Here’s How You Write a Succinct yet Comprehensive Job Description
Without a great job description, you won’t even attract great candidates
In the war for talent, there is no room for error — every company is trying to one-up the other company with better compensation packages and organizational cultures. Hiring today has also evolved into a complex weave of algorithm-aided human effort. In the era of the employee experience, candidates are changing their mindsets, which leaves companies going through hasty evolutions just to capture these talents.
However, the fundamentals for hiring are still the same.
Yet, there are companies still failing with their fundamentals. Many candidates often have gripes with companies for their unclear job descriptions and thus, it is one of the biggest requests by employees — 53% of job hunters want them to clearly explain expectations in the job descriptions.
Hiring managers — a good 73% of them — would tell you that they provide clear job descriptions. Unfortunately, only 36% of candidates agree.
The job description is significant: it communicates expectations, job responsibilities and other details of the compensation package. Moreover, it’s also where the employee experience first begins and where companies can look at to guide new employees during onboarding.
When a candidate is looking for a job and scrolling through job advertisement platforms, the company must ensure that their job descriptions can stand out amongst the dozens of descriptions from other companies.
Crafting great job descriptions also helps the company as well: employees know exactly what they need to do in the company, which can help increase their productivity. In this guide, we go into detail on how companies can craft and design great job description, meet the expectations of both the company and the candidates, and create a compelling job experience right from the start.
A job description looks simple. After all, it’s only about the job and it’s typically less than 1000 words — it’s about making the 1000 words count. The job description is where companies have the first opportunity to make a great impression on new candidates.
The skeleton of a job description is standard:
- Company mission. What’s the purpose of this company? Why does this company exist?
- Role. Why does your employee need to exist in the company? What does this employee do in the company on the daily?
- Responsibilities. What the specific tasks that the employee needs to do?
- Qualifications. What are the requirements for the job? What does the ideal candidate look like?
- Compensation. What’s the salary range like? What are the employee benefits?
Some job advertisement platforms allow companies to add other things that traditional job descriptions do not have. For instance, they might include pictures of the office or talk about the organizational culture. Regardless of the variation, there are five rules of thumb:
- Crafting job descriptions is a collaborative effort. It’s not solely up to the hiring manager to do it. Job descriptions are a team effort between the hiring team, the future teammates, and people who have had direct experience in the role. Every nuance of the role must be understood: that way, the hiring manager can see the big picture and how the candidate can fit into it.
- Always inject personality. Or not, if that’s the personality of the company. With dozens of job descriptions out there, the tone and language can be altered to suit the company brand image to help paint a more vivid picture of the company.
- Strike a balance. Effective job descriptions both inform and inspire. Key information like job responsibilities must be conveyed clearly, while also exciting candidates about being part of the company’s mission.
- Don’t write bullshit. Candidates appreciate personality but no one likes meaningless job titles. For example, title inflation, vogue-sounding titles, and pop culture references. It’s great to be an AVP — until you realize there are hundreds of them. Use meaningful, widely understood job titles.
- Avoid company jargon or acronyms. Internally-used acronyms should be left out of the job description, for example.
With these five rules in mind, let’s move on to the five-part framework.
Let’s face it: most company mission statements are full of yogababble and fluff. If you were to hire the best writer to craft and paint a picture of a perfect workplace, you’ll wind up betraying expectations. For employees, that’s a deal-breaker during their first three months, as Jobvite estimates that at least 45% of employees leave due to that.
However, the company mission is where you can create an emotional connection with the candidate. It’s still important to highlight the company’s and future team’s ambitions. The key is to stay authentic: employees are more likely to stick around when companies show the reality and are being genuine.
Startups often use an elevator pitch to describe why their work is exciting to an investor in thirty seconds — this is the same. Think of the role as an advertisement: in a single paragraph, you can share a handful of key objectives, convey information, and help candidates visualize their job.
Ultimately, you want to build excitement for the opportunity. Rather than a mundane “to-do” list (which you’ll get into later), you want to focus on why this employee needs to exist in the company. You need to help the candidate see how they fit into the picture and the impact they can have throughout the company.
This where you describe the day-to-day job duties in the role. It’s specific and it can be highly technical. It’s perfectly okay to make it long: candidates are more likely to be attracted if there are a lot of details. That way, the candidates can roughly envision how they will be like during their tenure.
Job responsibilities are unique to each role but generally, there is always a combination of a few essential functions:
- Deliverables. What are the tangible things that the employee has to create and deliver? For instance, “Relaying customer complaints to the relevant teams for follow-up.”
- Strategic goals. What the main objectives and KPIs that the employee can contribute to? For instance, “Maintain a constant supply of medical products for delivery.”
- Collaborating with particular people or teams. Sometimes, employees are expected to work with other departments, external units, and even customers themselves to get their job done. For instance, “Work with Tech Lead and other stakeholders.”
- Leadership expectations. These are more prominent in leadership positions, typically revolving around management expectations. For instance, “Grow a remote team of 6 and seek out talent for future expansion.”
- Growth opportunities. What are some roles that the employee might eventually grow into? What if the roles change over time?
The key is to think in hours and minutes: how much time will the employee spend on a certain task. If a developer will spend little of their time designing user interfaces, then it’s probably not in the job descriptions.
Depending on the context, some jobs may even require budgeting and reporting. While it is important to stuff as many details as you can into the job description, you must also remain authentic and truthful. Show the reality: are they going to stay long hours? Will they occasionally come back during weekends? Rather than have the candidates get a rude shock, communicate the expectations first.
Typically academic, job qualifications are used to describe a set of requirements for the job. For instance, education, experience, skills, licenses, and other certifications. Some physical jobs also include physical requirements and nonacceptable medical conditions. For this guide, we’ll assume that it’s a deskbound job.
There are two types of qualifications:
- Minimum qualifications are typically non-negotiable. They are considered fundamental for the job. Depending on the role, it can be academic certifications, professional accreditations or a specific type of experience. For instance, an ACCA qualification, a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, or 3 years experience in Python.
- Preferred qualifications are “good-to-haves” that the company envisions to be with their ideal candidate. Typically more qualitative, these are mostly soft skills or portfolio-related. For instance, experience running a startup for 3 years or experience developing mobile applications using Java. Sometimes, these are indicated as [xxx type of experience preferred].
It’s important to always remain flexible unless it’s a necessitated or legally required qualification. There are times where candidates demonstrate considerable skill: more than one who studied in that field. Some candidates may also have valuable experience that can benefit the company in different ways.
Hence, hiring managers have to think from different angles, rather than treat the job requirements like a commandment. For companies that rely on algorithmic screening, it is important to have a human look through the pile that did not ‘make it’, so as to discover the candidates that have different talents.
Is there allowance provided for a remote working space? Is the job contract-based? How much is the remuneration? Does the medical insurance cover dependencies? A compensation package is typically detailed at the end of the job description.
Companies need to be truthful here —some of their salary details are behind words like “competitive”, which gives the candidates no clue since they do not know where the company gets their market rates from. Hence, rather than hide the information, it is best to simply give it to the candidate upfront, or communicate after during the first round of interviews.
If there are things that can be negotiable, ensure that it is also detailed upfront.
Planning and owning the hiring process is a lot of work. Every single step involves a lot of envision and visualizing, even for something as basic as the job description. In the era of the employee experience, organizations have to look at their company philosophy so as to redesign the way they hire, onboard, and manage employees.
In hiring, the job description is the first contact with the employee. Without crafting and designing something that stands out above the dozens of other job descriptions, the whole employee experience is ruined. A job description that is vague and poor in communicating expectations is also a problem. When employees start working longer at the company, they might find that they are working more than what the job stated, which negatively impacts the employee experience.
The war for talent is escalating with the advent of technology, competitive job market, and the general economic situation. Without making the right first step, companies will wind up losing this war spectacularly.
Like this article? We deliver even more value on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday every week on our H+B Digest.
Here’s How You Hire In 2020
The ultimate guide: all the parts you need to know what goes into hiring
Here’s How You Build and Align Workplace Culture
The Definitive Guide to Building and Aligning Company Culture In Any Company Size