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Everything you need to know about…Writing job descriptions

Let’s be real, reading job descriptions can be cringe, let alone writing them! Phrases like ‘fast paced environment’ or ‘competitive salary’ are so meaningless and, at times, problematic. These types of job descriptions will not attract great talent, they’re generic and smart people with great skills to give will be turned off. On the other hand, job descriptions that maybe come across as too colloquial or not competitive enough aren’t likely to attract driven employees. So where does the middle line lie? 

An excellent job description will incentivize the right kinds of people to apply, which is critical with top talent in such high demand. It will also ensure that you don’t have to waste your time filtering through lots of people who aren’t up to scratch. When it comes to the interview stage, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for, and the candidate will have seen enough information to prepare properly.  

When writing a job description, many companies will claim that they hire with ‘diversity in mind’. This statement alone is not enough and language used in a job description is so important when attracting a diverse range of clients. Be mindful about biases you may have, and take time to triple-check that your language isn’t putting off people from marginalized groups (one survey, for example, found that nearly half of women won’t apply for a job if the description includes the word ‘aggressive’). There are tools available to help, such as this one from recruitment platform Applied. Likewise, think about whether any of your ‘must-haves’ would needlessly deter applicants already under-represented in your sector. An increasing number of job descriptions include the caveat that candidates shouldn’t be deterred if they don’t fulfil every single criterion you set out. 

Most job descriptions focus on attracting potential candidates rather than informing them. Make sure you are clear about what it is your business does and is looking for, then you can move onto what the company will look for in its employees. It is, after all, the company, not the employee, who sets the tone. 

The job title should be well thought out. For people looking for and weighing up roles, job titles really matter. They’ll be searching directories and scanning newsletters for specific terms; so while you can communicate how unique your business is in the body of the description, choose a generic title that people will search. Also ensure that the role’s title adequately reflects central responsibilities and how high or low within the business it sits. 

Please mention the salary. For creatives especially, it is so frustrating to full out and complete a whole job application only to find that it’s unpaid or at least an extremely low ball salary in comparison to what the job is asking. Maybe mention that negotiation is possible if that’s what you’re open to. 

Outline responsibilities. Otherwise, create your own. Using bullet points, start plotting out the body of the job description. List the key duties expected of this person, thinking about what they’ll do day to day; what their deliverables and long-term objectives will be;  and how their responsibilities will change as the company grows. Remember to include decision-making and strategy responsibilities alongside actual tasks, if that’s relevant. 

Outline candidate requirements. Now add bullet points on what it takes to be able to carry out those responsibilities. Think about education, experience, hard and soft skills, and personality traits. That might include years working in your sector, expertise using specific software or tools, or a demonstrated passion for something. If you’re expecting the vacancy to be oversubscribed, or hoping to onboard someone very quickly, listing specific certifications can help you narrow the applicant pool. But, otherwise, try to only list what’s absolutely necessary for the job so as not to put people off. 

Happy hunting and make sure to manifest those positive employee energies! 

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