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9 tools to help you build bulletproof job descriptions

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You are staring at a cursor on a blank screen. Or, if you’re lucky, you have a template of some kind to work with. If you’re unlucky, you might be looking at a mess of a job description someone else tried to create—that you need to turn into a magic document that will not only attract your dream candidate, but set them up for success.

A job description may be the first time any candidate will encounter your brand, so you want to put your best foot forward. But it is far more than a sparkly ad. Here are a few of the ways job descriptions factor into the lifetime of a hire:

  • They help you justify an added headcount or a backfill to Finance
  • They give you  essential information for assigning pay grades and titles
  • They assist HR/recruiters in creating a solid recruitment plan
  • They will attract the attention of potential candidates
  • They are a reference point during the screening and interviewing process
  • They identify the essential functions of the job within the organization
  • They give employees a clear understanding of the primary duties, accountability, and responsibilities they are expected to deliver in the role.
  • They help  protect you legally during the hiring or termination process

With all that at stake, you’re probably feeling more pressure than ever to get your job descriptions right! There are many resources out there to help you create sparkling and bulletproof job descriptions for even the most elusive jobs. Here’s a run-down of nine we really like.

1. Compile company knowledge about the role

Most jobs are not done in isolation, so their descriptions shouldn’t be written that way, either. You’ll want to gather information from stakeholders, from incumbents (whether moving up, over, or out), and even  from candidates themselves. Survey Monkey has a free version that allows up to ten questions. It can be a valuable tool to collect input on the role’s expectations, title, compensation, and scope and help ensure your hire’s long-term success.

2. Describe a job title and function

You’ve got a sense now of what you need the role to include, but how does that match up with how the world views  job titles, roles, and responsibilities? O-Net (the Occupational Information Network) is a publicly available search system that uses common language to describe job titles, functions, skills, abilities, knowledge, work activities, and interests to associated occupations.  Use it as a reference point to be sure the right candidates find you, and you are not confusing them with an out-of-sync job description.

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3. Find a template to borrow from

Writer’s block? Putting all these notes into a coherent job description can be daunting. Sometimes it helps to be inspired what other people are writing. If you are a member of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) you’ll have access to  a  list of job descriptions on their site that can be a handy starting point. Not a member? Don’t worry. It’s a little more work, but you can surf job listings on a site like Indeed.com and look for ideas. One caveat though: every job and company is different—so use templates as a starting point, but be sure to tailor them to your specific needs.

4. Choose the right words to get attention

Once you’ve got some coherent words on paper, you’ll want to know if they are going to actually attract any candidates! A tool like Textio is a pretty neat way to analyze your job descriptions, and predict their performance. It scores your description and offers you real-time guidance on best-practices, how to avoid risky language, and how to improve your responses with shiny words candidates will love.

5. Show up in search engines

Did you know 30% of all Google searches are related to employment? Make sure your job descriptions and listings show up when candidates search by paying attention to SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  If you do a lot of recruiting, you might consider a tool like Moz, which can point you in the direction of popular keywords and opportunities to rank high in a search result. Google Analytics also offers some tools for you to see which words are driving traffic to your current listings. RecruitingTools.com has a nice SEO tutorial for job descriptions and listings using Google AdWords. Check it out!

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6. Identify the behavior traits you need in a candidate

Do you know how much extraversion will be needed in this role? How about dominance, patience, or formality? Make sure you frame the role within your particular team dynamic and needs. Include those findings in your internal  job description for screeners, and craft your job listings to reflect the traits you know you need. Consider using the The Predictive Index model, —which is derived from more than 18 million employee assessments. The Job Assessment will help you determine the precise needs for a role, and the Behavioral Assessment can help you  screen candidates for the most perfect match.

7. Write ADA-compliant job descriptions 

You’d be surprised how many job descriptions out there could get a  careless company sued. Protect yourself and your company by making sure your job descriptions are completely legal and compliant with ADA guidelines for your physical job requirements or limitations. Download the handy checklist NICQA has put together for their organizations, which  includes a full table of ADA-approved language (PDF).

8. Assess the job market

Context is critical when you’re building a job description and a recruitment plan. It helps if you understand if this role is one that is popular or unique, whether it is in decline or on the rise, whether it is high paying or entry-level. Career One-Stop has compiled historical and predictive data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics into a database that can be filtered to show you demand and salary information for careers, with predictions spanning 2014-2024.

9. Put the job into context, internally

It’s also key to know how the job fits into the landscape of your own company. As interviewers, we often ask “where do you see yourself in five years?” But do YOU have a vision for where this role will lead? Before you fill any role, you should understand where it begins and ends. How will you be developing that employee over time? How will you promote them up? Consider a software solution for succession planning, performance management and learning and development to help with this daunting challenge.. Consider something like Halogen Software. A great L&D and succession plan is a core benefit. It can help you to not only win great candidates, but keep them!

Remember, a job description is more than a recruiting tool. It needs to attract great candidates, yes… but it will also stick with and guide your employee for the entire time they have that role. It’s important to take your time now to get it right—and get the right hire! We hope you find these tools helpful.


Jackie is the SVP of talent optimization at PI. She was born in Switzerland but isn't a dual citizen.

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