The Art of Writing an Inspiring Job Description

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May 30, 2017

How many job descriptions have you read in your life? Go ahead, make an estimate. Many people have read hundreds. How many of these job descriptions did you feel were inspiring? How many helped you understand what is special about the company or the job itself?

Most people, when asked this question, simply smile and say “very few.” Eye rolls frequently accompany the smiles!

When you post your job descriptions or send them to recruiters to use, how many competing jobs are there in your city for this type of position? In a city like Atlanta where I live, there are often hundreds of competing ads vying for the same candidates that you want. The best candidates are more selective and have more options available to them, so they are more difficult to attract.

Fortunately, there are some basic principles that can allow your job descriptions to move from “generic and similar to the others” to unique, inspiring, and speaking directly to the audience you wish to attract. Okay, here we go:

  • Focus on what the audience you wish to attract is looking for rather than what you are looking for. For example, the key things that would excite an experienced Controller are different than what would excite a millennial marketing analyst.
  • Start with questions rather than stating the responsibilities. Questions engage people while statements simply inform.
  • Focus the questions on things that make the job attractive to your desired audience. Using the millennial marketing analyst example, two opening questions might be:  Would you prefer to work in an organization that encourages your creative expression?  How would you like the flexibility to create the work-life balance you desire?
  • Begin with the end in mind. Every job exists for a specific reason. What is the reason or purpose for this position? Stating this reason early in the description provides some overall context and potential inspiration for the candidates. It will also help you write a better description.
  • Write a clear, concise description of the three major areas of responsibility (or more if greater than three) in order of percentage. This allows you to break things down into their separate component parts and the act of describing the major duties much easier.
  • Clearly list each major duty that is needed to carry out each major area of responsibility. Write in concise bullet form to make it easier to grasp. In general, only list the most important duties. It is difficult to keep people’s attention with long descriptions.
  • At the end of the job leave a space and then clearly indicate what is required on your end in concise bullet form. Only indicate the “must haves” not the “preferred to haves,” and do not make a long laundry list. Long lists of requirements tend to create the perception of a company that is very rigid.
  • Leave a space and indicate the “preferences.” Follow the same guidelines as in the requirements.
  • Put your initial description aside and come back the next day to edit. This is an iterative process which usually requires several edits to make the text more clear and concise.  Also, have another person review and provide suggested modifications and remember to spell check.

By applying the above steps when writing your next job description, you should discover a noticeable difference in quality, uniqueness, and inspiration. This does affect the perception of your company with the applicants. A secondary benefit is that you should end up with a more clear and accurate description of your position. This is very helpful when your new hire starts.

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