Want to write a job description that attracts highly skilled candidates who’ll get up to speed quickly and stay with your company for many productive years? Get ready to be precise.
A good job description is a finely honed tool. A recruiter, manager, or candidate should be able to read it and know exactly what a job requires and entails. A typical job description, on the other hand, is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink affair. It might contain duties that are no longer aligned with the position or expectations that are unreasonable or even impossible. (Wanted: engineer with 10 years of experience in this brand-new programming language.)
Here’s how to write a job description that works.
If you're interested in reaching a broader audience for your job opportunity, our guide to the leading job posting sites is a reliable source. If you already have your job description ready to go, get started with ZipRecruiter. You can post your first job to ZipRecruiter for free!
What Is A Job Description?
A job description is a detailed picture of a job role, including its duties, goals, and responsibilities. It should give a sense of how the position fits into the department and organization and what will be expected of the person who holds this role.
Job descriptions have applications in recruiting, compensation, performance management, and professional development. A well-written job description will tell a recruiter exactly what skills, qualifications, and abilities the ideal candidate for the role should possess. It will also provide a way for managers and employees to measure performance. Human resources professionals use job descriptions to set compensation.
5 Items That Should Be Included In A Job Description
Every job description must include these elements:
Trendy job titles have their appeal, especially if you’re hiring in the tech industry. But whether your culture skews cutting-edge or traditional, the most important thing is that your job titles make sense for the role they describe. Your best bet is to start with the job duties, requirements, and desired skill set. Then, map your specifications to existing roles, using resources like O*NET or the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook and work from there.
In a few sentences, provide an overview of the role, its responsibilities and requirements, and how it fits into the organization. A position summary should tell applicants, employees, and managers why a given role exists, how it fits into the organization, and what the expectations are for a person who holds this job title at the company.
Nail down the details of the role including:
- Exempt or non-exempt
- Working hours, schedule, and paid time off
- Compensation (salary range and benefits)
- Reporting structure (including any direct reports for this role)
The job duties section of the description outlines the daily tasks and overarching responsibilities of the role. Explain how and when tasks are performed and how they fit into the larger goals for the position and the company. Outline any supervisory responsibilities, including how many direct reports are attached to this role. Note the work environment, e.g. at a worksite or remote, and discuss the support structures involved. Will the person in this role collaborate with team members to achieve goals or work independently? If the position works with the public, interacts with clients, or manages vendor relationships, note these requirements.
Divide responsibilities and functions into essential and non-essential duties. This will be important if you are required to make accommodations for applicants or employees under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Don’t forget details like travel, etc., and be as specific as you can. For example, will the employee in this role need to travel weekly, monthly, quarterly?
The qualifications section is tricky. You probably have an ideal candidate in mind. This person has the perfect work history, educational background, and skill set for the role.
However, if you focus too strongly on your perfect hire, you may lose out on candidates who don’t have everything on your list but would excel in the position. For this reason, it’s best to start out with minimum requirements and build from there. Start by asking yourself what this employee must absolutely have in terms of education, experience, skills, licenses, certifications and so on. You can always add a preferred qualifications section to include nice-to-have abilities as well.
Beware of job description creep in this area. It’s easy to add qualifications to your list without asking yourself whether the old requirements are current and still necessary.
Job Description vs Job Posting
Job descriptions and job postings are sometimes thought of interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. A solid job description is the backbone of an effective job posting. But to reach the candidates with the right skill set, background, and goals, a job posting needs to address:
- Culture: Company culture is the set of beliefs and behaviors that define your organization. A job posting should give prospective hires a sense of what it will be like to work at the company. (A word of warning: Be sure that you don’t perpetuate bias in your choice of words. Terms like “rock star” and “action-oriented” may seem neutral, but could turn off candidates who are less comfortable boasting about their skills. The National Center for Women & Information Technology offers a checklist for reducing unconscious bias in job postings.)
- Benefits and perks: Compensation is more than just the numbers on a pay stub. Be sure to mention health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, and other benefits. And don’t forget perks like flex time, remote work, etc.
- Professional development: Is there room to grow at your company, or do you offer continuing education benefits? Tout these in your ad.
- Diversity and inclusion: Every job posting should include an equal employment opportunity/affirmative Action statement, e.g. “XYZ Corp is committed to diversity and inclusion and is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer.”
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Best Way To Write A Job Description?
A job description should focus on the role’s essential duties. To isolate these, survey employees in similar roles to learn which functions are most crucial to success.
What Should A Job Description Include?
A job description should include the job title, job details, day-to-day tasks, responsibilities and expectations, and qualifications.
How Do You Define A Job Description?
A job description is a statement of the main duties, functions, and requirements of a job. It should also show where the role fits into the org chart.
What Are The Qualities Of An Effective Job Description?
The best job descriptions are concise, free of company jargon, and address the most essential functions, duties, and qualifications required to do the job.
The Bottom Line
Now that you know how to write a job description, you may be ready to use it to find the best prospective hires. We’ve done the work for you and identified the top free job posting sites--or consider using ZipRecruiter to find the hottest talent for your open roles.