The Structure of a Quality Job Description: What to Include and Why It's Important
When hiring, your job description is the first impression you make with a potential future employee. It should outline not only the skills and experience you seek but also provide a glimpse into your company and the specifics of the position. It should answer any questions a job seeker has and entice the right ones to apply.
Too many companies gloss over the job description when hiring. They might write up a generic description that reads like all the others or – even worst – leave out important information. In this article, we’ll list all the components that should be included and provide a few details on why each is important.
The job title is naturally what will catch the eye of an ideal candidate. It should include what they will do (i.e sales) and their level within the company (i.e. associate, manager, vice president, etc). The title needs to make the right people immediately think, “I can do that job,” and go on to read the full description.
Over the past few years, some companies have replaced traditional job titles with unique, somewhat silly ones. Instead of having a “sales director” or “lead designer,” they’ll have a “sales ninja” or “design unicorn.” Be careful with these type of titles, as they can deter serious professionals from applying. Additionally, they’re not optimized for job board search engines, so your description might not show up when someone searches for a title they identify with.
Even if someone is just the right fit for your job, they can’t proceed if it’s not in a location that works for them. The location of the position should be displayed front and center on the job description so a job seeker can decide if it makes sense to apply. If you’re in a city, also consider providing the exact neighborhood of your office so there is no need to do any additional research.
It’s also a good idea to let candidates know if the position allows for occasionally telecommuting or any other flexibility in terms of work location.
Before you get into the nitty-gritty of the exact responsibilities, provide a high-level summary of what the job entails. Outline why your company is hiring for the position, the goals you want the future hire to accomplish, and how they’re expected to achieve them. The role objective should act as a nice primer to the exact responsibilities.
Now you build upon the role objective and outline the day-to-day responsibilities in bullet points. Get down to business and list exactly what the new hire will be doing so people who’ve done those tasks in previous jobs will feel confident they’re a fit for your position.
A quick tip here: Write job responsibilities using terminology that matches the profession. The hiring manager should pay close attention to this section so the responsibilities and language accurately match the role.
On the surface, this section seems straightforward. You just have to list the necessary skills to do the job, the required education, and the years of experience you seek, right?
Necessary skills and required education are almost always easy to define. But a lot of companies don’t think enough about the years of experience factor. If you overstate what you actually need, many candidates who are otherwise qualified will feel it’s not worth applying.
Before you throw down a range on paper, have a conversation with the hiring manager. Ask them to make a case for the years of experience they want and try to determine if it makes sense. It’s also a good idea to consider the experience level of the members currently on the team you’re hiring for and where this position will fit in.
It sounds obvious but it’s highly important to tell job seekers what your company does and what it’s like to be an employee. Many job seekers not only want a job they’re qualified for but also want to work for a company that matches their personality or does something they’re interested in. Try your best to sum up your company culture in this section and even link to your company careers website if includes helpful information about the employee experience.
While you should of course list what your company offers in terms of health insurance, time off, and retirement savings, it’s the unique benefits that may attract job seekers. They will perceive your company as a great place to work if it offers flexible work schedules, an employee wellness program, cool office amenities, or anything along those lines.
If your company doesn’t yet offer any unique benefits, it’s worth having a conversation with your leadership team to see what’s feasible.
There are varying opinions on if salary details should be disclosed on a job description and how much information should be provided. Companies generally give a range, a generic phrase (i.e. “generous compensation”) or, in some cases, the exact salary offered.
It’s a good idea to give some insight into how much a potential employee will earn so a candidate’s expectations align with yours from the start of the hiring process. However, consider how much info is best for your company to reveal and take that route on all your job descriptions.
Work hours, travel requirements, etc.
Much like location, candidates with the right skills want to avoid applying for jobs that require hours, travel requirements, or other responsibilities they can’t adhere to. It’s always recommended that you provide as much information as possible on a job description so a candidate isn’t surprised once they apply.
You should be aware of any information your company is legally required to include on its job descriptions. For example, physical requirements for a position are commonly required but ask your legal adviser if there is anything else that needs to be covered.
Tips for writing a quality job description
Now that we’ve covered everything you should include in your job descriptions, let’s wrap things up with a few tips:
- Collaborate with the hiring manager – While job descriptions are often written by a recruiter, the hiring manager should be involved throughout the process so the finished product accurately sums up who they’re looking for.
- Use the right terminology – As we said earlier, job descriptions should be written in terminology that the right candidates use. If you use the wrong type of words, it could deter talented job seekers.
- Avoid negative or condescending language – Be careful of demanding too much from a prospective hire on the job description. “Don’t apply if you’re not passionate and hardworking” or similar phrases can turn off people who could have ended up being a great employee.
- Use general-neutral pronouns – Never write a job description using he/him or she/her pronouns. It implies you want to hire someone of a specific gender and can make a bad impression to a lot of job seekers.
- When in doubt, include too much information – A long job description isn’t a bad thing. Including as many details as possible helps attract just the right candidate and answers all their questions.