Posted in HR | by: Suzanne Lucas

This Is How You Write a Job Description That Candidates Will Actually Read

Job descriptions can often blur into one. Companies are constantly looking for a “motivated and self-directed individual” who can “hit the ground running” in an “exciting and fast-paced environment.”

Reading that, you have no idea if they’re talking about a senior-level finance position or a preschool teacher. It’s not like there’s ever a job description that says a business is seeking a “lazy individual” who “will require extensive training” in a “boring and tedious environment.”

You may think that being creative is the only way to hook people and get them to read your description. But for job hunters, the opposite is true. All that filler language doesn’t mean a lot to the typical job seeker. Candidates are looking for a job, not a good story.

Use the following four pointers to help you attract the right people to read, get excited about, and eventually apply for the jobs you post.

1. Pick a job title that makes sense

You may like unique titles that represent your company’s culture, but if they’re not understood by job seekers, you might miss out on a lot of candidates. When people search for roles, they type in keywords that are related to their experience. And if you don’t include those keywords, they probably won’t find you. It all comes down to SEO.

It’s fine if, internally, you refer to your IT manager as your “Chief Technical Problem Solver,” but your job posting should specifically say “IT Manager,” or whatever variation of the role/title that would make sense to job seekers.

2. Paint an accurate picture of what this person will do all day

A lot of times, job descriptions focus on end products, for good reason. Job seekers need to know what they’re expected to produce. But, end products don’t tell you a whole lot about the actual day-to-day in the job. “Provides monthly sales reports to management” tells you about the final product, but not about the process required to get there.

Creating a monthly report could involve sitting in front of a computer for two hours each month, downloading and organizing data, or, it could mean making multiple phone calls, gathering data from numerous sources, validating the numbers, and going through six rounds of revisions with various team members before presenting it.

Someone who is an introvert and a data geek would likely enjoy the first job and hate the second. The first task also takes two hours out of every month, while the second could take two full weeks of work each month. They are vastly different tasks, but are often described in the same way in job descriptions.

So, don’t just focus on the end product; focus on the process. What percentage of time is spent on each task? How much time is spent in meetings versus individually?

3. Describe what the job flexibility actually looks like

Lots of companies throw in generic statements about “flexible schedules” or “great benefits,” but what about the particular job you’re talking about?

Ninety percent of your team’s roles may be eligible for a flexible schedule, but if the receptionist must be there at 7:45 every morning, can only go to lunch at a very specific time, and cannot leave a minute before 4:45, that should be spelled out so they know what to expect. Don’t talk about company generalities when they don’t apply.

Does your company provide onsite parking? That’s a fabulous perk that many employees will drool over. But, is there a three-year waiting list to get a spot? If so, don’t advertise it as a perk.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is remote working allowed not only by your company, but by this particular manager?
  • Is there a busy season? If so, when is it, and what hours should someone expect to work?
  • In the off-season, can salaried exempt employees work less than 40 hours in a week?

All of these details will help you find someone who will truly be interested in the job and all that it entails.

4. Don’t forget the legal side of job descriptions

Job descriptions matter. There are federal, state, and local laws that you’ll want to comply with while advertising any openings.

Nondiscrimination laws

While you may think your job posting is in the clear, sometimes discrimination can be much more subtle. If you write that your ideal candidate is “young and energetic” or a “recent college grad,” it may be considered discriminatory against older applicants. So be careful when you express preferences that aren’t connected to skills or experience.

Essential job functions

If you have 15 or more employees, you are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means it’s critical that the job description covers all core functions. If the job involves any physical aspect–like lifting, walking, or climbing–make sure it’s listed. If not, you’ll have a hard time arguing it’s a core function of a job.

Recommended practices

If you’re an “equal opportunity employer,” you may want to consider including that in your job posting. While not legally required, it could help you attract more applicants.  

Honesty is always the best policy

When writing your job description, remember that honesty is key. Be clear and don’t try to oversell the role in a way that clouds what the person will be really doing. That’s how you can attract people who will not only be happy at your company, but who will also truly succeed in the role you’re itching to fill.

 

Employment laws can be tricky and can vary by state, so we recommend that you consult with an HR expert or employment attorney if you have any questions on job descriptions or any other parts of the hiring process.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent Gusto’s views.

About Suzanne Lucas

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate HR where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. Now she writes and speaks about human resources, business, and how to make your job and company the best it possibly can be. Follow Suzanne on Twitter.