A job description is the first thing a person looks at before applying for a role. So, how do you write a JD that will compel top talent to apply for a role in your company? In this blog, I have written in detail about job descriptions. I have covered a wide range of topics, right from its importance, steps to write one and things to keep in mind while doing so.
- What is a Job Description?
- Why is writing a good job description important?
- What are the steps involved in writing a good JD?
- Samples of good job descriptions
- What biases occur in job descriptions?
- Things to keep in mind while writing a job description
- What are the available channels to post the job description?
What is a job description?
Writing a job description is one of the first steps involved in the hiring process. According to Edwin B. Flippo, a job description is an organized, factual statement of the duties and responsibilities of a specific job. As the name suggests, it is descriptive in nature and basically describes everything, relevant to the job.
It is a broad statement of purpose that highlights the scope, requirements, responsibilities and benefits of any particular job. The description is usually drawn up by someone from the same department because they know the requirements of the role well. This is done with help of an HR professional.
Why is writing a great job description important?
As mentioned already, a job description is the first thing a person looks at before applying for a role. That in itself makes it so important. It is the deciding factor that either makes an applicant want to apply for a role or look for another company. Let us now look at other reasons why job descriptions are so important.
Provides the potential applicant with all relevant details
A good JD helps applicants understand what the role entails. Hence they will be able to decide if that’s the kind of work they wish to be doing or not. When you are clear about goals and expectations through a well written JD, you ensure a better pool of applications. This is because only the applicants already know what they’re applying for.
A job description is seen as a reflection of your employer brand
Right from the tone and language to the job requirements mentioned, everything reflects your employer brand. So how do you portray your employer reputation through your JD?
Culture plays a huge role in the hiring process. Say, for example, your company is pretty laid back, the tone of your job description should be too. Don’t make very high demands and add longs lists of tasks to be done by the new employee. On the other hand, if your company is very fast-paced and your new hire is expected to work in a similar way, mention that in your JD. Let it also reflect in the language you use. In short, you need to stay true to yourself and your company. Only reflect who you are, because the applications will come in according to the JD.
A good JD will help you attract the best and right talent. Focusing on the requirements and selling your brand will help you attract talent that fits in perfectly.
Job descriptions set the expectations right from the beginning
When a new employee joins a company, they do so knowing what the job requirements and responsibilities are. They know exactly what to expect and what is expected of them. So, when all the details are known in advance, there is little or no room for excuses, confusion or error.
As a result, productivity goes up and so does employee retention. I say employee retention because when employees know what to expect and are doing they are more likely to stay with your company rather than switch jobs.
Helps create boundaries with respect to an employee’s role
When there is a written document that has information about the kind of work the employee is supposed to do, the employer cant keep making changes. Hence it in a way sets boundaries and limits to the workload put on the employee by senior managers.
What are the steps involved in writing a good job description?
Writing a good JD is no small feat. But if you follow these steps well, you will be able to attract high-quality talent that is best suited for your company. So read on.
Think about what your ideal candidate’s profile would look like
You need to do this so that you know what kind of job description to write. You need to actually sit to think about the kind of role you want to fill. Whether it is someone who will take on a general role, for example in the case of an HR, some will who will do all HR-related work rather than just recruiting. or do you want a specialist, who will only focus on training and development and nothing else.
Other such decisions include whether you want a leader or follower. This means, are you looking for someone who will take charge and be proactive or someone who will sit back and work only after receiving orders. Do you want a know-it-all or someone who you are willing to train?
Basically, make a rough summary of the characteristics you think of when you think of someone who could fill the role. Knowing this before will help you write a JD that will attract similar people.
Write a catchy job title
Very often when people say catchy job titles, they immediately associate it with words like ‘wizard’, ‘guru’ or ‘master’. But such words are so generic and will never do any good to a job description. Instead, use words that best capture the role itself. Say, for example, if you are looking for an engineer, using titles like full-stack software developer will serve better than software guru. You also need to be aware of the kind of job titles people are looking for. This is so that your job posting appears in search results. Do this by looking at some other titles for similar roles.
Talk about major responsibilities
What’s the point of a job description of not telling people what you expect them to do if and when hired. Don’t go on a rant in this section though. Make it as structured as possible and use bullets.
Try fitting the major responsibilities along with some of the day-to-day tasks in 5-6 points. If you write too much here, people might not apply thinking it’ll be way too much work. On the other hand, less information is no good either. So, keep it as accurate and realistic as possible. Be straightforward about what is expected of the employee.
Qualifications and skills required
For any job, there are a set of basic skills and requirements that need to be fulfilled. This can vary from role to role. Say, for example, if you are looking for an HR Head, who will manage every single HR 4responsibility within your startup, you should probably look for someone who has completed certified HR courses or maybe an MBA in HR. You should even be looking for someone with at least 7-8 years of relevant experience.
So mention these requirements accurately as it will affect the applicants. Don’t exaggerate the requirements thinking you’ll get the best possible candidate. Because you won’t! You’ll end up with an overly qualified employee who is either bored or fed up with the lack of challenge. This in turn will lead to a higher turnover rate.
Mention the company’s vision mission and goals in the job description
A person’s productivity is largely affected by the people they work with and by company culture. Your company culture is determined by the vision and mission. If any employee’s personal ethics are not in sync with that of the company’s, then they won’t be able to be as productive as you expect. This is where you sell your employer brand.
People often forget that recruiting has a lot of similarities with marketing. A marketer finds ways to sell more of a product or convert more leads. An HR tries to sell the job to various applicants, first y getting them to apply for the role and then by getting them to accept the role. This is where you sell your reputation in the best way possible and get qualified applicants to understand that your company is probably the best placed to work.
Now on to the most important part of the job description. The salary. This can make or break the deal completely. Make sure the salary figure you mention on the JD is within the range of similar roles and similar to what your competitors offer. If the salary is too low you won’t get many good applicants, but if it’s too high, well, it is only going to burn a hole in your budget.
Another option is to mention a range rather than the exact amount. That way you can meet candidates and decide how much your want to fix as a salary for that particular candidate.
Additional benefits and perks
Many companies offer regular benefits like health care, dental insurance etc. But here, apart from mentioning those, also add other perks. Maybe your company has a free snack bar (for in-office workers) or maybe you provide a flexible leave policy. The reason behind mentioning additional perks is they help you stand out from other recruiters.
Let us take an example, where an applicant has applied for a job in your company and for a job in your competitor’s company. The pay is exactly the same and so is the role. The only thing based on which the candidate can now make the choice is company culture as well as additional perks and benefits. This is where you convince applicants they need to choose your company over your competitors.
You should also add what kind of job you’re offering. The different types of employment types are
- Part-time job
- Full-time jobs
- Fixed-term or contractual employees
Location of the job
Obviously, with the current pandemic, employees across the board are working from home. But what happens once the situation improves? Do you have a work from home policy for then? Will employees continue to work from home or do you want them to travel to the workplace? In that case, where is your workplace located? No candidate is going to apply to any company which makes them travel 2 hours one way. So mentioning this may help filter candidates.
Mention a little bit about the hiring process
This may not be absolutely necessary, but it’s good for the candidates to know what the next step of the entire hiring process would look like. It doesn’t have to be very detailed. Something as simple as ‘if your profile is selected we’ll get in touch within a week’ along with the mention of how many interviews across a given timeframe is enough. You could even use chatbots to solve applicant queries about the hiring process and make a good first impression.
Highlight the learning opportunities
Especially if your hiring freshers or interns you should be able to teach them something while on the job. Highlight how you can help them become better professionals in the field or industry. Even with respect to senior employees, offering a chance to learn may be an added bonus to join your company.
Samples of job descriptions
Now that you know the steps that need to be followed while writing a job description, I have added some samples for better understanding. I have added images from Angel list that I thought would serve as a good reference for you.
Example of a job description for a Software Engineer
In this job description, Asanify has clearly mentioned all the necessary details. It is well-structured and easy to read.
The key responsibilities are very specific, so any candidate applying knows exactly what their work will be.
The stipend is mentioned in a range so that the final decision lies with the founder who can decide while selecting the candidate. There are two CTA (i.e. a call to action) buttons as well that encourage readers to apply for the job.
Apart from the regular information they have also added a press release link so that the candidates can learn more about the company. A third party link like this adds credibility, especially when your a startup and need to convince people to join.
Example of a Product Marketer’s job description
This is an example of a job description written for the role of a director of product marketing and growth.
A product marketer is someone who needs to have a strong technical background apart from being good at the marketing aspects.
It is an extremely technical role that requires very specific skillsets. Hence, a longer JD. I have only added a section of the JD. This is a very good example of a JD for a product marketer.
Here, they have asked for someone who has 4+ years of experience (mentioned in the beginning, so not in the image). Apart from that, the background is also very specific.
They have also a section specifically about the company. Especially in the case of product marketer, this becomes important because they need to know about the product!
A sample job description for the role of a product manager
This is a sample of a product manager’s job description. A product manager is someone who is responsible for the product’s planning and execution throughout the product life cycle.
In this job description, the founder is very specific about the kind of background or know-how that is required for the job. Being a technical role that requires 3+ years of experience in this case, the applicant will know exactly whether they fit the criteria or not.
The benefits are also mentioned very well, right from medical insurance to a flexible leave policy. The person who wrote the JD is also clearly stating the work culture in the benefits section, where he talks about the casual atmosphere and light meeting culture.
Sample job description for a sales representatives job
This is an example of a sales development representatives role.
While writing a job description, it is important to segregate between needed qualifications and nice-to-haves. That is exactly what is done here.
Very often people notice that they don’t have all the requirements mentioned in a JD and tend to not apply. Segregation like this encourages more people to apply.
Here in the JD, they are very specific about the kind of responsibilities as well, be it cold calling, lead qualification or working in collaboration with marketing.
What are biases in job descriptions?
Biases in the job description may not seem like such a big deal, but they are. They affect a huge number of applicants applying for your company. Most of the time unconscious biases cause candidates in your applicant pool to be extremely similar, hence eliminating any kind of diversity within your company.
So what are the different types of biases and how can you eliminate them?
Did you know that women only apply for jobs they are 100% qualified for? So, if you have any requirements that they don’t fulfil, they might not even apply! So when you write out a JD, avoid adding requirements that may be flexible. You could also divide the requirements into definitely needed and preferred. Also, based on the social role theory, women are more likely to apply for roles where the job description empathetic, sensitive, commit etc while men subconsciously react to words like dominant, superior or driven. So make sure you avoid using such terms altogether.
Elitism or affinity bias
Affinity bias is basically the tendency to get along with people who are similar to you, whereas elitism is the tendency to hire candidates who only come from big branded business schools or colleges. While students coming in from top-notch universities may be good at what they do, they are definitely not the only people with potential. When you hire only from such colleges, you end up giving up any kind of diversity in your workplace. Hence, everyone has the same perspective and way of thinking.
How to prevent unconscious bias from creeping into the job description?
Firstly, it is important to know that there are two types of biases that can occur. One is implicit bias and the other is explicit bias. Explicit biases are intentional and can be controlled. On the other hand, implicit biases happen at a subconscious level. A person could also express explicitly their bias if they harbour any similar implicit biases.
So how do you prevent them from occurring?
- Understand the biases that could be included
- Be mindful of the kind of language you use while writing the JD. Avoid any biased language
- Needless to say, but do not use gendered pronouns like he/she. This is a very easy-to-make mistake, but also just as simple to rectify. (This includes words like ‘guys’ or ‘brotherhood’)
- Make sure you get other people, who can review the job description for you, to ensure that you aren’t bias
- Ensure your work culture is suitable for people from all walks of life, and showcase that in your JD
Things to keep in mind while writing a job description
Rember to follow these things so that you will compel more people to apply for a job at your company
- Avoid buzzwords and vague terms in the title. Instead, use descriptive terminology that will help applicants understand the role better
- Use the right keywords. They will ensure that the job advertisements appear on search engines which people search for them
- It’s all about the details. Mention details about the job and company rather than random statements about things
- Don’t exaggerate the job qualification or requirements. This will only result in overqualified candidates applying, who will very easily get bored with the job. Instead, be specific with what you need and the kind of candidate you’re looking for
- The JD should be easy to read. Make sure the JD is well structured. There shouldn’t be any long paragraphs and divide content into bullet points. Ensure that it is skimmable
- Focus on the future of your company. While it is good to highlight past milestones, the candidate isn’t going to work for you in the past. Hence, talk about where you see the company going in the next couple of years.
- Focus on company culture (stay true to company values and style)
- Remember to get someone to proofread the Job Description. There’s nothing worse than a typo or error. It makes you seem extremely unprofessional and careless.
- Make it mobile-friendly. A lot of times, people search for jobs from their phones rather than from their laptops. In such cases, if your JD has too much text, it forces the applicants to shift to a laptop. Just for that, you stand to lose applicants, because there will be people who just won’t take that extra step.
- Maintain consistency in job descriptions (even across roles within the company)
What are the available channels to post the job description?
Using the right channels to advertise a job description is crucial with respect to the quantity as well as the quality of candidates that apply. So, what are the possible channels?
- Social media platforms. LinkedIn is a very commonly used social media platform to post job descriptions. Apart from that, you could use Facebook as well.
- Job posting websites. There are many job posting websites available. They include Glassdoor and naukri.com. Some of them are even free. Glassdoor even offers options to build a company profile and to get your current or past employees to add reviews too. These reviews will help you better your employer reputation because the reviews are coming straight from your employees.
- Company website. Posting a JD on a company website makes it look more authentic and is also a great way to make a first good impression on the candidate
How to choose the right channel to post the job description
The consequences of making the wrong choice are more damaging than the effectiveness of choosing the right channels. Below I have listed a few metrics that you can use while checking to see which channels are the most useful for you-
- Volume of applicants
- Number of qualified applicants
- Success for new recruiters
- Cost per hire
- Time per hire
In a nutshell, when you write a job description, be as specific as possible. Don’t use random vague terms that don’t serve any purpose. Research the role as much as possible to find out what candidates are searching for with respect to job titles. Make sure that the salary figure you mention is also in the range of other offers made for similar roles.
But most importantly, stay true to yourself and your company. Let the job description reflect who your company is, what your company culture stands for. Make sure the ton of the JD reflects all of this.
A job description is an informative document that talks about the role being offered by a company. It carries information about the responsibilities, duties, company culture, perks and benefits and salary of a particular job.
A job description is important because it helps candidates know what kind of role they are applying for. It sets expectations from the very beginning. It also helps ensure that people applying for a job in your company are suited to your requirements and needs.
Ideally, a job description should be no longer than 500-600 words (i.e. roughly somewhere around 4500 characters). Candidates usually skim through JDs, hence it is important for it to be well structured and easy to read. Use bullet points and small sections rather than huge paragraphs