You only get one chance to make a good first impression. And if you’re trying to hire someone, your first impression will be the job description you put in your “help wanted” ad.
For hiring managers, that’s why it’s so important to get this right. Do you want to make a really good hire and not a mediocre one? A compelling job description will make all the difference when it comes to finding the best candidates.
We’re going to look at why writing job descriptions is such a crucial and overlooked part of today’s hiring process. It’s worth it to take the time and make the effort to write the best job description you possibly can.
Why the Job Description Is So Important
On popular job boards like ZipRecruiter and others, job seekers tend to skim through one job posting after another, looking for one that jumps out at them — a job ad that specifically matches what they’re looking for.
That means your job description has to be direct, to the point, detailed, and complete. It also must accurately reflect the actual job that you’re trying to hire someone to do.
A good job description will attract qualified candidates. It will set your job posting above the other job ads in your field. It will set the appropriate expectations for what your new employee will be doing once they’re hired. And it will simplify and streamline the process for both you and your applicant pool.
It will also help with retaining talent once you’ve hired them, because they’re less likely to be surprised and frustrated by the demands of the job.
Elements of a Good Job Description
Let’s get into the nuts and bolts of what makes an effective job description. Here’s what you’ll need to include:
This is a brief description of the job, typically only one to four words long. Start with something like “sales director” or “project manager” or “software designer.”
The important thing is to make the job title simple and clear. Also, keep in mind that job seekers on ZipRecruiter and other job boards will be using the site’s search bar to search for industry terms that they’re familiar with. So stick with your industry’s standard language, and don’t get cute here. “Rockstar engineer” may sound fun, but it isn’t a good job title. Job seekers aren’t going to find it.
Depending on your industry, you may need to make the job title slightly longer and more specific — like if you’re searching for a specific kind of software engineer or instructor or project manager.
This is a summary, typically a few sentences long, describing what your new hire will be doing in their new job. It’s a high-level, bird’s eye view of the position.
Duties and Responsibilities
Here’s where you break down more specifically what job duties your potential candidates will be doing every day if they get the job.
Break it down into maybe five to eight bullet points, with clear and concise descriptions of what the job entails. Don’t make the descriptions too long, but don’t make them vague, either. That’ll turn off any job seeker.
Be specific about what the new employee will be expected to do. In order to attract qualified candidates, describe the job to them as clearly as you can.
List the duties in order of importance, or how frequently the employee will be doing them.
If you’re trying to hire a new supervisor, make sure to spell out exactly what kind of responsibility that person will have. How much authority will this person have to hire, train, assign work duties to, evaluate, and either discipline or reward the employees they’ll be supervising?
Here’s where you list the “must have” technical skills that this position requires.
Again, be relatively brief but specific. Every word counts here.
In your job description, spell out whether the job seeker just needs a basic working knowledge of the tasks or principles you’re talking about, or whether they need more thorough or comprehensive knowledge of the subject matter.
Don’t get carried away here. Specific requirements can weed applicants out, but unrealistic requirements in job descriptions will keep applicants away. If you’re hoping for more, use the following section:
These are the “nice to have skills” that it would be helpful for your new employee to have. These skills would help your new hire succeed, but they’re not absolutely essential.
Compensation and Benefits
Very important! This is something that potential candidates are definitely going to want to know.
Lots of employers won’t include salary information in their job descriptions, but you might consider at least including a pay range. Not doing so can result in wasting time for everyone involved.
This is a good place to tout the employee benefits and any perks that your company offers.
Describe how much experience you expect qualified candidates to have in this particular field.
Describe the educational qualifications that you require applicants to possess. Do they need a college degree? A degree in any specific field of study?
Do they need any particular certifications?
Location and Working Conditions
Here’s the main thing that potential candidates will want to know these days: Is this job remote? At a physical location? Or is it some kind of hybrid?
Again, don’t get cute or mysterious. Spell out exactly what will be expected from your new employee. They’ll want to know if they’d need to move or commute for this job.
As for working conditions, potential candidates naturally will want to know what to expect.
Is the job indoors or outdoors? Are there physical requirements, such as standing, typing, or lifting heavy objects? Is there a dress code? Is there travel involved?
Here’s where you talk about your company mission, company culture and any other important company details prospective employees are going to want to know.
Some companies have a lengthy mission statement, with much discussion of their values. If so, you don’t need to include everything. Boil it down to a core statement.
Write in a concise, direct, simple style. Avoid jargon and business buzzwords. Don’t be ambiguous or mysterious. Be exact.
That way, when you put your job ad on ZipRecruiter or a similar job board, your job will stand out. It’ll speak to the applicant pool you need to speak to.
A good job description is an effective job description. It’ll make all the difference.
Mike Brassfield (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.