How To Draft A Great Job Description

There are many objectives to bear in mind when crafting an effective job description (JD). Essentially, you need to put yourself in the shoes of a job seeker and/or recruiter.

Updated: 5th February 2024

There are many objectives to bear in mind when crafting an effective job description (JD). Essentially, you need to put yourself in the shoes of a job seeker and/or recruiter. They sometimes look at dozens of JDs, and they really appreciate a JD that speaks to them. Consider the following:

  • What do they NEED to know about this role?
  • What could ATTRACT them to the role?
  • What essential information would DETER the wrong candidate for your role?
  • What information about the company can be attractive WITHOUT being long winded?
  • What TURNS OFF job seekers when looking at a JD?

Of course there are some basic realities in the recruitment process, where employers, candidates, and recruiters can ignore best practice and still breed results.

One situation may be a poorly written JD that just about manages to define the role of a management accountant. A viable candidate sees this offer on a job board, does some due diligence on the company, applies, interviews, gets a job offer, and takes the job. Lucky.

Another scenario is a poorly written JD sent to a recruiter who has a CRM of excellent management accountants. The recruiter will add a biography of their client, sell that to well-matched candidates, and explain what will be required in this role. Lucky.

However, if a firm continually produces threadbare JDs, this will be noticed. Eventually, the quality of the candidates will ebb away, and you will no longer attract top talent; just consider a discerning pool of candidates with choices or who are managed by recruiters that appreciate that their best candidates will not be impressed or have to work too hard to impress candidates.

What does a poorly written JD say subliminally about a firm?

Employers take ten seconds to read a CV, and candidates do the same with a JD.

Candidates’ judgement is that the company is not putting any effort into their recruitment process because valuing people is way down on their list of priorities. Candidates will assume (and maybe recruiters know) that the selection process may be poor and that their onboarding and, ultimately, their career management will also be below standard.

So, what does good look like?
Just like a great CV, a JD must be short, sharp, and concise. Too much waffle, management clichés, or buzz words makes the MATCHING element of the process too difficult. This is an important fact to remember. The whole point of the JD is for a well-matched candidate to SEE that they are well matched and feel inspired by the match to apply.

We know that employers read a CV from the top down; therefore, requiring candidates to match their profiles, personal statements, and top matching skills to the TOP of their CVs. With that in mind, the most crucial elements of a JD that allow this match to take place have to be at the top of the JD.

Candidates will be matching their top skills to the requirements in the JD. 

DO NOT confuse them by putting the most important skill or requirement on bullet point 11!

For a management accountant, the first bullet point should not be:

‘Comfortable working in a fast-paced environment.’

It should be:

‘As the company’s Management Accountant, you will have experience of compiling and analysing financial information for the organisation. You will partner with senior management to develop and execute forecasts, budgets, and long-term strategic plans.’

Use inclusive and progressive language. The JD should match the language on your website or social media channels. Extoll your virtues throughout the JD without entering into waffle.

With that in mind, this is a breakdown of how a fantastic JD should read. It can be used as a template.

Job titles – make them meaningful
In some industries, the choice of a job title is fairly straightforward and understood by all, e.g. Audit Manager. In addition, AI and algorithm-driven sites such as LinkedIn, job boards, and CRMs are mostly driven by job titles. Keep them simple and capable of being searched. ‘Audit Rockstar’ may be funky but may never be seen!

Company summary – concise
Add a short, sharp, and concise description of the company. Do not waffle! There is a wealth of information about your business online should a candidate decide to research your company further. Don’t forget, the candidate may never have heard of your firm. It needs to be interesting enough for them to continue reading.

Job summary – the elevator pitch
This is the role’s elevator pitch. It is the description recruiters pass on to their candidate. It is the description the candidate discusses with their family and friends, just as the candidate’s profile will be discussed when applying for this role. So this summary needs to be accurate and spot on.

You can detail what kind of candidate would be suitable for this role (skills, attributes, experience) by selling the overall opportunity. Would a manager apply for a role if there was a path to senior management or Board level?

A good example 
‘We are seeking an Outsourcing Semi-Senior to work in our London office, within the Business Services Group, a large team that deals predominantly with clients in the sports, media, and entertainment industries. The work is varied and ranges from typical outsourcing work (VAT returns, management accounts) through to ad hoc work, such as assisting with tour accounts, property purchases, and banking matters.

The role is permanent and would suit an AAT-qualified or ACCA studier (Foundation Stage), who is seeking to build on their knowledge of bookkeeping, VAT, and management accounts in a practice environment.’

Ideally, a candidate with the correct qualifications, with either experience of working in this sector or a desire to work in this sector, will see this and, salary permitting, apply for the role.

Job description – use ‘YOU’
Speak directly to the right candidate. Keep the descriptions of the role and tasks short and sharp. Candidates will be swiftly matching what they have done, what they have touched on, and what they would like to do, extremely quickly. Help them to make these judgements quickly by not going into too much detail, but portray sufficient requirements to stop the WRONG candidate from applying.

Do not list each and every task the employee will have to complete, EVER! The wrong candidate may pick out bullet point 10 and 11 and think ‘I will give this a go’.

Less is more. Once you have described the role summary, two or three paragraphs illustrating systems to be used, customer base, breadth of responsibilities, objectives to be reached, and staff to be managed will effectively start to give an accurate picture of the role and WHY certain skills and experience need to be brought to the application.

Decide on the essential and desirable skills/attributes you need for the role. Are the essentials so tough that you may not get any applicants? Are you recruiting for potential as well as an experienced candidate who is willing to give up a remarkably similar role in a remarkably similar company? Why? Salary? Benefits? Progression?

Emphasise the competencies your company looks for as a standard in each and every candidate. Will the interview process be competency-led or are they simply there to illustrate the company values? Most candidates will believe they match up to all competencies, so be clever. Select the lead three or four competencies they need to excel in. Sometimes, they can really sell your company at JD stage, and as long as they are relatable through the recruitment process, really grab the right candidate and ensure the continuous involvement of the candidate.

Quote the minimum requirements and do not be unreasonable. 

Years of experience should be ignored, but a description of the ideal background from the candidate should not.

Package – salary and rewards
The package needs to be clear and also concise. Most companies do not quote salaries on job boards or LinkedIn. They do, however, brief recruiters on the benchmark salaries and benefits. Recruiters always quote salaries on promotions. Why? Recruiters want to attract candidates NOW! IMMEDIATELY! Companies have reasons to sometimes keep salary bandings confidential from within the business. Understandable, but it does reduce the flow of candidates or the correct flow of candidates to you.

Recruiters look at any aspect of the role that stands out and emphasise it. Companies tend not to. Their promotions tend to be HR-driven but not attractive to the eye.

If a salary cannot be quoted but the rewards or generous aspects of the package can, WRITE IT LARGE. If you have remote working opportunities, flexible hours, free travel or parking, or 30 days holiday, make sure it is focused on the top of the page and detailed further down the JD.

If you cannot highlight the package because, in all honesty, there isn’t one, I ask one question: WHY NOT? Candidates are bored and dispirited by seeing ’20 days holiday, discounted gym membership, government pension scheme, blah blah blah’. If you cannot brag about imaginative perks but you know for sure that candidates can progress within the business, improve their salary and experience and you have the evidence to prove it; TALK ABOUT IT.

Illustrate the good things about your company, and talk to the right candidate.

Tell your candidate who they should apply to and how. Have a link on the JD to your website or job board.

Job title
Company profile
Role summary
Job description 
Required qualifications and experience 
Package and benefits
Calls to action

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