There’s a lot at stake when creating a job description, and it’s tempting to rush the process. When you have an open position, you typically want to fill it as soon as possible.
However, if you want to hire talented candidates, you first have to attract them, so it’s essential to take the time to write a job description that will bring in the right people for the job.
Also, putting in more time up-front to write an accurate, engaging, search-optimized description can save you time in the hiring process. You’ll attract more quality candidates instead of less-qualified applicants who aren’t a good fit for the role.
Here are some tips on how to write a great job description:
Do your research
Before you begin, spend a little time considering the position with fresh eyes. Ask yourself these questions:
What specific skills does the job require?
What level candidate are you seeking?
If you’re replacing an employee, do you need the new person to do the same duties, or has the position evolved to include new responsibilities?
What unique traits that candidates must have to succeed in the job and at your company?
You might also get the feedback of employees currently in the role or in the department about specific skills or experience they feel are critical to success in the role. This input is especially helpful if you’re listing a job that requires particular technical expertise, hands-on knowledge, or interpersonal skills.
Consider keywords for search engine optimization
In addition to writing an accurate job description, you also need to use the same word or words candidates use when searching for jobs.
For example, you’ll see a lot of variation in titles that describe the same position. With titles continuously evolving, both applicants and companies use different terms to apply to roles that require the same skills. For example, is it best to say “Accounts Payable Clerk” or “AP Clerk”? Should you list your job as “Content Strategist,” “Content Manager,” or “Marketing Content Specialist”?
To figure out if your terms are on target, search job titles on sites like Indeed, Glassdoor, or LinkedIn to see which are the most popular and what skills and experience are listed for the different titles. You can also search job titles in Google and see what jobs are returned on the Google Jobs results screen. There are also free online tools to help you determine job title keywords.
Create the job description
Once you’ve finished your keyword research, the next step is to write the job description. Here’s what to include:
Use the word or words that most accurately describe the position.
Double check that the words you select match the terms candidates use to search for the job.
Keep the job title language plain. For example, instead of “Administrative Professional IV” use “Senior Administrative Professional.”
If the job is remote only, you might add the word “Remote” to the title.
Begin with a short summary of the job function and where it fits in the department and company.
Briefly highlight why a candidate should want this specific job: What makes the position and your business special?
Aim for an open, friendly tone: This is essentially your “elevator pitch” to potential candidates.
Give an overview of the job’s day-to-day responsibilities.
Be detailed enough for candidates to know if they have the qualifications to apply, but concise enough so the description doesn’t sound like a laundry list of duties, which may turn away applicants.
Show how the position relates to the larger company.
List the “must-have” skills for the job. Provide the skills an applicant has to have to be successful. Be specific, so people without these skills are less likely to apply.
List the “nice-to-have” skills for the job. These are qualities you’d prefer candidates have, but they aren’t necessary for success in the position.
List educational requirements.
Sprinkle the same keywords you used in the job title throughout these sections, but don’t overuse them. Stuffing the job description by repeating a keyword too many times can negatively impact Google search.
Include pay and benefits
Determine what salary range you’re offering for the job and include it in the job description. Make sure it’s competitive, so you don’t lose top candidates to other opportunities. Nelson Connects' annual Salary Guide is a popular resource for customized salary recommendations.
Also, be sure to list what benefits the company offers. Benefits can distinguish you from competitors, so mention flexible work schedules, vacation time, childcare options, or similar perks.
Each job description you create should be unique to the specific job and your company’s needs. By taking the time to write an accurate and thorough job description, you’re more likely to attract ideal candidates for the position and fill the role sooner than later.
Want to know if your pay is in line for your open positions? Find out with Nelson’s 2023 Salary Guide.
Article updated July 11, 2023.
Clea Badion is a copywriter, social media manager, and corporate blogger from the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s been writing about career and workplace trends for over a decade, specializing in blogging, website content, ghostwriting, thought leadership pieces, executive speeches, and presentations.