How to Write the Perfect Job Description

When looking for new employees to take on board, a job description is the first step in enticing the best candidates. While a job description must be honest, it should also make the job itself sound appealing and attractive to potential applicants. This way, it will be more likely to attract the most outstanding and highly qualified candidates around.

This is even more so in competitive markets where there are more jobs than good candidates. Ensuring your job description stands out means you’re more likely to get the right person that will stay with you for the long haul.

So how do you do it?

You’ll probably want to have a summary of the job being advertised, this is usually the ‘lead-in’, and it sets the tone for the whole description. Remember, people will be scanning through adverts, and so you need to catch their eye.

So, start the job description by stating what the company does and then lead into the job description by stating the title of the position and then describing what the daily duties of the position are. For example,

“FTSE 100 company in business over 25 years serving people for all of their financial needs seeks ACCOUNTING MANAGER to oversee daily activities of a staff of 25 accountants.”

Obviously the appeal of a FTSE 100 company is what really stands out there, many people would be absolutely clamouring for that sort of job, but what if your firm can’t boast such a claim? Well, think about the local area, who you’ve helped, the sort of businesses you work with and the type of work you carry out.

“Established accounting firm with strong local ties seeks ACCOUNTING MANAGER to oversee clients in this challenging and wide-ranging role.”

That sets out your credentials, tells them what they’ll be doing but also leaves a bit of a leeway. Lots of things can be ‘challenging and wide-ranging’.

But I don’t have a job title!

You must have a job title! You need to be clear about the type of job you’re advertising, even if you have to be pretty broad. Even if you’re after someone to do general office tasks, give them a proper title such as “Office Admin Assistant”.

Next, state some of the more in-depth duties, such as reconciling accounts and managing a staff of 25 accountants. You should probably have between five and ten responsibilities listed. It’s best to start each responsibility with an action verb, for example, “create monthly account packs” or “communicate with clients on a daily basis”, that sort of thing.

You need to make sure your prospective employee knows what they’ll be up to during the day and so there’s a balance to strike. Listing too many roles will put them off, especially if they’re diverse, and the job looks like two people should do it. Also, one duty will make the role seem either boring or that you’re hiding something.

Avoid things like “other ad-hoc duties” that sounds like you’ll just throw anything in at a whim. Be clear.

Which department?

Tell them where they’ll be working. In a large company, it’s wise to explain which department and who they’ll be working for. For example “…working in the overseas clients office and reporting directly to the accounts director.”

This is important if you’re looking for particular skills. For example, your job advert might be for a salesperson, but what kind of sales? Some sales jobs require sitting at a desk calling up prospects, others involve travel, sometimes foreign travel. Make sure it’s clear.

Skills and Qualifications

If your role requires specific skills then make it clear. Also, if necessary, point out that references and checks will be carried out. Some jobs require certain certificates, DBR checks for example. These kinds of requirements must be disclosed up front.

Also, skills and experience required should be mentioned. Now, you should explain clearly what’s ‘required’ and what’s ‘desired’, but be careful. I’ve seen so many job descriptions with a list as long as your arm of required skills, and to be fair, it would be impossible to fill the position. Don’t put people off by asking for too much. If you’re unsure, put the skill int he ‘desired’ column and filter at interview.

Location

Will they have to travel far? If you’re advertising for a role from a company based in Stourbridge but the actual position is at a branch in Edinburgh, you’d better make it clear!

Tell them exactly which branch or office they’ll have to travel to and explain if you’re willing to pay relocation costs. For example, you may want someone from the local area, but expect them to work in a far-flung office for most of the year.

Part time or full time?

It sounds obvious, but some descriptions leave this very important information off.

State the exact hours, when they’ll be expected to be in the office if they’ll be allowed to work from home and anything else that pertains to their working hours.

Permanent or temporary

Again, make this absolutely clear. If someone is looking for a new career and giving up a role they’ve had for a long time, they’ll need to know that you’re not just looking for someone to get you past a difficult stage. Employees naturally want a commitment from their workers, but it’s a two-way thing.

Salary

Oh yeah, nearly forgot, tell them how much they’ll earn!

Point out basic salary, whether it’s from the moment they start or after a probation period (in which case state the probation salary) and also any bonuses. An essential point of law here, if your rates are lower than the minimum wage, raise them! Recently I heard from someone who didn’t want to announce the wage because it was below minimum. Seriously, some people!

And also, including tips in the salary is illegal!

How to lay the description out

A lot of this will depend on where the advert is appearing, but where possible, try to use bullet points to make it easy for people to skim read. Key points such as job title, salary and hours are good to have as the first points and in bold if possible.

Try to speak to the person as if you were there with them. So, simple things like:

“The ideal candidate will be conversant in French and able to work with others easily”

become

“You will be able to speak fluent French and enjoy working as a team.”

Need inspiration?

Here’s a great example:

example job