Crafting the Ideal Job Description

Scott Hirko, Executive Recruiter

A lot of attention is given to what a great resume looks like from its content to its ideal length, but there is often less focus on the anatomy of a strong job description. Just as a resume serves to grab the attention of a potential employer, the right job description can make or break a position in the eyes of potential candidates. Think of it as a sales tool that will help set the tone for the rest of the interview process.

A good rule of thumb is to keep the description to a page or less to make for an easier and less overwhelming read. Bullet points make content easy to skim and help it feel more digestible. You’ll also want to include: 

  • The day-to-day expectations of the new position: Explain what your organization expects of the new hire, but don’t include so many minute details that the position seems tedious. Stick to the big picture.
  • Candidate requirements: There is no perfect candidate, so just focus on those skills that are most important. Be sure to differentiate between skills that are required vs. those that are nice to have.
  • Expected accomplishments: What will your expectations be of the employee in the first six months or even the first year? Thinking about this up front helps prepare you and the candidate for conversations during the interview.
  • Success measurements: Give potential candidates a snapshot of what success looks like in this role. Are you looking for someone who will drive revenue? Bring in new client? Spell it out.
  • A description of the company/organization: Potential employees are attracted to an organization as much as they are a specific position. Go beyond just an overview of the company and talk about the organization’s culture and the types of employees who are successful there. 
  • Contact information: Make sure this is on the job description itself in case it becomes separated from other accompanying information or is shared from one person to another.

It’s natural for employers to want to list every possible skill they seek in a candidate. However, the more requirements you add to a job description, the more likely you are to potentially scare away talented candidates. In a Hewlett-Packard study, women were more likely to only apply for a job if they felt they met 100% of the requirements listed on the job description, while men were likely to apply when they met 60% of the requirements. Author Tara Mohr dug deeper to understand what made candidates not apply for a job when they didn’t meet all requirements. Forty-six percent of men and nearly 41 percent of women stated they didn’t apply for the position because “I didn’t think they would hire me since I didn’t meet the qualifications, and I didn’t want to waste my time and energy.” In order to ensure you don’t push away a potentially strong candidate, just include the key skills required for the position.

Be sure the job description is up to date as roles within the organization can change. The easiest way to ensure this task gets done is to create a task force of current employees to review current job descriptions and update them as needed. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make sure your company’s culture comes through in the job description. Whether your organization is formal, creative, or laid back, make sure the tone of the writing resonates with your mission and values. 

A longer job description doesn’t result in better candidates. Focus on what matters most to reach the top talent you’re after.