How to Write a Great Job Description Every HR Manager Should Consider
Clear, Succinct Depictions of Job Title, Objectives, Duties, and Qualifications Prove Most Effective
If you’re in the field of human resources, or have ever been a hiring manager, chances are you have read some bad job descriptions. Most are forgettable. Many meander, are long-winded, and are crammed full of boilerplate language. Some include vague position titles or unclear qualifications and expectations. Others overwhelm the reader with buzzwords. Though far from commonplace, great job descriptions do exist. Follow these few steps for writing a great job description of your own.
Step. 1 Make sure all the main elements are included.
While job descriptions can vary somewhat in the order, a great one typically contains these elements: 1
- A heading that includes the job title
- A job summary
- Duties and responsibilities
- Special (often physical) demands
Step 2. Be concise and clear throughout.
The average job-seeker will read dozens, if not hundreds, of job descriptions. To stand out from the rest, as well as attract the best candidates, the writer of a job description must convey a lot of information quickly and effectively. According to LinkedIn, applicants spend an average of 14 seconds skimming a job description. Furthermore, posts with 300 or fewer words garner 8.4% more applications.2 Regardless of career level or field, excellent job descriptions exhibit several common traits: They’re written clearly and succinctly, show personality, and are compelling.
Step 3. Use specific language in the heading.
First and foremost, the heading section should include the job title. It shouldn’t be cute or vague, and must be as specific as possible. For example, a “marketing” job can include telemarketing, door-to-door sales, marketing research, supply chain logistics, or another subfield. Clarity in the job description can save the time and effort of all involved in the application and hiring process.
After the job title, the description should quickly answer the following questions:1
- Is the job full time or part time? If part time, how many hours per week?
- Where does the work take place? Is it in person, telecommuting, or another arrangement?
- What is the pay grade or range?
- Is overtime or weekend work typical?
- To whom does the position report?
- Do others report to you?
Step 4. Include a job summary.
Following the header section, a job description should delve into a brief job summary. This section should describe the overall objectives of the position, attributes of a successful candidate, and how the position fits into the team and overall organization.
Step 5. Share the duties and responsibilities of the position.
After a job summary should come a section explaining the job’s expected duties and responsibilities. There are two critical rules to follow when writing this section:1
- Only describe 90% to 95% of work involved. A few sentences can typically cover the majority of a position’s work.
- List the most time-consuming task first, and continue in order down to the least time-consuming.
Step 6. List any special (often physical) demands.
In the interest of full disclosure, a job description should mention special demands of the job. Common demands include standing for long periods, the ability to carry heavy objects, or driving. Though it isn’t always included in this section, a job description should mention how much travel is expected in the role, which is usually conveyed as a percentage of overall work hours.1
Step 7. Explain the qualifications of the role.
One of the most important parts of a job description is the explanation of the qualifications necessary for the role. Here, the organization can list the required and minimum experience and education needed to successfully perform the range of duties for the position. Later, the job description can detail the preferred experience and education for the successful candidate. While preferred experience is highly desirable, it isn’t essential. Finally, any other certifications or accreditations that are desired or necessary to successfully perform the tasks of the role should be expressly mentioned.3
Regardless of whether qualifications are deemed required or preferred, the list should be kept relatively short. Exhaustive lists of qualifications can deter qualified candidates from applying. Many skills can be learned on the job or aren’t critical enough to the overall role to warrant explicit mention in the job description.
Beyond the critical elements, it’s important to follow some basic guidelines when writing an effective job description.
Conduct background research with employees before writing the job description. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, gathering data and feedback from other employees is an essential starting point. In this job analysis, the company can best determine the skills and knowledge needed for the role as well as the tasks the person in the position should perform.3
Embrace white space. Short paragraphs, well-spaced lines of text, and bullets help visually break up the enormous amount of material a job description covers. These attributes also help a job candidate skim for the information he or she needs quickly and productively.2
Use “you” and “we” pronouns. By including the words “you” and “we” in a job description, you directly invite the potential applicant to see himself or herself as a part of your team. Though subtle, “you” and “we” offer a welcoming tone and make the potential employee feel valuable and appreciated.4
Don’t imply a specific gender for your desired candidate. By using gender-neutral pronouns and avoiding masculine phrases, you encourage a more diverse pool of applicants.2
Sell your company. The job description is an opportunity to convince desirable candidates to want to work for your company. Why should they be interested in working for your organization? Show enthusiasm in the post, and tell potential candidates what makes your company unique and a great place to work. Mention your organization’s perks and benefits, as these may be as enticing to candidates as the salary.
Set realistic expectations. Everyone wants the world’s best employees to work for their company, but it simply isn’t feasible. While nobody’s perfect, there are plenty of excellent candidates. Don’t forget, not all skills are utilized regularly and many can be learned quickly upon employment.
Show personality with inventive phrasing and language, but not in the job title. Using creative language and a unique point of view cuts through the clutter of most job descriptions. Memorable descriptions stand out and encourage applications. However, for maximum effectiveness, one should keep the job title straightforward to eliminate confusion.2
If possible, post jobs on Mondays and avoid posting on Fridays and weekends. According to LinkedIn data, more than half of all job post views (59%) and application submissions (57%) occur between Monday and Wednesday. To garner the interest of more candidates, it’s best to wait until early in the week to post your job description online.2
Next steps: Earn your human resources degree online
If finding top-notch personnel and writing compelling job descriptions appeals to you, perhaps you’d be interested in a human resources career. Walden University, an accredited institution with flexible online learning options, offers an MS in Human Resource Management.
Walden’s human resources degree program prepares students for future careers as HR managers; postsecondary business teachers; or managers of training, development, compensation, and/or benefits. Students receive human resources training in addition to advancing their own strategic management, organizational, and analytical skills.
When you earn your MS in Human Resource Management degree at Walden, you can choose from two learning formats. A course-based learning format is a good choice for those who prefer an instructor-led program, while a competency-based learning format might appeal to those who wish to learn at their own pace.
Regardless of the format you choose, you can be sure that writing compelling job descriptions is a highly desirable skill for any HR department. Strong and well-organized descriptions are the catalyst for hiring any organization’s next talented employee. Armed with an MS in Human Resource Management degree from Walden, that next great HR leader could be you.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online MS in Human Resource Management degree program in a course-based or Tempo Learning® format. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
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