How to write a job description

Written by on October 25, 2018

Consider this before we talk about writing a job description:

It’s easy to write a job description. You just need to outline your expectations, the requirements and responsibilities in a manner that also conveys the company culture in a nutshell. It’s not an art, it’s a science and it can be perfected over time. Anyone can do it – most people just don’t bother to.

This guide will show you:

  • How to write a job description
  • Sample job descriptions that you can build on
  • How to booby trap your job description

How to write a job description

Why does it matter so much? Just like you can tell a good candidate from an unprepared one by just reading the first couple of lines of their cover letter, candidates can tell “good” companies from messy, chaotic, straight-out-of-nightmare companies from just the job description.

Great candidate experiences begin with a good job description so close all your social media tabs and focus on up.

Let’s begin with the basics.

All great job descriptions are based off a template. You got your job title, a description, requirements and responsibilities.

Job title

Open up a Word doc (or Google Doc or MS Online doc or whatever the kids are using these days) and write down the job title.

Take a moment and say it out loud to yourself. Will it make sense to anyone who’s not clued in to your company’s culture?

Happiness Hacker sounds like a great job title but it doesn’t tell you exactly what the job is about. Not until you read the job description.

The thing is, not all candidates will bother to read the job description and understand what the job’s all about. You might lose valuable candidates purely because of an obscure job title.

Pick a job title that clearly conveys what the position is about.

You can use Happiness Hacker, if you must, but please put “Customer Service” in parentheses at least so people know what you’re talking about.

Job description

A lot of companies skip the TL;DR description in favor of getting straight to the point and that’s okay too but why would you not use the opportunity to set some context about the position and its importance within the company?

Sample job description from Zapier’s jobs page

What you can cover in this section:

  • Context for the role. How many other people do you have in a similar role? How important is it to the company’s mission? What is the company mission?
  • Company culture. Give people a good idea of what they’re getting into.
  • Relationships. Who will they be working with? Who will they report to?

Responsibilities

…or what Zapier calls the “What You’ll Be Doing” section i.e the sections where you tell the candidate what you need of them.

Make a concise list following this structure: action, object and purpose. For example,

Post on social media accounts to increase follower count.

I say, “concise” because the more tasks you add to the JD, the more restrictive the role becomes in the eyes of the candidate. So, prioritize the tasks you want to add and put in just the top 5.

It’s really important that you define what success means for this particular role. For example, a social media marketer is considered successful if there is a “lot” of social media engagement. Increasing follower count month-on-month and posting 5 times a day is certainly a part of it but it doesn’t necessarily encapsulate success. By defining success, you’re also helping candidates figure out what they should showcase in their cover letters.

Requirements

Aka “What should you know and be”. Separate your requirements into skills and competencies. Skills are what your candidate would have learned over time to perform, either due to a degree or past experience. Competencies are attributes that will help a candidate become successful in a role. For example, good sense of grammar is a skill but good communication skills is a competency.

It’s always a good idea to keep a specific someone as a model in your head while writing requirements because you don’t want to end up writing a job description for a purple unicorn. It’s also a good idea, as candidates apply, to come back to this section and tinker with it as you see the market trend.

Checklist for a job description

  • Have you properly formatted your job description? Dividing your job description into a “requirements”, “responsibilities” and “expectations” sections will help candidates understand the role fully.
  • Have you included information about the company, mission, values and the team’s culture for full context? When candidates come across the job in a job aggregator, they won’t be able to use the rest of your website as a reference.
  • Is your job description neutral and grammatically correct? Textio can help you with the former and Grammarly with the latter.

Here are some additional reads if you’re in the mood:

Booby trapping the job description

HR Gazette has a great article about scanning resumes really quickly where they mention that one sure fire way to know an interested candidate, is to bury secret instructions in the job description like an assignment or a code they can add to the resume to flag themselves. So, make sure to include something super tiny and specific in there so that you know who’s really interested in the role.

What next?

Now that you have your job description ready to go, you need to figure out where it goes.

  • Does it go on a general job board like Indeed, Monster etc? An amateur list: Adzuna, Glassdoor, Linkedin, Indeed, Angellist, Craigslist, Monster, Seek, Dice.
  • Does it go on a specific job board like SupportDriven’s job board or ‘We work remotely’?
  • Does it go on a specific community like SupportDriven where support reps hang out and talk shop?

You also need to work on your candidate application process as is. After all, 60% of job-seekers stopped filling out a job application because the process was too long. You need to make sure that all the questions in your application process deserve to be there. A good rule of thumb is to ask questions that will help you quickly decide if you should talk to the candidate or not.

One final piece of advice before we sign off?

Keep it short.

Make every word matter. No one wants to read a saga.

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