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Creating Job Descriptions that Really Work

Human Resources

Attracting the right candidates for your open position can often depend on creating accurate job descriptions that truly stand out. By tossing together a job description at the last minute or making a few small (but significant) mistakes in its description, you could receive a deluge of applications from people who are not the right fit for the job.

Here are some considerations when creating job descriptions worthy of your business and the type of people you hope to attract.

Don't forget the basics. Certain basic information should always be included in the job description, including:

  • Job title
  • Job objective or purpose statement
  • Description of the position's responsibilities, scope, and functions
  • List of individual tasks to be performed
  • Description of the role within the organization and relationship to other jobs
  • Skills and qualifications required for the position such as education, experience, licensing, and/or physical requirements
  • Location

Some companies recycle old job descriptions when an opening occurs. But outdated job information could draw the wrong candidates and result in confusion and wasted time and energy down the road. Always review and update the job description before posting.

Focus on the job title. Job seekers frequently conduct their online search by job title, so this is not the place to experiment with unique or off-beat titles. Make sure the title can be clearly understood and is consistent with other job titles in the market – while always accurately describing the work a new employee will perform.

List key responsibilities, skills, and qualifications. Listing the job's key functions and a percentage of the time these functions require give the candidate a good idea of what the position actually entails. It also helps identify essential functions vs. non-essential functions, which is necessary should an accommodation be necessary for an otherwise qualified candidate with a disability. Include skills and qualifications that are necessary, as well as those that are preferred.

Don't leave out travel requirements. Is travel a necessary part of the open position? If so, offer a percentage of time the new hire will likely be on the road, and where they'll be going. This can help filter out candidates with no interest in traveling for the job.

Include information on both benefits and salary. Applicants want to know about health care benefits and retirement plan options, but be sure to also include salary information (or at least "competitive pay range" or "salary negotiable"). Many qualified job seekers will skip past a job description with no reference to salary.

Focus on language and format. Job seekers often skim job postings. Consider bullet points and language that are clear, concise, and reader-friendly. Eliminate the subject of your sentences (it's understood the subject is the person interested in the position) and use present-tense verbs. A requirement in a sales position, for example, might read: "Attends regional sales meeting on a quarterly basis."

Keywords count – but not in excess. Keywords are necessary to improve your search rankings, but a job description overloaded with keywords and phrases won't fool Google, nor will it prove to be persuasive with applicants. Use language that's logical (put yourself in the job seeker's shoes) and appropriate to your industry.

It's about the candidate. Some companies mistakenly promote themselves over the job itself. That's not how candidates think. First and foremost, they want to know about the type of person you're seeking, the roles and responsibilities of the position, and why the job might be right for them. After you meet this obligation, there's still space left over to promote your employer brand with a brief rundown of awards, achievements, and a sense of your company culture. What makes your business special and why should exceptional job seekers want to work there?

After composing a job description, put it aside for a day or two, or run it past a colleague for his reactions. Then proofread it carefully. Typos or errors in spelling and grammar can harm your credibility. On the other hand, a well-crafted job description can improve the chances you'll find the best candidate for the job.

This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.