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How to write a better job description

Written by: Hazel Mason
Published on: 29 Oct 2019

We all know how to write a job description, don’t we? The standard job overview, key responsibilities and personal qualities - but how can you make your job description stand out?

How to write a better job description

59% of jobseekers said they would be put off applying for a role if the job description is written poorly, according to the Employer Branding Insights 2019 report published by Wonderful Workplaces. Therefore, a good job description is key when it comes to attracting candidates to your roles. We explore various techniques that we have found help a job advert perform better than your standard JD.

Highlight your employer value proposition

Many of your traditional job descriptions talk about what the employer wants from the potential employee. They list the key tasks they want this person to be able to fulfill as well as some vague personal qualities, which you’re apparently meant to believe make you a good cultural fit for the role.

But it often doesn’t tell the candidate what they can get in return. A standard list of 25 days holiday plus bank holidays and attractive pension doesn’t cut it. Candidates want to know what you’re really offering them. 

Wonderful Workplaces’ report found that, when it comes to passive candidates, 71% said ‘a unique opportunity’ and 68% said ‘a better work-life balance’ would persuade them to apply for a job.

Therefore, it’s important that as a recruiter you convey the key benefits that differentiate your company from its competitors and make it a ‘unique opportunity’. What is it that makes your culture unique? What policies do you have in place that might be more attractive to your potential employees?

For example, you might see yourself as leading the way when it comes to maternity and paternity policies, which will be very attractive to anyone thinking of starting a family in the next couple of years.

Or you could see your fun-loving culture with regular social events as a key selling point to the people you want to attract to the role. Whatever it is, direct your job description at what your potential candidate might be looking for in their new role, not just the position you’re trying to fill.

Talk to us about how you can improve your job descriptions and use employer branding to your advantage.

Put your culture first

Following on from the above, if you’re looking to speak to what the candidate wants, you might want to look at the structure of your job descriptions.

A job description that starts with all the standard rhetoric at the beginning could lose the interest of candidates who want to know who you are as an employer above the responsibilities of the role. Therefore, a structure that mixes both is a good strategy.

Begin with your job overview - people still want to know what the role is - but then talk about your culture. Include a section on what it’s like to work at your organisation and incorporate the words ’you’, ‘us’ and ‘we’ to make it seem personalised to the individual. 

Then you can talk about the key responsibilities and personal qualities. But ensure you keep the same tone of voice throughout and avoid standardised jargon. Really think about the type of person you want to see in this role, not just their skillset.

Lastly, list the benefits that you think make you stand out from the competition. Highlight the policies that will make the biggest impression on who you want to fill the role. For entry-level roles, that might be your training opportunities and chance for progression, whereas a mid-level employee might be more interested in your childcare or maternity/paternity policies.

This is also a good place to highlight some of the fantastic work you’ve been doing to make your company a great place to work, such as charity initiatives, diversity and inclusion initiatives, wellbeing initiatives and the list goes on.

Ensure that the candidate feels that your organisation is a great place to work for them.

Shorten your job descriptions

This may seem counter-intuitive as above I have just told you to add far more into the job description. But the key message here is that you want to convey the above as succinctly as possible.

Candidates will lose interest if your job description is too lengthy. Especially if the responsibilities list on for page after page. Not only does a long list of tasks overwhelm the candidate, it also runs the risk of people rejecting the job if they find too many tasks they can’t do.

It’s a well known statistic that women will only apply for a job if they meet 100% of the criteria, whereas men will apply for much less. Therefore, a lengthy responsibilities list could mean you’re unwittingly putting off female candidates.

Only list the key responsibilities of the job with an ideal length of 8-10 short bullet points. Do the same for personal qualities and ensure they’re tailored to the role - everyone knows you need to be proactive, have good communication skills and be a team player.

A shorter job description that speaks more to what you can do for the candidate will help achieve more applications from better quality candidates.

Ultimately, there are many ways to improve your job descriptions - some have tried video job adverts that are more engaging for candidates, whilst others have removed responsibilities and personal qualities altogether, simply including a short description with emphasis on the company culture and benefits. 

For recruiters, it's important to test what works best as different techniques will offer better results depending on the role and the organisation. However, what is clear to us here at People Management Jobs, is that highlighting your company culture and values in the job description allows for more quality applications to your roles.

Talk to us about how you can improve your job descriptions and use employer branding to your advantage.

Contact Danny Haynes 
020 8267 5805