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10 Tips to Writing a Better Job Description

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You can’t understand it: every time you look for a new job candidate, you’re flooded with resumes. The problem is, few of them are actually qualified for the position you’re trying to fill. And when you interview the best candidates, they’re still off the mark.

While some of this “resume flood” is to be expected, there may be an underlying cause. If your job description, which is, in effect, visible to tens of thousands of job seekers online, isn’t precise in describing what you need at your company, you’ll get a ton of applicants who lack the skills you need. You’ll also waste valuable time wading through those resumes.

The more general the job board, the more irrelevant candidates you’ll get. Consider posting the job on a niche board to better direct the kind of applicants you want and reduce the time you waste reviewing unqualified resumes. Considering the average job applicant spends just 76 seconds looking at a job description before applying, you want to eliminate as many candidates who lack the appropriate skills as possible.

Use these tips to polish your job descriptions, and you’ll see a better quality of candidate in the future.

1. Talk to the Person Who Has the Role Now. If you have an employee in the role you’ll soon be filling, discuss what she does on a daily basis, as well as what skills she thinks are necessary to succeed. Her role may have evolved since you hired her, so you need an updated understanding of what that position looks like today.

2. Talk to the Manager. Additionally, speak with the person who oversees this role. What would they like out of the new hire? What skills would be an asset to the team? The goal is to identify skills that complement — not necessarily match — those of others in the department.

3. Skip the Filler Words. It’s tempting to list “multi-tasking” and “organized” in a job description, but resist. These aren’t actual qualities that will help you sort out the top candidates, so if they’re not directly imperative for the role, leave them out.

4. Keep it Concise. The longer the job description, the more applicants will glaze over and apply anyway. You want to boil down what you’re looking for in a few paragraphs and bullet points. Include the job title and summary, responsibilities, skills and qualifications you want, as well as salary (optional). You should also include selling points on the company and position, as well as explain why a job candidate would want to work with you.

5. Don’t Go on and On About Your Company. You want to give applicants a sense of what your company does, but some businesses go overboard and write paragraphs about the company. Your goal is to attract talent, so keep the focus on the role you’re hiring for.

A job description should give a brief description of the company and include reasons why someone should work there. It’s important to help a job candidate understand why this is a unique position, as well as what accolades your company has, as job seekers are looking for a successful company where they have a clearly outlined career path. Sharing a bit about company culture can also be useful, to give applicants a sense of what to expect if they are hired.

6. Use Keywords. Many job seekers scouring job boards search for keywords to find jobs they’re qualified for. Make sure you use any words that pertain to the job. So if you’re hiring a PR manager, make sure you use “PR,” “public relations,” and maybe even “press release” if that’s a skill you want.

7. Format it for Skimmability. Because we’re a society that skims rather than reads, make it easy for job applicants to do so. Use short paragraphs, bold headers, and bullet points so that someone can easily, for example, skim to see if they’re qualified first before further reading your job description.

8. Read it Out Loud. Sometimes reading what you’ve written silently doesn’t help you find errors or awkward language. Read the description out loud to make sure it sounds correct and is understandable.

9. Ask Others to Proofread. Have others in your company read through your job description to ensure it makes sense and aptly covers what you’re looking for.

10. Be Flexible. A job description isn’t meant to stay the same forever. Each role you hire for will change over time, so make sure you update the description the next time you hire. If you are posting to multiple job boards, make sure you are consistently using the same copy so it doesn’t confuse candidates and you target the most applicable people.

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