5 Keys to Writing a Good Job Description

writingI read a job description from a new client recently and was pleasantly surprised.  It was good.  It was well-written, thoughtful and I understood who they were, what they were looking for, what the experience of working there would be like and why the right person would want the job.  Very unusual.

I have become quite used to the standard corporate boilerplate job description.  In fact, if you search the Jobs page of our website you will see dozens.

They are basically copies of each other… or of related, earlier versions of themselves.   They have the standard catch phrases.  They list responsibilities and requirements that seem designed to give you a general sense for what TYPE of job it is.

If you follow these 5 keys, it will take you an extra 30-minutes to write the job description, but it will be good.  I would like to think that helps your chances of recruiting the right candidate.

1.  Tell a story. Explain the history of the role, the key players, why the role is open, what you are trying to accomplish with the role, etc.  Try to weave this all into a bit of a narrative.  Don’t just bullet point requirements and responsibilities.

2.  Don’t use in-house lingo.  All big companies have their own names for functions, departments, teams, in-house tools and titles.  Nobody outside the company knows what any of that means.  Why describe the role in those terms when 100% of your audience is external?

3.  Define success.  How will I know if have succeeded?  Short term and long term.

4.  Don’t write laundry lists of requirements.  Many of the job descriptions that I read contain extensive lists and combinations of skills and experience that do not exist in nature.  Qualified candidates often read these and roll their eyes. If you don’t understand the marketplace for the job you are trying to fill, ask someone who does.

Tell highly qualified candidates why they should want your job. Sell the company, sell the team, the growth potential, the learning potential, the impact of the role, the exposure to key players, your corporate culture, your location… whatever you have as selling points should be in there.

Most of the time your HR department, or internal recruiters, will not have the bandwidth to do this.  They will issue you a boilerplate.  As the hiring manager it is up to you to put out a quality job description.


2 thoughts on “5 Keys to Writing a Good Job Description

  1. I find #4 one of the first things I scan when a recruiter/HR person sends me a job profile. So many of the profiles I see have, as Corry says, an unrealistic list of skill/experience requirements. I’ve seen some that I would guess no more than 5 people in this world would have. When I see that I think two things: You don’t really have any idea of what you need; Whoever takes that job is not going to be capable of all of those things, so will end up disappointing you and have a negative work experience.

    The other thing you will find with these big lists is if some people who do have lots of these qualifications respond, you will be wasting their time and yours because what you are offering is usually grossly inadequate for that inflated skill list. Your list should realistically reflect the level and amount of skills you are willing to pay for.

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