Rethinking job descriptions


Why should I do this?

Top candidates want to go somewhere they can have an impact! Startups, smaller companies, and recruiters on a budget should all pay particular attention to their job descriptions, which are an opportunity to one-up larger companies with name recognition. Investing the time early on to re-think your job descriptions will save time and money in the long run by helping your team define, attract and hire better candidates.

Best practices

Most candidates think job descriptions are unclear

According to a 2016 survey, 72% of hiring managers say they provide clear job descriptions, while only 36% of candidates say the same. Don't be afraid to scrap your existing job descriptions if you find yourself inundated with under-qualified applicants - or worse, no applicants at all! We recommend adopting performance-based descriptions which identify two important dimensions of the job:

  1. What is the candidate expected to own, teach, learn and improve once they're on the job?
  2. What should a candidate accomplish by when? How will the candidate's career progress throughout the year?

When in doubt, ask yourself, "Could this job description apply to any company?" If so, you're probably focusing on a generic list of skills, which may deter top candidates while inviting unqualified ones. Enhanced clarity around expectations and milestones will provide candidates with a strong experience before anyone from your company even speaks to them.

Write impact descriptions, not job descriptions

Get your hiring manager on board

Your hiring managers are busy, and it's normal for hiring managers to feel rushed to publish a job. But time invested upfront crafting a thoughtful impact description is time saved reviewing hundreds of poorly qualified candidates filling up your pipeline! Spending 15 minutes on a job description instead of 90 minutes on a quality impact description isn't a good strategy if you'll waste many hours interviewing candidates who aren't a good fit for the role.

Match and showcase motivators

Are your dream candidates looking for growth? Fun? Stability? Salary? Make sure you're appealing to the most appropriate candidates, without attracting applications from candidates with misaligned motivations.

Understand the role and your ideal candidate

Here are good questions to ask before drafting your first impact description:

  • Who are the top performers on your team? Describe their qualities.
  • What will this person be responsible for? What would they be the primary owner of?
  • What kind of people wouldn't be successful on your team?
  • How will the business/team goals be affected if we can't make this hire?
  • Who will this person work closely with and how?
  • How does this role at our company differ from the same role at another company?
  • How will this role look different 6 months from now? 12 months from now?
  • Let's say you hire someone, but they aren't ramping up quickly enough. How will you know they aren't working out? What would that look like?

Draft your initial impact description

This person is someone we can count on to...
1 month: this person will...
3 months: this person will...
6 months: this person will...


Review your impact description with the leaders of your hiring team

Keep these best practices in mind while you review your impact descriptions:

  • Be narrowly defined and differentiated (as opposed to universal).
  • Give people a clear idea of what it would be like to work at your company, in that role.
  • Highlight interesting projects & visible impact - inspire and get the right people excited!
  • The more specific/concrete, the better! Paint a picture of what the role entails and what success will look like.
  • Adopt a casual/friendly tone. Don't be afraid to sound like a human! Read your impact description out loud - would you say this to a friend?
  • Remove arbitrary requirements: pedigree, years of experience, skills that can be learned on the job.

Remember, the purpose of a traditional job description is to weed the wrong candidates out. The purpose of an impact description is to get the right candidates excited!

Don't neglect your job description's closing

Job descriptions which simply fade away after a long list of bullet points don't linger in the candidate's imagination. Your job description's Closing section is the final material top talent will read before making the decision about whether to apply. Get their attention by answering questions like, "What makes this company so special? What makes us exciting? Why should top candidates apply right now? What do we have to offer candidates who could choose to work elsewhere?"

Diversify your candidate pool through gender-neutral job descriptions

Female candidates tend to be more concerned with being a perfect fit before applying, and are more likely to opt-out of a job application which contains laundry lists of unrealistic qualifications. Write better job descriptions by focusing on your must-have skills and qualifications, and using gender-neutral or feminine words to describe them. For example, instead of writing, "We're looking for an ambitious and aggressive individual with 3-5 years of experience selling into Fortune 500 companies." try using, "We're looking for an enthusiastic salesperson with great interpersonal skills who has a track record of success selling enterprise products."


Was this article helpful?
0 out of 0 found this helpful