Job Descriptions Aren’t Just About Jobs: A Guide to Writing a Job Description
First impressions last a lifetime. Your job description creates that first impression on many potential hires. It’s a chance to tell the company’s story. It’s a chance to convince candidates why this company is the one that they should choose above all the others. After all, you do want to hire top candidates and they will most likely have more than one choice. Having said that, you are still selling the job too and you need to find something to sell about it. Every Software Engineer role, for example, is going to require coding in one language or another but it’s about showing why this role is more exciting than the one they read before, and the job they’re looking to leave.
The “About Us” Part
What is your story?
The first part of a job description should be an introduction to the company. To do that well, you need to know the company’s story and what the employer brand is. An employer brand is essentially what an outside person thinks it’s like to work at the company. It’s the company’s reputation and what sets it apart from others. The company’s story is its employer brand presented in a more relatable, engaging way. Sometimes the story is about how it started, how work is done or what the mission is. It should relay what sets the company apart. It also needs to relay the information candidates generally want to know. Include elements like what type of people they’ll be working with and how the leadership team manages, the environment, the physical (or virtual) place they’ll be working in, and most importantly, include why it’s unique – tell the story.
Why tell your story?
We know that maintaining healthy company culture is essential. A team needs to be able to technically do their jobs. However, how they do it and how individual team members fit into their team is important too. There are multiple reasons why you want a good company culture: retaining employees, having more engaged employees, collaboration, good morale, etc. If you want to understand more about the value of healthy company culture, you can find more information about it here. Telling the story is about attracting the right type of candidate, who will thrive in the company culture and in the team. A good “About Us” part can also improve the overall employer brand awareness. Not everyone keeping an eye on the job market is ready to move, but stand out and it’ll be a company they remember. When those candidates do get to a point where they’re ready to make a move, they’ll likely remember the company.
The “About the Role” Part
Why is this different from the rest?
Whatever you’re hiring for, others are too. If you search your job title many others will pop up too. So this part is where you sell your job. Using the Software Engineers knowing they need to code example from above: they know that they’re going to be doing that (just like Copywriters know they’ll be writing in a Copywriter role). Tell candidates why coding for this company is going to be different and exciting. Think about selling points, but be clear and brief. This part still needs to be a summary of the job and needs to give people a clear idea of what it will entail.
The “Responsibilities” Part
Just be specific.
It’s pretty much that simple. Make a list of bullet points saying exactly what this person will be doing in your company. This is where you tell your Software Engineer that they will in fact be coding. But there’s still more to it than that, so again just be specific. Include something about the language and the type of product they’ll be creating, for example. Once someone is done reading this part, they should have a clear idea of what their day-to-day would look like in this role. Include the key aspects but not every single detail. Roughly 10 bullet points should be enough.
The “Requirements” Part
What do you want and what do you need?
An important question to ask, before starting to hire for any role. You should have a clear idea of what your ideal candidate looks like. You should also accept that your ideal is exactly that: an ideal. It’s most likely that the candidates you meet may not have all of your ideal qualities. That’s why you have to have a clear idea of which requirements are wants and which are needs. Have “minimum” and “preferred” requirements listed on your job description and don’t be too limiting when it comes to the minimum requirements.
Who are you looking for?
Your requirements should not just be a list of experience, technical skills and qualifications. Soft skills are worth considering and worth mentioning. When deciding on which soft skills to look for in a candidate, consider two things: what are the key qualities that’ll make someone fit into the company culture and what are the key qualities that’ll enable them to do this job in the right way. Soft skills can generally be learnt but they’re often also innate, simply the way someone is. We all know that some of us are more adaptable, think more critically, pay more attention to detail or are more creative than others. These are the types of skills that are worth adding to your requirements.
The Optional Parts
There may be other information that you want candidates to know. This often includes elements of the employer brand or culture that didn’t fit into your “About Us” part. If your company has particularly good benefits or you have well-defined values (that your company really lives by) it may be worth adding those as a “Benefits” or an “Our Values” part at the bottom.
Those are all the parts that your job description should have, and the order that they generally appear in. The structure of a job description is pretty standard but what it contains shouldn’t be. Top talent looks for what sets a company apart. They know that they don’t need to settle for an average company, so don’t present the company like one. Every single company has a unique story in some form, and you need to get candidates excited about what the company can offer. We don’t exist in a job market where candidates just look for jobs they can do. They look for a job that they want to do, in a company that left a good first impression.