At first glance, writing a job description might seem easy.
But once you dig deeper, you’ll see there’s a bit more to it than slapping together a list of job responsibilities and throwing in a salary.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of writing an effective job description. With these tips you’ll be writing more compelling job descriptions and attracting more qualified candidates.
The Easy Parts of Writing A Job Description
When writing your job description, it might help to start with the easy parts first. Details like gathering salary information, minimum qualifications, and a list of benefits or perks of working with your company are relatively simple and easy to do.
However, you really have to dig deeper when crafting your job description in the job summary and job tasks. You want to make it short enough that you don’t lose a potential candidate’s attention, but you also want to make it detailed enough that they can understand if they’re a possible good fit.
This is where a tool like Workable, which offers over 700 job description templates you can use to post your open positions to a slew of job boards, can come in handy. Once you onboard Workable as your applicant tracking system (ATS), you’ll have a much easier time creating, posting, and collecting job candidates that are more aligned with your job ads.
The Difficult Parts of Writing A Job Description
Let’s talk more about the challenging parts of writing a job description. Knowing you need to fill a position is the easy part. Knowing what you’re willing to pay and what skills the candidates you’re looking for need to have are also relatively easy tasks.
The struggle starts when it’s time to create a comprehensive yet short job description that not only lets job candidates know there’s an open position, but that sells your company as the best option for qualified talent. In a way, you can think of writing a job description as a two-way street.
You’re publishing a job ad to fulfill the company’s need. But you’re also selling your company as a worthy place to work for. These days, the job market is buzzing with job candidates that don’t hesitate to jump from job to job if their expectations for the job aren’t what they expected or were promised.
In a way, employee retention starts with your job description. You want to be fair and transparent with your job summary, salary range, qualifications, and list of responsibilities. But you also want to put your company in the best light possible.
Let’s dive into the specifics of the best way to think about and write a winning job description.
Step 1: Get Organized and Run a Job Analysis
The more organized you start, the easier time you’ll have bringing everything together that makes a job description stand out.
Take Stock of All Your Job Openings
Are you writing more than one job description? This is the time to gather all the materials necessary to brainstorm, write, and refine each of your job descriptions so that they’re crisp, clear, and aimed at the right audience. Once you take stock of all the jobs you’ll be writing descriptions for, you can start running a quick job analysis.
Create a List of Relevant Stakeholders and Ask Questions
Creating a list of relevant stakeholders will help you round out who in the company you should approach for more insight on your job descriptions—especially as job openings get more abstract.
For example, if the marketing department needs a junior sales associate, take the time to talk to the leadership in that department and would-be colleagues to ask about relevant job skills that might not be so obvious. What are the day-to-day responsibilities that the person will do? What are expectations as far as soft skills go?
Step 2: Use a Template As a Starting Point
While some job descriptions are pretty clear-cut, others might not be. Sometimes it can take running a job analysis before being sure you’re creating a clear and accurate job description that isn’t misleading or half-baked.
If your job description is more clear-cut, feel free to skip this section. Otherwise, here’s how you can run a simple job analysis in two steps:
Find Usable Templates
Remember Workable? It’s a powerful applicant tracking tool that helps you through all phases of your hiring quest.
It can come in handy when searching for templates to work off as a solid starting point. Once you get your hands on a template, you can tweak and customize it to your liking.
Besides the slew of job description templates it provides, Workable also lets you post your job descriptions to over 200 job sites with one click. Not only that, once you have a stream of applicants coming in, it makes it easy to collaborate with your hiring team to vet candidates through gathered feedback. This way, you’re able to make a more balanced hiring decision.
Admittedly, the job description is one part of the larger hiring process, which, when added up, can be extremely time-consuming. Workable makes the whole process, even the job description writing process, much quicker and more streamlined. You can learn more about Workable here and start quickly posting jobs for free.
Research What’s Out There
Google can be your best friend when it comes to the job analysis phase of creating a solid job description. In short, see what’s already out there through some good old-fashioned competitive analysis. What type of job descriptions are people in your industry publishing? What are they including, and what are they leaving out? How are they wording certain sections of their ads? How are they describing their perks and company story?
Taking the time to see what’s out there can give you a general idea of what resonates with job seekers. While you do not want to go out and copy a job description word for word, you can take inspiration from what’s already working from others.
Once you’ve done your due diligence with research, you can then start crafting a compelling and concise job description.
Step 3: Specify The Job Title
It’s easy to get a little too creative with job titles and lose clarity in the process. It’s better to keep job titles straightforward and as descriptive of the job opening as possible.
Keep SEO in Mind
Say you’re hiring for a Senior Graphic Designer position. It’s easiest to keep the job title that simple and add nothing else. Avoid trying to create job titles like “Head Honcho Graphic Design Master.” The more straightforward, the better, especially for search engine optimization, or SEO, reasons.
As job seekers search for job opportunities in their field, they’ll use keywords that will bring up both exact and closely related keyword results. The better keyworded your job title is, the better chance it has of being found by the right people.
Use Accurate Wording
Adding qualifiers like “senior,” “junior,” or even “entry-level” can further help job seekers determine if they’re a fit for the job. Anything you can add to your job description that adds clarity will add value to your job description efforts.
Step 4: Craft A Clear Job Summary
You can think of the job summary as the introductory handshake. That is, it’s the paragraph of information that’ll give insight to possible job candidates into what the job is.
Brainstorm a Short Introduction
A great way to start a job summary is by asking a rhetorical question. It can help make your job description stand out and entice possible candidates to read more. Remember, when you’re writing your job description, you’re also selling your company as a great fit for the best candidates. In other words, as you write your job description, you’re also doing a bit of marketing.
The introduction should include the most critical points about the job opening. It should also be interlaced with the mission and vision of your company. However, you want to be sure not to use biased language or any that may alienate a group of people or protected class. The more your job description can attract a diverse group of job seekers, the better.
Make It Compelling
This is where you might hit a roadblock if you’re trying to write a job summary that isn’t as boring to read as watching paint dry. It can be tempting just to throw together a basic job summary that covers the basics but doesn’t really make your job candidates eager to apply.
Using descriptive and actionable language can help here. Talk about how the role plays into the bigger goals and visions of the organization.
Step 5: Add Job Responsibilities
Now that you’ve crafted a short summary of the job opening, it’s time to add job responsibilities. Usually, job responsibilities are created as easy-to-read bullet points.
List The Primary Responsibilities
You’ll want to list the primary responsibilities of the job position as well as the unique tasks specific to that role. As an example, if you’re hiring for a social media manager and the position demands proficient Facebook and Instagram ad skills, this is a detail you don’t want to leave out.
As you go down the list, you can also list day-to-day tasks and the occasional to-dos that might form part of their daily work. Starting your list with the most crucial job responsibilities helps candidates quickly learn whether this is a position for them or not.
Explain How They Fit Within Your Company
Who will the job candidate be reporting to and working with? What processes or tools do they need to be comfortable working with to succeed in a specific position?
Listing primary responsibilities and how they fit within the larger context of your company helps give job candidates context on what they can expect. This way, they’re better able to self-qualify as they decide to apply for or overlook your job opening.
Step 6: Write Out The Job Qualifications
A good set of job qualifications happens by including two main things: both soft and hard skills.
Create A List of Hard and Soft Skills
While it’s easy to create a long list of hard skills like “proficient in Adobe Creative Cloud” or “mastery of HTML and CSS,” you shouldn’t forget to include the soft skills that complement the hard skills you require.
After you’ve run your job analysis, the best way to do this is to look through your notes for a list of hard and soft skills to create a separate list for both. That way, you’re able to see which ones take priority and are worthy of inclusion in your job description.
Remember, soft skills are not tool-based. They can be things like communication skills, leadership skills, listening abilities, etc.
Pick Out and List the Non-negotiables
This part of the process is pretty straightforward. Once you’ve made a list of the most important hard and soft skills, you’ll want to identify the non-negotiable ones.
Which hard skills does a candidate absolutely need to possess to succeed in the job role if they happen to get hired? Which soft skills are necessary to round out the position better and ensure candidates are a good cultural fit?
Add a Bonus List of “Nice To Haves”
Adding a bonus list of “nice to haves” to your list of job qualifications can further help job candidates vet themselves. Suppose they see additional skills they qualify for in the “nice to haves” section, while maybe they were missing some of the skills under general qualifications. In that case, it might help them ultimately determine whether the job could be an appropriate next step in their career.
While adding a “nice to haves” set of job qualifications can be an addition that adds some valuable extra context to your job description, it isn’t completely necessary to include. Ultimately, it’s up to your discretion whether you have it and if it’s appropriate for your industry.
Step 7: Include Benefits and Salary Range
What’s in it for your job candidates? What can they expect if they invest their time and skills into your company? This is where you can shine a bright light on the best your company has to offer its employees. Here are a few pointers for this short yet important section:
Be As Specific As You Can
The more specific you can be with benefits, the more informed your job candidates can enter the interview and hiring process. Instead of simply saying “some benefits included,” be proactive and include a list of specific benefits.
This might be 401(k) with employer matching, any learning stipends, visual and dental insurance, or health insurance with a specific percentage of the premium paid by the company. The more transparent and specific your job description, the better the hiring process will be for all parties involved.
Be Transparent With Salary (If You Decide To List It)
Some job descriptions leave out salary ranges for various reasons. It’s ultimately up to your company’s discretion whether to list a salary range or any details on compensation. However, if you decide to list a salary range, it’s crucial to make it as accurate and transparent as possible as one of the last parts of your job description.
From here, once you proofread your job description, you should be ready to publish and distribute it to your best job boards.