Writing the perfect job description may sound easy, but take it from our considerable experience that it can be a complicated process to master. For many employers, it seems like something that should flow naturally from the needs the company is trying to fill, but as we will explore in this article, there’s far more art and science to it than that.

So why is the art of getting your job descriptions to be on par with the best out there so important? One big reason – reduced hiring costs. Glassdoor.com estimates that most US companies spend about $4,000 per hire that they bring on board. If you’re unable to attract the right prospects in a timely fashion with a fantastic job description, the odds are that the spend for your organization is going to go up considerably.

With the enormous number of jobs regularly available at any given moment, the temptation in recent years is to make your posting stand out by venturing further into what we can only generously describe as peculiar territory. Titles like Rockstar Developer and Programming Unicorn are not embellishments; companies have used them. However, most of what we’ve seen indicates that this is more a recipe for causing good prospects to take themselves out of contention early. Some because they don’t see themselves with your company, others because they don’t understand what you’re looking for, and others still find these kinds of cutesy descriptions as off-putting.

Above all, your job description needs to summarize the essential tasks, responsibilities, qualifications and skills required for the role. It should introduce important company features, for example, the mission, culture, and any benefits provided. You may also want to stipulate to whom the position reports and the expected salary range.

A good job description will deliver enough detail for candidates to determine if they’re qualified for the position and whether it’s worth their time (and yours) for them to proceed with an application.

Research conducted by Textio.com found that prospects are spending less than six seconds on your posting before deciding if they should move on.

So what does that mean for how you create your description? First and foremost, it requires that you be brief and direct. The same research found that the sweet spot for a good job description is between 600 – 700 words and trending down. The study also concluded that sentence structure matters. The more complicated the sentence, the sooner you lose people. It’s not a matter of reduced literacy but rather an overwhelming amount of information to wade through. Every extra word is another opportunity to stop and move on to the next posting.

The other important finding is the power of “You” and “We” in your description. Remember, this is probably the first introduction these prospects are getting to your company. They are trying to assess if it’s the right position for them, whether they’ll fit with the culture, if there is room to grow in the role, and if they’re going to enjoy what they do day-to-day.

It would be best if you answered these questions like a human being.

Let’s break down the components of a job description and provide some detail on how to get it right and avoid some costly mistakes.

The Job Title

Be as specific as possible. Too many companies look at the job title as a place to be creative. They think that a clever title will make them look more attractive and be more appealing, especially when trying to lure younger prospects. The truth is, it doesn’t work.

When creating a job title, be as specific as possible. No one went to school to be a “rockstar this” or a “Unicorn that” and they won’t be looking for those positions when they are searching for employment. It also comes off as if you’re trying too hard.

If you’re searching for a Software Engineer, use that as the job title. If the position requires someone a little more senior, post the position as Senior Software Engineer. Anything you can do to cut down on confusion and avoid internal jargon is going to pay off with prospects. Remember, your potential applicants went to school or developed skills in a particular area, try to use familiar language.

Job Summary

Writing an effective job summary involves being clear, direct, and able to stop someone for long enough to read it. The Summary should provide an overview of the company and precisely what the position requires.

An effective job summary begins with an authoritative review of the position and its purpose within the company. The applicant should quickly understand how the role fits into the larger operation, and allow prospects to determine not only if they are qualified, but if the company is a good fit.

An example of a job description for a Software Engineer position might read like this:

We have an immediate opportunity for a Software Engineer to create and maintain internal software programs for our company. You have a strong background in software development and programming. You have an advanced understanding of the Windows platform and strong fluency in C, C++, C#. You have a strong work ethic and can work unsupervised as our company encourages telecommuting for at least part of the work week. We very much value creative thinkers, but you also need a robust analytical mindset. We believe in creating opportunities for advancement for our team, and we provide excellent benefits and a competitive starting salary.

Position Responsibilities

Here is where you precisely describe what you expect the successful applicant to be responsible for. If there are items that are particular to how to perform this job at your organization, this is an excellent place to highlight them. Try to be as specific as possible, without going overboard. Case in point, if you’re looking for a web developer and 90% of the work is going to be on the Drupal platform it’s crucial that the responsibilities list include this critical detail. Someone who has only worked in a WordPress environment will quickly realize they would have a steep learning curve.

Keeping with our Software Engineer example, here is a list of possible responsibilities to include for such a position.

-You can write programs in a variety of computer languages, such as C++ and Java

-Update and expand existing programs

-Debug programs by testing for and fixing errors

-Build and use computer-assisted software engineering (CASE) tools to automate the writing of some code

-You can manage tight deadlines and keep our sales team informed so they don’t make big outlandish promises to our customers that we can’t fulfill.


The next step is to note what requirements you’ll be looking for from prospective applicants. It should include their education, technical certifications, past working experience, and even soft skills like their ability to get along on a team.

It’s imperative, however, that you resist the urge to lay out an overly detailed qualifications list. Beyond your core requirements, adding extra items usually works to dissuade prospects from applying. With a tighter list, you ensure that you are getting what you need, but you provide the opportunity for someone with a less-traditional skill background the potential to surprise you.

For our Software Engineer, the qualifications list could look something like this:

– You have a Bachelor’s Degree or a College Diploma in Computer Science, Computer Programming or a related field. Alternatively, maybe you’ve acquired the equivalent on the job training

-You’ve been working in a software development role for at least 2 or more years professionally

– You have thorough experience with Java, C#, SQL server database and C++ with advanced knowledge of the Windows operating systems and the usual Microsoft software

– If you have HTML and CSS experience that would be great, but it’s not a deal breaker

– You have the chops to work independently but know how to keep our team apprised along the way

– You come preloaded with exceptional troubleshooting capabilities

A Job Posting is an Advertisement

It’s essential to recognize that when you post a position anywhere, you are engaging in the act of selling a job. It needs to be compelling without being overly complicated. Furthermore, it needs to make people stop,take notice, and then make them want what you have to offer. If it becomes a document that would be more at home in a policy handbook, it’s not going to have the effect you want. Always remember that the candidates applying to your job posting are people just like you. Speak to them like you both bring something positive to the arrangement and they will buy into the idea of joining your company.

As one of Ottawa’s top staffing agencies, we know how to craft job descriptions that attract the sort of attention you want. We know how to speak the language and understand what things to leave out. If you need assistance attracting the right folks to your company or if you’re looking for a new position and want some help sorting out which one is right for you, we would be happy to talk.

Shannon Maloney

Author Shannon Maloney

Having worked as a Director for a multi-national staffing firm specializing in administrative and executive support, coupled with her Human Resource Diploma with honours achieved through Humber College, Shannon has gained an appreciation and desire to assist clients and candidates at every stage of the hiring and career management process.

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