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5 Keys to Writing Effective Job Descriptions

5 Keys to Writing Effective Job Descriptions

As an HR professional, writing compelling job descriptions is crucial for attracting qualified candidates. A well-written job description filters out unqualified candidates, saving your organization time, money, and resources.  

Read on for five key ways you can create an effective job description. 


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1. Use clear and concise language

When job descriptions are written using technical jargon or ambiguous phrases, they can confuse the reader, making it exceedingly difficult for candidates to understand the responsibilities and requirements of the job being described. Using simple, direct language that clearly states the job responsibilities, requirements, and qualifications is crucial to attracting qualified candidates.

To use clear and concise language, organizations should avoid using complex sentences and industry-specific terms that may be unfamiliar to candidates. Instead, use straightforward language that is easy to understand. This will help candidates understand what is required of them in the job.

Candidates may have trouble finding a job posting if the title is odd or overly specific. Try using general terms such as Marketing Coordinator or Marketing Specialist instead of something like Email Marketing Expert. While some job titles need to be more descriptive, it can still be beneficial to use a simplified title and specify it further at the top of the actual description. This way, you can account for the specifics while also making your posting easier to find. 

Companies must use action verbs to describe job duties and responsibilities. This creates a more engaging job description and more clearly communicates what the candidate will be doing daily. For example, instead of saying "responsible for managing client relationships," say "manage client relationships." Using action verbs makes the job description more dynamic, attracting candidates looking for a more challenging and engaging role.

Remember that clear and concise language is critical to writing effective job descriptions that attract qualified candidates. By avoiding complex sentences, industry-specific terms, and passive language, organizations can ensure that candidates clearly understand the job responsibilities, requirements, and qualifications.


2. Highlight the essential job functions

Clearly outlining the primary responsibilities and tasks associated with the position helps candidates understand what is expected of them. Highlighting the essential job functions also helps organizations identify the qualifications and experience required for the position.

To highlight the essential job functions, organizations should identify the job's core responsibilities. This includes the day-to-day duties and any special projects or assignments that may be required. 

Bullet points can make the job functions easier to read and understand. For example, 

Prepare monthly financial statements, 
Manage accounts payable and receivable, and 
Reconcile bank statements.

This list clearly outlines the primary responsibilities of the accounting position.

Organizations should also ensure that the essential job functions are listed in order of importance. This helps candidates to understand which responsibilities are the most critical to the job. By recording the most vital job functions first, organizations can quickly filter out candidates who do not meet the qualifications for the position. It also helps candidates to understand what they will be primarily responsible for in the job.

Organizations must also include objectives and key results (OKRs) in their job descriptions. Candidates may not have a specific background in this function, but they may be able to prove to you that they are more than capable of achieving success within the role at your organization. OKRs also widen the pool of candidates that may be qualified for the position. 

So while including the essentials for the job function is crucial, It is okay to allow a candidate to surprise you. Lou Adler, CEO of Performance-based Hiring Learning Systems, has this to say on the topic:

“When you write job descriptions as OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), you open the talent to more diverse and high potential candidates who have a non-traditional mix of skills, experiences, academics, and competencies.”

By clearly outlining the primary responsibilities and tasks associated with the position, using bullet points, and listing the job functions in order of importance, organizations can attract candidates who are well-suited for the job and have the necessary qualifications and experience.


3. Include necessary qualifications and experience

Businesses can attract more qualified candidates by clearly stating the qualifications and experience needed for the job. It also helps to set expectations for the candidate, so they can determine if they are the right fit for the position. Organizations should start by identifying the job's minimum education and experience requirements. For example, if the job requires a bachelor's degree and two years of experience in a related field, that should be clearly stated in the job description. In addition to education and experience, organizations should identify any necessary certifications or licenses for the job. This may also include certifications that will be required after being hired. 

Organizations should also differentiate between required and preferred qualifications. For example, if the job requires experience using a specific software program, that should be listed as a required qualification. On the other hand, if the organization prefers that the candidate has experience working in a particular industry, that can be listed as a preferred qualification.

By clearly stating the minimum education and experience requirements, identifying necessary certifications or licenses, and differentiating between required and preferred qualifications, organizations can attract candidates who are well-suited for the job and have the necessary qualifications and experience.



4. Remain transparent about salary and job expectations

Pay transparency can have a significant impact on writing effective job descriptions. When an organization practices pay transparency, it means they openly communicate the salary range and other compensation-related information to their employees and potential candidates. Doing so eliminates any confusion and ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding the compensation package. 

Some states require this information. With legislation steadily moving in this direction, there is further incentive to make pay ranges and salaries more transparent in your job postings. 

Currently, six states have enacted legislation requiring employers to provide pay and salary ranges, with one more coming in September 2023. These states include:

  • Washington
  • California
  • Nevada
  • Maryland
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island
  • (New York beginning September 2023)

While this is a small proportion of states, it likely indicates an increasing prevalence in the current and future job market. 

Keep in mind that pay transparency can attract the right candidates by setting clear expectations and increasing trust in the organization. For instance, if the job description clearly states the salary range and benefits package, the organization will effectively filter out candidates who are looking for a higher salary or different benefits. This saves both the employer and the candidates time and effort, as there is no need to interview for a position that does not meet the candidate's expectations.

Pay transparency can also reduce job description bias by eliminating subjective language or compensation expectations. This can prevent potential candidates from feeling excluded or discouraged from applying for a position based on their perceived value or worth. As a result, pay transparency promotes fairness and equality in the hiring process, which can lead to a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

Remember that open communication around compensation-related information is a great way for organizations to attract the right candidates and create a more positive and inclusive hiring experience.

5. Emphasize company culture and values

A job description that incorporates an organization's values and culture can help to attract the right candidates with similar values and beliefs. This is essential because it ensures candidates align with the organization's goals and culture, leading to a more engaged workforce.

When writing a job description, it is essential to highlight the values and culture of the company. Do this by describing the mission and vision of the organization, as well as its core values. By doing so, the job description clearly shows what it's like to work for the company and what it stands for. This can be particularly helpful in attracting candidates looking for a sense of purpose and alignment with their values.

Emphasizing company values and culture in a job description can also help to differentiate an organization from its competitors. It can showcase what makes the company unique and why it's a great workplace. 

When organizations incorporate values and culture into their job description, it showcases their uniqueness creating a more positive and meaningful experience for potential candidates.


Additional Resources

You can also stay informed, educated, and up-to-date with all things HR by using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit
  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news
  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance
  • HR Guides—essential pillars covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics
  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics 

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