What should a job description include?

Published by:
Joe Caccavale
September 28, 2020
min read

Job descriptions cost nothing to write but they could just be your secret weapon in the war for talent.

99% of job descriptions currently floating around on job boards aren’t optimised for conversion.

This includes those of your competitors.

Want to bag the top talent for yourself? Use these behavioural science-approved guidelines to write more inclusive and high converting job descriptions. 

What is the purpose of a job description?

Job descriptions are meant to attract the right candidates. A job description may be the first point of contact a candidate has with your company, so you’ll want to give the best first impression possible, as well as simply listing responsibilities and requirements.

Although your job descriptions should be thinning the pool to those who are qualified, their primary purpose is to sell the job. It’s not all about what your company needs, you also need to think about what you’re offering in return.

So, with this in mind, here’s what your job descriptions should consist of...

What should a job description include? 

A brief intro to your organisation and its mission

Whoever you hire will be spending 40+ hours per week working towards your company’s mission alongside your team.

The top obstacle candidates face in their job search is not knowing what it’s like to work at an organisation. 

This is why it’s essential to be explicit around what your company stands for and what your values are.

You don’t need to write too much here, 200 words enough.

You can nail your intro in 2 sentences:

  • What does your company do and what is its mission?
  • What is your company culture like and what is day-to-day life like?

An overview of the role’s requirements

Requirements are an essential part of the job description, but hirers tend to list too many of them.

We’d recommend listing just 6-8. 

Think about what skills and characteristics are genuinely needed to perform in the role, and which are just nice-to-haves.

If you want to cast your net wide and attract a bigger, more diverse candidate pool, you’ll want to make sure you’re not putting off risk-averse candidates.  

Women, for example, only tend to apply when they meet 100% of the criteria, whereas men will apply when they meet 60%.

So the more requirements you list the more people you’ll deter.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that those left will be the best people for the job. Risk-aversion doesn’t bear any relation to someone’s suitability for the job.

Education and experience requirements 

Most job descriptions include a specific level of education and/or years of experience required.

But for the vast majority of jobs, this really isn’t necessary.

Education and experience aren’t nearly as important as you think.

Research has shown that they’re actually pretty weak predictors of real-life ability.

Instead of potentially ruling out swathes of talent by being too specific around these requirements, we’d urge you to give them a miss altogether… if your other requirements are job-specific, then you’re unlikely to have applicants who can’t actually do the job.

As a result, you’ll likely find that you attract a more diverse set of candidates and that some of your best candidates are from unexpected backgrounds.

Compensation and benefits 

Eye-tracking studies have shown that compensation is the #1 thing people look for in a job description.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that people don’t work for the fun of it.

Whilst a job description is your chance to tell candidates what you expect from them, it’s also for candidates to get a sense of what your organisation has to offer them.

And being transparent around salaries isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s a competitive advantage.

According to LinkedIn, 70% of professionals want to hear about salary in the first message from a recruiter.

Listing the salary isn’t everything though.

Make sure you include any other benefits, as well as flexible working options.

The more clear you can be around how flexibility, the better. Some candidates may be parents of young children or carers that require flexibility to even consider a role.

(Optional) Next steps

If you want to take transparency further and really put candidates at ease, then end your job descriptions with a summary of the next steps in the hiring process.

What does the rest of the process look like and what can candidates expect?

In a world in which employers seem to be gaining more and more power over candidates, being open and honest around expectations and rewards will set you apart from competitors and may just be the deciding factor that wins over talent. 

How to write a job description template

We’ve boiled down all of the above into a single, science-backed template, so you can write perfectly optimised job descriptions, every time.

At Applied, we’ve rebuilt the hiring process from the ground up using behavioural science - so that every candidate gets a fair shot, and teams get to hire the best people (and have the data to prove it). Find out more via our resources or jump right in and start a free trial of the platform.