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How to write a job description that brings in high-quality candidates

June 29, 2021
iCIMS Staff
9 min read

In the online job market, the maxim that you only get one chance to make a first impression could never be more true. When creating your job descriptions, you want to make sure your posting grabs a candidate’s attention before she scrolls right past it. 

Talent acquisition professionals need to continue to find ways to close that gap and bring in qualified talent faster. To make it easier for job seekers to find your jobs, you need to get inside the mind of a candidate. If job seekers aren’t going directly to your career site, they are searching on Google or heading to sites like LinkedIn and Indeed, so you want to make sure your job stands out from the job listings pack.  

With this new wave of talent acquisition software, jobs are now more easily identified online by job seekers who can refine their search with specific criteria from within the search engine. This collaboration across the job-matching ecosystem ensures Google Search can detect and display available jobs as soon as they’re posted to a company’s online career site.

Write job descriptions that get noticed

Job descriptions are functional by nature, meant to give a prospective employee a high-level view of the role’s responsibilities and the company culture, setting standards for the best-fit talent. But they can do so much more. 

Taking the steps below will help optimize your job postings for search engines and candidate search behaviors, leading to greater traffic overall. And more importantly, they can help capture candidate interest and convert job viewers into applicants. 

1. Use a clear job title


While some companies may choose to write creative out-of-the-box job titles such as “Marketing Ninja” or “Chief Happiness Officer,” it’s best to keep it simple and clear if your goal is to bring in a broad range of qualified applicants for the position. It’s important that the job title is compelling but still accurate. 

Also, ditch using language that skews gender-specific. For example, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has found subtle gender bias in the wording  for job listings in traditionally male-dominated fields like engineering and programming. Highly masculine wording may cause women to turn away from a job that they may have otherwise applied for because they suspect that they will not belong at the organization – not because they don’t believe that they have the skills necessary to do the job. In fact, women only make up 26% of applications on average for tech jobs.  

Avoid using internal titles that might not make sense from an outside perspective. Think about what job seekers might be searching for in Google. If they’re searching for “Dynamic Sales Professional,” it’s smart to stick to traditional job titles such as “Sales Rep” or “Sales Associate.” 

Additionally, job seekers are not searching for job titles that include abbreviations or acronyms. To optimize search visibility, use appropriate spelling and grammar. Consider including the level of work for the role, for example, “Entry-Level Marketing Associate.” 

Veterans often rule themselves out because they may not meet the minimum or preferred requirements listed in traditional job descriptions. (This is also true of women in tech. Click here for a related story.) Where possible, adjust job descriptions to focus on soft skills. Make it clear if military experience can be substituted, and for which requirements. Explain what’s possible to learn on the job, and what training you’re willing to invest in the right candidate. 

2. Describe the company and its culture


Describe your company culture and what it’s like to work at the organization. Why would someone want to work for you? How does your company stand out?

Include one or two strong paragraphs that give a basic understanding of your company, including its mission and history. Keep in mind the way describe your company and the jargon you include will set the tone for your employment brand.

Additionally, including any awards or media coverage your company has received recently will give job seekers a good impression of your achievements.

3. Clearly explain the role


Job seekers want the 411 upfront about the position. Give them an explanation of the role, including:

  • Job summary: A few main functions of the role with brief explanations
  • Responsibilities: What this person will be doing on a day-to-day basis while focusing on actions and outcomes
  • Duties: Key tasks and projects
  • Who they’ll be working with
  • Who they’ll be reporting up to
  • The location and whether remote workers are being considered
  • The hours they are expected to be at work and if there are any special schedule requirements
  • If there are any travel requirements

4. Define the ideal candidate


Include information about who the ideal candidate is for the role your filling. Adding a short-bulleted list of the competencies and skills that would make someone successful in the role will help job seekers identify if they’re the right fit. Consider including:

  • Qualifications
  • Hard skills and soft skills
  • Workstyle
  • Experiences or accomplishments
  • Academic background

5. Understand the role’s impact on the business


Forty-three percent of companies measure the quality of hire through hiring manager satisfaction, according to Talent Board. As recruiters’ internal customers, hiring managers’ opinions and suggestions carry a lot of weight. Listen to them. 

Even if the role isn’t new to your organization, there is always more to be learned. Work behaviors, systems, and best practices change constantly, and what worked for the role yesterday may not be suitable for tomorrow.

6. Enhance the basics


Always cover the basics: level of experience, technical skills, necessary knowledge, location, salary range, etc. But take it a step further. What are the work conditions like in this department? What’s the mix of personalities on the team, and what kind of personality would complement that dynamic? Are there soft skills that would give applicants an edge, like natural curiosity or the ability to delegate tasks?

7. Talk to someone currently in the role


You may also gain a deeper knowledge of the role from an employee already in it. Talk to the people who the new hire will be working alongside and get a better sense of their day-to-day tasks. Edit. Drill down to the essential aspects and requirements to provide an accurate and fair job description. 

From interviewing the hiring manager and potential teammates, you’ll have much more information than you need to give the applicant. Avoid overwhelming or confusing candidates by identifying and including only the details that are most necessary. Better yet, use bulleted lists to break the copy down into more digestible parts and group requirements under themes like “technical skills” or “management skills.” 

Give candidates an inside view into the role with videos of team members sharing what they like about working for the company and speaking to its diversity and culture. 

8. Get feedback and continue to make improvements


It’s well-known that typos in resumes are a major red flag for recruiters, indicating that the applicant probably lacks attention to detail. The same applies to job descriptions. 

When crafting a job description, there’s a strong chance you’re copying and pasting portions from past roles. In collecting hiring manager input, the document may pass through many hands on its way to final approval. But never forget that recruiters are ultimately responsible for the job posting and any typos picked up along the way. 

Proofread your own work and ask a colleague for a second set of eyes. When the job posting goes live, check it again and ask employees in similar roles to give you feedback. This due diligence will be invaluable when you create your next job description.

9. What to avoid when writing a job description


Now that you’ve gotten the rundown on what you should include in your job description to attract top candidates, here’s what not to do: 

  • Don’t write a confusing job title: Not only do you want candidates to understand just what the position is, but you also want to make sure it’s picked up by search engines.  
  • Don’t keep your brand a mystery: Job searchers want a feel for your company culture. What’s it like to work there?  
  • Don’t forget to share salary range and benefits: Beyond ping pong tables and beer taps, candidates want to know what your PTO policy looks like and whether or not you offer dental insurance. 

The battle for top talent is fierce and shows no signs of slowing down. In many ways, job descriptions are your front-line offense to present candidates with the information they are seeking and draw them into your mission. Put in the effort to make them great. Candidates will notice.  

Looking for more tips to attract top candidatesDownload our Definitive Guide to Recruitment Marketing ROI.

Screenshot of downloadable guide: The key to recruitment marketing that drives strong results

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