How to Write Better Job Descriptions

July 1, 2016 Mary Lorenz

The “if you build it, he will come" mantra may have worked for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, but as many hiring managers know, it takes more than just writing a job description for your online job advertisements to attract qualified and relevant candidates. Check out the following tips from our experts for writing more effective job postings:

  1. Do: Choose relevant job titles and keywords. Advertising for a “Sales Rock Star” or “Software Ninja” may seem like a way to stand out, but your job postings will wind up getting buried in organic searches. Optimize your job titles for search, and save the fun, creative stuff for the description itself. The right keywords will also serve to optimize your job posting for search engines like Google.

  2. Do: Make your job ad aesthetically pleasing. The average job seeker will give more attention – about a minute – to a branded job posting, and around two minutes looking at a job posting that includes a recruitment video. Also, choose bullets over long sentences or blocks of copy when listing out factors such as job requirements, desired skills and benefit information.

  3. Do: Set clear expectations. This means including potential deal-breakers (such as significant travel time or potential overtime hours) as well as success factors. After all, if you want to hire successful people, start by defining what success in that particular role looks like. Setting clear expectations with candidates from the beginning will get a better fit in the end.

  4. Do: Cut out the fat. The average job seeker spends fewer than 30 seconds reviewing a job posting. Though it’s crucial for candidates to understand the role and expectations surrounding it, brevity is key to capturing their attention. Keep the content of your job posting brief by highlighting only the most important and unique pieces of information.

  5. Do: Employ the “real estate rule.” With so much to say in such limited space, location of text is everything in your ad. Put the most important information at the top of the ad, followed by pertinent details about the role itself. The most engaging and interesting content should fall above the fold to capture candidates’ attention and compel them to read further.

  6. Do: Include your location. Location can be a deal-breaker for a lot of candidates, so be sure to let them know where the job is located right away. If, however, you are willing to let them work remotely or offer work from home days, be sure to mention that, as that could sway their decision.

  7. Don’t: Ignore compensation. It should come as no surprise that salary plays a major role in a candidate’s decision to accept a job offer or even apply, so if you know you offer competitive compensation, say so. If you don’t, talk about what you can offer instead in terms of benefits or culture. Does your company offer advancement opportunities, the chance to learn new skills, take on interesting projects, travel or set their own schedules? Though salary is important, CareerBuilder research has found that candidates are willing to accept a lower job offer it means working for a company with an attractive culture.

  8. Don’t: Forget to sell. Once the candidate understands the role, it’s time to sell them on the opportunity and the company. Write engaging, brochure-like verbiage in your ad. Two questions can help with this step: “What will candidates love about this job?”  and “What do employees say they love about your company?” You’ll be able to speak to your audience and get the right fit.

  9. Don’t: Try to be something you’re not. A perfect fit for Dell or IBM might not necessarily be a good fit at your company and vice versa. Be honest about who you are as an employer and what your culture is like, and the wrong candidates will weed themselves out, making the right candidates that much easier to spot.

  10. Don’t: Leave out potential deal breakers. If a job requires lots of travel, for example, make sure you communicate this, as it could factor into a candidate’s decision to apply for the job.

  11. Don’t: Be afraid to ask for help. Creating an engaging job ad is not an easy task: Finding a balance of content that is both informational and engaging is a challenge. After all, you have very little space in which to include a lot of information – and on top of that, you want it to be interesting and engaging for the reader. Learn more about all of CareerBuilder's recruiting solutions to help you optimize your job posting tactics.

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