The job description is likely the first hurdle in jumpstarting your hiring process.
Some managers nab a job description template, hit copy and paste, throw the job out on a few job boards and call it a day.
Not surprisingly, those tend to be the managers that find themselves hiring for the same positions six months down the line. Tsk tsk!
Knowing how to write a job description that will inspire job seekers can be tricky business.
The perfect job description will be a mixture of essential information (responsibilities, requirements, description of position), character (infusing company culture, using colloquial language) and a few tips and tricks to make it stand out in a search.
We created this infographic to help you through the process of taking your job description and transforming it into the perfect job ad to bring in only the best candidates.
Check it out:
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Here's my take on the lessons from the infographic about how to write a job description:
The Essentials of a Job Description
The essentials are only the skeleton of the job advertisement. These are the elements you will recognize from nearly any job description.
Typically, “the essentials” are broken up into some variation these six categories:
- Brief description of the job
- How to apply
Of course, these are not hard and fast rules, but they are certainly a solid point from which to start.
Breaking up your content with this structure gives your description a logical order and provides natural breaks when a job seekers is reading the content.
When writing your next great job description, begin with these six bullet points and proceed from there.
1. The Title
The title of a job is arguably the most important element of a great job description.
In short, if your job description title sucks, you are not going to get any clicks.
Don’t just write “Administrative Assistant”, even though that may seem like a sufficient title or your title will blend in with every other similar job as in the image above.
Think about what specialty you would like for this particular administrative assistant.
Maybe even consider what skill or special ability the last administrative assistant didn’t have.
Conversely, consider what your company can offer this administrative assistant. Is there potential for upward mobility? Mention that in the title!
This may lead you to a more detailed description like “Bilingual Administrative Assistant Needed For Growing Startup!”
This title mentions a specific bonus skill set and teases the potential for growth within the company. Be careful to not exceed 60 characters in your job title. Titles longer than 60 characters will get cut off.
Also, keep in mind that job titles in the sweet spot between 50 and 60 characters receive 30-40% more clicks!
2. Brief Description of the Job
We are going to talk more about infusing character into your job description later, but keep that in mind for this section.
The description of the job does not have to be stale and straightforward. Use this as an opportunity to not only explain the black and white functions of the job, but also how the position fits within the company and what sort of impact it will have on the team.
Adding these sorts of details will excite and motivate the candidate to really imagine themselves in the position.
You might consider breaking up some of the job responsibilities into percentages. When a candidate knows the makeup of the job, she is more likely to know off the bat if if it going to be a good fit for her interests and skills.
3. Responsibilities / Qualifications
Be careful to not list an outrageous amount of duties and responsibilities. This is not meant to be a three page description of every day in the office.
Make a list (for yourself) of the duties and responsibilities on a daily, weekly, monthly and/or quarterly basis. From here, decide what are your must-haves, nice-to-haves and unnecessary details.
Speaking of lists, use a list format to display responsibilities!
The last thing an applicant wants is to open a job description and be greeted by a wall of text (see example below). List the responsibilities and duties in an easy-to-read bulleted or numbered list.
This makes those 14 seconds candidates spend on the responsibilities really count!
When creating the perfect job description, the benefits section is where you can get down to the nitty gritty, or... not.
You may be as vague as to note the offer of a “competitive salary” or as specific as to list the salary itself.
If you are hesitant to list a concrete salary, you may find other ways to entice an applicant here.
Mention whatever benefits you offer besides salary. Do you cover 100% of health insurance? That is a huge sell. Do you offer dental, as well? That will elicit a big, toothy smile from your potential candidates.
Be creative when thinking about benefits.
We will dive into this deeper later in the article. It’s 2016. Salary is no longer the be all and end all. There can be immeasurable value in flexible work hours, the ability to work from home or even something as simple as a weekly catered lunch!
5. How To Apply
You can be as dastardly as you like in the “How To Apply” section.
We always think it is smarter to be straightforward and clear. Avoid complicated ATS forms or a long questionnaire in the initial apply process. There are proven to weed out perfectly good applicants who don’t have the time to complete a lengthy application process.
Consider waiting until there is a double opt-in from your company and the candidate before you go out assigning projects or asking in-depth questions.
However, some hiring managers do like to sneak in a special instruction or two in order to make sure an applicant is paying attention.
Ask for the cover letter and resume here. Anything you ask a candidate beyond that is based on your own discretion.
Adding Character to Your Job Description
What makes your company special?
The answer to this question can be as simple or as complex as you want.
Maybe what makes your company special is doughnut Fridays.
Perhaps the thing makes your company exciting at the moment is a huge investment you just received from an angel investor freeing your budget up enough to finally expand your creative department!
Whatever makes your company stand out about the rest, find a way to infuse this excitement and individuality in the job post. There are opportunities within each category to add character or a glimpse at your company culture.
When creating a job description, consider each category we highlighted and think about how you can make your open position even more appealing with small, creative tweaks.
It’s no longer the 1990s and this isn’t a Dilbert comic. People aren’t sitting in grey cubicles with fluorescent lighting (as much) anymore.
When writing the best job descriptions, make this your mantra: Be as creative as possible.
- Title - As discussed earlier, add a specific need or exciting aspect about your company!
- Job Description - Add something completely unique about the position. Is there room for mobility within the team? Will candidates have the opportunity to learn new skills in the position?
- Responsibilities - Will the candidate be working on any special/upcoming initiatives or special projects? Here is the place to tease that!
- Benefits - Salary is great! Medical is great! Dental is even better! Besides that, what benefits sets your company apart? Do you have pancake breakfast (can you tell I am a food-motivated employee by now?) on Fridays? Do you host an annual retreat? Tell your candidate about that here!
- How to Apply - This is the place where you ask for the resume and cover letter, sure. Consider asking something else to peak a candidate’s interest (and to see if they are paying attention). It can be as easy as asking them their favorite band or as complicated as asking them what their goals are in the position at hand. Whatever you decide, try not to make it TOO much of a hoop to jump through. You do not want to lose candidates for asking too much of them upfront. This is, however, an opportunity to see how creative a candidate can be in her application.
Job SEO Tips & Tricks
There are lots of tips and tricks you can use to make the most out of your job ad.
These include keyword stuffing, optimizing your job title, avoiding ALL CAPS, chunking your content and many many more.
Keyword Stuffing Example from Lyft Craigslist Ad
Check out the article on ways to get more out of your job ad for more details about these tips.
Take your newly-polished job ad and run it through this checklist of 23 tips and tricks to optimize your perfect job description for as many meaningful views as possible!
Where to Place Your Job Ad
We talk a lot about this idea of “publish and pray” in content marketing.
The idea behind “publish and pray” is that you have created something so marvelous and beautiful, so well-written and full of character that everyone will click on it, read it, print it out and put it on their refrigerators, right?
Now that you have this perfect job ad, you need to be methodical with where you place it. Job boards are a tried and true source of candidates, but they can be expensive.
Social media is a great resource for reaching many candidates, but where should you put it? Facebook? Twitter? Even Snapchat?
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn allow users to place highly targeted ads to attract applicants from a certain demographic based on age, metropolitan area, current position and more.
Consider tapping into social media next time you hire in order to reach a huge pool of both active and passive candidates.
Consider where your best candidates are hanging out! Are they scouring Indeed all day long at their horrible current job or are they passively looking at Facebook, unaware that their dream job is waiting for them?
Use a mixture of outlets and test out what works for you. Do not blow a pocket load of cash on one job board and call it a day.
Writing a job description is typically a no-fun activity.
However, if you follow some of these tips and inject some creativity into your job description, two things will happen.
You will find out that the process is not as soul-sucking as it used to be. When you consider all the creative ways to showcase your company, you should feel a tingle of excitement.
In reference to that tingle of excitement, a well-written and well-placed job ad will elicit that same tingle from a pool of candidates, one of which will be your next perfect hire.
Now, get to writing! Happy hiring!
Also, check out this great infographic about the perfect job ad.