may include:
- Answer phone calls
- Organize, schedule, and record meetings
- Develop and maintain a candidate filing system
- Maintain contact lists and candidate tracking in our CRM
- Book travel arrangements
- Submit and reconcile expense reports
- Be the point of contact for visitors, interviewees, and new hires during onboarding
- Order office supplies
We are looking for an administrative assistant with the following skills:
- Detail-oriented and well organized
- Understanding of office management systems and procedures
- Strong communication skills
- Knowledge of different database systems and office tools (including physical equipment like printers)
- Time management skills
- Interpersonal, people skills
Manager job description
The manager position is one role for which it is absolutely critical to work with the hiring team to determine the skills the right candidate would need to be successful. A manager will lead a team, and therefore needs to represent their interests within and outside the organization well. “A manager is responsible for planning, directing and overseeing the operations and fiscal health of a business unit, division, department, or an operating unit within an organization,” writes The Balance. The cost of making a bad hire in this role is often much worse than any other role, as managers impact the bottom line of your business.
We are seeking a manager to lead the finance team and manage the accounting function of our company. This manager will be responsible for managing the cash flow of the business and ensuring the efficiency of our accounting systems. You will work with the CFO and other finance managers to set financial goals for the organization, as well as find ways to increase operational efficiency, cut costs, and save money. Our ideal accounting manager will have experience with different accounting methods and tools. They will have proven knowledge in accounting best practices (GAAP) and have worked with a company of the same size to enhance their financial growth. We are looking for a leader who can help develop other accounting professionals and help our employees reach their career goals.
The accounting manager will be responsible for the following activities:
- Manage the accounting team to oversee the cash flow, payments, and budgetary responsibilities of the company.
- Implement systems and policies that improve the profitability of the company
- Ensure all vendor payments are received and paid on time
- Allocate resources within the organization effectively and in-line with company goals
- Report on the company’s financial performance regularly
- Manage the accounting team and interface with other managers
- Set yearly budget goals for departments within the organization
- Communicate regularly with senior leadership and other key stakeholders
The ideal finance and accounting manager will have the following expertise:
- Work experience in a similar role
- Organizational and leadership skills
- Demonstrated knowledge of budgeting and accounting principles and practices.
- Proven experience using tools like Xero, Quickbooks, Gusto, or other accounting platforms and software
- Demonstrated knowledge of computer skills using Microsoft Windows programs such as Excel and Access.
- Ability to manage a team and provide leadership and direction to financial professionals in the organization
- Excellent organizational skills and attention to detail
Sales job description
A sales representative needs excellent interpersonal and communication skills. Much like a call center representative, sales jobs require patience, quick thinking, and the right disposition to speak to potential new customers all day. Focus on the benefits that come with working sales, and be transparent about what the role requires. Many sales reps spend the day on the road meeting potential buyers, generating leads, attending trade shows, and building relationships with vendors. It’s an area of work that isn’t for everyone, but those who take to sales tend to thrive.
We are seeking a qualified sales representative to market our products to new and existing customers. We’re looking for someone who can build relationships with our existing client base, as well as bring their own network of contacts to help us grow. You are someone who has a strong understanding of the sales process and can generate leads, build trust with potential buyers, and close deals. We need someone with strong negotiating skills and communication skills. You will be available to attend trade shows, give presentations about our product, and represent our company at networking events.
As a sales representative at our company, you will:
- Work with existing clients to provide excellent service and identify new sales opportunities
- Generate leads, set up meetings, host sales calls, and manage the sales cycle to bring in new business
- Speak about our products with in-depth knowledge, conduct demos, and troubleshoot client needs as they arise
- Help our company meet specific, measurable sales goals with a defined selling process and by coordinating with other sales reps
- Perform market research and stay up-to-date with industry and competitor trends
- Submit monthly sales reports and maintain our CRM
Our ideal sales representative will have:
- Experience in sales at a similar company or within the same industry
- Great communication, interpersonal, and presentation skills
- Knowledge of sales management software and CRM
- Problem-solving and presentation skills
- Ability and willingness to travel to customer events
Recruiter job description
This job description can be adjusted depending on whether your company is working with an outsourced recruiter or recruitment agency, or if you’re looking to bring a recruiter in-house. It should also be tailored for the level of experience you’re seeking: an executive recruiter, for example, would have more years of experience than an entry-level recruiter. As with the previous job descriptions, include sections about your company, your mission, the team for which you are hiring, and compensation and benefits.
The recruiter will coordinate with team managers to proactively identify hiring needs. You will source candidates to build a pipeline of talent using social media networks, employee referrals, and other sourcing tools and platforms. The ideal candidate has work experience in pre-employment screening, interviewing, and testing candidates with skill assessments or other methods of evaluation.
The high-level responsibilities of the recruiter include ensuring the company attracts, hires, and retains talented employees. This includes:
- Design and implement a recruiting strategy
- Develop and advertise job descriptions
- Prepare recruitment and employer branding materials
- Source, screen, and recruit candidates
- Conduct skill assessments and job interviews
- Make job offers and onboard new hires
You must have proven work experience as a recruiter, either with another company or at a hiring or recruitment agency. Other requirements might include:
- Experience conducting different types of job interviews
- Experience with different selection processes (i.e., background checks, skill tests, etc.)
- Familiarity with HR tech (applicant tracking systems, recruiting software, job sites, etc.)
- Strong decision-making skills
- Strong communications skills
About the author
Emily Heaslip is a versatile freelance copywriter who writes for finance, tech, and e-commerce brands. She currently lives in Cape Town and can be found running, hiking, and exploring the South African coast in her free time.