Talent Acquisition

Your Job Descriptions Stink: Here’s How to Fix Them

There are a variety of ways to capture a job seeker’s attention today. From mobile marketing to rich media ads to video and social media, there’s no shortage of innovative ways to reach your target audience.

But, you still need an enticing job description. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. Consider this: “When conducting research [on a job], 74 percent of candidates find the job description valuable.” (Source: 2015 Talent Board Candidate Experience Report).

For many, it’s the job description that pushes them to finally apply. You do want them to apply, don’t you? Well, roll up your sleeves, and let’s get to work fixing your job descriptions in 7 steps.

1) Don’t oversell

I want you to think of two specific instances in your life:

  1. When you were younger and you really, really liked that cute boy or girl
  2. The last time you bought a car

What do these have in common? It’s a little advice called “playing it cool.” If you came on too strong to the love of your life, he/she would’ve thought you were a crazy stalker. And so too, if that car salesman had been a little less pushy, you probably would’ve trusted him more, right? Something just felt off, knowing that he was pushing too hard.

It’s the same with your job descriptions. You should be explaining the job, not hard-selling it. You should be telling the (brief) story of your company, not selling a 1998 Toyota.

Oh, and please, don’t use exclamation points more than once in your entire job descriptions (and never in your titles).

2) Don’t undersell, either

Wait, Adam, didn’t you just tell us not to sell too hard? What gives?

Yes, yes, you’re right, I did. However… you still want the candidate to feel excited as they read the description. You want them to say “wow, that’s cool” or “I’d be great at this” as they read down the lines. It’s a balancing act, to be sure.

But, there are advantages to working for your company, right? (hint: they should be part of your Employee Value Proposition). Reveal them in your job descriptions.

Let’s look at the job description below from Sonos.


First paragraph tells you, right out of the gate, that they’re looking for the best and location isn’t terribly important. Second paragraph tells the reader just how important this job is to the overall company’s success. The right hire will make an impact at the company, which is what so many job seekers are looking for today.

Try to uncover what’s important to your job seekers and marry that with what you as an organization brings to the table.

3) Talk about your business and work culture

One of the aspects your job descriptions should address is your culture. What’s it like to work there? Why do your employees enjoy it?

Folks, I’m not talking about salary and 401(k), here. I’m talking about matching the very core of your business to the person reading.

Case in point: Victoria’s Secret.

Victoria’s Secret chooses to spend the first couple of sentences of their job description describing what the company does. While it may seem like a given to most, it’s important to understand what they’re doing.

They work in an industry that not everyone would be comfortable in (lingerie and sexy attire). So, very early on they specify those two aspects in particular and connect how the employees can help make the customers feel special and sexy. This is the very essence of their brand. If a job seeker doesn’t feel like that’s a match for them, then they self-select out without ever applying…and that’s OK.

If you’re a children’s hospital, you want employees who like kids. If you’re a sneaker company, you want people who care about shoes, sports, exercise, etc.

Now, along with that, you also want to talk about your work culture as well. Is it high energy and busy all the time? Or is it more laid back with a small business, family feel?

In short, you want to connect the core of your business and culture to the job seeker so it’s a better match before they even apply.

4) Don’t let your lawyers be your writers

I think this one is self-explanatory, right? Legalese helps no one…except the lawyers. Don’t write out every job duty that could possibly ever be asked of the employee. Don’t be stiff, boring and corporate.

The next three points delve into what you should write instead.

5) Know your audience

Who is your job seeker? What is their demographic, age, education level, skill set? You want to write language that’s tailored for them so that it’s relatable to who they are and what they’re looking for.

Case in point: Zappos

Zappos has a well-known, fun & kinda zany culture. They hire a lot of young candidates and work hard to connect with them. Check out this job description.Zappos-JD

I like the section titled “Why else.” Read where they say “we’re hiring like crazy right now” and “we’re looking for problem solvers to join our … wacky team.” And then they say “cover letters are cool, but do you know what’s even cooler?… A cover letter video.”

They use language geared towards their audience and even ask them to submit a video, which plays perfectly into Zappos’ desire to match the candidate with their culture.

If you’re hiring mature workers in the insurance industry, your language should differ than a startup tech company in San Francisco. Know your audience, know your employees and tailor your approach.

6) Make it scannable

Let’s face it. We have zero attention span today. Frankly, I’m somewhat surprised (and pleased) you’ve even made it this far down this article.

Job descriptions have a tendency to drone on and on. Let’s stop that! Write in short paragraphs, bullet points (my favorite) and numbered lists.

If your ATS lets you include a video in your job descriptions, I’d highly recommend that as well. But again, keep it short. Get to the point and make it exciting!

7) Be genuine

I believe it’s important to be genuine in everything we do, and it’s no different with our job descriptions. Be honest about what you offer employees, who your ideal employee is, and then try to match those things. The worst thing you could do is be dishonest in your approach.

Anything I missed? Let me know what you consider to be important components of a great job description.

Image: Shutterstock

By Adam Glassman

With a depth of experience in Recruitment Marketing, Employer Branding, Social and Digital Recruitment Strategies, Adam Glassman is on a mission to transform Talent Acquisition. Connect with him on LinkedIn and join the battle.