6 Hacks for Writing the Perfect Job Description

6 Hacks for Writing the Perfect Job Description

If You’re Serious about Attracting Top Talent, Get Serious About your Job Postings

If you’re like many hiring managers these days, you’ve probably experienced your fair share of underwhelming applications, insufficient resumes and cookie-cutter cover letters.

Imagine how candidates feel when they come across the equally uninspired job description you just posted. I hate to the one to tell you but, in this market, they’re not going to apply.

It’s true. Writing the job description is no longer a mere exercise in task lists and required qualifications. Today, you need to be a top-notch marketing manager. You need to attract the attention of the very best people in the field. And you need to stand out in a field of many hiring employers.

So, how are your marketing, advertising and copywriting skills?

If that sounds intimidating, I’m sorry. It is intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. Even without a marketing background, you can write a perfect job posting. Try these 6 surprisingly simple hacks:

1. “You” Are In a Conversation
First, stop writing like a robot and start a conversation. Seriously. You wouldn’t use tired, soul-destroying phrases like, “the ideal candidate will be …” would you? No, you wouldn’t. You’d say, “you are.” And you’d explain that, “at XYZ Company, you will join a team of…” instead of droning on with “About XYZ Company: Our Vision and Values.” See what I mean? You want top candidates to know their skills and experiences are highly valued by you and your company. You want to instantly make them imagine working with you – and believe that, if they do, they’ll be challenged, satisfied, recognized and rewarded. (And if you still want to reference the company’s stated Vision and Values, add a link to that page on your website.)

2. Keep the Reader’s Eyes Moving with Smart Formatting
We live in a headline driven, bullet-pointed world, my friend. Giant blocks of text have the same effect as tall brick walls. They stop people from moving forward. Here, white spaces are your friends. Use them between the paragraphs, sentences and bullet-pointed lists. The key here is simple, visual interest. Break up short paragraphs with sub-headlines and use bolding to highlight the words that matter the most.

Let me put it another way: keep the word count low. A compelling job posting can be as short as 500 words, giving just enough detail and thrill factor to motivate an application. Go over 1,200 words, and I can almost guarantee you, the thrill will be gone.

3. Make it a Jargon-Free – and Buzzword-Free Zone
If anyone ever told you that spicing up your job descriptions with language you wouldn’t ordinarily use, yourself, please know this: they were wrong. Don’t do it. Even if your top candidate understands the buzzwords and other forms of meaningless bluster, you will turn them off if you use it. That said, it is important to use your most creative language. But above all else, you must also remain authentic. Write simple, direct sentences. Keep certain words and phrases that are fundamental to the job itself. And remember, you need this posting to be searchable online. “Marketing Ninja” won’t snag you much. “Marketing Director” will.

4. Always, Always Tell the Truth
Yes, you want the most highly qualified, energized candidates applying for this job. But don’t oversell what you’re offering. And don’t hide core responsibilities that may be less appealing. Remember, you need the right fit for this job. What does that person need to know – and be willing to do? Are there aspects of the role that would be tedious for many individuals – but gratifying to a few? Things like proofreading, fact checking or errand running are not roles to spring on someone after they’ve accepted the offer. Offer an honest description of the skills they’ll need and the value you place on those skills.

5. Don’t Skip the Important Details
I can’t emphasize this enough: you want great candidates to be able to imagine themselves in the job, know what they’d be doing – and be excited to jump on board.  You can’t get them there without including these details. But use words that “show, not tell” and are as action-oriented as you can muster.

A Clear, Searchable Job Title
Note that I did not say “formal job title.” Sorry, but, outside the cocoon of your own organization, titles like “Financial Analyst II” doesn’t really get the imagination going. And it won’t show up when a highly talented financial analyst searches for a “Financial Analyst Supervisor” job. If you’re saddled with meaningless formal job descriptions, it’s fine to include them. But also add an description that’s actually descriptive.

A Day in the Life of…
More important than the “job overview” is a real-life explanation of what this person could expect to be experience on any typical day on the job.

Include details like:

  • The tasks they’d take on and how those tasks relate to core responsibilities
  • The skills they’d be employing
  • The people with whom they’d be interacting
  • The kind of atmosphere in which they’d be operating

Other Critical Information about of the Job
If you couldn’t fit some of the other essentials into the “Day in the Life,” add a few bullet points. Where does this person report, hierarchically? If there are direct reports, how many? If travel is required, how much?

Stop being Coy about Salary
It’s a candidate’s market. And top candidates don’t feel like wasting their time on jobs that are never going to pay what they know they’re worth. Also, hiding the salary info until everyone is “further in the process” just makes you look cagey. Not a good look for you, especially not now.

“You have” and “You might even have”

Required and Preferred, Reworded
If you know you need an MBA with at least 5 years experience, spell that out, along with all of the other non-negotiable requirements. Same goes for the preferred qualifications. Just keep your lists honest, realistic and worded in candidate-welcoming language.

“We’re the Right Team for You if You’re Seeking…”
This is not the place to regurgitate your company’s “Vision and Values” statement. It is the place to capture the spirit of your vision and values. This is where you can highlight and brag about things like work environment, whether you offer flexible working hours, extraordinary community involvement, and any other the characteristics of the team they’d be joining. Do note your benefits package, etc. and don’t use throwaway phrases like “competitive salary” or “competitive benefits.” They mean nothing and serve only to annoy candidates.

6. Close with a Call to Action
Remember, you’re not just the hiring manager. You’re the marketing manager for this job. So spell out exactly what this candidate can do to pursue the position. And make it easy for them to do it.