Are the wrong people writing your job descriptions?

Published by:
Joe Caccavale
February 25, 2021
min read

Job descriptions are supposed to encourage applications from ideal candidates. Quite often, however, they miss the mark. A badly-written job description can put off top talent, decrease the diversity of your candidate pool, and can even pose a risk to the reputation of your organisation. 

If you recognise any of these in your own hiring efforts, you might be wondering who (or what) the culprit is. In this post, we explore who should be writing job descriptions, and how they can improve ads to attract the cream of the crop. 

Who should write job descriptions? 

The person writing your job descriptions should have a thorough knowledge of the open role. They need to be able to communicate the day-to-day requirements of the job whilst providing a higher-level, strategic view of your organisation’s direction. This split between role-specific and company-wide information means that a job description is often best dealt with by multiple people at different levels. Here’s a list of those who usually get involved, and what they bring to the table: 

  • Executive management – Senior management have a bird’s eye view of their company. They know how the organisation is performing and what’s needed to improve. What they don’t always know, however, is the nitty gritty of individual jobs. This means that they’re often unable to give candidates an accurate description of what an advertised role involves. As such, job descriptions are usually only written by senior management in small companies or startups (*note – if you’re a startup, we’ve put together a list of the best job boards to find talent). 
  • Manager/Supervisor – Managers and supervisors are closer to the coalface. They’re more likely to have an intimate knowledge of a role and the skills needed to perform it well. Having said this, they’re also liable to making job descriptions less objective; if the role advertised falls under their ownership, they might look for arbitrary qualities that don’t have anything to do with the job (more on this below).
  • Employees – An incumbent employee is perhaps the best person to write an accurate job description. Having actually done the job, they’ll know precisely what it involves. On the flip side, they might not be able to provide a wider perspective of the company. 

How to write more effective job descriptions 

As you see, a good job description needs more than one person’s input. By bringing together the experience and knowledge of different people in your organisation, you can create a balanced job ad that introduces candidates to the company and provides them with an idea of what the job entails. 

Regardless of who writes your job descriptions, however, we have some tips on how to improve them. 

Use inclusive language 

The language you use in a job ad can attract or deter certain types of people. Various studies have shown that the use of masculine-coded words, such as ‘decisive’, ‘leader’, and ‘analytical’, tends to decrease the number of women applying for a role. The use of feminine-coded words, like ‘committed’, ‘dependable’, and ‘honest’, have the opposite effect, and don’t lead to fewer applications from men. A slant towards feminine-coded words, therefore, is likely to increase the total amount of applications you receive and the chance of finding the best candidate. If you want to see how your job description checks out in terms of inclusive language, have a go on our free gender decoder tool.) 

Reduce requirements 

Listing more requirements reduces the amount of applications you receive. Whilst it’s important to state desired skills and working characteristics, being too specific on exact systems or practices risks putting people off. Too many requirements, in fact, can reduce the number of women applying; recent studies have shown that women tend not to apply for a job unless they meet 100% of criteria, whereas men only need 60% to feel confident of their chances. Focus on the core competencies needed for the open position, and try to keep them to a minimum in order to encourage more applications.

Avoid jargon 

Job descriptions should be written in simple, straight-forward language. Your ideal candidate might be in a rush and won’t have time to decipher complicated language and complex sentences. Make the description easy to read by avoiding jargon, buzzwords, and acronyms. You might also want to keep it brief, staying between 300-800 words; research has shown that ads of this length tend to receive 8.4.% more applications on average. 

A fairer, simpler process 

The key to a successful job description is collaboration, inclusivity, and simplicity. By involving stakeholders at different levels, you’ll be able to give candidates a comprehensive rundown of what the job involves and what your company values. When you pair this with simple language and clear, minimal requirements, your inbox will soon be popping with high-quality candidates. 

Applied is dedicated to making hiring processes fairer and more efficient. By removing unconscious bias from recruitment, we allow companies to hire the best talent, regardless of who they are, where they come from, and what experience they have. If you’re interested in learning more about our intuitive blind hiring platform, request a free demo or feel free to drop us a message