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Grow Your Business Your Team

20 Tips for Writing a Better Job Description

20 Tips for Writing a Better Job Description
Credit: Gonzalo Aragon/Shutterstock

What would inspire you to apply for a job: a laundry list of responsibilities and requirements, or an ad that describes the job, the company and its values?

Many employers treat job descriptions as a way to weed out the kind of employees they don't want, when they should be focusing on attracting the kind of employees they do want.  A recent study in the Journal of Business and Psychology found that writing better job descriptions can lead to a higher-quality pool of applicants. This means employers need to be more careful about what they put in their job posting, and focus more on highlighting the company culture, what the position is really like, and what the company has to offer the job seeker.

So how do you create a more effective job description to attract the right kind of talent? Business News Daily asked business owners and career experts for their best advice.

Proofread

"I see job descriptions every day that have errors and typos. If companies are going to hold employees accountable for being detail-oriented and producing quality work, then companies need to do the same thing." – Alyssa Gelbard, founder & president, Resume Strategists

Don't be vague about responsibilities

"Avoid the phrase 'other duties as described.' Candidates understand that not everything will be contained in the job description, but vague descriptions are useless. When describing job duties use clear language and percentages to indicate how important each activity is to the role." – Tim Toterhi, author and speaker, Plotline Leadership

Include salary information

"Include salary range. I have had many clients who have spent time and money to drive to be interviewed multiple times for a position only to find when they are made an offer that is grossly less then what they are earning and there is no way they can live on that salary. Listing the salary range will keep those from applying who would never accept a position at that salary and it will save the hiring manager time too." – Jaynine Howard, business coach, Dream Catcher 

Post it in relevant communities

"If you have a specialized need, find a LinkedIn group that corresponds to that need and open up a discussion. This will attract people in that field. Referral is the best way to get a higher quality candidate." – Mark Frietch, president, Frietch Consulting Group [15 LinkedIn Groups Every Entrepreneur Should Belong To ]

Don't use an outdated template

"Don't go back to the original posting that was used to hire the current employee in the role and just send it out. There is oftentimes a sense of urgency about trying to fill a position when someone quits. Instead of using the posting that you used to hire the current employee, take some time to think about how the position has changed since this person took the role. What do you need now? What will you need moving forward?"– Liz D'Aloia, CEO, HR Virtuoso Company

Don't just list requirements

"Top candidates want to understand how a position will impact their career, challenge them and add skills. A boring list of requirements doesn't accomplish any of that." – Stephanie McDonald, owner, Hire Performance

Explain your company's values

"High performers try to figure out whether your business shares their values. They want to understand your products and what you stand for. Your ad needs tell them that. The first few sentences need to capture the candidate's attention. Like any effective sales pitch, make it about them and their interests." – Rebecca Barnes-Hogg, founder and CEO, YOLO Insights

Ask for skills, not experience

"Skills trump experience. Be clear about the specific skills a candidate will use in their new job. Focusing on experience alone may eliminate the candidate with the best skills which you can grow and develop in favor of a more experienced but mediocre performance." – Steve Langerud, workplace consultant, Steve Langerud & Associates

Watch your tone

"Write in a tone that reflects your organization's brand. If you're looking for someone who's creative, just writing 'seeking a creative individual' [is] meaningless unless your job description is creative. Especially in smaller organizations, if you don't walk the walk, the best candidates will recognize that your organization is not creative, just really good at inserting random keywords in their job descriptions." – Joseph Terach, CEO, Resume Deli

Make it quick and easy to read

"Make the job post scannable. Most job seekers are scanning. They are on the hunt for the right job and will look at a job post and scan the details before deciding to apply, or to ignore it. By organizing key responsibilities with bullet points, the readability of the post will increase and catch the attention of the right people. In addition to bulleted lists, it's also a good idea to separate sections with descriptive headers that allow a potential applicant to scan the important facts as quickly and easily as possible." – Steve Dempsey, VP of recruiting, Aquent

Avoid business jargon

"Not every great candidate will know the ins and outs of your business before reading your job description. Don't assume that they'll know industry lingo or abbreviations. Spell those things out and provide plenty of context about what your company actually does." – Shayleen Stuto, talent coordinator, TechnologyAdvice

Add a catchy title

"The title is very important. The title must entice the job seeker to click through to the posting. Rather than just listing 'Project Manager,' try 'Project Manager at a fast growing startup' or 'Project Manager at a leading Fortune 500 company.'" – Sean Pritchard, co-founder and partner, MilitaryHire

List specific skill requirements

"Use specific language. For example, instead of seeking a candidate who is 'computer literate' or has 'good communication skills,' explain the specific programs or technologies the employee will be using and the ways in which they will be required to communicate and with whom. The words 'administrative duties' are also very broad and should be clarified as much as possible." – Jeanine Hamilton, president, Hire Partnership

Consider your mobile presence

"Think about how your listing will look on mobile. Many companies put requisition numbers and internal codes at the top of their job listings. Although this may be easily overlooked on a full-size monitor, candidates who browse your jobs from a mobile device will have to scroll several times just to get to the job requirements. Over time this can result in avoidance of your company's job postings." Susan Martindill, director of demand generation, Simply Hired

Add a call to action

"In the body of your job posting, include instructions on how to apply that contain a specific call to action. This serves as a built-in screening process as you will be able to weed out applicants who are not able to follow directions and demonstrate a clear lack of attention to detail." – Michael Lan, senior resume consultant, Resume Writer Direct

Don't include obvious red flags

"Never, ever, ever say 'this is not a scam.' This should go without saying. Potential applicants automatically see red flags. You'd be shocked by how many hiring managers include this in job postings." – Chad Bronstein, CEO, Time to Hire

Describe your company well

"Open up with a quick blurb about the company or the role that will engage the candidate to read on—and reinforce that in the closing by pointing out why the company is a great place to work or why this position, in particular, would be appealing." – George Vollmer, client partner, Alexander Mann Solutions

Get familiar with the position

"Before you make a job posting and look for someone new to fill an opening, be sure you understand everything that job will entail. To ensure you know everything, sit down and talk with the person who currently holds the position, or someone who recently did. Getting them to write down all their responsibilities and tasks is a great way to help find someone who will fill the role perfectly." – Christopher Young, CEO and founder, Async Interview

Encourage your staff to share it

"A large percentage of your best hires will come from your staff's combined existing network, so in your job postings, make sure and include a social sharing feature and incentivize staff to post." – Chris Gannon, manager of sales talent, Signpost

Talk about your company culture.

"Beyond the skills and experience required for the position, applicants are looking for a company where they can fit in and relate to the culture and goals. To draw the highest-quality and best-fit applicants to your position, you must give them a feel for your company culture." –Jean Cook, business coach and certified facilitator, The Alternative Board

Brittney Helmrich

Brittney M. Helmrich graduated from Drew University in 2012 with a B.A. in History and Creative Writing. She joined the Business News Daily team in 2014 after working as the editor-in-chief of an online college life and advice publication for two years. Follow Brittney on Twitter at @brittneyplz, or contact her by email.