INSIGHTS


4 best practices for writing an effective job description

A job description can help attract the right candidate.

Decisions to hire new people can be both rewarding and risky. According to a 2016 report by the Society for Human Resource Management, it takes an average of 42 days to fill a given role, and costs $4,129 per hire. With so much money and time invested into these efforts, it's important to attract qualified job seekers and identify the best applicant.

Finding the right candidate for an open position all starts with an effective job description. This summary is meant to help applicants determine whether or not they are suitable for the role. However, 88 percent of internet job portals fail to meet requirements set by the Advertising Standards Agency, according to Citizens Advice. Let's look at some best practices you should follow when writing a job description that will attract the best candidates.

1. Specify time commitments

Some applicants need to find jobs that fit around commitments like childcare. Others might want something temporary to build their skills and advance their career prospects. Without specifying time commitments, people may be unable to assess if the job meets their needs, increasing the number of unsuitable applications received. Citizens Advice found that 40 percent of adverts aren't clear if the job is full or part-time. It's equally as difficult for candidates to tell if the role is temporary or permanent.

Don't assume that a candidate knows what commitments you're looking for. Include information that specifies time commitments as well as any unusual requirements for the job. This might involve night-shift or weekend hours, and other necessary time obligations associated with the role. Providing these details alone will result in a stronger, better matched pool of applicants and should be part of the minimum standard of information within a job description.

2. List starting salary

Employers often list their job descriptions without putting a salary or range down. Job seekers will wonder if they will earn enough to support themselves in the position and could look for other options that have listed earnings. Forbes contributor Liz Ryan noted that while management might have a certain salary budgeted for the new hire, a candidate might come on for less because the salary range is kept secret. While this can give organizations more negotiating power and drive up competition, it also can turn off a lot of potential applicants.

By including the salary range, it will show that you value job seekers and the talents they might bring. Posting this information will help save time and aggravation as well as better contend with what competitors are paying for the same skills. Although many organizations have become complacent about leaving out salary or potential earnings, including these numbers can help attract local talent. It might also be worth it to state that you're willing to negotiate within a certain range. This will give applicants a better idea of what to expect and what to ask for.

"If you want your job description to get off on the right foot, you'll need to understand exactly what is required within the role."

3. Strike a keyword balance

Keywords are essential to guiding job seekers to your post. Tagging your job description with the right terms will help define the scope and provide quality content. You wouldn't hire a .Net development expert to construct your new iOS app, so make it clear that you're seeking someone who knows Objective-C. Monster noted that you should use keywords tailored for SEO, action-oriented terms and dry terms for technical skill sets. The optimal length will include the minimum qualifications for the position, key skills sets and preferred characteristics.

4. Perform a job analysis

If you want your job description to get off on the right foot, you'll need to understand exactly what is required within the role. You'll then need to clearly articulate information so that job seekers comprehend what's expected and can identify if they're qualified for the position. The Balance contributor Susan M. Heathfield noted that a full job analysis might include recognizing responsibilities of current employees, researching descriptions for similar jobs, determining the most important outcomes or contributions from the position and establishing the tasks that will need to be accomplished by the employee filling the job.

It's clear that vague and undeveloped job descriptions are not effective for bringing in the best possible candidates. Gaining information through a job analysis will make writing the description much easier. The more data gathered, the better you will understand what type of person you should hire.

Job descriptions are your first line of engagement as well as defense when attracting potential candidates and preventing unqualified individuals from applying. However, if the posting is vague or unclear, it can easily turn off strong candidates. By performing a job analysis, using keywords, listing a salary range and specifying time commitments, you will have a much better chance of finding someone with the skills and requirements for the position.