Articles

How to write a good job description (2020)

First impressions count.

Your job description is likely to be the first impression you make with potential candidates, so it’s vital to make sure you get it right.

To do this, you should first contemplate a few simple topics:

  • What is a job description?
  • What to include in a job description?
  • How long should a job description be?
  • How do I appeal to my prime candidates?
  • How do I stand out from the competition?

The good news is, we’re going to answer all of those questions and more in this article.

By the end, you should have all the information you need to understand how to write a good job description and what it takes to appeal to the candidates you want.

So, let’s start at the beginning.

What is a job description?

It’s not just an outline of the position you need filling, but an insight into the role.

It’s how your employee’s working life might look, what qualities they possess to be able to perform to the level you need, and everything you’ve got at your disposal to lure them into your company.

What to include in a job description?

Job title

If the role holds a traditional title, don’t try and jazz it up with something hipster-esque. You’re selling a job, not a cup of overpriced coffee (unless you’re advertising for a new barista, of course).

A straightforward, easy-to-understand role will attract the attention of your candidates from the outset. It can also explain the position’s level, without yet having to outline any of the particulars.

Location

Some candidates will be prepared, or even eager, to move to a new city for work.

Others will want to find something in the town they already call home.

Either way, the position’s location should be clear—and if there is a relocation package, make sure your candidates know about it.

Objectives and responsibilities

We think it’s a good idea to create a summary of the role in bullet points to create a lure into the main description.

Give your candidates a glimpse into why you’re hiring, what you expect, what they can achieve, and how they can over-perform to become indispensable.

Experience

You will undoubtedly want someone with relevant experience, but don’t be too quick to reach for the stars.

Setting too high a limit on industry experience could mean you’re closing the door on young, energetic, up-coming superstars and industry prodigies.

Company background

Being happy in their work and life/culture balance has become a staple in what Millennials and Gen Z workers want from their jobs.

Your company description should go further to match employee personalities to the best employment opportunities for them. The ‘experience’ is almost as relevant as the role itself.

Additional reading: How to draft an equal opportunity employer statement

Salary and benefits

An astute employer offers a salary range to entice the biggest hitters without putting any rising superstars off in the process.

Unless the role is at a level where the salary is expected to be part of the bargaining process, being cagey, revealing nothing about how much is on offer is often quite damaging. It can appear as though you’re ashamed of what you’re offering.

That said, you should always pay your staff what they’re worth. They’ll respect you for it, and you’ll get the best from them by return.

Listing your company benefits is another way to look much more appealing. These items work hand-in-hand with the work/lifestyle balance and can often make up for a standard level of salary.

Hours, requirements and expectations

The requirements in your description can stop an applicant dead in their tracks.

For candidates with strict family responsibilities, adhering to a varied and demanding schedule might not be possible. The same goes for an abundance of travel.

However, the same irregular schedule, flexible hours, and travel opportunities will be seen as huge plus points for other applicants.

You can filter for the most suitable candidates before you get anywhere near an interview with a well-worded job description.

Top tips for writing job descriptions

Speak to your candidates in their language

If you stick to the traditional manner descriptions that have been written for years, you’re likely going to create a bland ad.

You want to appeal to enthusiastic and dynamic members to add to your team, so speak like one.

That doesn’t mean you should try too hard. You can easily dig yourself into a hole with job roles candidates can’t clearly understand, or baffling hipster-speak that makes you sound like the employment-equivalent of an uncool dad.

Be concise, compelling, open, and human. That way, you will create a reflection of your company without having to spell out every last detail.

Use your brand voice but keep things industry-accurate

Depending on where your brand sits, that’s the voice you should use.

If you’re a professional service, be professional, yet friendly and approachable. If you work in entertainment or a specific culture-set, act as though you do.

You should know how to use relevant industry terminology and when you’ve gone over the top—baffling or boring your candidates.

If you aren’t quite sure if you’ve got it right, keep it simple, stick to the facts, and keep your candidates invested.

Sell the sizzle, not the sausage – show them how their new work-life could look

Describing a typical workday can paint a far better picture of what’s on offer over a typically bland job description. 

  • What are the benefits and perks? 
  • Is the latest tech available for them to work with? 
  • Are there travel opportunities involved with the role? 
  • What can candidates achieve if they set high standards and put in the work?
  • How much do existing employees enjoy coming to work?
  • What keeps them motivated?
  • How much fun can it be?
  • Do you host social events and fund extra-curricular activities?
  • How are you a work-family instead of an institution?

Be positive

Keep everything you say enthusiastic and encouraging.

Upsell the company culture and the security it provides. Show how the role will help create a better work/life balance for employees. Outline the health benefits.

If you introduce negative terms in your description, you’ll be opening the door to being perceived as a negative company. It might only settle in your applicants subconscious, but it can still do a lot of damage.

Stay gender neutral

Lose he/she and his/her terms and concentrate on theiryour and any other neutral pronouns.

You don’t want to appear at any point that you’re short of an equal opportunity, open-minded and forward-thinking company.

How long should a job description be?

This can get tricky. You don’t want to ramble on so much that you put your applicants to sleep, but you don’t want to miss out on any important and relevant information.

We suggest it’s better to be a little bit too long than a bit too short. 

If you think your first draft is too long, edit out the fluff and strip it down to the facts. Not only will it read better, but it will also be laden with plus points in every sentence.

Wrapping up

A cleverly written and well-crafted job description can lure more of the applicants you want and weed out the ones you don’t.

You can coax your ideal candidates with the right details and perhaps even seal the deal with the right voice and content.

A good job description will widen your net, make choosing who you want to interview far easier, and save you time and money with an increase in efficiency when recruiting.

Maybe you'd like these too

Talent acquisition

How to avoid age discrimination in the workplace

By Brendan McConnell

Talent acquisition

Everything you need to know about employee turnover

By Brendan McConnell

Talent acquisition

What is Human Resource Accounting?

By Jason Goodwin