Tips for writing job descriptions that drive engagement

7 mins
Sellick  Partnership

By Sellick Partnership

Writing an effective job description is one of the most important stages in your recruitment process. By taking steps to refine your job listings and provide the information that candidates are looking for, you will be maximising your chances of finding the perfect candidate.

Many companies see job descriptions merely as a way to tell potential job seekers what is expected of them, but in truth, these listings are a crucial tool for businesses looking to compete for top talent.

As such, when writing job descriptions, employers must adhere to best practices. An engaging job listing needs to be well-structured, informative, and inclusive, in order to sell candidates with in-demand skills the benefits of working for your organisation. Failing to do so will hinder your recruitment efforts, and make it harder for you to access the skills you need to succeed.

In this guide to writing job descriptions, we will share tips and stylistic guidance to help your job ad to stand out, giving you the best chance of attracting the best candidates for any given role.

Why an effective job description is so important

A good job description serves many different purposes. It must summarise the key job duties, technical skills and required qualifications for the role in question, and provide important company details and everyday responsibilities that potential applicants will want to know. It should also provide the job seeker with information about the salary range, top perks and long-term prospects that they can expect to enjoy if they choose to work for you.

As such, these job ads can help you to filter through the pool of potential candidates and narrow them down to only the applicants with the necessary skills to succeed. They also act as an important tool for your organisation to market itself to capable candidates, giving them a clear picture of the kind of benefits they could receive when they apply for the role.

In a competitive recruitment market, it is more important than ever to be able to write a job description that is precise enough to filter out unqualified or poorly suited candidates, while still being appealing and informative enough to stand out. By failing to do so, your job posting will not succeed in attracting the right candidates, leading to a time-consuming and costly recruitment process that may prevent you from filling key vacancies in a timely manner.

A step-by-step guide to writing effective job descriptions

To make your job description stand out and ensure that potential candidates have everything they need from your job posting, you should follow these steps when creating your listing:

1.Create a target candidate persona

Before writing a job description, take some time to consider what the perfect candidate for your role would look like. What are their key skills and capabilities? What are their career goals? How would you like them to work as part of your team? How do you see them fitting into your company culture?

By spending time thinking about this, it will be easier for Hiring Managers to tailor their job description in a way that appeals to these ideal candidates specifically.

2.Use a clear and descriptive job title

Job titles should be concise, precise and descriptive, giving job seekers an immediate and clear indication of what the role entails. An overly generic job title can make it difficult for candidates to understand what they are applying for, but at the same time, coming up with a quirky or unconventional job title can be off-putting to many, and cause you to miss out on candidates searching for the same job under a more conventional name.

This is why it is best to use industry-standard job titles - so that candidates understand immediately what kind of role they are looking at - and use the rest of the job description to provide more details about the specifics of the role.

3.Write a straightforward job summary

In a few sentences, you should sum up the most fundamental and essential details of the role - what does the work involve? What are the key responsibilities? Where is the role based? Is it full-time or part-time? Is there an opportunity for flexible or hyrbrid working options? How will the role fit into the company's overall workflow?

This section needs to be snappy and grab prospective applicants’ attention, communicating all of the vital information in three or four concise sentences at most. You should write in welcoming and engaging language, as this is the section that job seekers will see first, and it should encourage them to want to read more.

4.Tell candidates about your company

Use this section to help candidates understand what your company does, how their position fits into the wider business, and what makes your company unique. This will give them a clearer picture of the purpose of their work, and an insight into the type of work environment they will be stepping into.

It is beneficial to communicate your company values in this section, as job seekers will want to know what kind of organisation they could be joining, but you should still keep it relatively brief - the focus of the job ad should be on the role and the candidate, above all else.

5.Explain the purpose and responsibilities of the role

Having established the basics, provide more detail about what will be expected from your future employee on a day-to-day basis. What will their core responsibilities and duties be? What might a typical day look like? What kind of projects will they be working on? Will they be joining an existing team, or taking on a brand-new position?

Breaking this section down into bullet points can help to communicate this vital information more effectively, without making the job description too long or wordy overall.

6.Outline what you are looking for from the ideal candidate

Having worked out your target candidate persona in advance, you can explain the capabilities you expect applicants for this role to possess. Provide information on the qualifications, professional credentials and must-have skills required for the position, and detail the level of experience you are looking for.

You should also list any nice-to-have skills that can help applicants to stand out, in addition to specific soft skills and personality traits - such as an affinity for problem-solving or teamwork - that would benefit someone in this role.

7.Sell the candidate on the benefits of the role

A job description needs to sell prospective candidates on the role, so you will need to provide clear information on the salary range and benefits that the successful applicant can expect. This should not only include perks such as childcare support and healthcare benefits, but also sought-after advantages such as flexible schedules and long-term career development options.

You should also take this opportunity to highlight the positive impact of the work that your future employees will do in their role, as this can really help to make your job description stand out.

8.Edit your job description to a concise length

Although there is a lot of information to include in a job description, you must balance this against the need to make it as concise as possible. The average job seeker will be looking at a lot of job ads, and will not want to have to read through an overly lengthy job description to get the information they actually need.

Most job description examples that have been shown to be effective are around 300 to 600 words in length, which shows the difficulty of striking the right balance between keeping it concise while still including enough detail about the key information required. As a Hiring Manager, you may need to review and edit the job description a few times to make it as lean as possible, while potentially looking at existing job description examples online for stylistic inspiration.

If you find that you are not attracting the right candidates for a role, it may also be advisable to review and rework the job description, looking at the differences between your successful and unsuccessful job ads to guide your approach.

The dos and don'ts of writing a job description

By following the steps above, you will have the outline of a compelling job description that will appeal to the candidates you want to attract. Below, we provide a few more recommendations of what to do - and what not to do - when refining your job ad.

What to do:

  • Use keyword research to optimise your job descriptions, particularly the job titles - by using terms that applicants are searching for, you can improve the visibility and discoverability of your job listings.
  • Work with your current employees to write effective job descriptions - by speaking to your existing workforce, you can get a better sense of what a new employee would be looking for and align your candidate profile with the day-to-day realities and responsibilities of the job.
  • Emphasise your company culture and the experience of working within your team - being able to demonstrate that your business offers a welcoming, positive work environment can have a significant impact on the success of your hiring process.
  • Adopt a positive tone and structure - start with an engaging and compelling summary, and round it off with an explanation of the exciting benefits and long-term objectives of the role. If the job description is too focused on demands and requirements from the candidate, it will be less appealing.

What not to do:

  • Make basic mistakes - make sure you thoroughly review any job description before publishing it. Spelling and grammar errors create a bad impression of the professionalism of your business, while mistakes made in the key information can be even more damaging.
  • Use biased language - when writing a job description, it is important to avoid potentially discriminatory language that can affect your ability to attract diverse candidates. For example, you should make sure that the job titles and tone of voice are not implicitly biased in favour of male candidates, and that any imagery that accompanies the job listing does not reflect a racial or gender bias. Find out more from our recruitment inclusion checklist here.
  • Rely on internal terminology and jargon - making sure that candidates understand your job description is crucial, so you should avoid using internal jargon that would only be understandable to those already working at your company. Looking at existing job description examples can help you stick to industry-standard terminology, while also aiding the SEO performance of the job listing.
  • Use superlatives or flowery language - while it is important to sell your company culture through your job description, it is usually best to avoid hyperbolic language, or overly quirky and colloquial terms. Many candidates will find this off-putting, so it is best to look for ways to demonstrate your company ethos and inclusive culture in a more matter-of-fact tone.

Find out more

By following these principles for writing good job descriptions, you will be able to consistently craft compelling job listings that communicate relevant information in an appealing way to qualified candidates. In doing so, you can improve the effectiveness of your recruitment process, and bring your organisation a step closer to filling each open position with the best candidate for the role.

For more information on how to develop a compelling job description as part of a comprehensive recruitment strategy, get in touch with Sellick Partnership. Our specialist recruitment team will work with you to add value at every stage of the hiring process, and ensure that you do everything required to find the right candidate every time.

Learn more about our recruitment services for employers, or browse our Insights for more guidance on how companies can develop a truly holistic recruitment process. If you have any questions, get in touch with us today.