How to write a job description

How To Write A Good Job Description

Most job descriptions that are written make companies look like robots. We need to stop doing this, it’s an embarrassment to the HR industry.

Not long ago, I was at an invitation-only HR event put together by the fine folks at Pronexia, a headhunting firm in my hometown of Montreal, Canada.

The event featured speakers from major companies like Shopify and Aldo Group, and they shared their stories about how to hire and retain talent.

During one of the Q&A portions of one of the talks, one of the attendees asked a question about job descriptions.

I forget the exact question, but it was something like “if we want to show our culture to the candidates before they see our offices, how can we convey that in a job description?”.

The answer that was given was kind of weak (I honestly don’t remember it), so I’d like to answer it here.

Hopefully that attendee is reading this.

Another talk at this event was about the candidate experience. Besides being an incredibly powerful, and emotional talk (everyone was crying), the speaker gave some good insight into how important the candidate experience is.

It’s the first point of contact that a potential employee has with your brand, and if they have a bad experience, they’re going to want to share that with their friends.

 

There are a lot of companies that write their job descriptions with the attitude of “what can you do for us?”, but you should also be asking what you as a company can do for them.

It’s also important to understand how you need to switch your language depending on who you’re trying to hire.

A marketing person will respond differently than a software developer, depending on what language and writing style you use.

Let’s look at an example together. This is a real job description, taken from a random search on Indeed.ca. I’ll remove the name of the company out of respect for them.

This is an example of a bad job description

Here are my comments:

  • Too many bullet points
  • Too much corporate jargon
  • No sense of what’s in it for me
  • No sense of who this company is/what they do/why I should want to work there
  • Seems like they expect me to be a jack-of-all trades
  • “Available on call” = No thanks

Now, let’s look at an example of a good job description. This next one is from Google:

Good example of a job description

Let me explain why this one is so good.

First of all, it’s short and sweet. The beginning description of what the job entails is very conversational, it’s very informal.

There are YouTube videos on the side that show a bit more about their culture, in case you don’t already know how amazing Google’s culture is.

I also like how they separate the minimum qualifications, and the preferred qualifications, or “nice to haves”.

This is really important for HR managers or recruiters to understand. Don’t try and get someone who is an expert in everything.

Chances are, that person will suck at all those things.

They also talk about what an engineer’s job is like at Google in the “Area” section at the bottom.

On the page, below that Area section, there’s a link to learn more about the Software Engineering role at Google, as well as a link to learn more about the Montreal office, where this job will be.

This gives the candidates insight into what they should expect if they were to work there. That’s the question you need to answer.

The point I’m trying to get across is, to write a good job description you need to be honest, transparent, and conversational.

Pretend you’re just having a chat with your friend, and you’re pitching them the job. Make it fun, make it short, and show candidates why they should want to work there.

When I hire software developers, I care more about side projects, and actual code than where you used to work, and what I’m really looking for is passion.

Here’s an actual job description that I used to use when I was hiring software developers. Feel free to use this as a template if you want.

We are looking for a developer to join our team! We offer a great work environment, great salary with bonuses, and paid lunches with the team.We work using agile methodologies (Scrum), so ideally you should be familiar with that. Along with your CV, please include links to anything you’ve done online (side projects, github profile, etc..)

The technologies we use:

  • C#
  • Entity Framework 6
  • JavaScript
  • ASP.NET MVC 5
  • jQuery/AJAX
  • HTML and CSS
  • basic database theory (relationships)

Bonus qualifications:

  • Microsoft certifications (MCP, MCAD, etc.)
  • Open-source code or other code we can look at.

When I used to do recruiting, I put so much more emphasis on a cover letter than the actual resume.

In fact, if someone applied and they didn’t include a cover letter, I would delete the email without even looking at the resume.

To me, not including a cover letter is disrespectful. I just envision the candidate throwing me his resume like “here, read this”.

Here’s an actual cover letter that I used to send with my job applications. For anyone looking for a job that’s reading this, feel free to use this as a template and make it your own.

Hey Jordan,Let me tell you a bit about myself, in addition to my CV.

I’m very passionate about culture, and team building. I really believe in working smarter, not harder, and my favorite book is ReWork by Jason Fried (founder of 37Signals).

My favorite company is Hubspot. I love what they do, what they stand for, and what their culture seems to be like.

My newest passion is learning to program online. I’m learning about front-end technologies like HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, and I really want to learn Bootstrap. This is a side hobby though, and even if I don’t end up becoming a front-end developer, I think it will make me a smarter product manager.

I’m very into reading about technology and startups, and read Techcrunch, Business Insider, and Hacker News daily.

I have solid experience in online marketing, and have my certification from Google Adwords.

I also am familiar with using Basecamp, Zendesk, and JIRA.

Attached you’ll find my resume, and below you’ll see links to my online profiles

My website http://www.jacobshriar.com
Linkedin http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jacob-shriar/24/993/561
Twitter http://www.twitter.com/jacobshriar

I’ll end with one final thought. As I was writing this post, I was reading BusinessInsider, and I found this article.

At the bottom, the first comment, made me feel like I’m on the right track.

Comment from BusinessInsider about HR job descriptions

How Do You Write A Good Job Description?

Like I mentioned earlier, I think the key to a good job description is to just be real. Be honest about what your company does, what the job entails, and what they should expect.

Do you have any other tips to share? Let me know your thoughts on twitter @JacobShriar or @Officevibe.

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