For most of the candidates applying to your job opening, your job ad will be the first point of contact they have with your company. Needless to say, you should put maximum effort in making your job ads and job descriptions stand out.
However, many job descriptions simply fail to attract candidates – they’re either boring, outdated, irrelevant or plain wrong for the position.
Here are a few ways to make your job descriptions better, including advice on what to write, what to leave out, as well as which bonus elements to include to increase the number of your applicants per position.
Why job descriptions can make or break your hiring process
From the candidate’s side, the very first point of contact with your company will probably be your job ad. Unless they’ve learned about you from some other source, they will judge your company based on the ad and the job description.
Moreover, if your job description is poorly written, chances are that the candidate will complain about it online. Whether it’s LinkedIn or some other network, if you screw up when you describe the position, the internet will not forget.
One of the most common issues with job descriptions is that they look and sound the same. Employers often use the same job description for multiple positions, or even worse, copy and paste a job description from somewhere online.
If you cut corners in the creation of your job ad, this will reflect on the quality of your applicants. Your company and the position are unique, so make your job description unique as well. Start out from scratch and build a one-of-a-kind description catered to your ideal applicant.
What should your job description contain?
While you have plenty of freedom in creating your job ad and description, there are several key elements necessary to maximize your ad efficiency:
- Job title
- About the company
- Overall description of the position
- Structure of the team + who the applicant will refer to
Let’s get into detail about each of these.
Write a clear and specific job title
Do you remember when job titles such as Rockstar Java Developer and Customer Support Ninja were cool? Neither do I. As we’ve written before, not only will quirky job titles put off more candidates than they would attract them, they also bring another problem – they’re simply bad for search engines on job boards.
However, don’t go to the other extreme and simply name your job title Software Developer. The minimum you should do is to include the programming language in brackets, for example, to end up with something like Software Developer (PHP). However, you can take it one step further and add the seniority, e.g. Senior PHP Developer.
About the company section
What makes your company a worthy employer? When writing the about section, bear in mind the position. For example, a developer will be interested in the kind of tech stack that your company is using, so this valuable information should be listed here. On the other hand, a marketer will be more interested in the types of markets you’re pursuing. If you do any open-source projects, this would be a good place to mention it.
Describe the position
If you’re a recruiter/hiring manager, you may not be aware of how many job descriptions are exactly the same. Another issue is that many times, the recruiters themselves are unfamiliar with the position they’re looking to fill. It’s not uncommon to see job ads for developers where the recruiters don’t know the basics of programming languages listed in the job description.
Unfortunately, team leads and managers often don’t have the time to look over the position description, which leads to situations where candidates can’t figure what the job is really about. Whenever possible, make sure every item on the list is double-checked and approved by the appropriate team lead or manager.
For many candidates, this is the most important part of the job ad. If they don’t have enough experience or appropriate education, they’ll drop out immediately and won’t apply, even if they may be a good fit.
For this reason, only put the true minimum experience you require from the candidate. However, bear in mind that X years of experience simply means a time period – you should prioritize the type of experience first. Finally, double check with team leads and experienced managers to make sure the requirements listed make sense for the position.
Finally, if you’re hiring a developer or some other technical role, only list the stack they will be working with and don’t mix in anything else. If they see 5 programming languages for an entry-level position, they will be discouraged to apply.
If you’ve done good so far in your job ad, this is the point where you need to shine and show what really makes you a desirable employer. Unfortunately, this is one of the most important categories that’s often left out in job ads with even the most successful companies out there.
First off, try and list the salary. Although there are plenty of reasons not to disclose wages, there are also some valid reasons why you should mention it. If the applicant knows the salary, two things will happen. One, you’ll drive off candidates who expect a lot more than you can offer. Two, you will deter underqualified candidates. Our sister company Toggl only lists the salary and a couple of major points in their job ads, and it seems to work pretty well for them.
Let’s get on to some other practical bits. If there’s travel required for the position, list just how much travel and for which purposes. If there’s a conference budget, make sure to state just how much money it is. If there’s a budget for learning and development, include a specific amount or at least a range to be used as a guideline.
Working hours are crucial for any applicant, so be as precise as possible when you discuss them. If the hours are flexible, it’s not enough to just say that you have “flexible hours“. Be more specific, for example: “Flexible hours, 8 hours every day, where you can arrive anywhere from 7-11AM“.
For senior candidates, don’t forget to discuss things you may otherwise overlook, such as parking, maternal and paternal leave, type of health insurance etc.
Finally, candidates for more senior roles will also be interested in the types of projects they will be working on and what their role would be. If they will have an opportunity to work with new technologies and pick up some new skills, it’s great to mention this as well.
Some things you should NOT include in the benefits section
Colorful office in the city center. This gets mentioned quite a lot in job ads but provides little value to the applicants.
Foosball tables, game rooms, bars… While these are cool on their own, they will hardly sway anyone to apply for your company on their own.
Beer nights, casual Fridays… These events are great but hardly count as benefits that candidates are looking for.
Bonus things to include in your job description
If you have some pictures of your team, your job ad would be a great place to put one up. If your team is big, you can just show a photo of the team members the candidate will work with. It won’t take too much of your team, but it will give the candidate a good idea on what their future team is like.
Don’t forget to include the name of the person in charge of hiring, i.e. the hiring manager or recruiter. It will help the candidate prepare better and they’ll know what to expect from the hiring process.
If you can, you should include your hiring process timeline. Put simply, this is the path that candidates take from the time they send in their application to the moment they are hired. This builds transparency and lets the candidate know what they can expect in the weeks to come. For example, the hiring process at Hundred5 looks like this:
- Candidate performs a skills test
- Short interview with team members so that the candidate and the team get to know each other
- Test drive – the candidate does a task related to their role so we can see how they perform
- Interview with the Hundred5 CEO, Marit
- Test week, where the candidate works alongside our team for a week
- Final interview and offer
Note that we don’t require candidates to send in their resumes. Although some consider it unconventional, this allows us to save time in our hiring process and it’s an excellent way to improve the candidate experience. We’ve found that candidates don’t feel the pressure to update their CV and put in the latest resume buzzwords, and we’ve also seen that it helps companies get far more applicants per role.
Things to avoid in your job description
Hopefully you got a good idea on the things you should include in your job descriptions. Here a few things you’re probably better off leaving out.
First up, irrelevant items. This means leaving out programming languages that are not required by the position, tasks which the position usually does not cover, etc. As mentioned, double check with the team/department lead to make sure all requirements are relevant.
Second, stay up to date. In the era of digital, things move fast. This means that technologies and frameworks which relevant two years ago may not be relevant today. Another case in point for not copying others’ job descriptions and coming up with your own from scratch.
Next, don’t use jargon and buzzwords. The job ad should read naturally and be free of industry jargons such as “high-paced environment” and “works well under pressure”.
Fourth, don’t overoptimize your job ads for search engines. Google has gotten pretty clever with its algorithms and using the keyword Java Developer 30 times in your ad won’t help you move up in search engine results.
Finally, avoid spelling and grammar mistakes. These types of errors are one of the most common reasons for companies to disqualify candidates. Likewise, candidates don’t admire companies that don’t have an extra 30 seconds to run their job ad through a spell checker and have someone proofread it. If a candidate has poor spelling and grammar – only you will see it as the employer. On the other hand, a poorly written job ad will be seen by anyone with access to the job ad – so don’t be surprised if you end up getting mocked and ridiculed.
A well-written job description for your job ads will be like an additional HR staff member, helping you put out a good word about your company. Remember that job ads are an investment, and the more time you spend writing up a quality job description, the better quality your applicants will be.