How to Write a Job Description That Really Does the Job
When HR or a business owner set to write a job he or she envisions one clear and simple goal: to find a suitable candidate to fill a position and to find this candidate fast. So with this clear goal in mind, it should be easy to write up a clear job description that says everything about a desired applicant and their professional qualifications. However, quite a lot of job descriptions that we read at reputable recruiting platforms seem to be written with the opposite in mind – to confuse and puzzle applicants and to scare away at least half of potential candidates.
This is why we decided to reiterate good practices of job announcement writing and to provide applicable tips to facilitate your task.
General Considerations and No-No’s of Job Descriptions
Before starting to write, have a clear view of what you want to see in candidates, and then compare this list of requirements to a salary you can offer. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential applicant: would you want to apply to this position with such a salary if you have the required set of skills and experience?
Deciding on obligatory minimum
This is not to tell you to hire the first best pizza delivery guy that knocks at your door. This is to remind you that we all tend to ask or expect too much be the default and it reasonable to roll back some demands that do not impact the position directly. Consider what skills are a minimal must from the start and what can be learned hands-on or skipped altogether. Consider if you can hire a college graduate and let him/her gain experience in exchange for a lower salary. Think and decide if you really need to see all those sky-high qualifications in an office manager (and so you are prepared to pay more).
Critical attitude to what you put into the job description is already the key to filling the position fast. You will not lose highly qualified candidates who laugh when hearing about the salary you offer, and you will not have to face a whole array of weird people who think they fit into a loosely described job.
Saying no to discrimination
Although you may not want to discriminate anyone and you aim towards diversity, you may discriminate unintentionally, by using language and descriptors that do point towards a certain age or gender. Yes, some cool-looking job names like ‘rock-star developer’ or ‘ninja of engineering’ point towards a male and younger audiences. Rock stars and ninjas (as well other ‘bro slang’ terms) refer to males mostly, and while using them a recruiter implicitly says ‘we want younger men on board only’. To avoid such ambiguity and not to tar the image of your company, use simple and neutral words.
Besides, when you name the job carefully, you say what exact specialist you look for, not any engineer that believes themselves to be a star. So clarity and simplicity really work better than attempts to dazzle applicants with glossy slang. Good candidates may run away in bewilderment, believing you look for the next Steve Jobs : )
Being clear in what you look for
This directly relates to the previous one. Say things clearly and simply. If you need an office manager or business analyst, put it down as is. Do not call them Wizard of office affairs or Excel warrior. It may sound like an exaggeration, but basically, many job positions feature some vague but nice-sounding description of positions and duties. Imagine if you were reading this kind of job vacancy – would you understand what is meant here? Always look from the viewpoint of an applicant – will people understand what is said? If you believe that a good applicant will decipher the job description – then you have already taken a totally wrong path. Think and write clearly. That’s a rule.
Avoid open denial of job
It may sound a petty concern, but sounding positive or at least neutral in points that fend off undesired candidates really pays out. If you need a candidate with a specific educational level or experience, do not say it in form of ‘such candidates will not be considered’ or ‘please do not waste your and our time’. This description looks like an outward rejection, and instead of advertising the position to a friend who really fits in, a candidate who does not fit will simply exclude you from his or her search.
Remember about a job description structure
While planning what and how to say, you may forget about structuring the demands. When you open any vacancy on recruiting platforms, you can see the basic structure, so stick with it. A job description may open with a brief company presentation, and then the open position is introduced. It makes sense since if a company does not appeal to an applicant, they will not read further.
The more typical approach is to name the position to be filled first, then list job duties, qualifications of a candidate, desired experience and then a company says a couple of words about itself. The company presentation may be absent altogether, but the clear job name, duties, experience and qualifications of an applicant are a must.
Another must − the perks and compensations offered to a candidate. You may not write the salary directly, but benefits, medical insurance, 401(k) plan, paid leave and parental leave need to be mentioned. Otherwise, a candidate will not have a clue why he or she should apply at all. People sell their time and work for money, it is normal. And as a good and reliable employer, you will definitely want your employees to know about the benefits you offer right from the start.
Sections of the Job Description
Now we move to technical stuff. What sections to include and how to arrange them?
Company presentation (optional)
Name the title of the company and its specialization (healthcare, game development, food, construction, etc.). Say what the company does (in a sentence or two), what are its values, and move to the job name.
It is a whole text in a nutshell. You say who, for what, with how many years of experience, main (obligatory) requirements and the area of responsibility.
For example, ‘Wanted: Junior game developer with no experience but desire to learn who will become a part of mobile games developing team and will contribute to timely delivery of prototypes and finished products to customers”. Not too specific, but it gives a clue who can apply and what the job will be.
Requirements or job duties
Before you roll out the list of qualifications and experience you want to see in an applicant, write clearly (clearly is a keyword here) what the duties will be. List them in brief sentences, preferable in bullet-point format. List everything you expect your candidate to do to avoid disputes about functions in the future. For example:
- Developing apps and SDKs in conjunction with other developers;
- Performing code peer-reviewing;
- Offering efficient solutions to translate customer’s requirements into workable products;
- Participating in meetings, contributing to design;
- If necessary, performing testing functions (occasionally).
This is a possible (but not exhaustive) list of functions a junior developer may face.
In addition to the direct job requirement, it is normal to mention what traits an applicant should have. In some positions creativity and flexibility are needed, in other resistance to stress is valued. Almost all job descriptions today feature ‘multitasking’ and ‘ability to work on several projects at once’. However, if you do not need it in your candidates (and you do not practice it yourself), just leave it out. Today it works as a kind of scarecrow rather than an indication of how intense your workflow is.
When you list desired qualifications, distinguish between hard and soft skills.
It is everything related to professional activity. E.g.
- Software skills;
- Computer hardware skills;
- Knowledge of documentation;
- Networks managing;
- Practical knowledge of manufacturing equipment;
- Menial skills, etc.
There are personal traits like:
- Attention to details;
- Analytical skills; being a team player or a standalone worker;
- Readiness to comply with subordination rules;
- Self-managing and delivering results directly to customers, etc.
Sometimes it is mentioned, sometimes not. It depends on the position to fill. A designer or an in-house writer does not need it, and app testers can do the job without it. Their main feature will be attentiveness to details and responsibility.
Usually, knowledge of second language is required or welcomed. But if you plan that your employee will travel or will communicate with customers whose language is other than English, mention the required language and level of proficiency in the job description. Otherwise, you may face misunderstanding during the interview (if a good applicant lacks the knowledge of the language you need).
Mention the desired number of years and desired positions occupied or jobs performed. Just remember to say it politely.
Compensation and perks
Even if you do not plan to mention salary, say clearly what compensation package and bonuses you are ready to provide. For some people, a 401(k) plan and paid parental leave mean more than a higher salary, so the chances are that your company benefits policy will attract a cool employee.
Keep in mind the tips that we shared with you, envision clearly what you want to see in a candidate and build a successful job description. Or else − let us do it for you, just write us your requirements and our professional experts will write an excellent job description for your company.