Best Practices For Crafting A Good Job Description
By Clare Chong
Crafting a job description for an open position is a common task for hiring managers. Before resorting to using the default template for a job description, you may wish to take a step back to see whether your job description is attracting the right pool of candidates to your company.
As noted by a managing director of an executive search and leadership transition firm, "The best job descriptions combine a little bit of marketing, the reality of the role, the necessary skills and competencies and the organization's culture. All those things put together are key to how to present an open role to the market."
With the above objectives in mind, here are the best practices for crafting a good job description:
KNOWING EXACTLY WHAT TO INCLUDE IN A JOB DESCRIPTION
There are a couple of key sections that will catch the attention of candidates as they filter through the job portals to assess whether your role is a good fit.
Be clear with your job title and use industry-standard language. If you experience difficulty filling vacancies with creative job titles such as “content marketing guru” or “graphic design wizard”, it’s because you are turning candidates off with the choice of words. Most applicants search for positions that match their experience and skills so using unconventional terms like “guru” or “wizard” could confuse them.
Sometimes, you may need to step out of the company’s internal lingo and consider the more commonly known title in the industry. For instance, your firm may call it “client relationship manager” but the more commonly used title is “account manager”. It is best to stick to industry conventions for your job description in order not to miss out on these potential candidates.
The overview should consist of the job’s major function and how it contributes to the organisation’s objectives as well as society as a whole. Highlight things that would appeal to your applicants in terms of the role’s real-world impact and its unique value-add in the organisation. Use welcoming language such as “Come join our team of ....dedicated to…”
Responsibilities and Requirements
Break down responsibilities in a way that can help the applicants to visualise a typical day at work. Be specific instead of using vague, all-encompassing boilerplate descriptions. Describe the key functions in 5 to 7 bullets and group them under categories such as “Technical skills” or “Management skills”. Explain how the job will contribute to the company’s objectives, the potential for advancement and how the candidate's achievements can contribute to that.
When you are stating the requirements, do be clear on the years of experience needed and the minimum level of competency for specific tools while including other specific qualities.
Ensure that everyone involved in the hiring process is on the same page about the role’s responsibilities and requirements to avoid confusing the candidates later on.
This section offers a glimpse into the company’s culture. You may include links to testimonials from employees or photos of company events to give the applicants a positive impression of your organisation. Candidates would want to know whether the company’s culture is a good fit for them and whether they will enjoy working in your organisation.
Spotlight benefits, workplace bonuses and perks that the company offers. Flexible working arrangements, complimentary meals or staff gyms are examples of perks that you could showcase as well.
WHAT TO AVOID IN YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION
A biased language that skews to either gender within the job description could be problematic for your hiring process. Roles fill much quicker when you are not limiting your potential applicant pool to one demographic. By using gender-neutral language, vacancies can be filled as much as two weeks faster. The Journal of Social Psychology offers a list of “feminine” and “masculine” words to help to hire managers make simple changes to gender-bias language from your job description.
Negativity and Over-the-top language
Be positive and clear in your job requirements even if you wish to eliminate unsuitable applicants. For instance, adopt a polite tone (i.e. “Please note that this is a senior-level role, so proven experience in _______ field is essential”) rather than an unfriendly one (i.e. applicants with less than 5 years of experience would not be considered.”).
Using superlative adjectives such as “off the charts”, “best of the best” could also put off candidates. Similarly, avoid using words that contain a singular and narrow focus on certain abilities e.g. “perfectionist” or “forever tinkering”. You may also turn off highly competent applicants who could excel in the role without the above traits.
Not reviewing and editing your job description
You may need to make several changes to your job description before it is officially posted onto job portals. Use language checking applications like Grammarly to check for basic spelling and syntax errors. Read your job description out loud to several people to see whether there is coherence and fluency within and amongst the key sections.
IMPORTANCE OF A GREAT JOB DESCRIPTION
Other than the basic description of tasks, skills and experience required, employers should also take into account how the company’s culture, mission and values are being presented to attract the right candidate for the position. Are there other common practices that your company has put in place to recruit the right hire?