Writing a compelling job description is the first step towards attracting top candidates. The problem is everyone is stuck using the same cookie-cutter templates.
First, I’ll show you why job descriptions are more important than ever.
Then, I will teach you, step by step, how to write the perfect one to attract the right candidate.
Sounds good? Let’s dive in.
When writing a job description, many forget who is the ultimate reader and what the goal of this piece of writing is.
As a result, most job posts are dull, hard to read and do everything but attract top candidates. Fortunately, there’s a framework we can use, which I’ll cover for you in this chapter.
Whether you are a small business owner or a recruiter at a Fortune 500 company, this framework will help you set the foundation for your writing process.
One of the most common mistakes young companies make is hiring someone before they really need to. This only creates confusion, frustration and sets the new employee up for failure.
The first step in learning how to write a job description that attracts the right candidate is understanding what the business needs are.
Grab a pen and piece of paper. You’ll need it throughout this guide.
Do you have them? Sure? Good.
Now sit down, grab a cup of coffee and answer the following questions. Try to be brief, but don’t rush and scribble the first thing that comes to mind – these answers will set the foundation of your job description.
For your reference, here is a completed example. We’ll provide them throughout the guide.
Help the Product Team deliver a great product experience for our users.
The Lead UI/UX Designer does most design work, but the workload is too much.
This person will free our Lead Designer’s time to focus on the product’s big picture and high impact features.
Even if we improve our processes, we can’t do it without him. If we keep doing it, our quality will suffer.
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.
A job description is like any successful relationship. The key to success is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
Usually, when crafting a job description the writer spends most of the time considering what the business needs, but rarely stops to think about what a top candidate is looking for.
Why would a candidate work for my business?
That’s a valid question, and something that we’ll try to answer right now. First, we’ll break that big question into smaller, bite-sized points. Use these as a starting point, but feel free to add, take away or replace our questions based on the unique circumstances of your business.
Now go ahead, grab a piece of paper and go through this exercise. Skipping it will only make the following steps harder and MORE time consuming.
Shares an interest and passion for our mission. We offer a great learning/mentorship experience to level up his career. We have great benefits and a positive culture. Possibility to grow internally.
This hire will help the Product Team deliver a great user experience. Right now, the Lead Designer has too much on his plate.
The main responsibilities of this hire are:
Talk to customer, do user research
Transform insights into wireframes and prototypes
Design elegant, pixel-perfect screens and features.
Collaborate with other teams (like marketing)
Learn, receive feedback
She’ll report to the Lead Designer on a weekly and monthly basis to review progress.
Junior, zero to one year of experience or a portfolio of work, enthusiastic, willing to learn, a great eye for design, cares about our mission.
In the product team, directly reporting to the Lead UI/UX designer.
Full-time, every day.
There is one simple truth: the amount of work and care you put into crafting a job description is directly correlated with the quantity and quality of candidates you’ll receive.
Most job posts don’t even mention the key things – daily work, benefits, salary – the candidate is extremely interested about.
Hiring managers think like recruiters, not like candidates. Instead of putting themselves in the applicant’s shoes, they just think about filling up the position as quickly as possible.
On top of that, most people who are hiring don’t have a complete understanding of the anatomy of a perfect job description.
So let’s dive in and take a few moments to understand the key parts of a Job Description.
The summary is the opening act of your job description. The first handshake, your opportunity to make a strong first impression with candidates.
No pressure, but this will make or break your job ad.
The problem is people don’t spend enough time working on it, and simply write it as an afterthought.
In reality, a well-written, effective Summary is an opportunity to communicate your company’s value proposition. It should hook the ideal candidates and weed out the bad ones.
As a rule of thumb, it should be between 100 and 150 words and contain the key information anyone needs to know about your company and the role. Some aspects you might consider:
The challenging part about this section is that you should try to fit all the necessary information in a short paragraph, so every word should be carefully selected and placed.
This is an example for the role we’ve been working with.
Entering a job relationship is like getting married. Most employees sustain they spend more time with their work colleagues than with their life partners. It’s no surprise that as a result, many companies define themselves as “families”.
One of the top things that a candidate wants to know, but that hiring managers often neglect to communicate, is how a random, regular day might look like for him at your company.
After all, that’s what they’ll be doing five days a week, eight hours a day, for the next couple of years!
Most people just list a bunch of responsibilities. That’s boring. People don’t like responsibilities. Responsibilities have a negative connotation.
However, responsibilities are nothing but the actual job the candidate will be doing. So this is an opportunity to rephrase it and instead, show what the actual day, week or month would look like for a hire.
Now, go back to that pen and paper and start outlining how the actual day of a candidate would look like. Be detailed, descriptive. The goal is to get them to imagine what it will be like to work for your company.
Below are some questions you could start with to get some inspiration. Go ahead now. By the end of this exercise, you’ll have 50% of the work done.
Here’s a completed example.
More candidates through the pipeline will always lead to a better hire. Right?
Not necessarily. That’s a very common misconception people have when hiring. They post their job everywhere, make it as inclusive as possible and rejoice when hundreds of applicants come in.
But no matter how good your applicant tracking software is, sifting through hundreds of candidates is time consuming. Scrolling through CV after CV is an exhausting task and after a while your ability to assess candidates will diminish.
We believe you should do the exact opposite. You should optimize your job ad to ONLY attract the candidates you want. This means you need to be as specific as possible, instead of as broad as possible.
If your budget and your needs align to with a junior designer, then don’t overcomplicate your job ad with complex requirements and unreal expectations.
Think of this section as the optimal skills, experience, education, and attributes the employer wants to find in the candidate who’ll be hired for the position.
The Skill Requirements section refers to the specific skills someone has or should have related to his field.
This can be experience with a programming language (like Ruby on Rails), specific server technology, software (Adobe Photoshop, Salesforce) or in a particular market (SaaS marketing).
It can also mean a specific combination of skills and a knowledge base that you are seeking, for instance front-end development applied to search engine optimization.
Years of experience refers to the number of years someone has been working on the specific field the role is about.
These are some common benchmarks:
However, don’t look at these as firm rules but rather guidelines, and typical careers paths. Seniority is not JUST about years worked. As you might know, there are atypical performers who should be considered seniors after two years in the job.
Experience requirements can go beyond actual years, and also include working with a specific population or in a specific industry or employment sector, like Software as a Service or Business to business.
Tip: Don’t be that person that asks for 3 years of experience for an Entry Level job. By definition, an Entry Level job requires ZERO years of experience.
In today’s world, specially in the tech landscape, education isn’t as important as it was 50 years ago. That said, some positions will require applicants to have a certain level of education.
For example, a Senior position in data science may require a graduate degree in Statistics or Mathematics.
If your culture values a college degree, don’t be afraid to include it. If it doesn’t, you can always suggest that a degree is nice but you value experience as well: “Bachelor’s degree in design or any creative field, or equivalent experience.”
Attributes and personal characteristics are often undervalued, but they are key if you want to build a top performing team, specially in small to medium sized companies where each person has an impact on the company’s operations.
Someone’s personality will play a big role in whether she fits in your team and is able to perform at the highest level or not.
On top of that, if your company has a strong mission, don’t be afraid to include it. The best candidates tend to share the passion for and relate to your mission.
Training or a portfolio of product design work and mockups.
Strong conceptual thinking capabilities.
Experience with Sketch, Adobe Photoshop and illustrator is preferred.
Up to one year of experience.
Bachelor’s degree in design or any creative field, or equivalent experience.
Curiosity and willingness to learn in a fast paced environment
Desire to work and collaborate with other teams
A passion for our mission
Contrary to what many recruiters might think, people don’t work for free. In most cases, people work strictly for the money. Since they have mortgages to cover, families to feed and groceries to buy, they expect to get something in return for their time.
Gone are the days in which you could lowball a candidate and get away with it. Salary data is as easy to compare as running a Google search. Offering competitive compensation, adjusted to your local market, is a must if you want to attract and retain top tech talent.
Remember – top talent has options. If you are lowballing them, they’ll know and they’ll go elsewhere. Not only will they get paid more, but they’ll work with people who didn’t try to start the relationship by out-negotiating them.
With that out of the way, competition for tech talent is so insane that offering a competitive paycheck is simply not enough nowadays.
Let’s go back to your pen and paper, and reflect what kind of benefits you could offer candidates. Some questions to get you moving.
The table below covers some of the basic questions that you must state up-front if you wish to work with the right candidates.
Comparison against local market rates
Medical coverage (emergency, dental, vision, etc.)
Family coverage (personal, family, spouse)
Regular business hours
Expected business hours
Policy about weekend work
Paid time off
Maternity (or paternity) leave
Major local holidays
On-boarding & company training
As a candidate, it’s always a breath of fresh air to work with a company that is open and transparent about what they pay.
Stackoverflow reports that job posts that state a salary range upfront receive 75% more visitors. Plus, this might filter out bad candidates, and only attract people with the right level of experience.
What’s the disadvantage? If you want to hire someone for as little as possible (not recommended), you lose your negotiation advantage. Also, your team might not be happy about showing what they make to the world.
But keep in mind that the best candidates have options, and you’ll be measured against companies that are willing to pay what someone’s worth.
One of the big reasons to work for a company, apart from salary and benefits, is the mission of said enterprise.
People (especially millennials) not only care about a purpose-driven company when shopping, but also when deciding where to work. They want to be aligned with what the company does.
That’s why it’s crucial to include your mission and why you exist when describing your company. The About Us section should be no longer than 50-100 words, and include the following:
Let’s work it out.
Cincinnati, OH, United States
Success Inc.’s mission is to help people feel, look and live better by making nutrition easy and accessible.
Success Inc. is bootstrapped, and sustained by over 100,000 paying customers. We started in a garage 12 years ago, and we hope to be around for at least another decade.
Looking at what other companies are doing is a great way to find inspiration.
Selecting the right Job Title is the final piece of the job description puzzle, but you shouldn’t underestimate it.
A good job title is an eye-catcher, and encourages the right type of candidate to apply. A good job title defines someone place, seniority and role inside an organization. A good job title allows someone to explain what they do in five seconds.
In a job-driven culture, our job is a big part of our identify. For that reason, an under-serving title might be embarrassing to someone who might be punching above her weight class, especially if she sees other people with lesser abilities proudly wielding a higher title.
On the other end, bad job titles can generate a myriad of internal problems. A misused and inflated title can be abused by bad employees who will request an undeserved raise, more resources, or deflect job responsibilities because they are “below their pay grade.”
When it comes to job titles, the simpler option is usually the best. If you are struggling with picking the right one for a new hire, here’s a simple trick that can get you out of the weeds.
A good formula is to think about the seniority that person comes in, and the main role that person would be doing. In this case, we could do…
So the result would be Junior UI/UX Designer.
Avoid “made-up” titles that include uncommon words which will negatively impact your job’s ranking in search results. When you post a job on Monster, the job title field will prompt you with recommended titles to help you make the best choice.
We tried our best to make this guide as thorough as possible. That said, there are times when creativity, imagination, and inventiveness escape us.
No worries, we have your back.
If you are looking for some inspiration, here are 13 job description templates you can copy right now.
One note: the descriptions below are starting points so I strongly recommend you follow the recommendations on our guide to adapt them to your company.
If you are looking for information on how to interview, here’s a list of 30 smart interview questions you can ask.
So that’s Jobbatical’s ultimate guide on how to write a job description that will attract top candidates to your company.
Now I want to turn it over to you: what did you think about this guide? Or maybe there’s something we missed.