How to Write Job Descriptions That Don’t Suck

Tim Sackett

Job descriptions have seemingly been around forever. Actually, what most companies still use today as a basic job description format has been around for about 85 years. Which, in business terms, is forever!

The reality is, even as we add video and links and all the fancy templated designs, it’s still a title, responsibilities, knowledge requirements, EOE message, and so on. Boring. Maybe a little more pleasing to the eye, but still boring.

So, how do we write job descriptions better? How do we write job descriptions to be, dare I say, sexy?

The first step is to understand what candidates are looking for. Candidate behavior is the key to writing great job descriptions that are going to engage and attract the talent your organization wants and needs.

Candidates are Typically Looking for Three Things:

1. They want to know how you’re different than everyone else. This means you need to build job descriptions that set you apart from your competition. According to prior CareerBuilder research, 74 percent of candidates want to know the salary of the job you have posted. “Well, we don’t do that! Our competition doesn’t do that!” Maybe you should.

2. They want the truth. Not the fake brand you want them to think you are, but what you look like in the morning before you put your “game” face on! According to CareerBuilder’s 2017 Candidate Experience Study, only 45 percent of candidates say they can typically tell what it would be like to work for a company based on their career site.

3. They want to feel special. You know what your one process for all job applicants does to candidates? It makes them feel like they’re just like everyone else. Great talent hates to feel like everyone else. So, you need to have a process that treats everyone like the unique snowflakes they are.

Here Are Some Tips for Writing Better Descriptions:

  • Use your employees to tell candidates what the job truly entails. Show short, unscripted videos of actual employees, telling everyone what it is they do every day. You can help them frame what to say, but let them use their words.
  • Use your hiring managers to tell candidates directly what they like to see from candidates in the position they have open. Again, short video works wonders for this, but you can also use hiring managers’ quotes within the job description to highlight important aspects.
  • The biggest frustration candidates have is a lack of response from employers. More than half of job seekers say employers don’t do a good job of setting expectations in terms of communication at the beginning of a potential hiring interaction. What should you do? Put your cellphone number in the job description, of course! If you have a hard-to-fill opening, this is a must. It shows you really care, you’re open to questions, and that if they apply they have a way to get an update.
  • Have an actual personality! Job descriptions don’t have to be boring. In the HR bible, nowhere does it say, “Job descriptions must be boring or thou shalt be spanked.” NOWHERE. It’s OK to have fun with your job postings, especially if that fits the personality of your organization or even the personality of your hiring manager. Candidates respond to organizations that aren’t afraid to show their personality.

Historically, writing job descriptions has seemed like a punishment for those in HR. No one has really wanted to do it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Find the most creative HR intern you can find — someone with strong writing skills — and let them have at it. Your job postings can be both legally functional and marketing-worthy. You just need to add a little creativity to the mix.


Learn how job postings can help you land the talent you need

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