How to Write a Job Description That Attracts Qualified, Stand-Out Applicants
First impressions matter and a strong first impression (whether it’s positive or negative) can stick with you for years to come. That’s why it’s important to make a great first impression with your company’s job descriptions.
Here’s how to write a job description that will leave a fantastic first impression and turn candidates into prospects.
Job Descriptions: The Basics
Before we get into the details, let’s discuss the form and the purpose of a typical job description.
The main function, obviously, is to describe the job in question and where that job fits into the broader fabric of your corporation. That said, a good job description can accomplish a lot more than that.
- Help you lay out the skills and tasks necessary to perform the role
- Prompt the right person to apply for the job
- Provide the basis for the candidate’s employment contract
- Help you cut down on your time-to-fill
- Provide a place to set performance expectations
- Help candidates start to understand your company mission and culture
- Clearly articulate the job requirements
- Perform well on job boards ensuring you get a good ROI
- Get your company and job in front of more potential candidates
- Help potential candidates in their job search as they can easily align their expertise with your job requirements
The point? Getting a job description right can save you lots of time and energy, helping you attract qualified candidates with minimal extra effort.
With that in mind, here are 5 key do’s and don’ts of a high-performing job description:
5 Key Do’s and Don’ts of a High-Performing Job Description
1. Use Clear, Convincing Language
When you’re writing your job description, you’ll probably have a lot of aspirations in mind: you’ll want to give all of the relevant information, talk up your company, be interesting, and stand out from the competition. Now, these are great goals, but they can often lead to a confusing, overcomplicated, or inaccurate finished product. Don’t make this mistake.
Instead, make sure that your job description:
- Uses proper grammar i.e. complete sentences and the present tense
- Is clear, concise, and accurate
- Uses keywords that are common for your industry and used by applicants
- Keeps the requirements specific and realistic
- Uses strong, compelling action verbs. For example, say that the role helps applicants “shape” team members instead of “manage” them, or that it calls on them to “engage” with colleagues instead of “hold meetings.”
Remember, the goal here is to interest and inform the applicant, and this always starts with the language that you use.
2. Follow the Standard Format
A job description is really not the place to get “unique” or fancy. Chances are the applicant is looking at multiple job descriptions – and spending less than a minute reading each description – which means he/she won’t have the time or the patience to read through something opaque or unfamiliar.
So follow the format that applicants are used to seeing. This generally includes:
This is where you really hook your reader and grab their attention, so don’t just copy and paste your “About Us” information for this section. Instead, include details that the applicant will actually care about. For example, share a little bit about the team they’ll be working with or describe your company’s overarching mission.
The goal here is to be human, specific, and relevant to the applicant. Think about it: people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and they want to understand the impact and the purpose that they’ll have on the job. So make sure you convey that clearly and concisely right from the start.
Hiring a barista or a checkout person, for example? Talk about how they’ll help people get their day started on the right foot, how they’re the first point of contact between customer and company, or how their work will contribute to the bigger missions or initiatives of the business.
This is where you’ll lay out a bullet-point list of the specific benefits package that the employee will enjoy. Again, focus on relevance as well as fact, and be sure to include why it’s great for them. For example, if your company has a lax dress code, you can say something like, “Wear anything you want to the office so you can focus on your job instead of on picking the right dress shoes.” If you have a salary range, you can choose to include it as a way of qualifying job seekers. Of course, many companies choose not to.
Here’s where you get to the nitty-gritty of what you’re looking for and what skills or experience a qualified applicant should have. Don’t beat around the bush here: come up with a detailed, clear bullet-point list that includes experience, skills, education, and character requirements.
The candidate wants to know what their day-to-day responsibilities and expectations will look like – and, if this section is unclear or vague, they’ll likely move on. So break this section down into specific tasks (start with the most important first) and use motivational, clear language to lay out exactly what they’re expected to accomplish each day and how they’re expected to do so. If you want to take it one step further, you can even break down their expectations in the first 30 days, 90 days, 180 days, and 1 year so they know exactly what’s to come in the future.
3. Get the Title Right
The job description title is your first first impression. Getting this part right will really determine if the right applicant will click, if the job description will stand out from the rest, and if the description will appear in search engine results at all.
So you have to get this part right.
Step one? Research and understand the keywords that applicants are using to find your job – and stick to those when creating your description. That means you can’t get creative or pithy and come up with a title like “Wordsmith Wizard Wanted” when you’re looking for a full-time copywriter
That said, try to make your research here as narrow as possible, and keep in mind that people search different words depending on their level of skill or expertise. Sticking to our copywriter example, a novice writer searching for work may look for jobs that contain the words “copywriter” or “full-time,” while a more experienced professional may search for “content manager,” or “copywriting expert.”
All in all, make sure that your job title:
- Accurately reflects the nature of the job and its duties
- Is keyword-rich and self-explanatory
- Doesn’t set unrealistic expectations
- Is not discriminatory or exclusionary (to this end, keep it gender-neutral)
4. Sell It
We already touched on this point, but it’s worth mentioning explicitly: you have to really sell your job and your company if you want to create a wonderful job description.
Think about it: candidates don’t necessarily want to leave their current job, and they won’t just naturally choose your company over someone else’s. You have to give them a reason to take the plunge.
Here are a few ways to make that happen:
- Make sure that your description completely lays out the benefits and the perks that come with the job – without overstating them, of course.
- Describe some personal growth that the candidate will experience with your company.
- Explain the company culture and why it’s unique. You can even include links to employee testimonials or photos of team activities to drive this point home.
- Avoid any off-putting or negative language. For example, instead of using a phrase like, “Do not apply unless you have X years of experience,” say something like “Please note that this is a mid-level role, so X amount of proven experience is required.”
It’s hard to sound credible or convincing when you make spelling errors or simple grammar mistakes – and these issues can be easy to overlook on your own.
When you’re done writing your description, it’s important that you:
- Have it proofread by someone with copywriting experience
- Have it signed off on by your HR or hiring manager
- Use our sample job description as a starting point
Ready to get started? Copy any of our free job description templates below or check out our guide: The top 25 most common interview questions and the answers you should look out for.