Writing An Effective Job Description

By XTGlobal Posted 17-Feb-2015

With an enormous amount of competition for top talent in the tech space, writing a standout job description is essential in attracting top-tier candidates. Is the job posting accurate? Is it concise? Is it compelling? Given the amount of time you have to make a positive impact on a potential candidate, it’s critical to trim the fat and present the most crucial and necessary detail right up front.

In this blog, we’ll dive into a few key characteristics of effective IT job descriptions, and provide some helpful do’s and don’ts when it comes to crafting effective job postings.

Clearly Define and Communicate the Details

A recent study found that the average job-seeker spends just one to two minutes reviewing a job description before dismissing it as a poor fit (even though the study participants estimated that the task typically takes five to ten minutes of their time). When a candidate is reading multiple job descriptions in one sitting, the marketing of your organization and the role must resonate with them and what they are in search of for their next career role. They can’t take time to wonder if this is a fit, the description has to capture their attention within a very short time span.

Focus on what matters most, and be clear and concise on the requirements and expectations accompanying the open position. In other words, it’s important to break down what this position will require on a day-to-day basis. For example: writing code, managing deployments, peer code reviews, writing technical specifications or collaborating on design. If you don’t clearly define and articulate the details of your open IT positions, top candidates could very well skip right over the opportunity.

Elements of an Effective Job Posting

Given the competitive nature of the current IT ecosystem, it is important to cut the clutter and stand out amongst the other companies hiring for similar positions. Each time you begin to write a posting, act as if you are the candidate. What problems will they be solving? What challenges will they be addressing? Have you painted a clear picture of how this position fits into the department or organization?

With that approach in mind, you should take into consideration that your job description is essentially an advertisement. The tips below will help you to present your open positions with the perfect combination of concise content and unique company positioning:

What to Avoid

  • An overly long list of requirements. Research shows that most men will apply for a position if they meet 60% of the requirements, but most women feel they need to meet 100% of the requirements.
  • Overuse of industry jargon and acronyms.
  • Dull writing, which makes the job and company seem dull as well.
  • Avoid empty phrases and overused clichés, like, “must be a team player.”

Below are some tips in creating an inviting and effective job description:

  • Use emotion to make the position as exciting as it can be. Emphasize the impact the person will have in the role, the accomplishments they can look forward to.
  • Flavor the writing with the hiring department’s personality. If the department is fast-moving, use short, staccato sentences. If co-workers are fun-loving, include a bit of humor. Adapt your writing style to give the reader an idea of the culture they’ll be entering.
  • Consider including a high-level, two-sentence summary at the top of the description to pull readers into the details that follow.
  • Limit the primary job description to 300 words or less – especially when you’re trying to reach IT candidates, who are likely job-hunting on a mobile device. If you must, link the primary description to a larger version with more details.
  • If you also use job descriptions for post-hiring performance evaluations, create two versions: one to recruit with, and another more detailed version to share with the final candidates.
  • Imagine your ideal candidate (based on both skills and personality), and write with that person in mind. Forget about trying to attract the most applicants with a generic description, and instead picture a particular individual.
  • Review the list of requirements again and again to determine what’s truly essential, then delete those things that aren’t. Try to target the eight keys to future success in the position.
  • Litter your job descriptions with strategic “long-tail keywords” so they’re more easily found by candidates searching online.

Your job posting may very well be your company’s first impression on a job candidate, and how well you position the opportunity can have a major impact on the level of talent you find applying for a position. When taken as an exercise in clear and concise presentation of required skills, you can dramatically increase your chances of luring qualified candidates and reducing your departmental time-to-hire.

Want to Learn More?

Download the series Defining the IT Labor Ecosystem to gain valuable insight into the current technology workforce.

AOL Jobs article, 4/10/14

Brookings Institution report, 7/1/14

AOL Jobs article, 4/10/14

Dice.com press release, 6/17/14

Wall St. Journal, 5/2/13

Wall St. Journal, 10/2/13


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