Knowing how to write a job description is one of the key components to attracting and hiring the best talent. That means it’s an essential skill for hiring managers, HR professionals and recruiters.
What is a Job Description?
A job description is a formal listing of the specific responsibilities and important details about an employment position. Though it isn’t the exact thing as a job posting, the job posting includes the job description. A job posting may include additional information about the company.
A good job description will:
- Help attract the right candidates
- Be a template for writing your job posting and advertisements
- Increase the diversity of your applicant pool
- Serve as a guide for writing your interview questions and candidate evaluation
- Set realistic expectations for the new hire
- Assist managers/supervisors with performance reviews and identifying areas for training or development
- Prevent legal problems with federal agencies in the event of a discrimination allegation
Why is a Good Job Description Important?
First off, a job description is usually the first touchpoint a candidate has with your company. If it’s professional and compelling it reflects well on your organization. Conversely, if it’s full of cliches and trite phrases, or grammar and spelling mistakes, high quality candidates will pass it by.
In addition, a good job description will set expectations for prospective applicants. This saves everyone time and frustration. If a job description doesn’t clearly outline the role, unqualified job seekers may apply. Or perhaps qualified job seekers will apply without understanding the nature of the position. If they are hired and the actual job is different than what the job description described, they may move on. At that point, you’ve both wasted time and your company has wasted money. Not to mention that the former employee won’t be likely to speak well of the experience. If it happens repeatedly, it can damage your brand.
How to Write a Job Description
What makes a good job description? Creating a standardized process is the first step.
Firstly, gather the appropriate people for the task. The manager to whom the position will report might be the best person to take the lead. If there are other employees performing similar jobs, they can also contribute. Additionally, if the position is new and will relieve current employees of work load, they should be part of the discussion.
Secondly, perform a job analysis. You need as much data as possible. The job analysis may include the job responsibilities of current employees, internet research and sample job descriptions for similar jobs. It would include an analysis of the duties, tasks, and responsibilities of the position. The more information you can gather, the easier it will be to write the description.
Thirdly, write the job description. The format and style for writing job descriptions is different from any other type of business writing. It is not a complex process, but you should follow a basic format and include specific components. The basic components are listed below. Following the list, we discuss each in more detail.
Here is a job description template:
- Irresistible intro
- Job location
- Job title
- (Optional) Salary or wage
- The person the position will report to
- Job responsibilities
- Candidate requirements (must-haves)
- Desired candidate qualifications (nice-to-haves)
- Work environment
- Statement about company and benefits
- EEOC statement
Many job postings start with the location and job title. We have included an intro because it will set your job posting apart. Today’s hiring environment is very competitive. Job seekers interested in your opening will see dozens (maybe hundreds!) of postings for the same position. What will make yours stand out?
That’s where a unique, enticing opener comes in. Tap your marketing team to help you with this part. Specifically, whomever writes your landing pages, social posts, website copy or email nurtures. It’s their job to grab the reader’s attention using as few words as possible. Recruitment and marketing have much in common. Both seek to bring individuals to your company, whether a job seeker or customer.
Check out this lead-in for a Content Marketing Manager position:
Interested in defining how AI shapes the future of work? Cresta is on a mission to make every knowledge worker 100x as effective, 10x faster and 10x better. (LinkedIn)
Here’s one for a Graphic Designer position at a marketing agency:
Think fast and edit faster? Dream in 9:16? Ok, we’ll cut the BS. Sculpt designers make the attention-grabbing social media creative assets we need and love. Can you help us make awesome content? We’re hiring freelance and full-time creatives. (Sculpt)
Compare it to this snoozer:
Under the direction of the Art Director, the Graphic Designer will perform a wide variety of graphic design functions. Responsibilities include design and production of print and digital collateral: brochures, direct mail, environmental graphics, invitations, advertisements, and graphics for web, social media, e-mail, and video.
If the position is remote, this may not seem important, but include it anyway. Regardless of where the employee will be working, let them know where your company is based. Many job seekers search for positions by city. LinkedIn and other job sites also send postings to candidates. They match up job locations with the candidate’s location. Therefore, if you don’t list a location, you may not get the same exposure for your posting.
The job title should accurately reflect the type of work. For example “clerk,” “processor,” or “analyst”. Furthermore, it should also indicate the level of work being performed; “senior analyst” or “lead accountant”. Avoid acronyms, jargon, and overly-creative job titles. Be clear and concise. Don’t make it difficult for applicants to know if they want to apply. You might call your website manager a Digital Alchemist. Don’t do it in a job description.
The job summary describes the primary reason for and function of the job. It also provides an overview of the job and introduces the responsibilities. The job summary should describe the job without detailed task descriptions. Its length should range from one sentence to a paragraph, depending on the complexity of the job. It is easier to write the summary once you have completed the more detailed information.
Example: A job summary for a Human Resources Director
“Manages the human resources function and day-to-day human resources management activities throughout the organization. This includes employee recruiting, orientation, compensation, benefits, and related programs. Manages all HR functions, staff, and the HR department budget.”
Begin each job responsibility with a present tense action verb and describe the area of responsibility in action terms. Normally, there will be 7 to 10 responsibilities, depending on the job. Examples:
- Develops marketing programs directed at increasing product sales and awareness.
- Writes programming code to develop various features and functionality for commercial software products.
- Designs and develops user interfaces for commercial software products.
- Supervises technical support employees in providing technical support to organization clients.
- Manages development of advertising and various marketing collateral materials.
Minimum Candidate Requirements
This section describes the minimum knowledge, skills, and abilities. This information helps determine if the candidates are minimally qualified. However, avoid arbitrary requirements that are difficult to validate. Include only the minimally acceptable requirements. Moreover, do not inflate requirements and be specific and realistic.
It’s important to remember not to consider the education, experience, or skill level of current job holders. Include only what the job actually requires. Moreover, ensure the requirement relates to how and why the job is done
Requirements should include:
- Education —the type and minimum level, such as high school diploma and/or bachelor’s degree.
- Experience —the type and minimum level, such as three to five years of supervisory experience, five years of editing experience, and two years of experience with content management systems.
- Special skills — such as languages spoken and computer software proficiencies.
- Certifications and licenses — such as industry certifications and practitioners’ licenses.
Desired Additional Candidate Requirements
Of course, there are always additional qualifications on your wish list. Be careful, however. If you list too many, you may discourage perfectly qualified candidates. You also don’t want your job description to be too long.
Work Environment/Physical Requirements
Work environment and physical requirements often overlap, so we’ve included them together. Consider the following example:
Must be able to perform work requiring manual dexterity, climbing, lifting, and working at heights and in confined spaces where advanced mechanical aptitude is required.
In this case, the physical requirements describe the work environment by default.
Consider noise level, temperature, exposure to chemicals, indoors/outdoors, proximity to moving machinery, repetitive motion, UV light, etc.
Here is another example:
Install all types of solar panels and associated equipment in residential and commercial settings. Most installations are performed on rooftops.
When describing physical requirements, list specifics such as lifting heavy objects or standing for long periods of time. Examples include:
- Requires ability to lift large and heavy packages.
- Must be physically capable of safely lifting a minimum of 50 lbs. without assistance.
- Requires the ability to work flexible shifts.
- Must be able to travel 50% to other job sites.
- Able to meet tight deadlines in a fast-paced work environment.
All job descriptions should have a disclaimer that clearly states that the description is only a summary of the typical functions of the job, not an exhaustive or comprehensive list of all possible responsibilities, tasks, and duties. Additionally, disclaimers should also state that the responsibilities, tasks, and duties of the jobholder might differ from those outlined in the job description and that other duties may be assigned. It’s important to understand that in a labor union environment, the job description could be literally interpreted.
Make the Job Description About the Candidate
It is helpful to think about what would make the job enticing to the applicant. Be intentional about this editing step. With any kind of business writing, it’s natural to get wrapped up in our own perspective. It’s takes conscious effort to see the description through the eyes of the job seeker. Doing this effectively will improve the performance of your postings.
What to Avoid in Your Job Description
Unnecessary qualifications: only include what is actually required to perform the job.
Non-inclusive language: remove language that could discourage candidates from underrepresented groups, e.g. “digital native”
Cliches: “self-starter,” “go-getter,” “team player”.
Idioms, slang and corporate jargon
Get Feedback from Your Hiring Team
The more people that review your description throughout the editing process, the better. As mentioned previously, ask current employees performing the job to review it. If you are not the hiring manager, you need to work closely with that person to make sure it effectively conveys all aspects of the position.
Many people at your company could help describe the culture and work atmosphere. This is another area where your marketing team could help the description come alive.
If your team is working remotely, put your job description draft in a Google Doc so team members can review and add feedback at their convenience.
Job Description Examples
Drywall Carpenter General Foreman
- Sacramento, CA
- $35-$40 an hour, Full-Time
Essential Responsibilities and Duties
- Supervise all field production activities
- Assist the Foreman in planning the job, ordering materials and managing employee schedules
- Establish project goals and monitor the success of goals throughout the project
- Monitor labor efficiencies, project labor needs for the duration of the project
- Achieve productivity objectives by effectively managing and assigning tasks to crew members
- Maintain an accurate labor tracking log and communicate with key project personnel
- Use a proactive approach to anticipate and resolve potential issues
Skills and Experience Requirements
- 3-5 years experience as a General Foreman Drywall framer or similar role
- Lift and/or pull 75 lbs., climb ladders, work off ladders, lifts or other equipment
- Ability to maintain a standing position for extended periods of time, fully squat, bend or kneel while wearing a tool belt
- Capable of working in a variety of weather conditions
- Uphold company core values of integrity, leadership, passion and excellence at all times
- Support activities at all job sites as directed
[COMPANY NAME] provides commercial construction services throughout the United States, delivering innovative solutions and outstanding service to our customers for time-tested buildings and facilities. As a 100% employee-owned quality contractor, we hire the best people, give them exceptional training, and provide robust opportunities for professional growth.
What to Avoid in Your Job Description
As you craft your job descriptions, make sure you avoid the following:
- Poor formatting (keep things organized with bulleted lists)
- Trendy buzzwords (e.g. “bones day” “black belt” “unicorn”)
- Gender-biased language (e.g. “seeking someone who can manage his schedule”)
- Vague business jargon (e.g. “savvy go-getter”)
This article is part of our multi-volume guide: How to Hire Employees:
- Create a Job Description
- Define Your Hiring Criteria
- Post Job to Job Boards
- Candidate Screening
- Schedule Interviews
- How to Conduct Interviews
- Collecting Team Feedback
- Making Your Selection
- Extending The Job Offer
- Hiring Your Next Employee
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