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How to write job descriptions on job portals to attract talent

There’s a bit of confusion about how job descriptions should be written when you are advertising your jobs.

Most employers believe that in order to avoid an irrelevant candidate applying to their jobs, a job description should be an extensive document that captures ALL the roles and responsibilities of the job, along with a detailed list of every experience that the candidate should have before applying.

So if a candidate is irrelevant to the job, they will spend time reading this lengthy, detailed job description, realise they are not suitable, and then decide not the apply. And the candidate that fits the job will read the description and think “this is the perfect job for me!”, and apply to the job. Pretty sound logic right?

Not really.

Lengthy, overly-extensive job descriptions do not prevent a spammer from applying to your jobs (because they don’t really read the job descriptions anyway!), and in fact, causes a potentially good candidate to not apply to your job because of one of the following reasons:

  • The job description was just focused on the job, and didn’t really answer their question “Why should I apply for this job”
  • The job descriptions describes the “perfect” candidate, and a jobseeker spotted something a responsibility that they may not be experienced in doing. It may be only a small part of the job.

This idea leads to many poor decisions on how the job description should be written employers advertise their jobs. It’s the reason why many job advertisements are written badly, and fail to attract the right candidate to apply to their jobs.

It’s an advertisement to help you attract the right candidate to apply to your job. Therefore, stop thinking about this as a job description and start thinking about this as a job “advertisement”.

That’s it. It’s not a contract of responsibilities, you can sign that later when you actually hire the candidate. But when you first post that job vacancy, you need to be SELLING to the candidate, not keeping them out. Don’t think putting a long list of requirements is going to keep the bad candidates out, because the bad candidates probably don’t read your descriptions anyway, so you will get their CV regardless.

With that in mind, here are some guidelines that will have you craft an effective job description:

1) Keep it short

If you can’t capture what the role is about in three or four bullet points, you may not fully understand the job, in which case the candidate isn’t going to either. Less is more. Split it up into clearly identifiable sections, as a suggestion:

– Who we are (maximum 3 sentences, with information on what your business is about , the location and who they will be working with)

– Key responsibilities (maximum 5 bullet points, ideally 4)

– Requirements (maximum 5 bullet points, ideally 4)

2) Write from the jobseekers’ point of view

When describing the job, communicate from a jobseekers’ point of view, focusing on what they will find interesting. For example, if you are hiring an accountant, stating “you will be working closely with and learning from our company’s leaders to achieve our financial goals”, sounds much more interesting than “to submit the annual report by the required deadline, and to demonstrate good stakeholder management skills”.

3) Use simple language

Unless absolutely necessary, you should use simple language to describe what the role is about. Using big words only make the writer feel smart, and in most cases, does not actually help you filter out poor candidates anyway (remember: spammers don’t read job descriptions, you will only end up keeping a good person out). Your goal is to attract as many good applications as possible, even if they are not the perfect fit. So why scare applicants away with complicated language?

4) Inject some personality about your company

Write in a way that showcases who you are as a company. Don’t be boring. Tell a short story about your company and its’ vision, it’s people, or maybe just write the job description in a style that reflects the personality of your company.

I once saw a job description for a sales role that read “Your goal is to make money for the company so we can pay everyone and don’t have to eat maggi goreng everyday”. You could tell immediately that this company has a sense of humour, and may make a connection straight away.

Stuck? Here’s a simple trick

The key thing is stop thinking about a job description which you are posting on a job portal, as a contract of responsibilities. Instead, start thinking of it as a job “advertisement” i.e. you are using this to attract as many good applications as you can (don’t get distracted by the spammers, tell will apply to you job whichever way you write your job description).

If you are stuck in terms of how you would write a job description, try this. Ask the hiring manager “Why would a high quality candidate, that is already be employed elsewhere, be interested in this job?”. Be honest, and once you can answer this question, you can craft your job posting message around the answer.