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How to Write a Job Description
Most job descriptions are poorly written. From entry-level sales positions to CEO-level executives, they all say the same things. Everyone should have high attention to detail and be organized. Everyone also needs to be a fluid, effective communicator who can also multitask quickly while managing client and employee relationships effectively. Sure that sounds great, but is it all practical? Is it all necessary? Is it enough to keep your next superstar candidate’s interest?
Keep in mind your own objectives when writing your description. You want to engage the candidate, offer a brief description of the company and the position, duties, and expectations. Most importantly though, you want to describe performance expectations; how will this candidate be assessed? How will these objectives offer the candidate the opportunity to grow their own skill set?
Typically, describing the compensation and benefits portion of the job is at the discretion of the company. Most candidates like to know what they are getting themselves into, and it is a good way to verify that there is a pay fit, but more often than not, if the description offers the opportunity to grow and achieve more than the candidate has been offered in the past, compensation will not be the deciding factor.
4 Steps to Writing an Effective Job Description
1. Describe Performance Objectives
Quality candidates want to know what they will be doing on a day to day basis and how performance will be measured . Most job descriptions list an array of personality characteristics and intangible qualities that a well-rounded candidate must have. Not every salesperson who is good at negotiation is going to be an efficient multi-tasker as well as detail-oriented. They sell well because they’re good communicators who are likable and charming, not because they make their bed every morning.
Instead, list the performance metrics that you will be holding this person accountable for. As Adler suggests, it is most helpful to look at your company and the job expectations within specific time frames, such as within the next 60-90 days, 6 months, and so on. These forecasts will allow you and the candidate to measure their achievements against the timeline given to ensure everything is on track. List any tools or training that this candidate will receive to accomplish in this section as well.
2. Use Creative Headings, Job Descriptions Don’t need to be Boring
While it is a good practice to optimize your description for search by using keywords and appropriate titles throughout, breaking the description up into chunks with catchy headings is also an effective practice. For example: “About Our Company” is a pretty straightforward way to describe the company culture and values, while, “Why You Want to Work Here” is a better heading to use to describe the unique culture your company offers. Humor is a great way to spice up your job description and will most definitely set it apart from the rest. Showcase your company’s uniqueness and ability to be creative when necessary. You are writing a job description after all, no one said it has to sound like an obituary.
3. Keep Job Descriptions Organized by Using White Space
Too much wording without line breaks can be somewhat intimidating. Feel free to use bullet points to highlight key objectives instead of writing a 5-paragraph essay. Bullet points can be more effective anyway, as they allow the candidate to scan the document for important components of the position, whereas too much text can cause the candidate to scan over the entire paragraph completely!
4. Get Applicants to Fall in Love with the Job
While it seems to make sense to list a handful of traits or characteristics that you want employees to have, top performing candidates don’t want to be told what they need to have before applying for the job of their dreams. They already know that they have the skills to be successful, and so the job description must engage the candidate’s interests and address the key objectives that they’ll be responsible for accomplishing while employed with your company.
What a Job Description Needs to Attract Candidates
A good job advertisement hits all the points. It’s interesting to read and sets a scene for the candidate to imagine what “a day in the life” is like with the company. It also calls attention to what is expected of the candidate within the first 3, 6, and 9 months of employment and what they can otherwise expect on the job as a whole. We call these the “measurable expectations” because they are time-bound. This makes it super easy to track a candidate’s performance when you hold them against accomplishing tasks within specific periods of time.
The ad will further be succinct and easy to read, but still full of information that’s relevant to the position. It tells the story of the company in a way that makes the reader want to be a part of the team, where they can see themselves as part of the team’s fabric, creating not only opportunity for themselves in their career, but also creating solutions to common business challenges.
Did you know that 50% of all interviewees and new hires that join our team mention that our job ad captivated and engaged them so much they were all the more encouraged to apply in the first place? This is even before they had ever met anyone from our company, in which case would have undoubtedly discouraged them in the second place, but more on that later. A job ad so powerful that it literally compels prospective candidates to apply. Think about that. Putting enough effort into creating a really good, quality job ad for your open positions can, in part, handle your recruiting for you!
So, we were curious (as we often are), so we surveyed (as we often do) our candidate pipeline to determine what they (real-life job seekers) want to see in a job description. Of the 226 participants who responded, a whopping 72% have applied to jobs either solely or mostly because of the way the job was presented in the job ad. That’s ¾ of all applicants! Makes sense though, right? The advertising and marketing industry is worth billions of dollars for a reason. Because it works!
Most of us can conceptualize the idea of love at first sight. Maybe you’ve even experienced it before. A job advertisement that causes a candidate to fall head over heels in love with the idea of working for you and your company is the exact feeling we’re trying to evoke here. By the end of a successful job advertising campaign you should have a lot of stalkers and heart-broken suitors. Just be sure to let them down nicely and do watch out for those stalkers!
Job Description Errors that Have Candidates Running for the Hills
A bad job description can on take many forms. It could possibly be too long. Like 3-4 pages in length, too long. It might even be too short. It might be so short, you’d be challenged to even call it an actual job description due to its lack of adequate information about the position. You look away having no idea what the company even does nor how you’d fit in.
Aside from the length, a job description that does a poor job of advertising contains an exhaustive bulleted list. Usually these start with, and I quote from some random job ad I just found, “The following is a list of the expected duties and responsibilities that are not limited to…” and then goes on for like, a whole page of things in a bulleted list. I think it was a page, I’m not sure, I FELL ASLEEP HALFWAY THROUGH.
I’m not saying don’t use bulleted lists. By all means, bulleted lists are awesome and can be very helpful in organizing large chunks of data; I’m just saying don’t fill a page with a bulleted list, certainly don’t fill two or more pages with a bulleted list, and in fact, to be on the safe side of the job description blacklist, try to keep bulleted lists to 4-5 bullets maximum.
If you want to add more than one list, do it, but break it up a bit.
And really, honestly, let’s not attack the bulleted list. They aren’t the problem; it’s the information contained within those lists that hurts candidates’ feelings.
We all want the best candidates. We all want candidates with the most talent and sharpest skills. In reality, we aren’t going to get everything we ask for. The Rolling Stones said so (see for yourself), and it’s not often they’re wrong. What we want is enough of the right skills and talents for the pay and a candidates who will execute on the opportunities we have to offer.
The best way to create your own “system check” for your job ads is to imagine browsing jobs online and coming across an ad like we’ve described above. If it’s not exciting and doesn’t stoke your curiosity, prompting you to explore or research more about the company, just imagine what that might mean or suggest when actually working for the company? Wouldn’t you expect it to be just as dry and boring?
Ugly job descriptions are the worst of the worst. They go on and on about the skills and abilities required of the candidate. They talk about policies and one’s “willingness to perform other duties as requested.” They call for attention to detail, effective communication, a can-do attitude, and the expert ability to navigate MS Office programs. They require a recent college graduate with 17 years of experience and offer a salary of $28k to start. Base jumping experience in the Congo is preferred, but not required.
Catch my drift?
Really? How many times has an employee been asked to do something, to which they respond “no, it’s not in my job description” and you say, “yes, it is. It’s written here, *points to bullet in JD* “willingness to perform other duties as requested.” I can count on 0 fingers how many times that’s happened personally and to those I know that I’ve heard about. So, why are we still using it in our job ads? Isn’t it a given? And anyway, if you feel that you might be faced with an employee who has the gall to actually argue with you over performing “other duties as requested” then you definitely have much bigger problems to face, aside from your job descriptions.
Think you’re not one of those guilty of this crime? Go look at your most recent job ad.
Go ahead, I’ll wait…
So, how long is it? Does it make you excited about your company or the opportunity? In fact, does it sound like an exciting opportunity, or just a job? If it’s exciting and upbeat, good for you! You’re one step closer to being an expert at writing quality job ads.
If Attention to Detail is, in fact, something that you really want someone to have in your new position, you should consider rewording it to make sense for whatever task(s) your employee will be using this skill. For example, “Attention to Detail” can be measurably defined as “enter all patient details into our company-wide ERP system with 99% accuracy.” It ties the skill back to a real-life example of what someone will be doing. It gives the skill meaning.
3 of the Best Job Descriptions on the Planet
Examples of Quality Job Descriptions
We’ve tooted our own horn a lot here, and at this point it’s only fitting that we put our money where our mouth is. We’ve collected a handful of job descriptions that we’ve written for clients and even one in there for our own company for you to evaluate and judge.
These job descriptions have garnered fans across the nation and compelled thousands of applicants to apply. Surely part of this was the opportunity itself, BUT, we’re also sure part of it was the job ad that made a positive first impression on our candidates.
Check them out!
Here is an engaging example of a job description seeking an Outside Sales Executive that was written for a client who services the hospitality industry. It is a bit longer than most of the job descriptions we write these days, but really did get a lot of attention!
Who: Company Name
What: Outside Sales Representative / B2B/New Business Development Executive
How Much: $70k-$90k is the minimum performance expectation, with top performing sales representatives regularly earning over $100k annually. This plan includes ancillary benefits such as a company vehicle (just don’t road trip to Vegas unless you take us with you), medical/dental insurance (we’ll clean your teeth), 401k, vacation (woohoo!) and a completely employer-funded retirement plan.
If you are looking for a job where you punch in and punch out every day without having to think about what you do and don’t care so much about future growth but instead what time you get to go home and watch TV, then close this window and look elsewhere. Puhh-lease.
If, however, you crave a position where you have the opportunity to create an impact on key business leader’s decisions where you will learn to develop the skills needed for future success in various business applications and sales leadership roles, and are excited at the opportunity to be challenged and stretched to grow while honing your negotiation and sales skills, then read on. If you made it past that run-on sentence, then this just might be one worth your while.
The Opportunity for Outside Sales Representative:
Our Outside Sales Representative role offers a great opportunity for recent college grads or other sales-minded, success-oriented individuals with a strong desire for achievement in sales leadership and management. In this position you will call on restaurant owners within a protected territory, primarily through cold-calling and B2B sales within the field, where your main focus is to take business from our competition by creating unique solutions for your clients.
In other words, hang out in the coolest bars and restaurants serving up our nifty dish machines! You might be thinking “how can I make dish machines sound cool?” Well every restaurant and bar needs a dishwasher, right? When all else fails, keep it simple. Tell the owner you saw spots and food chunks on your silverware last time you visited. If THAT doesn’t work (and it does, we’ve tried it) then this likely will…
- As an Outside Sales Representative, you will move quick (literally run when needed), think fast and hone your skills in negotiation, objection resolution, and problem solving in selling and servicing customers in a highly demanding, diverse, and exciting marketplace.
- As an Outside Sales Representative | B2B Sales Rep, you will be put through a highly interactive, in-field and classroom training program focused on developing your skills in dealing with all aspects of our business operations including customer inquiries, equipment repair and service, new sales, and collections.
- The Sales Representative will play an essential role in providing exceptional customer service to our clients and prospects, a great work environment with fellow colleagues, and positive partnership for our customers, working hands-on in the field with our customers and fellow employees.
Successful Outside Sales Representatives Often Have:
- A strong desire to become the best in their field, whether straight out of college or a seasoned B2B sales representative. No experience? No worries! We’ll train you.
- Successful sales experience in a face-to-face cold calling background
- Excellent closing skills (Can you sell ice to a snowman?)
- History as a consistent high performer (Do you win at Monopoly every single time?)
- Ability to handle customer’s on-site inquiries through recommending better applications, design, and continuous product improvements.
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills
- Enjoy persuasive communication with everyone around you
- A strong mechanical aptitude
- A valid driver’s license and a good driving record
We are interested in speaking with you if you are a recent college graduate or success-minded individual. Those who are successful with our business often bring 0 to 4 years of B2B selling experience with evidence of exceptional performance in positions such as Outside Sales Representative, New Business Development Associate, Account Executive, Hunter sales, and other sales-oriented roles. We value committed individuals who have a strong desire to succeed and who value constant improvement.
What’s in it for You?
This Account Executive positions offers significant room for growth and financial stability. Our compensation plan includes a generous base salary + rich commission structure with minimum first year earnings of between $70k-$90k annually, with top performing sales representatives regularly earning over $100k each year. This plan also includes ancillary benefits such as a company vehicle, medical/dental insurance, vacation, 401k, and a completely employer-funded retirement plan.
Leadership, Growth, Success, Achievement, (and of course we’ve got to throw those family values in here somewhere) are what move people who work with us.
We want you to know that we are a serious company and take our work just as seriously. We have a 80 year history of providing quality cleaning products, equipment and services to the hospitality, lodging and healthcare industries. Are you a zero-debt individual? We are. Can you imagine? If you’re still not convinced, chew on this…We have demonstrated growth every year since our inception (that was way back in 1938, too) through our innovative spirit and dedicated customer-service, which has allowed us to grow to a national organization with 100+ locations and more than 80,000 satisfied customers. Count that again…That’s a lot of dish machines!
We proactively promote within, providing opportunity to learn the various skill sets that have help set our foundation and will further define our future.
Here is another example of a job description that was written seeking an Account Manager for a client in the marketing industry. Most of this ad was written by our client. They did an excellent job, but notice, they’re in the business of marketing, so go figure!
Account Manager for Web Marketing and SEO
(Company Name) is hiring! And we are looking for someone passionate about SEO, marketing, and social media advertising who loves developing relationships with customers. We are in need of an account specialist who will act as the liaison between our clients and our development team. Check us out at (www.CompanySite.com) to learn more about your upcoming new career.
The fancy name for our Account Managers is “FAIR Strategist.” As a FAIR Strategist, your main responsibility includes chumming it up with our clients and BFF’ing it with them throughout the entire scope of their marketing project with us. As long as you don’t screw anything up and everyone is smiling at the end of the day, you’ll get a high five.
More tangibly, an Account Executive (FAIR Strategist) will also:
- Identify issues and implement improvements, demonstrating an understanding of complex problems and ideas with the ability to break them down into simple, clear explanations for our team and clients
- Juggle multiple projects like you’re an octopus with 8 arms and be comfortable communicating with a wide variety of clients (including C-level executives) and coworkers
- Create SEO/PPC/SOCIAL Reports (we call this the FAIR Review) with analysis of performance of campaigns along with recommendations for improvements
- Provide bids and quotes to existing accounts in need of additional projects (and management of those ad-hoc projects
- Conduct keyword research and analytics analysis often
- Upsell, recommend other add-on services, and get referrals with the goal of increasing number of accounts
Skills/Experience Preferred for Account Representative
- Bachelor’s Degree + demonstrated excellence in school and/or career
- Demonstrated strategic and analytic thinking in past roles
- Strong proficiency in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PPT)
- Account management experience
- Experience using Google Analytics, Google Docs, Project Management Software
- Experience in SEO or PPC (programming is not a required skill)
- General awesomeness
Salary and Bennies
- No commute (we do not believe in punching a clock although you can come to the office as much as you want – and of course for required meetings).
- Account Strategists will enjoy a competitive base salary of $45k-$60k per year (DOE)
- Vacation/Sick/Holidays (10 vacation days to start)
- Opportunity to increase your base salary ANY day of the week through bonuses / commissions when you upgrade accounts with add-on services
- Health, Dental, and 401k
- Company cell phone (which can be used for personal reasons AKA: texting and selfies)
- Expense account for client lunches, gifts, travel, etc.
- 9/80 Rule (every other Friday off!! Srsly yes…we mean that)
About (Company Name)
(Company Name) is the fastest growing web marketing company in Texas. Since 2005, we’ve been driven to make a major impact to our client’s businesses by utilizing Search Engine Optimization, PPC, Email Marketing & Social Media. We work hard and have a lot of fun!
We also keep a fridge stocked full of beer. Not that you’ll be in the office or stuck in a cubicle all day, but it’s there should you be thirsty and decide to stop by! We are looking for individuals who are excited by online marketing, problem-solving, creative advertising and developing strategies to help clients win.
As you can see, this ad was packed full of important company and position information and really described the culture in just the way it was written. Couldn’t you picture what kind of team you’d be working on?
And not to toot our own horn, but…TOOT TOOT! Here is one of our own job descriptions seeking an internal recruiter:
Sourcer | Recruiter-in-Training
We’re awesome. The End.
Just kidding… Well, maybe about the whole “end” part.
Unlike other recruiting and staffing firms, we are a fast-growing executive placement firm specializing in Retained Executive Recruiting, Step-by-Step Recruitment Process Consulting , and Pre-Employment Assessment Tools to help companies hire better people. We have our own testing tools! I mean, how cool is that? You know those little assessment tests you have to take sometimes after interviewing for a job? Yea, that’s what we do.
We are a small team…literally, you can count us on 4.5 fingers. BUT! We happen to think that’s kind of the cool part of working for us though, ‘cause we’re like best buddy colleagues. Every day is like one big brainstorming/working/social hour session (that just happens to last for 8).
Hate having to dress up in dry-cleaned clothes and fancy uncomfortable shoes just to go to work? Great, us too. Wear your jeans and sandals and you’ll fit right in here.
Check us out at: www.TheHireTalent.com to learn about our testing, www.wimbushassociates.com to learn about our recruiting gigs, or on Glassdoor at: www.Glassdoor.com/employers/TheHireTalent.com to learn how legit we are. If you want to stalk us online, you may also follow our company on LinkedIn and Facebook.
Our mission is to educate our clients and provide them with the best services to help them find, select and retain the best talent on the market. We truly partner with our clients in every way to ensure their success. This focus is unrelenting and authentic. We’ve also taken our expertise and focused it toward the Aerospace, Manufacturing, and Engineering fields. We aren’t just a three-trick pony though, we also recruit for Sales and Leadership positions, Number-Crunching people like finance and accounting roles, and construction professionals.
About the Sourcing & Recruiting Role
The Entry-Level Sourcer/Recruiter is responsible for providing full candidate sourcing support to our team. In this role, you will learn about our business model, and become an expert in the various industries and positions we recruit for. In so doing, you will learn to source hundreds of both passive and active candidates for these positions. If you prefer to work in a closet with limited people interaction, feel free! Source your little heart out. If, however, you prefer to interact with candidates and want to learn about recruiting, we’ll teach you how to interview like a pro, with the eventual goal of learning to become a top-tiered, executive recruiter.
- Become knowledgeable of our services and target our key industries to facilitate recruiting/ sourcing efforts and minimize time-to-fill
- Actively reviews career databases (AKA: stalking, trolling, etc) such as LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, Indeed, Monster, Facebook, and various College Job Boards for both active and passive candidates that fit our positions and objectives
- Identify 100 high quality, passive candidates per week
- Contact at least 20 passive candidates per week to generate interest in current requisitions
- Uses time efficiently in order to meet personal goals and work collaboratively with other members of the team
We are looking for a talented individual (perhaps you have some sales or recruiting experience already) who wants to help us achieve ultimate client satisfaction and, like, a bajillion dollar revenue, or something like that.
You will improve on our current candidate pipeline through prospecting and sourcing efforts. We are interested in speaking with you if:
- You like sales and aren’t afraid of picking up the phone, bothering candidates in order to offer them the job of a million lifetimes and otherwise being pushy
- You have a unique and creative approach in prospecting/sourcing for passive candidates. Or you moonlight as a P.I. AKA: Legal Stalker and can utilize those skillz here.
- You are a recent-college grad and are looking to learn about the business world while developing the foundation for your career in Human Resources or Sales
- You are motivated and love to succeed in anything you do
Compensation & Bennies
We know you want a number here…yeaaa, sorry about that…but really, it’s going to depend on, like, a bunch of things that we’ll get into later. Ideally, we are looking at an hourly range of $12-$15 with increasing opportunities to earn more, depending on your own goals and aspirations. As an added bonus, we’ll let you take the weekends and every major holiday off.
As you can see, each one of these job descriptions are different in scope and cover various types of positions. They are, however, all interesting to read (amIright?) and engage the candidate throughout the entire document. They are brief (kinda) and to the point. They also paint a picture of the company, its values, goals, objectives, and what the candidate would probably stand to expect if they were hired. The goal is to write an engaging piece of content that makes your potential candidates want to apply! I don’t know about you, but I just applied to 3 jobs in my head right now.
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