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6 tips for writing a job description that gets applicants

October 18, 2021
Liam Chance

Liam Chance

Liam is a recruitment consultant within our commercial team. He specialises in placing Quantity Surveyors within the Facilities Management sector.

Right now, attracting talent to your company is the hardest it’s been for some time. Candidates have their pick of roles. So when you’re writing a job description, what can you do to stand out above the competition? 

The truth is, in the current market, it’s crucial to nail your job description – to make sure your role is attractive to the candidates you’re looking for.

There are a whole range of templates out there for writing job descriptions, but in a candidate-driven market, it’s important to keep in mind that the majority of people can take their pick of roles. That means when you’re writing your job description you need to keep asking yourself:

“Why would someone want to work in this role, at this organisation, in my team?”

Now before we get started, I want to make something clear. There is a difference between writing a job description and writing a job advert. If you’re posting job descriptions out on social media, you’re doing it wrong. 

Writing a great job description is about making sure a candidate knows what’s expected of them. But it’s also about what they can expect from the company. 

Writing a great job ad is about selling the role, the company and the culture in an engaging and eye catching way. 

Here we’re talking about writing a job description. Don’t worry, we’ll tackle job ads in a later post.

So here are the 6 key components to writing a great job description:

1. Show me the money

I’ll start with the most controversial one. There is never an excuse not to put the salary, or at least a salary range, when you’re writing a job description. While salary often isn’t the most important thing a candidate is looking for, they need to know if the role will pay their bills. It’s unreasonable to expect them to go through an application process, only to find out that the salary is nowhere near what they need to live on.

writing a job description

2. Why you?

A lot of people writing a job description fall down here. After reading through a very long list of requirements the candidate gets to the end of the job description feeling like they'd be giving rather a lot to a company that won't be giving them much in return. If you want candidates to apply, try telling them what they'll be gaining by choosing your company.

Do you invest in learning and development for your staff? Are you a flexible employer? Do you promote from within and give your staff a clear development plan? When someone joins you, what kind of culture can they expect? Will they be given autonomy? Support? Resources? All of this is what is going to set you apart from the other job descriptions the applicant is bound to be reading.

3. Keep it simple

The last thing you want is for someone to pick up your job description and switch off before they get to the end because it’s so difficult to read. Try and keep jargon at bay by asking someone outside of your discipline to read through the JD. Don’t use unnecessary adverbs (and most of them are unnecessary). You don’t need to say you’re “currently” hiring, or that someone needs to be “highly” motivated, or work “closely” with another team. 

Too many of these kinds of words will reduce your application rate. As a rule, if the sentence would mean the same thing without the adverb, delete it. Don’t use six words if you can use three. Don’t use three if you can use one. 

4. Make sure the job sounds engaging

If you want applicants, you need to make the job sound like it will be a rewarding one. It’s called a job description because it is your opportunity to describe the job. If the description is dull as dishwater, what does that tell the applicant about the job itself? Instead of writing a long list of requirements, try to tell the applicant what they’d be involved in on a day to day basis. 

Help them to see how varied and interesting the role is. Or describe the fantastic teams they’ll be working with. Or give them an overview of the exciting clients they’ll get to liaise with. Let your culture shine through.

Writing a job description about them

5. Make it about them

Use the word 'you' as much as you can within the job description - it'll help your applicants to imagine themselves in the role. So instead of saying:
"Duties include liaising with clients and giving great customer service" try
"You'll be talking with clients daily, so you'll be the kind of person who loves to give great customer service".

That way instead of writing a list of ‘job requirements’, you’re writing a description of the candidate, helping them to see they’re perfect for the role.

6. Eliminate bias

Without realising it, you might be limiting your applicant numbers with the words you use when writing a job description. Gender biased language might be subtle, but it’s effect can be profound. There are a couple of things you can do to overcome this. For example, you can make sure you use a gender bias decoder to show up the words that might potentially put off one gender or another.

You could also think about whether or not the requirements you’re stipulating create a bias against people from a particular background. Do you really need applicants to have a degree, or would years of relevant experience be sufficient? Is it actually necessary for them to have 5 years experience in a specific sector, or could they have transferrable skills from a different sector?

Final tips for writing a job description

Use those six tips and you’ll have the basis of a good job description. But if you’re able, I’d suggest getting your marketing or comms team to cast an eye over your job descriptions too. They’re experts in how to communicate in an engaging way, so should be able to help. 

Whatever you do, make sure spell check, grammar check and proofread your JD before you send it out. When you receive a CV with errors, it doesn’t leave a good impression. Your applicants are likely to feel the same about your job description.

And finally, don’t be afraid to get interactive. Maybe a video walk-through of the place they’ll be based, or a short interview with a current employee – things like that can help you stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression.