Writing an engaging job description is a time consuming process, but it always pays off in the long run.
On average it takes nearly 28 days to hire a new employee and costs around £3,000. Attracting the most suitable candidates with a compelling job description and pursuasive job advert can help to reduce these.
If the right people aren’t applying for the job, the rest of the hiring process will fall flat. Think costly hiring mistakes, recruiter fees, and irate, impatient hiring managers.
In this post, we’ll take you through a step by step guide to producing the perfect job description that will give you the best chance of finding the best candidates.
How to write a job description (and why it matters)
An effective job description must do two things well – it must show prospective candidates succinctly what the role being advertised entails and it should tell them exactly what skills, experience and outlook are needed to succeed in the role.
Unlike a job specification, the primary objective of a job description is to sell – to sell the job, to sell the company and to sell a vision of life in the role.
Too often organisations make the most mistake of confusing a job specification with a job description. These are both important, but they perform very different functions.
- A job specification, sometimes called a role specification, is an internal document that explains in detail what the job role is in formal terms.
- A job description is based on the role specification but is more descriptive. It aims to provide the applicant with a detailed understanding of what’s involved in the job
- A job advert is the job description reworded for an external audience. It promotes the company and the position in the best possible light and should be shorter, punchier and grab attention.
Confusing your job description with your job specification can result in job adverts that are too detailed, dry and fail to stand out.
Step by step guide to writing a perfect job description
Step 1 – Use a clear job title
Over the past few years there has been a trend towards bizarre and unusual job titles, instead of using more familiar terms. Retail Jedi (instead of shop assistant), Wizard of Light Bulb Moments (instead of marketing director) and Problem Wrangler (instead of counsellor) are just a few examples. While these do stand out, they are also confusing, potentially misleading and will put many people off reading any further. Nearly two thirds of candidates say they would be put off applying for a job because of a confusing title.
Outlandish job titles also make your role much harder to find – no one looking for a shop assistant role will use the search term “retail jedi”! Stick to a title that is honest, accurate and conventional so it is crystal clear what the role is.
Step 2 – Grab attention from the opening line
Job seekers are likely to be looking through tens, if not hundreds of job adverts. They may only look at the first couple of sentences, so these need to stand out as much as possible – in both your job ads and job descriptions. Think about what will grab the attention of the type of candidates you’re looking for. What are the key qualities required in a successful candidate? Hone in on these and make sure your advert addresses these from the very first word.
Step 3 – Sell the company
Candidates are not just looking for a role, they are interested in their potential employer, their values and their culture. Nearly nine out of ten millennials believe that being part of the right company culture is very important. Job seekers are looking for an employer that they can identify with and believe in. It makes sense for employers to find candidates who will have a pride in working for them, research has shown they are likely to be significantly happier at work
An important part of what a company has to offer is the employee perks and benefits it provides employees. These reveal the employer’s attitude to workplace wellbeing and how focused they are on supporting their staff. Candidates want to know what else the job has to offer apart from salary and adding in these details can significantly boost applications. 78% of job seekers in the UK said they would be more likely to apply for a job where benefits were mentioned.
Step 4 – Give examples of the job responsibilities
An effective job description paints a clear picture of what the role involves, moving away from generalisations and going into role specifics. Offering one or two examples of the type of activities or projects that the successful candidate will be working on brings the ad to life and gives job seekers an opportunity to visualise themselves in the role. If you can, give candidates a digital experience of what the role is really like through a work simulation assessment by linking to it in the job advert or your careers page.
Step 5 – Discuss the location and flexibility of the role
Flexible working is a major concern for job candidates. In a poll conducted before the Covid-19 pandemic, almost nine out of ten employees said they wanted to work flexibly . Now that many more employees have had the opportunity to work from home, this is only likely to increase. The job description needs to sell the location where the role will be based, be that in a workplace, at home or a combination of the two.
Step 6 – Spell out the hiring process
Candidate experience starts with what’s written in the job advert. Candidates want to know what will be expected of them and have a clear idea of how long the process might take. For example, if candidates will be required to complete a pre-hire assessment then make sure you tell them this upfront. Doing so means they know exactly what to expect and there are no surprises along the way.
Step 7 – Share the job description with the hiring manager
It’s vital that the hiring manager is in total agreement with how you’ve described the role. Discrepancies will result in unsuitable candidates applying, wasting valuable time and money. Including the hiring manager and their team in drafting the job description and subsequent advert means that everyone has the opportunity to contribute their ideas and is completely clear about the process.
Step 8 – Check, check and check again
Just as errors in a CV can harm a candidate’s chance, mistakes in a job description can be equally damaging for employers. Sloppy mistakes seriously reduce the credibility and appeal to candidates, conveying to them that you have not given the job description sufficient care and attention. Get a colleague who has not been involved in the process to look over your description before it is finalised. This fresh pair of eyes can be invaluable, spotting mistakes that may have slipped through the net and ensuring your copy is clear, enticing and to the point.
Bonus Step – Think where you’re posting it
Once your description is finalised it’s important to think about where you will be placing your job advert. If it is on a job board, take a look at other listings and see which ones catch your eye. Ask the job board provider for data and examples of ads that have performed well. Once you’ve posted your advert, review its performance and make amends if it’s not producing the desired results. Keep an open mind, always be prepared to learn and develop.
Final thoughts on job descriptions
Creating a great job decription is a hugely important part of your hiring process. Make sure you give it sufficient time and attention. Get it right and everything else will flow smoothly with the most suitable candidates enticed to apply. Get it wrong and the penalties are extremely costly. Finding that perfect employee will be far more difficult, if not impossible.