Hiring isn’t just about filling a role—it’s about filling it with the right person. Your organization probably spends a lot of time, care, and resources on the hiring process. But if you’re kicking things off with a job description that isn’t what it could be, you could be limiting yourself right at the start. Let’s look at six strategies for building a better job description.
Job Posting 101
1. Get their attention
Let’s say you’re looking at two different ads. One is sleek, easy to read, and laid out in a way that makes it easy to follow. The other is a long block of plain text, and looks like a Craigslist ad circa 2007. Humans are visual creatures—we’re drawn to things that look nice and tell us what we need to know in a very straightforward way.
Before you even think about the content of your job ad, make sure you’re starting with a good template that will catch the eye:
- A crisp, modern font like Helvetica, Arial, or Verdana. Serif vs. sans serif doesn’t matter quite so much these days, but avoid novelty fonts (looking at you, Comic Sans and Papyrus).
- Bold text only when necessary. If you emphasize everything in the job ad, you’re really emphasizing nothing. So use bold or caps in the job title only, and make the rest of the ad regular text. Avoid italics as well, because they can make the text harder to read quickly.
- Don’t overdesign. Lots of bright colors or pictures can detract from the text, and make your ad harder to read. Basic design is fine. Black and white are classic for a reason!
2. Be found by the right people
Here’s where you start refining the content of your job description. Your headers should boost your searchability, which means vague lines like “job opportunity!” or “medical job” are out. Use the specific job title so people using that exact search term will get to your job listing easily. Use full words instead of abbreviations, whenever space allows. For example, someone might not be searching for a “VP” role, but they might well be looking for a “vice president” role.
And resist the urge to use clever titles like “guru” or “expert.” You’re hiring for a specific job, which means you’re already looking for expertise. Use your job title real estate to get in as much information about the job as possible.
After the job title/header, the first paragraph of the job description needs to grab the reader. Use action verbs and describe the most important functions of the job. If you lead with deep background about your company or the industry, you may lose the attention of someone skimming past. And no novels, please—limit each paragraph to around three lines.
3. Pay attention to the small stuff
If you’re seeking experienced candidates, it can be tempting to use shorthand or vague descriptions about the job itself. A great job description has enough specifics about the job that readers know right away if they meet that initial hurdle. Otherwise you risk getting candidates who aren’t qualified, wasting their time and yours.
If you are requiring a minimum number of years’ experience, list it. If you have qualities “must-haves” versus “nice-to-haves,” make sure that’s clear as well.
4. Talk yourself up
Your employer brand is crucial when potential candidates read a job description and decide whether they’re going to apply. After you’ve listed the initial job information, play up the factors that make this job (and your organization) appealing: salary range, benefits (like vacation time, 401K accounts, educational reimbursement, etc.), and any perks that might appeal to potential employees.
5. Make sure they know who you are
Whoever you hire is going to be committing to your company, so you want to make sure you’re giving them the baseline information about you right away. Always link to your website, but also provide a bit of narrative about who you are, where you fit in your industry, and your company’s highest values and priorities.
This shouldn’t be a rehash of your “About Us” page, but more like a greatest hits summary of your company bio.
6. Let data improve your job descriptions
Job descriptions aren’t carved in stone. You have the ability to make changes based on what works and what doesn’t. Analytics like URL tracking, engagement measuring software, and other AI tools can give you real-time information about who’s seeing your job ads and who’s actioning on them. This data can help you decide whether you’re posting in the right places, or if you need to make tweaks to the job description itself to improve the number of clicks and candidates reached.
Don't slack on this key part of the recruitment process—the more detailed and robust you make your job description, the higher the chances that you’ll get the best people in your door and working on your team.