Expert Perspective: Getting a job description just right

First of all, what is your purpose? Is it a job spec or a job description? Yes, they’re different.

A job specification generally comprises of specific roles, responsibilities and background points that are required for the role. Whereas, a job description tends to build more of a narrative around the position. This is what I’m going to focus on. So, what are the key things to include?

Here are 8 key points to understand before writing your job description:

1. Get the job title right
Consider whether the title is a true reflection of the role and the candidate you are looking to hire, if not then tweak accordingly. If the role requires you to spend the majority of your time working on marketing campaigns, this should be reflected in the title.

2. Where does the job sit within the business?
Who will this person be directly reporting into? It all matters. It’s also vital for a prospective candidate to know the team structure and who they will be working alongside. If the candidate will be joining a team of four dedicated Account Executives, let them know.

3. What experience should a candidate have?
It’s important to distinguish the ‘nice to haves’ from the essentials. This is a great way to filter out the unsuitable applicants.

4. Be specific about the role and responsibilities.
To ensure higher staff retention, be realistic and specific about the areas that a successful candidate will spend their time working on.

5. What will their progression route look like?
If there is a clear structure within the business, let the candidate know.

6. Provide company specific narrative
Size, scale, locations, clients. Because no-one feels inspired to work for a company that they know nothing about.

7. Short summary copy
In most opportunities there is intro copy that needs to grab the reader, before they consider making the next step through to the job description.

8. Getting the order right
Short intro, role responsibilities, person specification, rewards, your company and next steps. Some of these can be omitted depending on where you’re advertising, if it’s internal the ‘your company’ info can take a back seat.

Keep everything succinct. Depending on where you’re posting, a job ad should be to the point about the role and sell the business and opportunity to a candidate.  It requires you to take a step back from the writing, the job description should serve a function, and it should provide a compelling transaction opportunity for the right candidate. If it doesn’t, then you’re doing something wrong. If it captures unsuitable candidates, you’re doing something wrong.

Stop doing something wrong, and start doing it right

Taking the above 8 tips forward, you’ll establish a replicable structure to use to build job ads. You need to treat prospective candidates in a similar way to consumers. They will be in a position to either count themselves in or out upon reading your crafted job description. You need to make sure that the right people are getting through to the application stage. You can do this by setting out the requirements and responsibilities from the offset. Be honest here, embellishing details will make it harder to retain the right people.

Get the address right

Most job descriptions are written in the third person. But, the way to engage the audience is to use the second person ‘you’ address to build a relationship and speak directly to the reader. The use of ‘you’ breaks down the distance between the writer and reader, allowing the reader to see clearly where they could fit within the business.

Size matters

You should keep your job description to less than 700 words, with clear sections to keep readers engaged and provide the essential details about the role and the business opportunity.

So, that’s it, a quick guide to getting a job description to work for you. It’s also always worth considering how setting the scene around a role on social media can attract applicants. Think of creative ways to showcase your role, and you’ll get the applications to match.