Tips to write the best possible job description 

9 minutes | Robert Moffat | Article | | Recruiting

Woman in front of a computer.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our working world, impacting labour markets and the expectations professionals have around work – therefore, in order to attract the best talent, the style and tone of your organization’s job adverts may need to change. 

For example, to reach relevant job seekers and rank well on search engines, job adverts must include keywords – such as key industry terms, salary details and location.

It’s also important to avoid common job advert mistakes like unclear job titles, or filling the advert with buzzwords and vague wording. 


Your job adverts need to resonate in our new working world 

The COVID-19 crisis has brought staggering change to the world of work for recruiters, employers and employees alike – but also to job seekers. It has caused many to reevaluate their professional lives, and, in the process, their attitudes to work have changed. In fact, their ‘ideal role’ might look very different now to how it did pre-pandemic. 

When reading job adverts and considering applying for a new job, active job seekers will be attracted to brands that provide a positive experience from their first point of contact – and that includes the job adverts they read at the beginning of the job application process. So, organizations must promote their job vacancies to professionals in compelling and meaningful ways if they are to engage and attract them successfully. 


How can I add maximum value to my online job adverts? 

We live in a busy digital world, so to make your advert stand out from the crowd, here are a few things to bear in mind when briefing your recruiter: 

Be sure to use a common, searchable job title – including a location in the title will also help to ensure your job advert is searched for and found by relevant audiences on search engines. 

Make sure the body content of the job advert is clear, succinct, relevant and includes commonly-searched keywords. It also needs to be easy to read, so think about how you may structure the advert – for example using bullet points. This is essential for ensuring it ranks well in relevant online searches – your consultant will make sure this is perfect when creating your job advert. 

Think carefully about what candidates would really find valuable, and what would incentivize them to apply when deciding what information to prioritize in the body of the advert. While it’s tempting to include all the information about your organization you can think of, remember that candidates really value information that affects their day-to-day life, such as the type of work the position involves, what success in the role looks like, the potential career path it holds, the principles of the company culture, and the compensation and benefits. 

Connect the job with your company’s strategic priorities. What are the broader objectives of your organization, and how does this role help to achieve them? This, in turn, will enable your company to showcase its innovation and how it may have pivoted its business model in light of the changed world since the onset of the pandemic.


What language should I use in a job advert? 

Writing a job description is – in essence – professional writing, so there are certain rules that should be followed when composing one. Promoting your role through a recruitment partner will ensure you have access to the skills and experience to write one that is aligned with your brand’s tone of voice, using the correct language. 

Things to remember when crafting a job description include: 

Use empathetic language – while we’re all having to deal with the effects of the coronavirus crisis, we’re all at different stages of this in our own lives. Using compassionate language in your job advert is an opportunity for your organization to show that your brand has a human face and people are your first priority. 

Avoid negative language – words such as “can’t”, “never” and “must” imply, in an underlying way, that you are demanding things from the candidate or telling them what to do. 

Make sure diverse imagery and language is used – according to our Diversity & Inclusion report, less than half (49%) of professionals surveyed think their organization uses suitably diverse branding when it comes to job adverts. 

First or second-person language wherever possible – saying “we will…” or “you will…” feels much more personable than “the successful candidate will…”. Third-person language is too formal and creates a gulf between you and prospective candidates, whereas a first or second-person approach helps candidates to envision themselves in the role. 


How should I promote our company culture in the job description? 

After salary, culture is the most important aspect of a potential job for candidates. Conveying this in your job advert is critical if you are to attract candidates who would be a good fit for your company. Therefore, you will need to brief your recruiter on the details of your company culture and how your team works together. 

Suggestions for this include: 

Organizational purpose and company values – Many candidates are seeking to make an exciting new start with an employer that shares their values and goals, and is helping to make the world a better place. So, ask yourself what’s important to your organization. Is it curiosity, honesty, expertise? If it’s innovation, for example, mention some of the things your organization has done that are exciting and new. 

Growth and progression opportunities – Think about what you are offering as an employer, and how you should convey this. Talk about how you invest in your employees and the learning and development opportunities you provide in order to create a culture of lifelong learning. 

What sets your organization apart from others? – This could be a first-class flexible working scheme, innovative products or services, remote working opportunities, regular team socials or birthdays off. Not all of these details might seem greatly important, but together, they can really help your brand to stand out. 


What are common mistakes to avoid when writing job descriptions? 

1. An unclear job title 

A job title like “customer experience executive”, for example, doesn’t necessarily tell the candidate very much about what kind of job it actually is. Not only is this job title uncommon – meaning candidates are unlikely to search for it – but without context, it’s tricky to tell what this role relates to. 

Look out, too, for spelling mistakes in your job titles, as this would look unprofessional and negatively impact on the likelihood of the advert appearing high up in the results on search engines. Another common practice among organizations is to omit any salary range, which may leave candidates unclear about the seniority of the role, and deter potentially suitable people from applying. 

2. Buzzwords, clichés and vague wording 

Does your overview of your brand’s vacancy clearly communicate what the position actually is? Or are you instead simply filling up the space with vague buzzwords and clichés, like “open and collaborative culture” or “a forward thinking company”? 

3. A company story that only makes sense internally, or doesn’t sound particularly compelling 

Many organizations are guilty of describing themselves in job adverts in ways that those outside the company cannot easily understand. In the process, they might fail to communicate insightful information about the business’s culture or values, which is much more interesting to candidates. 

4. A nondescript list of duties 

Does the list of duties in your organization’s job advert give meaningful insight into the role’s broader purpose or how the successful candidate would be contributing towards organizational objectives? Or is it a short and uninspiring list that doesn’t paint a transparent picture of what the candidate’s typical day would look like? 

5. An unfocused description of required experience and skills 

Organizations sometimes make their job descriptions too brief, and the skills mentioned too generic, while failing to shed light on the wider context of what the given role entails. This may compromise the ability of the employer to attract applications from candidates with the skills required to do the job. 

6. Lack of detail on flexible or hybrid working options 

The ongoing challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic makes it all the more crucial to inform candidates in your job adverts about your organization’s remote and hybrid working policies. 

Depending on their personal circumstances, many candidates are likely to be thankful for potential employers showing flexibility on the possibility of home working. So, if your job adverts make no reference to remote or flexible working at all, you could be hampering your ability to lure the best candidates. 


So now we’ve covered what not to do, what does a good job description include? 

1. A relevant and descriptive job title 

Potential applicants can see hundreds of job adverts every day, so it’s vital to make the title relevant and descriptive to hook the candidate in to read more. Exactly how you structure the title will also hinge on how you wish to position your available vacancy. 

2. A brief introduction and background about the company 

This should be a single paragraph that gives a flavour of the most exciting aspects of the role and your organization, perhaps while drawing attention to key points, accolades and awards. 

3. The main job description 

This is the part of the job advert when you will need to outline the main component parts of the role, without overwhelming the reader with too much detail. 

To determine what to write here, consider what challenges you will expect the new hire to resolve in this role. Also be sure to reference aspects such as the working hours, salary, benefits, development opportunities, and anything else an employee might find enticing. 

4. Your ideal person 

The person specification is a powerful part of a job advert, consisting of a list of the required skills and desirable traits of an organization’s ideal candidate. 

This description of the ideal candidate should be effective in narrowing down a shortlist of candidates by attracting applications from those suitable for the role, while keeping the job advert broad enough to also attract those with transferrable skills. 

5. Closing statement 

Your job advert should end with a closing statement that encapsulates the best parts of your role and organization, and expresses an eagerness to continue the conversation after application. Sell your company further, too, by including links to any website pages or videos which illustrate what it’s like to work with you. 


Transform your job adverts to be relevant to the new world of work 

Combine the above steps with the creation of complimentary employer brand content – such as captivating blog posts and engaging images, videos and biographies of your team members on your website. And encourage your employees to share this content to reinforce the messages in your job adverts. This will put you in a better position to reach the right candidates in the new era of work. 

About this author

Robert Moffat
Global and Americas Head of Solutions, Enterprise Solutions at Hays

As Global and Americas Head of Solutions Robert is part of the global leadership team responsible for innovation and product development. Having lived and worked for Hays in Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Americas he has been instrumental in a number of Hays’ global projects including the roll out of a Global Operating Method, Supplier Engagement Strategy, the evolution of our direct sourcing approach and a quick deploy RPO service for start-up and high growth companies.

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