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6 elements of top-performing job descriptions

May 27, 2015

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6 elements of top-performing job descriptions

Over the last few months, we’ve posted more than 300 job descriptions to various job boards. They’ve ranged from engineering jobs to office positions. We’ve noticed that some jobs perform well, while others get close to zero candidates submitting applications. We’re most inclined to think that it’s the job itself, that the role is difficult to fill. However, for most positions, this is not the case- after all, there has to be at least one office manager out there looking for a new opportunity?

The devil lies in the details, and this is certainly the case when it comes to job descriptions. Job descriptions are intended to inform candidates on the role, tell them about the organization or team, and convince them to apply. If you find yourself writing laundry lists of needs, you may need to look further for inspiration to engage your prospective candidates.

Through a lot of trial and error, we have identified six areas that will help your job description perform better and attract more candidates.

Title

Make sure the job title is concrete and fits the day-to-day activities of the position. Drop “Full Stack Developer,” in favor of “Senior Ruby on Rails Developer.” The more specific, the better.

Keep it short, as most job boards cut off long titles. It’s critical to note that your first sentence is often used to index your job in a site’s search, so make it fit the actual description and make sure it grabs or connects with the readers. Speaking of indexing, don’t forget to check out how SEO might get your job more visibility.

The role

Start off by telling a bit about the role within the company through your job description. What’s the goal of this new job vacancy? What’s expected from your new hire, and what will he or she be doing within the team? Make sure that the role is well-defined for the candidate, and that not everything is revealed only at the interview stage. Candidates should be able to anticipate what they might be interviewing for.

Responsibilities

You should make a list of the concrete responsibilities of the new hire, and don’t stress out about the length! 6-12 items in a bullet-point list is fine. Also, try to show as much as you can about the weekly responsibilities that the new hire will be taking on. The more accurate you make this list, the better the quality of your candidates will be.

Your offer

What can be expected of you? What’s it like to work for you? Tell a bit about the company or team that the new hire will join. Again, a bullet-point list of benefits within job descriptions works well as long as it is clearly and openly communicated.

Imagine for a moment that it’s not about the money: why should a candidate then decide to work for you? If the company’s culture or employer brand is important to you, a team picture is highly recommended.

Requirements

In order to narrow down your search and end up with a selection of the most qualified candidates, you can list the specific requirements in the job description that have to be met. Think ‘years of experience’ or a particular skill set.

Don’t be afraid that your list will scare off candidates. Those who really like your company will apply anyway – even though they don’t meet all your criteria. At least this gives you something to select with.

The process

Something that’s often forgotten by recruiters is some background information about the selection procedure. Will there be multiple screening rounds? If so, what do they look like (e.g. call, meeting, test)? When is the application closing date? Do you appreciate a call from someone that’s eager to work for you, or does it have to be online?

Our research suggests that well-written job descriptions – carefully drafted to showcase the company and team – perform best. This is true not only in terms of the number of applications but also in terms of candidates that fit the job profile. Additionally, this can save you a whole lot of time going through candidates.

Custom career sites, where you show the company with pictures, typically receive an even higher amount of applications by around 20%. Take a look here for a great live example.

Perry Oostdam is the co-founder of Recruitee. With a passion for tech and scaling teams, he has been active in the SaaS space as a founder, advisor and investor. Perry believes in the power of HR tech to help revolutionize the way companies and teams grow.
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