6 Secrets to Writing the Perfect Job Description
Though it sounds counterintuitive, if a job description is too detailed, it can actually deter qualified applicants from applying.
“Sometimes recruiters or employers will want to use very specific terms, but at the same time they review résumés people submit anyway and find a person who could bring a whole different perspective to the job,” says Jennifer Loftus, founding partner and national director of Astron Solutions, an HR consulting firm in New York City. “You have to think in broader terms, to know in which areas you can and can’t compromise.”
Here are a few helpful hints to help you craft the perfect job description.
Catch the reader's eye from the beginning. Think about the candidate you want, and consider what might appeal to him or her. Use targeted questions or statements, such as "Want to work for a dynamic company that makes the world a greener place?" Craft your introduction according to what appeals to your target audience and taps into the qualities it will have, or the essential functions of the position being posted.
Know the difference between preferred and required. Beyond absolute essentials (make-or-break skills, such as licenses or a very niche kind of knowledge), the perfect candidate may not tick every box on your list of preferred qualifications, experiences, and background items. It may be tempting to rattle on about preferences, but just don't. Exceedingly exclusionary language may send someone great running for the hills.
Keep it short. You should list three to five essential responsibilities or competencies someone would need to have to be successful in that job, and list the basics in terms of education, experience, and whether the candidate needs to have supervisory experience. Depending on the complexity of the job in question, Loftus says, 400 to 800 words should suffice.
Put a human voice in your job post. No one wants to work for a robot. Infuse job descriptions with the voice and personality of your company, as this will set you apart and help potential candidates get a feel for whether they’re a good fit for your company. And, the tone of the posting should be true to the organization’s culture. For example, an organization focused on serious health issues most likely wouldn’t have a culture of fun and jovial silliness.
Another critical element is that the wording of the post should focus more on the reader than the employer. Focus on the you rather than the we. "People like to hear about themselves and think of things in terms of themselves," Loftus explains.
Woo potential candidates. You are not, after all, the only fish in the sea, and courting your perfect candidate begins with the first word of your post. Pictures are helpful, even if it’s simply the company’s logo. Graphics brighten a page, and proper spelling, grammar, and a neat format are always essential and must not be overlooked. Bullet points can help break up paragraphs of information.
Keep the process simple. Your job description should give clear, concise directions on how to apply. A process that is cumbersome may run people off. Streamline instructions with numbers or bullet points, have as few as possible (five is a good number), and limit each point to one or two brief sentences.
JULIE STRICKLAND covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurial endeavors of all kinds for Inc. Her work has been published in Brooklyn Based and City Limits in New York, the Free Times in Columbia, SC, Real Travel Magazine in London, and Daegu Pockets in South Korea. She lives in New York City.
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