How To Write a Job Description: 7 Steps to Get it Right

How To Write a Job Description: 7 Steps to Get it Right

A clear job description helps hiring managers and qualified applicants understand precisely what your company needs. An unclear description can scare away top talent and fill your inbox with a flood of unrelated resumes. Avoid a long, winding, and frustrating process by cleaning up your job description and relying on best practices to develop a compelling job description that excites the right readers.

So, how do you keep it clear, and what best practices should you follow?

What is a job description?

In general, a job description is a written narrative that discusses a job’s general duties and responsibilities which will help you evaluate a person for that role. Its purpose is to help find suitable candidates for a position or project, allowing readers to self-select if they’re qualified. It’s important for attracting qualified candidates and helps those not qualified (or over-qualified) to decide whether or not to apply.

Job description best practices

Keeping job descriptions concise while offering a quick summary of daily and high-level activities and responsibilities is how best to help potential candidates understand what you need. It also prevents you from writing a novel that qualified candidates won’t finish reading—writing a concise summary respects the time of candidates you invite to apply, creating a positive first step in your relationship.

While we’ll touch on what to include next, keep your idea of a qualified candidate in mind while we move through each step. This will help you understand how much to explain or when you can rely instead on acronyms common in your industry and more. Say that you’re hiring for a digital career such as a cloud computing engineer or high-level digital marketer. You’ll want to specify the programs these roles use in your company, but you don’t need to ask for proficiency in Outlook or with email.

Overall, you should work to make the job description useful to you and the person reading it.

What are the components of a job description?

The final job description you create will have elements specific to the position, such as requiring a specific certification or degree. However, successful job descriptions also have a core set of items they include no matter what. These items help the reader determine if they might be a good fit or lack what you need.

Here are seven things every job description needs to have:

  1. The right title
  2. Employment type
  3. Overview or summary
  4. Responsibilities
  5. Qualifications
  6. Company culture
  7. Your contact preferences

These elements ensure that someone reading your job posting knows what they’ll be expected to do and what you think is required for success. You’ll find each in the best job descriptions for local fast-food staff to C-suite placement services. They’re also what you should include when you create any projects or look to hire talent on Upwork. Potential applicants can glance at the seven items and see if they’re ready to take the next step.

How to write a job description in 7 easy steps

1. Have a discussion with your team

Before you start typing out that job description or Googling what to name a position, reach out to your HR team and managers and anyone who will work directly with this new hire. Bring them in for a conversation about the job and what it needs.

Discuss the role the person will play on your team.

  • Who will they report to and work with?
  • What type of information do they need to understand in that role?
  • What do they need to be able to do to support their teammates?
  • What skills do employees think are helpful for being successful at your company (not just in this role)?

Bring in your staff to help establish parameters for roles and determine what makes someone a cultural fit for long-term growth and success at your company. As a bonus, in many cases, you’ll have an existing job description to use. Unless you’re the direct supervisor for the role, you may not know if this old description is outdated. Getting the team together can help you understand what needs to be updated or added.

2. Spend time on the job title

The job title is the thing that the majority of potential applicants will see. Depending on where you post your job, it might be the only thing that shows up before someone clicks on your specific job post. A useful job title instantly tells the reader what you need and helps them determine if the role, and your company, could be a good fit.

Look at the responsibilities you and your team came up with, plus any past title for this position. Compare it to its current titles of your team and see if you need to update.

A more recent trend is to use “exciting” words as part of a job title to get people interested. Unfortunately, having terms like “guru,” “ninja,” or “warrior” in a job title may harm your talent pool. Research shows that these can dissuade professionals worried about what the title will look like on their resume down the road, while some also make it harder to have a more diverse talent pool.

Excellent job titles help because they:

  • Are clear and self-explanatory
  • Demonstrate seniority of the position
  • Use industry-standard language
  • Place the role in the context of the company and its growth

3. Create a concise summary

The job summary will give readers a quick overview of the position and hit essential elements, as well as set the stage for your interviews. Summaries should place the role within the company and state main characteristics such as the type of employment (full-time, part-time, contract).

Bullet lists have become the industry standard for requirements and duties, so use this space to discuss the job’s core functions and how it accomplishes company missions. Keep the summary brief, avoid jargon, and limit superlatives. Even if you want to hire “the best customer service agent in the world,” putting that in the summary may cause some talent not to apply because they’re worried that they would be in trouble for having an off day.

One example of a concise summary is:

The Senior Project Manager coordinates activities and people to complete client projects on time and on budget. By overseeing all aspects of projects and managing internal deadlines, this role enables Company X to deliver high-quality applications and custom software to some of the world’s largest enterprises. You’ll lead a team of 12 and work with upper management to develop an ongoing understanding of current projects and identify successes and bottlenecks.

4. Match responsibilities to your plans for the role

Your job responsibilities list provides an overview of the tasks that an employee will perform in their role. The list will help potential employees understand how they’re evaluated and assessed for future promotion and growth. Try to be specific and give people an understanding of the breadth of the work required.

So, if you’re hiring for a marketing role, don’t just say they’ll be responsible for managing your digital marketing efforts. Note that this will include posting and monitoring on social media, updating the website copy as needed, writing blogs, and measuring email campaigns’ success.

The list should come from Step 1, where you work with the hiring manager and team members to understand the role’s requirements. However, it’s smart to return to that manager and ensure you’ve covered all significant activities.

According to Workable, listing more than 10 responsibilities can signal that your company micromanages employees and makes some candidates avoid applying. So, talk about the most important responsibilities and give applicants space to demonstrate their overall capabilities in their resumes and cover letters.

5. List the needed qualifications and skills

This is another section in which you want to be short and targeted. Most jobs need some specific qualifications, and the “needed/required qualifications” section should be used to identify those. Your marketing team may need to know how to use HubSpot, your team may prefer Procreate over Photoshop, and you likely have chosen one specific project management tool out of the dozens available online. Use the qualifications section to request knowledge in these specific areas.

In this section, you’ll also have an opportunity to list any specific education requirements, language skills, or professional certificates. If you have preferences but something isn’t necessary for the role itself, note that. Saying that you require a bachelor’s degree in English may limit your candidate pool and cause you to miss out on a person well suited for the role.

6. Teach the reader something about your business

Today’s employees want to be part of something larger and culture plays a significant role in recruitment. Candidates are going to ask both if they’re a good fit for you and if you’re a good fit for them. People want to know they’ll enjoy working for you.

Demonstrate who you are and what your company stands for in a short “About Us” section that highlights company culture and activities. Not only can you highlight the benefits and perks you offer but talk about the goals and successes of your company. If you’ve grown 15% in the past year and are expanding to bring that to 25%, say it.

Talk to the employee directly about what to expect and in the way you’d talk with a current employee. If everyone loves “Free Food Fridays” or you give out free coffee gift certificates to make monthly Zoom meetings more enjoyable, let them know. This is your chance to brag a little and get someone excited about joining your company. You want them to feel like this is more than just filling out a form.

7. Explain how best to apply or reach you

The job hunt has gotten confusing in recent years. Most companies post career opportunities on their website and one or two other locations, but many automated services will copy your posting and place it on many more websites. That can ultimately mean someone found your job unexpectedly, and using an “apply” button won’t work because there is no button to click.

Help ensure you get a broad set of applicants by including some contact information in your job description. Tell applicants how they can reach you—an email address is perfect—and that you want them to include a resume and cover letter in your preferred format. Keeping the requirements simple can also help you weed out applicants who don’t follow your instructions.

If you want someone to apply via a specific page, put that in your job description, too. That way, it’s always part of the text shared across other websites.

You want to ensure that the method you’re asking to use is friendly to a diverse set of users. Stick with platforms that meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements in the U.S., for example. This not only meets your legal requirements but can demonstrate a commitment to diversity mentioned in your “About Us” section.

Inclusivity in your hiring practices reduces liability, improves the perception of your company, and can help you find the best people for your opening by eliminating unnecessary barriers.

Post it smart

An accurate job description can save you and future candidates a great deal of time. It’ll also improve the quality of candidates that you receive. Just be sure to post it where extraordinary talent lives. For more tips on getting started, visit Upwork to find the people you need to help your company be successful.

If you are communicating with an independent professional for a project through the Upwork platform, please note that sharing personal contact information, such as email address, phone number, or LinkedIn profile, is not permitted in cover letters or at any time prior to the start of a contract. Additionally, all communication should take place through the Upwork Messages feature. Learn more about using Upwork Messages here, and see more details on sharing information on Upwork here.

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Author Spotlight

How To Write a Job Description: 7 Steps to Get it Right
Geoffrey Whiting
Writer and Business Analyst

Geoffrey has worked as a writer and analyst for more than a decade, focusing on how businesses can improve talent, services, and operations. Thanks to platforms like Upwork, he's worked with some of the largest software, shipping, insurance, and internal audit firms in the world.

How To Write a Job Description: 7 Steps to Get it Right
Writer and Business Analyst

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