If you’ve ever hired someone for a job (or applied to one yourself), you probably know writing the job description is one of the most important parts of any recruiting process. While some job descriptions seem like they were written by the Shakespeare of recruiting (or at least the Dan Brown), others seem like they were scribbled on a McDonald’s napkin as an afterthought.
Although they might take some time, job descriptions deserve your TLC. A poorly-written job description can encourage underqualified candidates from applying and can even prevent your target candidates from throwing their hats in the ring. On the flip side, a well-written job description is the first step in attracting the perfect candidate to grow your team.
More well thought out job descriptions attract better applicants. According to Indeed, jobs with descriptions between 700 and 2000 words get on average 30% more applicants than jobs with descriptions that are either too short or too long.
We also decided to deep dive on some of our own data and took a look at two sales roles on our platform. One had a specific, well-written, and engaging job description, and the other was more ambiguous and sparse. The application rate of the better job description was 48% higher than the rate of the poorly-written job description, even though the latter advertised a significantly higher salary.
We’re lucky enough to talk one on one with candidates and hear firsthand about what sort of job descriptions get them excited. Check out these tips on how to make sure you’re writing the perfect job description for the candidates you want to hire.
1. Figure out who your target candidate is
The first thing you learn in any writing class is know your audience. In this case your audience is the group of people you want to interview for the role. Create a mental image of the ideal candidate, and then figure out what would get them excited to apply. Do you want an entry-level candidate or a more experienced one? Are you looking for analytical candidates, or folks with fine-tuned people skills? Very similar to identifying your target user for your business, coming up with an accurate and distinct candidate profile is critical to ensuring that you’re converting a qualified lead for your job description. This little bit of brainstorming will make writing the rest of the job description that much easier.
2. Hook them with a catchy title
Although we’re told not to since childhood, people judge books by their covers. Case in point, the title is one of the most important parts of the job description because it’s the first thing the candidate sees. As such, it influences whether or not candidates want to read on further and it frames everything that comes next. It’s important to keep in mind how your ideal candidate would respond to different titles. Titling your customer experience job “Customer Service Rep” for instance might turn away a fair amount of great candidates who think they’re overqualified for the role. Titling it “Customer Experience and Logistics Associate” however can make those same candidates take a second look.
3. Tell them about your company
You’d be surprised how many job descriptions don’t contain one word about what the company actually does. For all the applicant knows the job could be at a nuclear power plant, a clown college, or even an ad-tech company. Unless your company is already a household brand name, many people probably aren’t too familiar with your company, and even those who are could benefit from the Sparknotes version.
Provide a couple of sentences describing your company’s basic mission, and a few more describing why it’s the best place in the world to work. Job descriptions are sort of like persuasive essays. You’re trying to convince the right applicants why they should take the action to apply to your job, and it’s always better to show rather than tell. The best way to do that is to translate your passion for the company’s mission directly into the job write-up.
One company that does an especially good job of painting a clear picture is Timehop:
By allowing the user to imagine an office full of “cartoon dinosaurs...Delorean imagery...and terrible 90s music” Timehop is immediately able to show the culture of their company and the type of candidate that would be a good fit, thereby enabling a stronger pipeline of applicants to grow.
4. Clearly communicate the responsibilities of the role and the background you’re looking for
The more descriptive you are regarding the exact responsibilities, the better as you’re leaving less room for ambiguity. The best job descriptions create an exact picture of what the day to day responsibilities of the role are like. Plus, if the candidates already know what the job entails, that’s one less question they need to ask during the interview. If the job is a bit more nebulous and the responsibilities aren’t yet defined, feel free to say so in the job description.
Similarly, the description of the ideal applicant’s background should be a fun write-up of the perfect candidate you thought of in Section 1. If you’re only interested in reviewing candidates from certain schooling backgrounds or GPA cutoffs, say so in the job description. That may save you a lot of time filtering through resumes later. If there’s a hard skill you require (Photoshop, Salesforce, HootSuite, integral calculus) mention that the candidate needs to be familiar with these concepts. Finally, it might not be a bad idea to frame the experience candidates need in terms of the responsibilities the job requires. Such as, “This job would require you to X every day, so it’s really important that you already have some experience with Y.” If you’ve had luck with a seemingly non-related background (people from banking, consulting, retail, comedy, Starbucks, NASA), it doesn’t hurt to say so either.
Check out how Timehop clearly describes the position’s responsibilities and their desired applicant background.
This job description works because after reading it, the applicant gets a crystal clear view of what their day to day at Timehop would actually be like. Plus Timehop calls out exactly what skill sets and experiences would be of use (customer service, retail, iOS, QA, etc.) Finally, even while accomplishing the relatively dry task of describing a job’s responsibilities, Timehop is still able to convey a great sense of their culture in the same sentence.
5. Highlight everything that makes your company special
Time to shout out your company’s strengths. If your company offers special perks, don’t be afraid to mention them. Things like competitive pay, equity, benefits, transportation reimbursement, gym membership, office lunch, and work from home Thursdays are sure to get candidates pumped about applying.
Many applicants are also focused on how jobs affect their long-term professional goals, so it’s also important to show how candidates can grow their careers and move up the company ladder.
Finally, write about your company culture! The most effective job descriptions portray offices not just as places to work, but as teams full of excited people striving for the same goal. Write about what the other employees are passionate about, what company-wide events take place, and why you wouldn’t spend your days with any other team.
The best job descriptions don’t just tell potential candidates why they should apply. They push applicants’ imaginations into overdrive and inspire candidates to envision themselves working with great people and growing at innovative companies. Hiring managers who put a ton of work and attention to detail in their job descriptions show future employees that their companies take pride in everything they create.
The last thing we recommend you do after writing a job description is to have one of your friends check it out. Once they’re done ask, “Would you want to work here?” If they answer yes, your job description did its job.
Have questions about what to include in a job description? Feel free to write into the Customer Success team over at Planted who can help you craft the perfect write-up.