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6 things you need to write the perfect job description

November 26, 2014

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6 things you need to write the perfect job description

Good job descriptions are elusive, yet essential to attract the right candidates for your opportunities. It’s a challenging task and often overlooked within the greater hiring process. Nevertheless, there are a few rules of thumb to make sure your job description stands out from the crowd.

When you need to hire someone, it’s very normal to feel some anxiety about writing the description for your job vacancy. After all, some companies hire people whose primary responsibility is writing these posts. So, it’s fine for everyone else to ask for a little bit of help in crafting your message.

Here we’ll help you along with six simple tips that will help you on your way. If you take these into consideration, you should be shaking hands with your next new hire in no time!

Create a concrete definition

Before doing anything, take a moment to relax. As with many worthwhile things in life, you will be more successful if you start by really thinking about what you need. Who are you trying to hire? What needs to be accomplished? What is the problem that they will solve?

It can be very tempting to give into the time pressure surrounding the need for your new employee. But doing something quick often leads to poor results and plenty of regrets. No one will deny that crafting the ad, screening potential candidates, interviewing the short list, and sending the offer to the special someone takes a long time. But, interviews take a lot of time, and you would be crazy to cut this step in an effort to make things faster. Unless you believe that your final result (hiring the right employee) is less important than the interviews, why would you skip the first step and neglect another crucial aspect of the hiring cycle?

A sloppy definition can lengthen the whole timeline of the hiring process, so don’t make that mistake.

When crafting your definition and writing your job description, you need to be able to truly understand the ideal candidate. Only then will you be able to write a description that meets their desires and makes them realize that they want to be part of your company.

Use keywords (not buzzwords)

If you painstakingly optimize your website for SEO, don’t overlook the same concepts for your job descriptions. Since many job seekers will find open positions through online job boards, it’s important to integrate appropriate keywords to help their searches.

“Your keyword phrases in your job posting should be specific, not general (i.e., “sales job” may describe the job generally, but “financial services sales job” would be a better phrase to target.) Also keep in mind that the more general or broad a keyword phrase is, the more competition there will be for it.”

To put it in perspective, one of our customers had a position posted on multiple job sites. After slow progress with the responses, we examined the ad and saw that it had mistakenly included “recruiting” as a primary keyword (for a non-recruiting position). And a quick switch saw their number of applicants jumped from 5 to 40 on the same day.

However, it’s important to understand the difference between keywords and buzzwords. Make sure you’re not using the wrong ones in your job description. A keyword is a descriptive word that helps retrieve proper words from a database. A buzzword, on the other hand, is a word that is fashionable and fun.

A good way to determine where a word stands is by describing something in the negative sense to see what impact it has. No one has ever advertised themselves as a “non-innovative company,” so it probably isn’t as important as you think.

Also, before you describe your company as a “market leader,” think about what the potential applicant will see. If you are that important, you probably don’t need to tell them. If you aren’t, they might wonder which other “facts” you’re using that are far-fetched.

Tell the buzzwords to buzz off.

Be precise, but not limiting

Now that you’re thinking about the importance of keywords, it’s time to remember that you shouldn’t overdo it. The more specific that your job description is, the less potential candidates will match the profile. So, if you really need someone who is a licensed CPA, you should probably mention it. But, it might not be necessary to say they need to have very specific experience or skills. Many candidates won’t even bother to apply because they aren’t an “expert” with that certain computer system, and you could miss out on an intelligent employee whose ability to learn would get them to that level within a month. So, even if you had 30 applicants with less than great keywords, do you know how many qualified candidates didn’t even bother to apply?

“While you shouldn’t apply for jobs you’re wildly unqualified for, you should apply for jobs that you’re not perfect for, because no one is perfect for any job.”

The previous quote comes from an article giving advice to job seekers, but recruiters should also keep it in mind. No one is perfect for any job. It’s time to relax your requirements a little bit.

Also, think about how much you love seeing bullet points in resumes that are submitted to you. It’s true that job seekers like looking at a job description with a brief, organized amount of text, and that will cause a direct increase in the number of candidates replying to your offer.

Use a checklist

To make sure you don’t miss any elements to include, here’s a handy checklist with the minimum points that your job description must include:

  • Position information
  • Company information
  • Skills and requirements
  • Location
  • Salary range
  • Contact info

Keep it personal and professional

For most people, this job description will be their first interaction with the business side of your company. To that end, it’s crucial to remember that you’re talking not only to potential employees but also potential customers. Don’t cause them to lose faith by being of poor quality or demonstrating a lack of professionalism.

Also, don’t lose sight of the point of a job description. The following quote can serve as a reminder that a job description is a good way to give a glimpse of your company culture, but be careful about overdoing it.

“If all you’re talking about is ping pong tables, happy hour and beer in the fridge, then you stand a good chance of coming off more like a frat house than a serious company that balances a lot of hard work with blowing off a little steam.”

One more thing to keep in mind is that people want to work with other people. They don’t want to work with robots that generate awkward messages. So, throw a little bit of your personality into the job description. It’s not unprofessional to show that you have people at your company.

To make sure people really see and feel you, why not include a personalized video in your job description? Job seekers really enjoy getting a visual feel of what the company is like. If you’re creative enough to make a viral video like this one, you’ll to get all the applicants you could ever ask for:

Find a template

If at this point you still don’t know where to begin, just think about how fortunate you are to be living in the 21st century. Unless you’ve recently perfected commercial space travel, many people have already hired for a very similar position, and you can borrow their work. To save a little time weeding through bad information, Recruitee has compiled a very comprehensive list of templates for 200+ different job descriptions.

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.