How to Write a Job Description
The Definitive Guide

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.

9 Chapters

Table of contents

Chapter 1

The Science of Thinking Like a Candidate

Chapter 2

The Anatomy of a Perfect Job Description

Chapter 3

Nailing Down The Summary

Chapter 4

The Daily Work Technique

Chapter 5

How to Filter Candidates With Accuracy

Chapter 6

How to Sell Your Company to Candidates

Chapter 7

How to Leverage Your Mission

Chapter 8

Secrets to Defining The Job Title

Bonus

13 Job Description You Can Steal

Chapter 1: The Science of Thinking Like a Candidate

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.

Understanding Business Needs

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.

  1. What problem is the employee trying to solve?
  2. How are we doing it now?
  3. What benefits will this person bring?
  4. How can we do it without him?

For your reference, here is a completed example. We’ll provide them throughout the guide.

What problems is the new hire trying to solve?

Help the Product Team deliver a great product experience for our users.

How are we doing it now?

The Lead UI/UX Designer does most design work, but the workload is too much.

What benefits will this hire bring?

This person will free our Lead Designer’s time to focus on the product’s big picture and high impact features.

How can we do it without him?

Even if we improve our processes, we can’t do it without him. If we keep doing it, our quality will suffer.

The “Empathy” Method

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.

  • Why? Why would a candidate work for my company? What drives her?
  • What? What problem is she trying to solve?
  • How? How will she do it? What would the day to day be like?
  • Who? Who is the ideal person for this role? Who isn’t?
  • With whom? Who’s the team she’ll work with? Who will she report to?
  • When?

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.

Why? Why would a candidate work for my company?

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.

What? What problem is she trying to solve?

This hire will help the Product Team deliver a great user experience. Right now, the Lead Designer has too much on his plate.

How? What would the day to day be like?

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.

Who? Who is the ideal person for this role?

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.

With whom? Who’s the team she’ll work with?

In the product team, directly reporting to the Lead UI/UX designer.

When?

Full-time, every day.

Chapter 2: Breaking Down the Anatomy of a Perfect Job Description

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.

  • Job Title. It should briefly communicate the role responsibilities, seniority and how it fits within the larger organization. This is extremely important.
  • Summary. This is a 100-word description of what the job is about, who the ideal candidate is, and who she’ll be working with.
  • Responsibilities. This section demonstrates what the candidate will be doing on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
  • Requirements. An accurate representation of the skills, level of experience and education that a candidate must have to be successful in the role (NOT what you think is ideal).
  • Benefits. Candidates don’t work for free, so they are interested in benefits, especially at the senior level where they have options. Do they get health insurance? 401k matching? Ping pong tables?
  • About the Company. This is another 100-word description of your company. It should briefly cover location, traction and focus on your mission.
  • Call to action. How will the candidate apply? What steps does he need to take? Be extremely clear about instructions and expectations.

Chapter 3: Nailing The Summary

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 opening pitch
  • What role are you looking to fill
  • What kind of person would be ideal
  • What problems are you looking to solve
  • Who will the candidate be working with
  • Who will the candidate report to
  • Any juicy extra information

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.

We are looking for a young, enthusiastic user experience designer to join our Product Team as a Junior UI/UX Designer. You’ll work under our Lead UI/UX designer, doing user research and translating insights into prototypes, wireframes and elegant, pixel-perfect experiences.

Chapter 4: The “Daily Work” Technique

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.

  • At what time does someone start? Do they grab coffee? Is there a coffee shop downstairs? Will they work from home?
  • From where would they work?
  • Is there a team kick-off meeting?
  • What might be something they’ll do in the morning?
  • How does the team grab lunch? Together? In a restaurant?
  • At what time do people leave to go home?
  • What’s something they might do in the afternoon?
  • How often do you have meetings?

Here’s a completed example.

A typical day at Success Inc. starts around 9am, when we have the daily team stand up to review progress and blockers. Other than that, we try to keep meetings to a minimum and allow as much uninterrupted time as possible.

Here’s a few things that you might do on a regular day at Success Inc.:

  • Invest a few hours in designing screens and collateral for a new marketing campaign
  • Prepare specs to deliver your screen to the Development squad
  • Grab lunch with your team in a restaurant nearby
  • Spend the afternoon interviewing people and doing customer research

Chapter 5: How to Filter Candidates with Accurate Requirements

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.

Not ideal.

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.

Skill requirements

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.

Experience requirements

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:

  • 0 to 1 – Internship (or Junior)
  • 1 to 3 – Junior
  • 3 to 5  – Intermediate
  • 5+ – Senior

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.

Education requirements

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.”

Attribute requirements

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.

What skills should someone have?

Training or a portfolio of product design work and mockups.
Strong conceptual thinking capabilities.
Experience with Sketch, Adobe Photoshop and illustrator is preferred.

How many years of experience?

Up to one year of experience.

What level of education?

Bachelor’s degree in design or any creative field, or equivalent experience.

What attributes should the candidate have?

Curiosity and willingness to learn in a fast paced environment
Team player
Desire to work and collaborate with other teams
A passion for our mission

Chapter 6: Selling The Company – Your Benefits

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.

  • Can you state salary ranges upfront?
  • Do you offer healthcare? Dental and vision?
  • Does your company do 401k matching?
  • Do you offer remote working? Or perhaps flexible working?
  • How many vacations days?
  • Are people encouraged to educate themselves? Conferences? Books? Courses?
  • Is your company working with unique, forward-thinking technology? Or perhaps you have a unique advantage you can show off?
  • Where is the office located? Is it a good space to work in?
  • How diverse is your team?
  • Will they get the hardware they need? Or do they need to get their own?
  • Is your company here to stay? Can you provide some stability?
  • Maternity and paternity leave?

The table below covers some of the basic questions that you must state up-front if you wish to work with the right candidates.

Salary range

Salary range
Comparison against local market rates
Bonus
Relocation

Healthcare

Medical coverage (emergency, dental, vision, etc.)
Family coverage (personal, family, spouse)

Regular business hours

Regular business hours
Expected business hours
Policy about weekend work

Holidays & time off

Paid time off
Bereavement leave
Sick days
Maternity (or paternity) leave
Major local holidays

Education & training

Training
Books
Conferences
On-boarding & company training

Section

Should you state salary upfront?

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.

Chapter 7: A Mission-driven Way to Describe Your Company

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:

  • Name of the company
  • Location
  • Mission
  • One thing that makes it great.

Let’s work it out.

Name of the company

Success Inc.

Location

Cincinnati, OH, United States

Mission

Success Inc.’s mission is to help people feel, look and live better by making nutrition easy and accessible.

One thing that makes it great

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.

Let’s take a look at an example.

Looking at what other companies are doing is a great way to find inspiration.

For the past six years, Zapier has been helping people across the world automate the boring and tedious parts of their job. We do that by helping everyone connect the web applications they already use and love.

We believe that there are jobs a computer is best at doing and that there are jobs a human is best at doing. We want to empower businesses to create processes and systems that let computers do what they are best at doing and let humans do what they are best at doing.

We believe that with the right tools, you can have big impact with less hassle.

We believe in small teams. Small teams are fast and nimble. Small teams mean less bureaucracy and less management and more getting things done.

We believe in a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment. All teammates at Zapier agree to a code of conduct.

Source

Chapter 8: Defining the Job Title

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.”

The Fusion Formula

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…

  • Seniority: Junior
  • Role: UI/Ux Designer

So the result would be Junior UI/UX Designer.

The Ninja Rule

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.

Good Job Title Ideas

  • Customer Success Manager
  • Senior Software Engineer
  • Growth Lead
  • Business Development Representative

Bad Job Title Ideas

  • Design Wonderboy
  • Social Media Ninja
  • Growth Hacking Guru
  • Development Rockstar
  • Sensei

Bonus: 13 Job Description Templates You Can Steal Right Now

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.

Job descriptions are coming soon!

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.

  • Software Engineer Job Description & Responsibilities
  • Junior Software Engineer Job Description & Responsibilities
  • Product Manager Job Description & Responsibilities
  • Product Designer Job Description & Responsibilities
  • Data Scientist Job Description & Responsibilities
  • Data Analyst Job Description & Responsibilities
  • Cyber Security Job Description & Responsibilities
  • Business Development Manager Job Description & Responsibilities
  • Full Stack Developer Job Description & Responsibilities
  • Front End Developer Job Description & Responsibilities
  • Marketing Director Job Description & Responsibilities
  • HR Director Job Description & Responsibilities
  • Marketing Manager Job Description & Responsibilities

Wrapping Up 

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.