18 timeless best practices to create awesome job descriptions

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Karthik Subramanian

Karthik Subramanian

25th Sep, 2020

What is a job description?

A modern job description goes beyond providing a summary of skills, roles, and responsibilities for a job. It includes details such as perks, benefits, growth opportunities, team names, reporting manager titles, and the company culture.

By the time, a candidate skims through a job description, she is aware of what to expect in the role.

Why do you need it?

A job description helps in selling the job to a candidate. Today, companies are wooing candidates like customers. Why? Because top talent is hard to come by and hiring it can keep customers happy for a longer period. A great job description is the first step towards hiring great talent.

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Anatomy of a modern job description

So, what goes into a modern job description, really? Let us understand it.

  • Introduction – The opening section is about the company, management, and business lines. It includes annual revenues, employee base, and geographical presence.
  • Job title – The title is a key element of a job description. Let candidates know the job titles and the locations you’re hiring for.
  • Role – This is the meat of the job description. It describes the duties, functions, and responsibilities of a worker. It tells candidates their team names, designations of their reporting managers, and hierarchies. Usually, the role comes in about 2-3 paragraphs to set the expectations.

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  • Skills – This section explains the core skills that candidates must possess to apply for the job. It describes what experience and industry knowledge candidates must have to fulfill the requirements of the role.
  • Perks – The perks piece tells candidates what they’re entitled to in the company beyond their salaries. It includes coffee, free lunches, health insurance, and retirement benefits.
  • Culture – Modern job descriptions include company culture and work environment. Candidates want to know how their companies would look like before signing up.
  • Call to action – Every job description must have a call to action that tells candidates where to send their résumés or who to get in touch with for the next steps.

 

Modern job description best practices

Let us now examine the best practices to get your job descriptions right every time.

1. Get your introduction right

The introduction of your job description serves as the ‘hook.’ It prompts candidates to read more through it, so make it succinct and clear. Don’t include any fancy words in here unless you’re building a spaceship.

Some companies like Dashlane begin with a set of questions. This helps candidates evaluate themselves sub-consciously and encourages them to read more.

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2. Make it about the candidate

The job description is for the candidates. So, make it about them. How? By helping them visualize themselves in the role. Use more ‘You’ in the copy of a job description to sound as if you’re speaking to them directly.

Here’s Guild Education’s job description for an IT Operations Engineer. Notice the frequency of ‘You’ in the first paragraph itself.

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Salsify does this to great effect. The entire section about why “You’ll enjoy this role if” begins with the word ‘you.’ It appears as if the recruiting team is talking directly to aspiring candidates.

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3. Explain about your company

This section allows you to speak about your company, its history, management, industry, and a lot more. The challenge here is to compress a lot of information into about 100 words to give candidates a glimpse.

Imagine as if candidates haven’t heard about your company at all. How would you like to be known amongst them? What would you rather they remember about your company?

Whatfix does a great job here. They’ve explained what they do, highlighted their customers, and their funding rounds as well.

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4. Give out details

While creating an effective job description, aim to give out as many details as possible. Details could include:

  • Job title
  • Reporting manager designation
  • Remote work or location
  • Date until which the opportunity will be open
  • Precise candidate skillsets
  • Years of experience
  • Travel included or not
  • Compensation, perks, benefits,

Use a logical sequence to list the key requirements beginning with the introduction, explaining about roles, and ending with a call to action.

Collibra exemplifies this quite well. Not only do they give out all details, but also provide a glimpse into a day in the life of an employee. The copy invites applicants to imagine themselves in the role.

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However, while inserting details, be careful about making it too verbose. Long-winded job descriptions can discourage candidates from applying for the job.

 

5. Define the role clearly

From our analysis, a lot of companies struggle to define the roles clearly. The clarity in a job/role is a pre-requisite to getting top talent through the door.

Most companies provide too much information. It only confuses candidates and they may steer away from applying for the role.

We liked Databricks’ brevity in their roles and desired skillsets for a software engineer.

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HR folks must remember that the number of core skills for a job are limited and so they must restrict it to the top 3-4 ones. Other skills are ancillary to the role and they need not form part of the job description.

 

6. Fire up your job description

(When we say fire up the job description, we don’t mean you set it on fire 😊.) But what we mean is the job description must ooze energy. If you aren’t enthused about putting out your job roles and responsibilities, you will not attract go-getters in your company.

Klaviyo does a fantastic job here. Their job description finely balances the requirements of the job and being savvy about it.

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7. Sell your job description

The unique advantage of a job description is that it will attract a lot of website traffic from candidates who’re looking for a similar role. The downside is that they are probably perusing through several roles at the same time.

So, there isn’t much time for companies to convince candidates. That is why copywriting for a job description is crucial – they must sell the job to the candidate.

The copy of the job description must be so effective that candidates will be happy to part with their email ids.

In this aspect, we feel PandaDoc has nailed their job description of a Payroll & Tax Compliance manager. In clear bold headings, they call out the job responsibilities as “In this role, you will,” and in 3-4 simple sentences, they explain it.

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8. Use action verbs

Candidates are most likely to skim a job profile, so use action verbs to get across your point. These verbs are lively and express action or movement and enhance the tone of your copy.

Typical examples of action words are: assist, consolidate, create, demonstrate, evaluate, manage, organize, participate, predict, verify, etc.

 

9. Bullets trump long paragraphs

When we said, keep the reader in mind, we meant to make it easily consumable for them. This means arranging job descriptions in neat bullets than long paragraphs.

It enables readers to quickly scan and move ahead.

For example, Sendinblue explains the role of a bilingual customer care representative in single-line bullets. It leaves readers with no ambiguity about the role.

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10. Use a video

There is nothing like watching a video on a job description page. You can compress a lot into one video and convey it effectively.

Of course, it is too much work to create a video for every job profile. That is why a common careers video will do the job for you.

For example, HG Insights’ careers video on the banner of their job descriptions explains how the company helps its customers with deep insights.

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11. Create your own job description

A lack of adequate information about a job might force adopting text from another role or company. Every job is unique and so is the job description accompanying it.

So, while creating the job description, avoid using text from outside. This way, you’ll create job descriptions that are native to your company.

 

12. Show off your company culture

Every company has a culture of its own. This could be caring for the community, knowledge sharing sessions, brainstorming, etc. And, this must flow through in your job descriptions as well.

Otherwise, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to appeal to candidates uniquely. This could be included in the copy of your landing page or through pictures or via a video.

We liked how Zapier explains their company culture in their job descriptions. They believe small teams enable them to get the best out of their team members and explain it in the job descriptions as well.

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Many companies mistake vacations and Friday beer parties as the only cultural elements worth mentioning about. In reality, even little things matter, such as team meetings/huddles, cross-team relationships, first day experiences, etc.

 

13. Avoid mentioning salary

Salary is a tricky issue to tackle. Avoid using actual salary numbers in the job description at all costs. You could give a salary range. For example, $100,000-$140,000, which is fine because it tells people what they can expect.

And again, Zapier does a brilliant job of assuring employees that their compensation ranks among the best in the industry.

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14. Diversity

Diversity is a key topic today and it is no longer ‘optional’ to have it on job profiles. In fact, it is table stakes. Every job profile must append a paragraph about the company’s values around diversity.How-to-write-the-best-job-description-diversity-NurtureBox

 

Even a brief mention of how you encourage diversity in your company will be good enough.  Talkdesk (above) dedicates an entire paragraph to it. Here is how Sendinblue does it.

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15. Have a clear call to action

Every job description must end with a call to action (CTA). A CTA enables aspirants to apply for the job by uploading their résumés and cover letters to the job portal.

Therefore, the CTA must be clear with a distinctive color for the button that eases candidates to the next step.

Here’s Dashlane’s CTA at the bottom of the job description. It gives applicants multiple options to attach their curriculum vitae including manually attaching/pasting, Dropbox, and Google Drive.

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AppZen’s CTA is in a distinctive color that is easily noticeable, begins with an action verb, and finds a place both at the top and bottom of the webpage.

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16. Collect additional data

As your organization expands and hires more employees on board, you’d want to know what hiring strategy is working. Is it LinkedIn ads, job portals, employee referrals, or walk-in interviews? For this, you need data.

So, use the job profiles to collect such data that enables you to optimize your hiring strategy.

Dashlane collects data about how applicants heard about the job, which is a must-answer question before applying. It even elicits a reason why they’d like to apply for a role in the company.

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17. Give enough options to share

When you’ve created a job description for a role, why let it idle just on your website? Instead, why not let website visitors have more options to share it on social media or send the link via email.

That’s what 2checkout (now Verifone) does. The company provides a shareable URL on social platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

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18. Interview your employees

A job description includes a lot of trivial aspects that may not be possible for a recruiter to know. However, to get around this, interview your existing employees around the different aspects of the job. Ask them questions around:

  • What is the best candidate persona?
  • Name the must-have skills?
  • What is the ideal experience?
  • How does a day in the job look like?
  • What are the possible growth opportunities?

Probe deeper into the role with these questions and you’ll have a great job description including keywords that speaks directly to aspiring candidates.

 

Rounding it all up

A company’s relationship with its employees begins even before candidates read the job descriptions.

At first, they hear about your company from their friends, or from job boards. Then they check out the available openings and the accompanying job descriptions to see if there is a fit.

So, job descriptions are an effective medium to guide ambitious candidates through the employment process.

Getting your job descriptions right can get you the best talent. Use your job descriptions to welcome new talent to your company. It is much better than using an impassionate tone that yields no responses.

Karthik Subramanian

Karthik Subramanian I’m passionate about content marketing and I love to help people get started on their marketing journeys. I am a medium-distance runner and I love beaches (especially on balmy Sunday evenings). I can read a balance sheet and have a Bachelor of Commerce degree, but I’m wondering what to do with it.

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