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How To Write The Perfect Job Description

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The majority of job descriptions don't actually describe the job.

There's no information about projects, current deadlines, company culture, objectives, goals... nothing.

Most look a little like this:

"We are looking for a (some general job title) who has the following set of skills (list of general skills) with (required level of education and years of experience). Please submit your CV."

It's easy to forget that job descriptions have to convince someone to apply. They may have an administrative function, but they're ultimately adverts for your company (it's essential to remember that!)

Carefully crafted JDs are an easy way to differentiate yourself and attract better quality applicants.

We've put together a framework to help you create the perfect job description.

Before you begin: Understand your hiring need

There is no such thing as a perfect, 'one-size-fits-all' job description, each serves a specific purpose.

This purpose depends on your hiring need.

Looking to fill a low level role quickly? You may not even need to spend time on your JD.

Writing something brief and limited that will only appeal to highly active candidates that are ready to move fast is probably your best bet.

Want to draw in high flyers? That's a different question entirely...

1. Use your job description as a qualifier

Do you want more applicants or the right applicants?

It's the question that you should ask yourself whenever you sit down to write a new job description.

More applicants means more work for your team. More time filtering CVs, more time interviewing. This is not necessarily bad - you have a larger pool of talent to choose from.

What if it's the wrong talent though? What if your job description is so vague that you've been inundated with totally unqualified applications...

Bad job description

This is a serious waste of your (very limited) time.

The best job descriptions don't appeal to everyone, they stand out to your candidate persona (i.e. your ideal new hire for that vacancy).

If you're hiring engineers, ask your Head of Engineer what kind of things get his team excited. If it's a new sales rep - what gets your sales team going?

Targeting your job descriptions in this fashion may not lead to _more _applications, but it will at least stop you and your team wasting time on the wrong candidates.

2. How should you write job titles?

Candidates should understand what your job entails from the title.

There's an increasing trend to create new, dramatic sounding titles (particularly for technical roles) - "ninja" and "rockstar" are a few that immediately come to mind.

It depends on your target audience, but I'd recommend keeping it simple and sticking to traditional titles. Top developers tend to prefer this approach (take a look at this thread on HackerNews if you need convincing!)

The image below neatly illustrates this. Tim Berners-Lee (creator of the internet) sees himself as a 'Web Developer' (not a 'Digital Prophet').

Ridiculous job titles

3. How should you structure your job description?

Build your job description as you'd want to read it.

Put the key information that candidates are looking for, (salary, location, title), right at the top. That makes it easy for people to self-qualify and decide whether there's anything that completely rules you out as an employer.

What comes next?

Don't sweat the details. Most job descriptions are just huge lists of general skills and requirements.

Job description structure

To avoid falling into the trap of just listing 'required skills', brainstorm your top 3 candidate "must have" qualities or skills. Narrowing this down forces you to establish the _real _difference making abilities that you're looking for. If you feel like this isn't enough, you can add 3 additional "nice to have" traits to round this section out.

If you have additional requirements or skills that you're looking for, keep these as an internal record for your team to reference during the evaluation process. Try and avoid overloading candidates with information.

Keeping this section as lean as possible gives candidates everything they need to know about the role without wasting space. It also leaves room for what comes next. The company story.

4. Telling a story with your job description

Job descriptions should shine a light on your own, unique blend of company culture and employer brand. What makes you different to competitors, why should a candidate apply to your 'Marketing' role not someone else's.

Eye tracking research shows that candidates really care about this - roughly 30% of their time browsing job descriptions is spend reading about the company itself. They want to understand what life is _really _like at your company.

76% of candidates want to know about company culture

[image-caption]Source: Glassdoor survey, October 2014[image-caption-end]

Do you blame them? In most cases, job applications are big life decisions. People want to understand as much as possible about the place they're going to spend 40+ hours a week at.

Spending time outlining your working environment has an added bonus. You should attract more candidates who are a good cultural fit for your organisation.

Here are a few things you should consider when adding your company story:

Writing Your Company Story

5. Priming your job description for SEO

How do people find your job? Between 70-80% of all candidates start with Google. (If you want an exact analysis of job seeker behaviour segmented by industry, this Careerbuilder resource is incredible!)

This makes standing out in the search results pretty important. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the way to do this.

SEO is the art of improving your websites visibility, and boosting your search rankings.

Here are a few quick ways you can optimise your job description for SEO:

i) Keywords

When candidates search for jobs they typically use specific keywords. This could be as general as "Front-End Developer Roles" or as specific as "Node.js Developer Roles in Eastern Seattle"! Your job titles need to take this aspect of candidate behaviour into account.

How do you know which keywords to use?

A simple tactic is to look at your competitors. Are they using certain phrases in their JDs that candidates would be likely to use in search? You can also think about the ways that you would search for your own jobs online - what specific wording would you use?

It's important that at least some of these words make it into the job description.

ii) Engaging page titles and descriptions

Getting to the first page of Google means nothing if people don’t click on your site.

Your content management system (CMS) will let you add titles and descriptions for every page on your website. This isn’t something you would really notice while browsing through your site, but it makes a big difference in search.

Make sure both your page title and description are engaging and informative. This helps Google work out if your site is relevant to someone’s search, and also increases the chance that someone will click on your site.

Here's a nice resource from Google to help you get started with this.

6. Example: What does this job description actually look like?

As we mentioned above, there is no single 'perfect' job description, what you write depends entirely on your hiring needs.

To give you an example of the kind of thing to focus on though, here's a great description from Onefinestay, (a service that helps people let their houses or apartments), for a Global Sales Account Manager.

Quick note - it doesn't include information regarding salary, but that's not uncommon for large brands.

Onefinestay job description

Onefinestay job description part 2

Final note - Who should write the job description?

Where possible, job descriptions should be collaborative affairs.

Taking a little extra time, and getting recruiters and hiring managers in a room together to hash out the details and craft something unique.

This should give you a total understanding of the hiring need, and ensures that recruiters understand exactly who the company is looking for.

If possible, you should divorce as many of the legal and administrative aspects of the job description as you can from the version you host on your site. This 'outside' version needs to act like an advert and draw people in.

Using the tactics we've outlined above, you should be able to strike the perfect balance between getting your requirements across and attracting applicants.

Want to write perfect job descriptions yourself? We've created 3 awesome templates to help you fill difficult roles (like Senior developers). You can get your hands on the templates below:

Send me 3 awesome job description templates