A candidate’s first point of contact with your company is probably the job description. Even if you’re an established, well-known brand, the job description is directly addressing your potential employee and it is, in many ways, a sales pitch for your company as a great place of work. First impressions count and this is your chance as a company to leave the candidate feeling positive about the position you are offering and your company.

How can you optimise your job description and leave a job-seeker with a positive impression?

writing a job description

How long should a job description be?

It depends. When a job description is too short it could seem rather vague and the candidate may feel like not enough thought has been put into the role. One must also keep in mind that as your first point of contact with the candidate, it cannot simply be a sentence long. It needs to show structure, the qualifications required and what is expected of the applicant on the job.

It may also very well depend on the job in question. Some jobs may require more detail in the job description, highlighting the tasks in hand, the qualifications required, and what is expected of the individual. In other cases, if the title itself is straightforward – such as Content Writer, the job description does not need to be too long. Especially in editorial situations where being economical with words is highly prized. It is also worth noting that many may be reading your vacancy on mobile and not on desktop. A sentence on mobile can easily take 5-10 lines whereas on desktop it takes 2. When in doubt, test it yourself.

Research internally

Do you already have employees in the same position you’re advertising? Ask them to review the job description and give feedback on which tasks they actually do and which ones have been replaced. This will be a good exercise especially for job descriptions which have been written a while back. Your business changed, chances are the roles have changed too. Asking internally doesn’t simply show your employees that you care, but that you are after improving the team. It’s also good management sense to utilise internal resources first before throwing the net blindly.

Mind your language

Make sure to avoid any gender-specific words or any terms which might discourage certain applicants from applying. Keep an open mind and ask yourself if your wording may be alienating minorities too. If you are working towards diversifying your workforce (as one should), let candidates know. Many will appreciate you stating this. Moreover, check your tone. Is your job description too casual? Is it too formal? How does it reflect the culture of the organisation? A LinkedIn study shows that far too casual wording or even job titles such as “Software Ninja” can push away candidates. It does not reflect professionally on the company and it is worth remembering this is a job description, not an invite to a party.

Another point to keep in mind is whether the job description is “scannable”. Research has shown that many candidates skim through a job description, so it is worth making sure that all important points are highlighted through the use of bullet points and by using important keywords rather than wordy paragraphs.

Make sure the structure is sound

If you intend to attract professionals, the job description should be equally professional. Apart from proper spelling and punctuation, which goes without saying, make sure that there is structure to your job description. Using bullet points, outlining qualifications and responsibilities as well as listing perks and/or benefits will make your job description more readable. Start with introducing the company and the role’s place within the company. The company description doesn’t need to be a long-winding paragraph. Stating what the company does and what it is in business for is enough. This also helps the candidate see if they identify with the company’s mission. After all, more and more people are after meaningful work. The following structure is often the most effective one:

  • Job title
  • Short sentence introducing the job
  • Company description (highlighting the respective department, if applicable)
  • The employee’s place within the organisation (for example: “Uses their passion for numbers to provide business insights. They will be responsible for conducting analysis for clients and users.”
  • Responsibilities (ideally in bullet points)
  • Qualifications and/or experience required
  • Compensation / benefits
  • Contact information

Include the salary

Money will always remain an important motivator and including compensation within your job description is an added point in your favour for transparency. It also avoids wasting both the candidates’ time and your own if the salary expectations don’t align. Nowadays salary information is becoming more and more exposed. Including the salary (or at least a bracket commensurate to experience) will motivate the right candidates to apply.

Use industry jargon

If you are hiring individuals for a department you know nothing (or little) about, ask a professional in the industry to point out what you may be looking for. Using industry-specific terms will improve the quality of the candidates applying as well as demonstrate that you know what you’re doing. As with our first point above, it will show if the role has not been well thought out and does not reflect professionally if the job description is poor.

Bonus: give feedback

Once you’ve reeled in a candidate and they’ve chosen to apply to your role, don’t stop there and think the “sale is final”. Give feedback to the candidate and remember that they’ve taken the time to apply to the vacancy you advertised. Even if the feedback is not positive, the candidate will appreciate the fact that you’ve actually read through their application and taken the time to reply. If another opportunity comes along in your company they won’t hesitate to apply, or even, refer a friend.

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