With the number of open jobs in the U.S. hitting record highs and employee turnover following suit, hiring has never been more competitive. In a bid to stand out from the herd, many employers are attempting to sweeten the deal with signing bonuses and other perks, and job seekers today find themselves in possession of an unprecedented degree of bargaining power.
In a hiring environment like this one, the importance of a well-crafted job description can’t be overstated. For employers, a strategically written job description can be what makes the difference between a top candidate applying to your company — or continuing with their search elsewhere. Applying to jobs, after all, takes time, and high-quality candidates aren’t likely to invest their time in a job opening that the company itself, due to a shabbily written job description, doesn’t seem invested in.
But how, exactly, do your job descriptions measure up? We heard from HR leaders and other hiring experts about the 15 things any competitively written job description includes today.
How to Write a Better Job Description
1. Keep the job title modifiers to a minimum.
Flowery language and job titles shouldn’t mix, Alina Clark, Co-founder of CocoDoc, said.
“Superfluous terms like ‘rockstar content creator’ or ‘backend ninja’ aren’t really effective,” Clark said. “While they may sound cool and hip, they’ll often turn away the candidates you really want. Look to create a simple, clear job title. You’d rather sound drab and conservative than fail the test of seriousness as a company.”
2. Make it relatable.
While you ultimately want your job description to read in a voice that befits your organization, avoid stiffness when you can help it, Sumit Bansal, CEO of TrumpExcel, said.
“You may have trouble attracting the best talent if your job description reads as cool, overly professional and unapproachable,” he said. “While you should maintain a professional demeanor, you should also demonstrate there’s a real person on the other side of the screen.”
As Maciek Kubiak, Head of People at PhotoAiD, put it: “Job seekers are looking for jobs — not technical instructions for Swedish furniture.”
“Let the text breathe with lots of space, and keep it snappy,” he added.
3. Add color with your company’s culture.
A job description that reads as transactional is likely to attract transactional candidates. Up the caliber of your candidate pool by describing the company’s culture, Kubiak said.
“Job seekers these days want more than a decent living — they want to be a part of something and to be passionate about it,” he said. “Including details about how your company focuses on, say, company dinners and team-building activities is always a good way to tell the job seeker, ‘Hey! Here’s a place that feels like home.’”
4. State the salary range.
Including the salary range in your job description isn’t only fair to candidates; it can ultimately save you time, too, James Green, Owner of Build a Head, said.
“The first thing employers can do to make their job description more desirable than the rest is to include the salary in the description,” Green said. “This will allow people to determine if the job is right for them prior to applying and interviewing, and therefore, you won’t be wasting anybody’s time.”
5. Highlight opportunities for growth and development.
Rather than focusing exclusively on the skill sets a candidate should already possess, illustrate how the job can help them expand, Ian Sells, CEO of RebateKey, said.
“Highlight the skills they can learn on the job,” Sells said. “A lot of potential applicants are put off by extensive qualifications and other restrictive barriers. High requirements can cut off your access to a large pool of applicants. Instead, list the things people could learn from the job. A lot of candidates, especially the younger generation, value growth, training and career development.”
To attract growth-oriented candidates, you can make reference to the ways the company itself is growing, too, Lauren Cook-McKay, Director of Marketing & Content at Divorce Answers, said.
“Entice ambitious people who are drawn to the job description’s potential,” she said. “Data about a company’s planned growth increases should be given, and candidates should be invited to help accomplish new company milestones.”
6. Make it mobile-friendly.
Understand how and where candidates are accessing your job descriptions and format them accordingly, Darshan Somashekar, CEO of Solitaired, said.
“Because people of all generations prefer smartphones and tablets to laptops and desktop computers, your job descriptions — and the websites where they are placed — must be mobile-friendly,” he said. “Not only will scalable and responsive pages benefit your candidate, but they’ll also increase your Google ranking dramatically. Keep paragraphs short and easy to read, and use bullet points whenever possible. For reading job descriptions on smaller displays, shorter sentences and plain fonts are particularly crucial.”
7. Don’t bury your benefits.
In a candidate pool with this much choice and bargaining power, it’s best to put a summary of your employee benefits front and center, Jim Pendergast, SVP of altLINE, said.
“With so many people resigning today, one of the best things to include in a job description is the benefits an employee can earn,” he said. “Include medical, dental and vacation days that start immediately. Many companies are also offering unlimited vacation days, which are highly in demand today.”
8. Be clear about remote vs. in-office expectations.
With plans for office returns in limbo or still evolving, speaking conclusively to these expectations in the job description may not seem possible. But do the best you can, Shahar Erez, CEO of Stoke Talent, said.
“Many people are trying to get remote work, so indicate whether this is possible and if the position is fully remote or partially,” he said. “On the other hand, some people do not want to work remotely after having done so the past two years. So make (expectations) clear.”
9. Give a snapshot of what working relationships will look like.
At minimum, this means including who the candidate will report to and who reports to them. But you can take things a step further, Dan Close, CEO of We Buy Houses in Kentucky, said.
“Consider including a description of the department’s size in your job description,” Close said. “A department of 30 employees may turn off some people, while others may benefit from having a large staff.”
10. Describe the role’s responsibilities precisely.
To give job seekers a sense not only of the role’s top-level, strategic goals but also what their day-to-day will look like, spell out responsibilities transparently, Somashekar said.
“It’s a good idea to write them down in bullet points and start each one with a present-tense verb,” he said. “And when discussing tasks, avoid using vague descriptors like ‘often’ or ‘once in a while.’”
For an especially clear breakdown of a role’s day-to-day duties, consider using percentages, Sara Bandurian, Operations Coordinator for Online Optimism, said.
“We’ve adopted a percentage-based approach to explaining how the applicant will spend their time,” she said. “As a rapidly growing start up, we expect new hires to work across departments and be multi-faceted. Not every applicant automatically understands this, so it’s well worth explaining it using the percentage system.”
11. Avoid overused, cliché language.
Overused language, like the earlier mentioned “rock star” and “ninja” labels, won’t score you points with most job seekers, Ryan Jeffords, founder of Buy Here Pay Here, said.
“They don’t make you more attractive; they merely make job searchers roll their eyes,” Jeffords said. “At one moment, it may have appeared that such wacky words helped job descriptions stand out from the rest. Now, they’re simply old clichés.”
Instead, when creating job descriptions, focus on the keywords your target audience is actually looking for.
“Job seekers aren’t looking for words like ‘data expert’ or ‘social media maven,’” he added. “They need a ‘data analyst’ or a ‘social media specialist’ job.”
12. Show how the role contributes to a larger purpose.
Most job seekers today expect meaning, not just money, from their career. Highlight your company’s mission and how the role you’re hiring for will add to it, Shawn Plummer, CEO of The Annuity Expert, said.
“Showing how the role contributes to both company objectives and society can engage passionate and talented candidates who want to make a difference,” he said. “Including videos of interviews with existing employees, or videos about the company’s impact, can be very helpful.”
13. Use your brand to your benefit.
Beyond filling open roles, job descriptions can function as excellent ways to get your brand in front of more eyeballs, Tyler Martin, a Certified Business Coach at ThinkTyler, said.
“Everything you do, including your job descriptions, should reflect your brand identity,” Martin said. “Your job description should be integrated with your brand tone-of-voice and messaging to help your company stand out from the competition. You’ll attract candidates who are a good fit for your company culture if your job description accurately expresses your personality.”
14. Provide a hiring timeline.
Want to positively impress candidates with your organizational transparency? Include the hiring timeline in the job description, Steve Scott, CTO at Spreadsheet Planet, said.
“If the hiring process must be completed within a certain amount of time, make this apparent in the job description,” Scott said. “Inform candidates when they can expect to hear from you or when you plan to hire. Maintaining open lines of contact helps satisfy your applicant’s need for on-demand information, enhancing the candidate experience.”
15. Get your staff involved in writing the description.
Rather than leaving job descriptions to HR, get the people actually familiar with the role to describe it, Mike Grossman, CEO of GoodHire, said.
“Involve your existing team in the writing process,” Grossman said. “It’s a great way to calibrate a job description so that it accurately reflects the level of skill, responsibility and expertise necessary for the role. Involving the team helps you ensure the most important criteria are highlighted, and the less important removed. In doing so, your job descriptions will accurately reflect the nature of the role through the lens of the employee, not the employer.”
Find more job search insight and advice on the blog.