How to create the perfect job description

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An effective job description is the first step in finding the right talent for your company. Not only will it help you sell the role to prospective candidates it will allow you to make informed hiring decisions that meet the needs of your business.

But how do you craft a great job description? To help, we share our step-by-step guide…

1. Job title

“The first thing candidates will read is the job title so make sure they can immediately gauge what the job entails from that alone,” says Henry Smith, director at Robert Walters New York. As he explains, job titles should avoid using any language or acronyms that are specific to the internal structure of the company as it may put off external candidates.

Henry continues: “Job titles should be as concise and specific as possible to ensure they’re targeted to the right audience and avoid any confusion over what the role actually entails.”

2. Company description

“If you’re trying to attract the best talent, you need to sell your company and give candidates a clear understanding of what your business stands for, where it wants to go and what makes it unique,” Henry advises. As he notes, job descriptions should start with a clear breakdown of what the company can offer candidates and how its distinctive culture enables employees to grow and develop their careers.

“Working for a company with values that align with your own is becoming increasingly important to candidates, so opening with a stand-out company description which includes the organization’s values can help grab attention and encourage a candidate to continue reading.”

3. Job summary

“After describing the company, provide a brief summary of the role. You should keep the language simple and avoid any company-specific jargon,” advises Henry. “However, this description needs to get the candidate excited about the role,” he adds. “Line managers may not have the skillset needed to produce a stirring job summary, so consider speaking to your marketing department or a copywriter to add that all-important flair to your job description.”

4. Role requirements

“As well as summarizing the role, effective job descriptions should include a list of the critical skills required for the role,” says Henry. Any specific expertise needed to carry out the day-to-day responsibilities, such as programing language or knowledge of a particular software, should be included to ensure candidates are able to hit the ground running from the moment they start.

“Add these requirements as a simple, succinct list of bullet points that’s easy for candidates to read whether they’re using a desktop or mobile device to view the listing,” he adds.

5. ‘Nice-to-haves’

“Alongside the minimum skills and knowledge required for the role, you may wish to include a few desired qualities you’d like to see in the ideal candidate, whether technical knowledge or soft skills,” continues Henry. However, he warns against including more than five ‘nice-to-have’ qualities in a job description as this could end up disincentivising candidates from applying in the first place.

As he notes, “including too many requirements, even if they are only desired qualities, could make candidates feel disqualified from the role, meaning you miss out on the best available talent.”

6. Salary information

“The decision to include the salary in a job description will largely depend on the role being advertised, but you should always think carefully before including it,” suggests Henry. Some companies will see salary information as a way to help candidates gauge the level of the role, he explains, but others will want to avoid such sensitive information from being visible.

“Including salary information can even deter candidates from applying – whether it’s too high or too low – so defer talking about compensation or provide a broad range to attract a broader pool of talent,” he adds.

7. Layout

“To attract the best talent, job descriptions need to capture the imagination of the reader within seconds, while laying out all the necessary details in a succinct, visually attractive manner,” notes Henry. But, as he warns, excessively long job descriptions with chunky paragraphs could result in losing the candidate’s interest so it’s essential to make use of bullet points and concise paragraphs to keep candidates reading.

And one other thing to remember…

Ownership

“To write an effective job description, it’s essential one person has a clear sense of ownership over the process,” warns Henry. He suggests that even though HR will ultimately need to have a role in crafting the job description – even if it’s simply providing a template – it should be the line manager of the new hire who has full ownership of the job description.

“The line manager is generally the best-placed person to ensure a job description is sufficiently descriptive in terms of competences and other requirements of the role,” he adds. 

For more hiring advice, read our article on how to avoid bad hires.

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