How To Write a Job Description: A Step-By-Step Guide to a Successful Posting

By , Staff Writer
list of four tips to follow and two things not to add in a job description
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Whether you need someone to scoop ice cream or manage accounts, you always want to attract the best person for the job. A well-written job description is an invaluable tool for employers and employees alike, ensuring that you attract the right candidates who know exactly what to expect from the role. Knowing how to write a job description comes with plenty of challenges, but with a little foresight and consideration, you’ll be hiring the best ice cream scooper in town.

What Is a Job Description?

A job description is a document (digital or physical) that, well, describes a job, though it’s a little more complex than just that. It turns out that summing up all the ins and outs of any singular job is really hard, so job descriptions give employers space to get into most of the nuances and little details, from the job’s duties to benefits and compensation.

The goal of a job description is to communicate your job’s needs while giving a potential candidate enough information to determine if they should actually send in their resume. A bad job description will attract the wrong candidates or no candidates at all. That’s a hard balancing act.

According to HR expert Mary Gormandy White of Inside Insights, Inc., job descriptions are also important tools for recruiters and hiring managers. She explains:

If you are screening resumes, the information in the job description can help you determine which candidates are qualified. When you are interviewing, reviewing the job description can help you determine what to ask.

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What To Include in a Job Description

While there’s plenty of room for experimentation and variation based on what you’re going for, a good job description should still include:

  • A specific job title
  • A general overview of the job
  • A brief description of your company
  • The main duties and responsibilities of the role
  • Required hours (full-time, weekly, daily, shifts)
  • Benefits and compensation
  • Required experience and qualifications
  • Skills that would be nice to have but aren’t deal breakers
  • Details on how to apply

Note that salary transparency requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Depending on the city or state where your business operates, you may be required to provide a specific salary or salary range. For example, New York City now requires most employers to include salary ranges for job openings.

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How To Write A Job Description

You understand all the main components of a job description, but how do you go about actually writing a job description? Seeing an example of a job description might give you some ideas.

The good news is that you can create a job description template, so you can plug in or remove any information as new positions crop up. This means, for example, that you don’t have to constantly rewrite the company overview or “how to apply” section.

Another way to make your life easier with keeping job descriptions updated and organized, says Mary Gormandy White, is to include a footer with a version number and/or the date the document was updated.

Having this information on the job description — and changing it every time the document is updated — can help make sure that everyone is using the most current version.

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Sample Job Descriptions

Sometimes it’s easier to write a job description when you’ve seen samples that work. Here are some examples of both printed and online job descriptions that may help you format your own.

Job Title Example

This is fairly straightforward. Most job seekers are looking based on job title first, so make sure that the job title is accurate. Don’t get too cute with it, and don’t worry about making the title sound unique. Sometimes, all you can call an administrative assistant is administrative assistant.

Sample Company Description

As mentioned, you only really need to write your company description once (unless there are some major changes within your company). Try not to go overboard, like presenting the complete history of your company. Any interested candidates will probably check your website on their own.

For example, your About Us section might read like this: 

At Helpful Company Inc., our goal is to provide people with the help that they need through our suite of Helpful Products. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, our brand spans a global audience of users from all vocations and lifestyles in need of that one right thing to make their lives easier. Through extensive collaboration within our team and with our partners, we aim to expand accessibility so that no one ever has to worry about where they will find the next helping hand.

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Sample Overview of the Position

This will often appear along with or immediately after the company description. The job overview will typically include a general idea of what the candidate might do, required hours, and general requirements.

Your position overview might sound like this: 

As a project manager at Helpful Company Inc., you will be responsible for maintaining communication between all internal product teams and ensuring that projects are executed accurately and efficiently. This is a 100% remote, full-time position.

An ideal candidate for the project manager position will have at least two years of experience within a digital marketing agency, applied expertise running teams within a fast-paced environment, and an inherent interest in researching new business opportunities.

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Examples of Duties and Responsibilities

Most jobs require more than just one thing. If the candidate is working with a team, what will they be doing with that team? What will their basic day look like? List out all the duties and responsibilities, starting with their main priority and going from there. An example of this type of wording is: 

  • As a project manager, you will:
    • Develop and manage project plans and schedules to see all projects from start to finish
    • Use available project management tools and resources to maintain budget and timelines
    • Manage and maintain communication between clients/partners and internal teams
    • Evaluate project deliverables to make sure they uphold company standards while noting areas for improvement
    • Track and report milestones, budgets, and project successes

Mary Gormandy White shares that the process of identifying the duties and responsibilities that should be included in a job description is called a job analysis.

A job analysis typically requires input from the manager, as well as people who have actually done the job. The job description should include the essential job functions.

Examples of Job Requirements

While you went over basic requirements in the position overview, this is where you list out all the essential requirements. That can include education, experience, knowledge about specific tools or programs, and general characteristics that you might want in a potential candidate.

For example, you might say: 

  • A qualified candidate will have:
    • 2+ years of experience as a project manager in a digital marketing, product, or other agency setting
    • A BA or BS in Project Management, English, or Communications
    • A high-level understanding of product development and direct client relations
    • A natural ability to work within a team-driven environment
    • An easy ability to communicate with clients

This is also where you might list out any preferred (but not required) skills. For example: 

  • Preferred skills include:
    • Experience with Photoshop and other Adobe Suite tools
    • Experience with social media
    • A good sense of humor

Mary Gormandy White further suggests, 

It's also a good idea to include the physical requirements necessary to perform the job. For example, if you're hiring an ice cream scooper, that person will probably need to have the manual dexterity to scoop ice cream and be able to stand and bend throughout their entire shift, due to the nature of the work.

Examples of Benefits and Compensation

Salary information is the main thing that job seekers are looking for, but don’t ignore other benefits and forms of compensation.

Examples of benefits include:

  • 100% work from home
  • Flexible hours
  • Unlimited paid time off
  • Paid holidays
  • 401k match program

What Not To Include in a Job Description

As long as you’re straightforward, you can be pretty open with what you list on a job description. However, there’s some language that just isn’t welcome or necessary in a job description.

  • Avoid vague, trendy, or clever titles in favor of a title that clearly describes the position.
  • Avoid corporate buzzwords in your job description, and focus on what they really mean.
  • If you can’t actually make good on a benefit or offer, don’t include it.

When in doubt, always opt for clear wording to avoid any pitfalls in a job description.